“As I suspected, Gling, the human aliens are paranoid and aggressive. He ‘killed’ the dummy in order to escape.”
Gling gargled. “But this one had a weapon. We must test others.”
They watched as Herbert Cralston flung the hospital doors open and sank to his knees in despair.
Herbert peered very cautiously around the corner. The hallway was empty.
No, wait. One of the inhuman creatures was lounging in a chair just beside the exit with its back turned.
It was all or nothing.
Herbert crept up behind the creature—
raised the steel letter opener—
Herbert slid his shirt on over the bandages covering his sides. The wounds were painful, but not crippling.
Picking up the steel letter opener, he realized he didn’t really care how he had come to be here. All he cared about was getting out.
Unfortunately, he still had no socks.
“Consider us philanthropists,” gargled one of the inhuman faces.
Herbert looked woozily around the room. His tattered clothes were draped over a chair. The steel letter opener was lying on the floor.
“May I get dressed?” he asked. “Privately?”
“Certainly. Your wounds are healing well, but be gentle.”
Herbert Cralston blinked heavily. Light poured into his eyes the moment they opened, forcing him to shut them again.
“He is awake,” said a gargling voice.
“Very good,” responded another voice. “Dim the lights.”
Gratefully, Herbert eased his eyes open.
The faces he saw were definitely not human.
It must have been a joke, Herbert decided. How could a letter opener cause a twenty-five percent fatality rate?
As Herbert closed his car door, there was a crash, followed by screaming. The parking lot erupted in green flame and Herbert’s car went tumbling through the air.
He passed out.
“Excuse me, sir.”
Herbert stopped. “Yes?”
“You forgot to take the complimentary safety manual for your new steel letter opener!”
“Don’t need it,” grumbled Herbert.
“The statistics beg to differ!” countered the cashier.
“Nearly twenty-five percent of letter opener injuries are fatal.”
Herbert rolled his eyes. “I’ll be careful.”
Herbert Cralston thought queues at office-supply stores were an insufferable, stress-fueled convening of frantic, Blackberry-wielding, over-caffeinated Deputy Thises and Assistant Thats with crooked ties and runs in their pantyhose, frequently all seeking to purchase the same object.
It made Herbert feel stabby; he bought a letter opener made of steel.
“Here it is, sir,” Herbert said, plunking a stapler down in front of a mahogany placard which was embossed with the name “Sir Dr. Willifred the Ninth VanDerGilder the Third, PhD, MA, MSc, BA, with an A-minus average since Grade 4.”
“I asked for a letter opener,” said the Boss.
“Cralston! Bring me a letter opener!”
Herbert Cralston blearily lifted his head, fished around inside his desk with one hand while haphazardly tucking his shirt in with the other, slipped on his leather shoes, then stood and wobbled into his boss’s office.
Too late, he realized he’d forgotten his socks.