8/30/18: Meet the Fmitths: a short story
One of the running jokes in the Hunter Holystone universe is, since everyone accepts zombies and vampires and ghosts and other assorted monsters roaming around and monster hunters do their job in broad daylight with licenses from state agencies, when Halloween comes around or when people want to be scared just for fun, what do they turn to?
The answers: 1) space and 2) the deep sea.
We'll look at 2) some other time but 1) brings us to the other running joke: the Fmitths.
Sleve and Tobb Fmitth are a perfectly ordinary Earth human bondpair. They enjoy typical Earth human activities such as watching TV, walking their dog, converting pleasant sounds into sustenance, and using the replicator from their ship to convert junk into gold and other materials Earth humans consider valuable, and trading those materials for weird green paper Dol-Larz to exchange for goods and services.
The Fmitths will have a walk-on in every Hunter Holystone game. Hunter will make pleasant small talk with them. Her companion, however, will always pick up on something about them that just isn't quite right...
But before any of that happens, they meet a new neighbor.
Aliens don't exist.
They're Halloween costumes and scary movies and things you tell your kids about to scare them (but not traumatize them). "If you don't come in before dark the aliens will take you away," parents tell their kids, and the kids poo-poo that because pfffff, aliens, there's no such thing as aliens.
Everyone knows that.
But one day you meet your new neighbors and suddenly, for reasons you can't quite explain... suddenly, you're not so sure anymore.
You live on this nice little cul-de-sac street in a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood on the north side of Limina City, and there's this nice little 3-bedroom ranch across the street from you, and one day the "for sale" sign disappears off the lawn and the next day, there are planters and mildly creepy statuettes all over the yard and these two guys you've never seen before come out on the sidewalk when you go out to pick up the paper.
Both about five-ten, both moderately generically attractive, both wearing khakis and boat shoes and polo shirts and contrasting sweaters with the sleeves tied together over their shoulders. They introduce themselves, and you think at first that surely they must have said their names were Steve and Todd Smith.
But no, you realize, they most definitely said Sleve and Tobb Fmitth.
"Those are interesting names," you say, and Sleve and Tobb grin. There's something ...off about those grins, but you can't quite pin it down.
"Thank You," Sleve says.
"We Are Also Fond Of Our Ordinary Earth Human Names," Tobb says. "Would You Like To Come Inside For Refreshments?"
Later you realize you never actually saw a moving van. Or anything that could have transported all this stuff to the house. And yet... the whole entryway and formal living room are full of more weird statuettes and fake fur pouf chairs and a white grand piano and everything is white and silver and mirrors and it's making you uncomfortable for reasons you're afraid it would be rude to articulate even if you could. Because, after all... Sleve and Tobb do seem like very nice people.
Sleve and Tobb have a dog. At least, you think it's a dog, it looks like a dog, and either Sleve or Tobb walks it every morning and every evening. They're very considerate, they carry a pooper scooper and some bags and always clean up the dog's business, so you don't pay too much attention. And then one morning you go out to pick up the paper and Tobb is out doing likewise and you strike up a conversation. You know, as neighbors do. And then Tobb casually mentions that he and Sleve are excited because Spot finally entered pupal stage the night before and for reasons you don't understand and don't really want to, you have a sudden overpowering urge to find a liquor store and just sort of work your way down the bourbon aisle until you forget this whole conversation.
You go back in the house. Your wife is making breakfast, and when you sit down at the table there must be a weird look on your face because your wife asks you what's wrong.
"Have you met the Fmitths?" you ask her. "Moved in across the street a few weeks back?"
"Oh yes," she says, setting a plate of sausage and eggs in front of you. "Such a nice couple."
And you feel kind of bad about what you're about to say, because darn it, the Fmitths are a nice couple.
"Have you..." You clear your throat. "Have you noticed anything, uh... strange about them?"
Your wife pauses for a moment as she loads her own plate. "They're probably from the West Coast" she finally says.
That's probably it.
The Fmitths invite you over a few more times. You finally see the kitchen (what they refer to as the Solid Sustenance Preparation Chamber) and it looks like it was scooped straight out of the '70s. You go into their den (the Informal Recreation Chamber) and there is an honest to God crocheted ceiling. But none of this prepares you for the basement.
The basement, or as Sleve refers to it as he excitedly beckons you towards the stairs, The Ethyl Alcohol Consumption Chamber And Elvis Human Memorial.
"We Are Fond Of The Elvis's Sounds," Sleve explains.
"They Are Quite Fattening," Tobb adds. "But All Things Are Fine In Moderation, Am I Right?"
"Ha Ha Ha," Sleve replies. "I Could Go For A Bite Of The Elvis's Sounds Now Actually."
Tobb turns on the stereo. "Suspicious Minds" begins to play.
"Aaaaaahhhh," says Sleve, standing in front of the stereo with his mouth open.
"Aaaaaahhhh," says Tobb, doing likewise.
You excuse yourself as politely as you possibly can and get the hell out of there.
This goes on for a few weeks. You see Sleve walking a completely different dog one morning, but still calling it "Spot." You see Tobb sitting on the front porch with a portable radio tuned to the Latin station. His mouth is open, his eyes are closed, and when he catches you staring he tells you he had a craving for something spicy.
Your wife finds you peeking out the blinds a few minutes later, as Tobb continues to ...to do whatever it is he does.
"What are you doing!?" she asks, and... you're not entirely sure how to answer that.
"I'm watching Tobb," you finally say. "Look. He does that all the time. They both do. What is that!?"
Your wife peeks through the crack in the blinds you've been watching Tobb through. Surely, you think, surely she can see how strange this is, this isn't something normal people do...
"I wish you'd leave them alone," she finally says, straightening up and shaking her head. "They are such nice people."
"But nothing! Stop staring at them. That's... that's weird."
This goes on a few more weeks. Spot disappears for another day or two, and then one morning Tobb is walking yet another completely different dog named Spot. And you swear you've seen Sleve digging through trash cans and then later dragging a red Radio Flyer wagon full of scrap metal into his garage, where they keep a car whose make or model you still can't quite seem to pin down. You've heard noises, at night. Strange bleeps and bloops and whizzes and whirrs. And then there are the Fmitths themselves. Something about them is just... off. You're not sure whether it's their eyes or their smiles or the way their mouths seem to not quite sync up with the words coming out of them when they speak.
And your wife insists that you are being silly and worse, you're being rude and they are such nice people and darn it, they really ARE nice people, but...
You start to suspect something.
Something so utterly crazy you don't even dare say it out loud.
Because there's no such thing. Everyone knows that.
One day you grab the yellow pages and flip to the Ms and find the monster hunter listings. There's one named Ogmarr Bonechewer--but that sounds like an Orc name, and Orcs aren't exactly known for being discreet, and God the last thing you want is to cause a scene you'll get called on the carpet over at the next HOA meeting. Oh, and then there's this other one, you think you've seen some articles about her in the news, she seems to come pretty highly recommended. So you call.
Three rings. "Holystone Agency," comes the answer.
"Uh..." You glance through the window and watch Sleve clean up after the latest new and improved Spot. "I... I don't know if this is even a thing you handle but I don't know who else to call and--and there's no way to say this without sounding like a crazy person but I think my neighbors are..." You heave a sigh, knowing full well how this is going to sound.
"I think my neighbors are aliens."
And there it is.
Your neighbors are aliens. You don't know how you're so sure about this but you are and damn it someone has to be the one to say it! The Fmitths are ALIENS!
A long pause. "Aliens," the voice on the other end finally echoes.
You feel something deflate inside you, like a balloon that was a few breaths short of full to begin with. "Yeah."
"Like... from space."
"Look, I know it sounds crazy but--"
"Right. Okay. Let me save us both some time here. Yes, my refrigerator is running. No, I don't need to catch it. No, I don't have Prince Albert in a can. Don't call me again."
Too late. She hangs up.
You look out the window again. Tobb is on the front porch with the portable radio.
"It Is A Pleasant Day So Let Us Have Lunch Outdoors," he says and turns on the radio. It's the smooth jazz station this time.
"Ah. My Favorite," Sleve replies. "How Thoughtful. Thank You, Sucrose."
"You Are Most Welcome, Infant."
They sit in front of the radio, mouths open.
 "Sleve and Tobb Fmith" are the adopted Ordinary Earth Human names of two space aliens who, for whatever reason, have fled their home planet and now are trying their best to live as a perfectly ordinary Earth human couple. The Fmitths were born when my mom shared this wild-ass house's listing on Facebook and in the discussion that followed, we decided that it was very impressive but had a REALLY weird vibe, like that of, say... a couple of space aliens who are trying to blend in but learned everything they know about Earth Human Culture from like... episodes of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous they intercepted out in space.
 Fortunately for the Fmitths, they have universal translators that allow them to understand and speak Earth Human languages, and also this weird Jedi mind thing where they just sort of... project an aura of unremarkability that allows them to go through their daily life without anyone thinking too much of their odd little quirks and do things like, say, sell ridiculous amounts of gold to the local pawn shops without anyone getting suspicious about where that gold might have come from. HOWEVER: there are a rare few people who are immune to the Jedi mind thing. The POV character in this story, for one. And while Hunter herself is not immune, somehow she keeps ending up with sidekicks who ARE...
Get Hunter Holystone: Ghost in the Matinee
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