Zombies of the Science Fair
Chapter One (Pleskit)
A Letter Home (Translation)
FROM: Pleskit Meenom, on the the continually puzzling Planet Earth
TO: Maktel Geebrit, on the too distant and deeply longed for Planet Hevi-Hevi
Well, I have caused another uproar here on Earth.
I suspect that this will come as no surprise to you. I guess I’m not surprised myself. But I can’t understand it. It’s not as if I’m trying to cause trouble. It just seems to follow me around.
I ask you—who could have guessed that a simple project like trying to enhance Tim’s brain power could have turned into the kind of catastrophe I’m about to explain to you?
I’m still not sure how I feel about letting someone else write down my stories, as I did with the peanut butter disaster I told you about last time. Therefore I have decided to go back to the old way and write down this series of events myself. Well, not entirely by myself. As usual, Tim helped. I am also including some transmissions written by the being who was one of the reasons so much went wrong with my science fair project. These were retrieved by members of the Trading Patrol after the unfortunate events I am about to describe were all over. If we had been able to get them earlier, it might have saved a great deal of trouble.
There’s even a chapter from Linnsy, for reasons you will understand later.
I hope your life is calmer and more quiet than mine.
Are you ever going to come to visit?
The Fatherly One sends his regards.
I send this story.
Chapter Two (Tim)
Science Fair Blues
My head felt as if someone had been hitting it with a sledge hammer. My eyes were burning. My body ached from exhaustion.
“I can’t do it!” I cried. “I just can’t do it!”
My mother sighed. “Can I assume that it’s science fair time again?”
I nodded numbly. It was no surprise that my mother was able to figure out my symptoms. This happened to me every year when it came time for the science fair. I longed, ached, yearned to produce the greatest science fair project the school (the school? Heck, the world!) had ever seen. I planned and I schemed. I came up with great ideas, projects that would make every kid in the school writhe in envy.
Then reality would set in. The stuff I needed cost too much money. I couldn’t find the right books. My idea wasn’t realistic anyway. (As my mother is fond of saying, “If they can’t solve cold fusion in a multi-billion dollar lab, what makes you think you can do it in my kitchen?”)
Most of all, I just didn’t have time to pull it all together.
My upstairs neighbor, Linnsy, liked to point out that the main reason I didn’t have time to do what I wanted was that I never actually started my project until the night before it was due.
“I don’t think a real friend would grind that in,” I grumbled.
“If I wasn’t your friend I wouldn’t take the emotional risk of pointing out your shortcomings,” she replied calmly.
She shrugged. “You might take it badly. You might get angry with me.”
The reason I said “Hah!” is that Linnsy mostly seems to find it amusing when I get mad—which only makes me madder, which only makes her more amused. So it seemed to me the emotional risk was all on my side.
But back to my mother. “What, exactly, is it that you’re trying to do?” she asked gently, gazing at the jumble of small metal parts scattered across the kitchen table.
“Robotic squirrel,” I muttered.
“Oh, Tim,” she sighed. She picked up the remote control for the television, which I had been about to disassemble, and slipped it into her pocket. Obviously, she didn’t trust me to return it in working condition. “Why can’t you choose a reasonable project for once?”
“Because I’m not a reasonable person!” I cried. “You always tell me I should think big, follow my dreams, believe in myself! Then when I do, you tell me to be reasonable! Ack! Gack! P-tooie!”
Mom sighed again. “My sister warned me about having children. But did I listen? Nooooo. Like an idiot, I went right ahead and had one anyway.”
“Ha very ha.”
She knelt beside my chair. “Okay, Tim. Let’s see what we can do about this. When is the project due?”
She closed her eyes, and her face looked pained. “Thursday of what week?”
She made an obvious effort not to scream. “But that’s only two days away!”
“I hope you don’t consider that a news flash, Mom.”
She groaned. “Tim, how could you possibly have waited this long to start? Especially after what happened last year? And the year before, now that I think of it.”
“Hey, those other times I didn’t start until the night before the project was due. This time I’ve got two whole days. Don’t I get credit for improvement?”
Ignoring the question she said, “How did I not know this was happening? How did I not know you were supposed to be getting ready for this?”
“Been working too hard?” I suggested, hoping to distract her with guilt.
“Been not getting messages that were sent home from school because unreliable son failed to deliver them?” she countered.
“They’re around,” I said, but even I knew that sounded lame.
After that neither of us said anything for a minute. I could tell she was trying not to get too mad. I was struggling not to do any of several stupid things I felt like doing, including (a) screaming, (b) sweeping the entire miserable mess onto the floor, and (c) bursting into tears. Managing to avoid all those, I did something worse instead. My voice dripping bitterness, I said, “I wish Dad was here.”
My mother sucked in her breath, and I cursed my fat mouth. “Sorry,” I whispered.
She shook her head, and I could see that she didn’t trust herself to speak. She stood up, walked to the door, stopped, turned back, turned away, turned back again. “We’ll talk later,” she said, her voice soft. “I’m sorry, Tim.”
Great. Tim Tompkins, emotional genius, strikes again.
I stared at the mess on the table for a while. Finally I decided there was only one thing to do.
I went to my room and sat down at my desk. In front of me was a weird device. Its circular base was about an inch thick and maybe eight or nine inches across. Rising from the base was a round screen, about ten inches across and no thicker than a penny. On the base was a single rounded button, purple.
I pushed the button. The screen began to glow. A pair of small boxes folded out from the base. A metallic tentacle stretched up from each of the boxes.
“With whom do you wish to be connected?” asked a pleasant voice.
“Noted and logged. I will let you know when contact is established.”
I stared at the screen, which was showing a swirling design. After less than a minute the design flickered and was replaced by the familiar purple face of my best friend, Pleskit Meenom, first alien kid to openly go to school on Earth.
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