Of UFOs and Unicats

The following is my submission to the John Scalzi fanfic contest on whatever.scalzi.com that called upon writers to describe what the heck is going on in the picture below.  Please enjoy. Any comments or feedback would be appreciated.

Of UFOs and Unicats

By Alex Shvartsman




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“It could have been worse,” said the cat looking thing to the Magical Spear. “They could have been evil aliens, like the ones in the movies. They could have had a flying sorcerer blow up the White House, and I am certain Will Smith could not stop them.”

“That’s a flying saucer,” the Magical Spear replied patiently. “And anyway, speak for yourself. Whatever the heck you are supposed to be, at least you are not an inanimate object. I was going to try and figure out how I am able to speak without any vocal cords, but thinking about it only upsets me.”

“I think I am supposed to be a Unicat.”

“A what now?” Even without eyes or a face, one could just tell the Magical Spear was glaring.

“A Unicat. You know. Half cat and half unicorn.”

A creature before him was easily the size of an SUV. It had a head and front paws of a super-sized kitten, hind legs and tail of a horse, and wings of an eagle. It did indeed have a Unicorn’s horn, but the math on calling itself half cat and half unicorn fell several animals short of adding up. Then again, she was once nominated for a Daytime Emmy award for a supporting actress. Strong math skills aren’t a requirement in that line of work.

“She has a point, you know,” spoke a green Orc in leather armor. He was leaning on a huge and apparently well-used battle axe. “These beings clearly possess the means to destroy us, should they so choose. Granted, their methods are unorthodox to say the least, but they could hardly be considered malicious.”

“That really depends on your definition of malicious,” grumbled the Magical Spear. “I’ve got no vocal cords, hands, or genitalia for that matter.” Magical Spear was a drummer and support singer for a British rock band that had a couple of hits in the late eighties, and so considered the abovementioned body parts indispensible to his existence.

“Don’t worry, honey. They’ll change you back afterwards. They always do,” said the Unicat.


You just knew it was not going to be a by-the-book first contact situation when the aliens landed in Paramus, New Jersey of all places. Their ship parked right on the green of a local golf course and seemed completely oblivious to any and all attempts at communication. Meanwhile, strange things began to happen.

The early reports were largely ignored. If your body had been taken over by something and made to do weird yet thankfully non-sexual things for a while, and you were bold enough to report this to authorities or the media, you may not have gotten their full attention on the day the aliens landed on Earth.

The frequency and scale of such abductions quickly grew and it was soon apparent that the aliens must be responsible. Some events made no sense whatsoever while others were simply priceless. One early incident caught on video featured Henry Kissinger and Mike Tyson serving make-believe tea to several teddy bears. To this day it is the number one downloaded clip on YouTube.

It was when the entire population of Cleveland took to the streets and did the Hokey-Pokey for over fifteen minutes that the U.S. government finally lost its patience and sent in the 82nd Airborne to deal with the aliens. Men who were advancing on the alien ship’s location suddenly found themselves transported to a suburb of Denver. Likewise, missiles launched at the ship failed to detonate or disappeared altogether.  Pentagon kept trying new tactics but so far came up with nothing that would affect the aliens in the slightest.

There was some serious worldwide panic with a proper amount of looting and rioting. Eventually people did calm down as it seemed that aliens were relatively harmless. Sure, they abducted people at will, transported them across thousands of miles and took over their bodies – but no one had ever been harmed, if you don’t count their injured pride.

While just about everything about the aliens was confusing and strange, one thing became almost immediately clear – they craved spectators. Over the next few months, things settled into a bit of a routine. Aliens would grab some number of people and transport them to a large public venue.  Then they would invariably wait for the news cameras to arrive, put on a brief and usually incomprehensible show, and then return everyone involved back where they found them.

Some of these conscripted actors would be transformed into animals, mythical creatures or just about anything else. A number of world’s leading physicists had mental breakdowns trying to explain just how the aliens managed to transform a Hollywood starlet into a pink dinosaur and back, with no lasting side effects.

Inexplicably, the aliens had a soft spot for celebrity. Just about everyone they abducted was somehow in the spotlight. From TV news anchors, to politicians, to athletes, you never knew who might appear in the aliens’ next spectacle. Watching these events  became the planet’s favorite pastime.


Presently a group of abductees was waiting for the media crews to show up. They were fully engaged in the world’s second favorite pastime – speculating about the aliens.

“I am certain that these beings have visited our planet in the past,” said the Orc. “Ancient myths are a chock full of stories about gods meddling with humans much like the aliens are doing now. Look at us – it is practically a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses!”

Magical Spear just knew that the Unicat was about to ask who Ovid was, so he rushed the conversation past that point. “OK, suppose you are right. Can’t prove it one way or another, so how does it help us?”

“If they were here once and left,” said the Orc, “it stands to reason that at some point they are going to leave again.  Hopefully soon, and without blowing up any landmarks.”

Magical Spear pondered this for a moment. “Interesting theory. Haven’t heard that one yet.”

“I spend a lot of time thinking of such things,” said the Orc. “I am a science fiction writer.”

“Oh,” said the Unicat. It was clear that the Orc’s social standing had just plummeted in her estimation.

“I also consult on a TV show,” the Orc added hastily. This seemed to improve her attitude immediately.

Suddenly another person appeared among them. TV and film actor Wil Wheaton was the only one of the group to appear in human form. Wil was wearing gym shorts and an exceptionally ugly knitted sweater with a clown face on the front.

“Man,” said Wheaton after taking a few moments to catch his bearings and note his own wardrobe, “not this thing again. I can’t believe even the aliens know about it.” Wheaton tried to sound annoyed, but there was definitely a little bit of pride and satisfaction in his voice.

“What’s up with the sweater?” asked the Magical Spear.

“Woah, a talking spear! That’s cool. Oh and as to the sweater, that’s a pretty long story. Just Google it,” said Wheaton.

“Hey Wil! It’s me, John Scalzi,” said the Orc.

“John? Hey buddy! Now that you mention it, I definitely see the resemblance. Being an Ogre kind of suits you.”

“I am an Orc,” said Scalzi peevishly.

After a round of introductions it did not take long for the conversation to get back to the topic of aliens.

“Their race may have been here before as John says,” offered Wheaton, “but I doubt it was the same exact aliens.”

“Why not?” asked the Magical Spear.

“Because,” said Wheaton, “I think they are kids.”

“Kids?” asked the Unicat. “How do you figure?”

“They are obviously very powerful,” explained Wheaton. “But there is no logical reason behind what they do.”

“Not according to human logic,” countered Scalzi. “But they don’t necessarily think like us at all.”

“Clearly they don’t,” said Wheaton eying the Unicat. “Still, it fits. There is nothing to be gained by their actions. But if they are just children playing with us like we are dolls and toy soldiers then the whole thing actually makes some sort of sense. At least it might from a toddler’s point of view.”

“I just had a scary thought,” said Scalzi. The rest of the group looked his way. “If Wil is right, then at some point mommy and daddy are going to show up and collect the kids from the playground.” Scalzi paused for a moment.  “I am rather worried about what their ideas on putting away the toys might be,” he finished the thought.

Everyone pondered this for a moment. Wheaton was about to say something but just then the strange alien intelligence took over their bodies. The air flickered and the background changed to a dark landscape with a huge volcano spewing rivers of lava down its slopes.

The show – or play session – was about to begin.


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