The Thing Inside Pluto was displeased. So was Aimee. Its roiling muscle-goo made her queasy, and she’d dressed for pilates, not for two bland government spooks kidnapping her to negotiate with an alien. She lit a cigarette to block the ozone smell.
<YOU ARE NOT CANADA GIRL> The Thing’s voice reverberated inside her skull. Though it wasn’t The Thing Inside Pluto anymore, was it? It ate through Pluto like barbecue potato chips.
Well, that settled the planethood debate.
“Yeah, fuck you,” Aimee said. A government man gasped. So did the Prime Minister, watching on a screen with other world leaders.
<YOU INSULT ME> It bared planet-shredding teeth. <I CHALLENGE CANADA GIRL FOR THIS PLANET>
“Come at me.”
<YOU ARE CANADA GIRL, VIRTUOUS DEFENDER OF THE MAPLE LEAF, IMBUED WITH THE SPIRIT OF CANADA? CONQUEROR OF BRAAX THE INTERGALACTIC PIRATE, VAMPIRIO THE VAMPIRE LOTHARIO, KO-LON THE SPACE-WIZARD? WHAT HAPPENED?>
Aimee touched her crunchy hair, wrecked by years of playing peroxide-blonde Canada Girl. She thought she’d lost her vanity when she was deemed too old to play Canada Girl’s mom in the remake. She was only fifty-eight, but Hollywood mothers-of-teenagers were forty-five at most, and unlike Drew Barrymoore, she looked like two rehab stints. Having an aeons-old alien notice her age cut. “I told you. I played Canada Girl. You intercepted 80’s broadcasts. She’s not real.”
The mass closed in. She choked on the stench of galactic-level decay. <DID VAMPIRIO SAP YOUR ETERNAL VITALITY AGAIN?>
“That’s a deep cut. You’re a true fan. Vampirio was Jorge Castellano—he writes thrillers now.”
<VAMPIRIO IS AGELESS. DO NOT TOY WITH ME. I HAVE BEEN GESTATING SINCE YOUR SPECIES WAS SINGLE-CELLED>
Aimee lifted the cigarette to her lips and took a drag to still the nicotine-deprived tremble in her hands. First rule of acting: always appear in control. She breathed out slowly, disdainfully. She was trying to quit—she’d been trying to quit ever since she was sixteen and a PA offered her her first cigarette between takes on the Canada Girl set—but this eldritch horror was the best excuse to relapse.
<YOU HAVE NO SUPER-ABILITIES?>
“I once drank a whole bottle of maple syrup for a commercial. Didn’t even gag.”
The Thing sparked. <CANADA GIRL IS A… LIE?>
The Thing Inside Pluto strained against the roof of the black-site warehouse. Bolts popped. The black-haired government man twitched and lifted his gun, like that would help.
A tentacle extruded from The Thing’s mass, reached right over Aimee’s head, and shlorped up the black-haired government man before he could even think to scream.
It squelched. <HE ANNOYED ME>
Aimee shuddered. “Please. Can’t you eat… um… the moon?”
<CONSUMING YOUR SATELLITE WOULD DEVASTATE YOUR ECOLOGY, MERELY DELAYING DESTRUCTION>
“How about Saturn?”
The remaining government man swallowed. “It already ate Venus.”
Aimee didn’t like Earth much herself. She hadn’t had a role in ten years, not even the scraps Hollywood threw middle-aged actresses. She paid rent through the convention circuit. Fifty bucks an autograph. Every year her line got older and smaller. I don’t want to die sounded perfunctory, and she mostly lived for soap operas.
“I’m not going to lie,” she said. “Humans suck, but we’re fun. You loved Canada Girl, right?”
<YOUR TRANSMISSIONS WERE PLEASANT DISTRACTIONS INSIDE THE GESTATION SHELL>
“There’s more. Three whole seasons not aired in Pluto.” The Thing shivered with delight, like it had after snacking on the government man.
“Hollywood loves nostalgia and—never mind. We can keep making more Canada Girl. Forever. But only if humans are still around.” She turned to the government man. “Give me my phone.”
He gave it. Aimee found “Canada Girl—S1E1 (2015)” on Youtube. She cringed at the new K-pop theme, but they’d kept her tagline (Canada Girl—Defender of Earth, Freedom, and the Maple Leaf!) and smartly cast a blonde unknown.
The Thing Inside Pluto tucked itself down to SUV size to watch. When the new Vampirio captured Canada Girl, it glowed.
<THERE IS MORE?>
“Every Wednesday, eight p.m. Hundreds of comic books too. A comic book is—”
<I KNOW OF COMIC BOOKS. CANADA GIRL REFERENCED THEM OFTEN>
A tentacle licked her phone but Aimee slapped it away. “No more Canada Girl unless you agree not to eat us.”
<I MUST EAT>
The government man cleared his throat. The Thing Inside Pluto rumbled. “You could eat ocean trash. Until our scientists find you a satisfactory planet.”
The Thing stroked the man’s sweating face with a tentacle. <IS HE LYING, CANADA GIRL?>
“You can definitely eat our garbage. No promises on another planet.”
The Thing was silent a long time. Finally it released the government man. <I WILL SPARE YOUR PLANET AS LONG AS THERE IS NEW CANADA GIRL>
“No,” Amy said. The government man turned so sharply his neck popped. “I want adequate recompense for my mediation services. Not the ‘Canada thanks you, here’s a medal’ bullshit. I want a major studio leading role. Best Actress bait.”
<I AM CONFUSED> said The Thing Inside Pluto.
Aimee touched its jellylike flank. It stung her palm. “If they don’t give me a movie, you can eat the planet. You’d do that for me, right? For Canada Girl?”
In its shivering tentacles, she saw the same adoration as in a trembling teenage boy holding out a comic for her autograph. True fans would do anything, anything she asked.
<YES> The Thing said. <I DEMAND THIS>
The Chinese president’s mouth dropped. The American president paled but managed, “Who do you want? Spielberg, Anderson? Take your pick but gods, woman, call it off.”
“I was thinking Tarantino,” she said.
“Thank you.” The president nodded, though she’d been talking to The Thing.
She stood up and cracked her knuckles. “Who’s going to drive me home?”
The dazed government man escorted her to a black Porsche with tinted windows. Aimee stepped into the car, crossed her legs, and let him close the door for her like the star she was.
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