Caustic Pleasure… All Humanity Undone?

By P. H. Burns


According to the remnants of Earth’s various intelligence agencies, the bastards had built a sex temple over the ruins of the White House. Nobody thought this was what first contact would be like, you think as you take a deep breath and approach what was once the President’s lawn. Your favorite amorous song plays over the tiny speakers implanted in your ears by a high-ranking CIA technician. You think of the most beautiful, alluring people you’ve ever seen, yourself included (you are, after all, the world’s sexiest astrobiologist), but even with such images in mind you find it exceedingly difficult to be aroused at a time like this. The future of ten thousand years of human civilization rests on your capacity to seduce and eliminate the two admirals of the “Vlum-Vlum” (as they are supposedly called) invasion fleet. Talk about performance anxiety. 

In your hand, you clutch a small scarlet red pill in slightly damp fingers. What was it the KGB commander had said? Strong enough to send an elephant into heat? Well… you will do what must done. With a slightly painful, slightly pleasurable shudder, you place the pill in your mouth and swallow. It tastes like cherries. Your heart begins to beat faster in anticipation of a new height of ardor. 

Trekking across the blasted street in smoky sunlight, you approach the faint teal energy shield the Vlum-Vlums have set up in place of the White House’s fence. Two of the invaders train handheld railguns on you. Similar railguns recently blew the entire US Navy to smithereens in less than an hour and could certainly atomize you in a fraction of the time. The Vlum-Vlums themselves are vaguely humanoid and much shorter than you, perhaps a few inches less than five feet tall. They are quite stocky, an effect enhanced by the black full body mechanical exoskeletons they wear. Their heads appear somewhat cone shaped and are slumped forward over their broad chests. Nobody knows what they look like without the suits. If all goes well, you will be the first to find out. You hear a series of faintly phonetic vibrations as you get closer, and then a rough, mechanical English – somehow, they have managed to rapidly decipher virtually all human languages and emulate them. 

“You are the entertainment the admirals requested?” one asks. The thought of being “entertainment” is more enticing to you than it would have been a few minutes ago. It seems that the pill has already begun to work… you will need to move quickly. 

“Yessss,” you respond, dragging out the last sound with mischievous implication. It isn’t hard to fake. You even feel a little spark of excitement. What is under those suits? 

“Fipfip, open the shield,” the Vlum-Vlum responds. Fipfip, presumably, lays a hand against the energy shield and a makes a series of quick motions. A hole stretches open, and they usher you through. You can only go forward. And why would you want to go anywhere else? 

— 

In the airlock of the sex temple, another suited Vlum-Vlum helps you into a specially designed human-shaped suit of your own, explaining that “The pressure in the copulation room is too great for your fragile skin.” This prompts you to reflect on what you know about Vlum- Vlum physiology, which isn’t much. Allegedly, they use ammonia as a solvent instead of water and their cells harvest energy from magnetic fields, which has all sorts of complicated scientific implications that you’re having trouble remembering right now as your thoughts wander to the exceptionally form fitting character of the suit, which seems to coalesce around you. “Press this to deactivate the suit,” the Vlum-Vlum says, pointing at a small button on your wrist. “If you are instructed to do so by Admiral Noqnoq or Admiral Floflo, you will do so, or you will face the wrath of Emperor Gofgofgof’s inquisition. You are here for their entertainment.” You nod your head eagerly, and the Vlum-Vlum makes a subtle gesture with one hand that is followed by a door on the other side of the airlock opening. 

Beyond is a large “room” resembling the inside of a cave. It is dimly lit by pulsating orangish light coming from what looks like a strange fungus creeping over some of the rocky walls. In the center of the room is a pool of clear, slightly steaming reddish-brown liquid reflecting the fungal light. Two Vlum-Vlums appear to be sitting in the shallows of the pool, facing each other from opposite ends. 

You turn around in surprise as the airlock door slams shut, and then slowly turn back to face your opponents… and perhaps your partners. By now the best metaphor for your level of control over your desire might be a layer of scotch tape over the mouth of a geyser, and you stumble towards the center of the room with an overflowing mind. 

The Vlum-Vlum on your left seems to be the first to notice your arrival. “Noqnoq, our company has arrived,” it says languidly. The voice lacks the mechanical quality of the other Vlum-Vlums and has been modulated to be as smoky and reassuringly warm as a fire on a winter night. You assume that this fine creature must be Floflo, a female according to intelligence. She is wearing a suit, and looking over you notice that Noqnoq is too, even though they have no need to in this climate-controlled room. As a result of the suit, there are few immediately obvious differences between the two beyond Floflo appearing slightly larger, particularly in the lower body. Another voice, strikingly different, fills the room. It must be Noqnoq. The voice is iron, full of absolute strength and self-assurance, but tempered by a bare edge of emotion. 

“Welcome to our sanctuary. Please, join us in the… pool.” You nod, slack-jawed at the effortlessly commanding but simultaneously humble tone of the words. Noqnoq is a fine creature as well, it seems. A very fine creature. You ease into the liquid, which seems to be some kind of ammonia-based solution. Thin tendrils of steam creep off the surface as you move to the center, between the two admirals. As you stop in place, you can feel goosebumps spreading across your arms and a pleasant tingling sensation at the base of your skull. Unsure how to proceed but simultaneously desperate to do so, you suddenly begin to speak. 

“What…what…what do we do? How?” Floflo laughs in such a way that your heart flutters, but not in such a way that you feel mocked. As if one, Floflo and Noqnoq begin to approach you from either side. 

“Allow me to explain,” Floflo says, gracefully striding through the water below you. “I am fond of Noqnoq on account of the exceptional magnetic field that he emits.” Floflo shudders. “What a man.” 

“And I,” says Noqnoq, “Am fond of Floflo on account of her particularly curvaceous egg sacs.” Floflo looks over at him. “…And her personality, of course,” he adds quickly before going on. “And when two Vlum-Vlums love each other very much, as we do, well…” Floflo plunges her hand into the ammonia and pulls out a translucent, slimy, dripping gelatinous sphere about the size of a baseball with some kind of irregularly shaped black mass in the center of it. 

“We lay and fertilize eggs,” she says. “This one is from last week.” You rapidly come to realize that the entire pool is brimming with eggs. How exciting!

“You two have been busy,” you say. “But, where do I come in?” And you desperately want to.

“Both of us require significant… arousal,” Noqnoq says, “to perform our duties. You will show us how humans arouse each other, we are growing tired of the traditional Vlum-Vlum methods.” Noqnoq clutches your arm, and you look down at him. You momentarily notice some kind of remote control tucked into a belt-like article around his waist, and suddenly you remember that you are on a mission to put an end to these two alien fetishists. Your mind is almost hopelessly clouded, but you manage to remember something about the air pressure being higher inside the sex temple… perhaps if you could equalize it with the exterior pressure? 

You grab Noqnoq with a mixture of existential dread and mad lust and begin to run your hands over his suit. You can hear him making satisfied vibrations in his chest as you aggressively demonstrate human sexuality as best you can with both parties wearing exosuits. One of your hands reaches into his belt and eases out the remote control while the other eases somewhere else. Soon enough, you manage to acquire the control and hide it in a closed fist. You continue for a few more moments and then pull back from Noqnoq. This may be a critical mission, but that won’t stop you from having fun. You turn around to Floflo and tackle her into the ammonia pool, and then give her a taste of what you can do. When the two of you resurface, you are breathing hard and have managed to temporarily satiate your urges. Now, you need an excuse to use the remote. Thinking fast, you turn away from the Vlum-Vlums and start walking towards the other end of the pool, hips swaying confidently. You can hear both Floflo and Noqnoq making pleasurable vibrations behind you. 

“Now,” you say with your back turned, “we must expose ourselves.” As you speak, you unclench your fist and look down at the remote. It has two sliders on it, one labeled with a symbol resembling a planet, and the other labeled with a symbol resembling a downward sloping line. A wrong move could give you away and cost you the mission. Mind racing, you think back to your years in Astrobiology graduate school. The Vlum-Vlums are ammonia-based lifeforms. Ammonia has a much lower range of temperatures at which it is liquid than water at most pressure levels, meaning that any life using ammonia as a solvent would need to live in an 

environment with consistent temperatures that is never exposed to heat spells or cold snaps. Furthermore, you consider the architecture of the sex temple. It looks like the inside of a cave… that’s it! The Vlum-Vlums maintain their temperature levels by living underground, perhaps in geothermally heated aquifers similar to the copulation pool you yourself are in right now. So, their symbol for temperature would likely be a planet, because a planet is what heats them up. And the downward sloping line probably describes the increase in air pressure the closer one is to the surface of a planet. Hoping for the best, you smoothly move the slider under the line down as far as it will go, drop the controller into the pool, and turn back around. Floflo and Noqnoq and coming towards you, looking eager for more action. Your momentary clarity evaporates at the sight of them, and you begin to wriggle enticingly in your suit. 

 

“Yes, expose ourselves,” you say again. 

“We will do anything you do,” Floflo says, obviously entranced. 

“Anything,” Noqnoq says. You have them. Just to make sure, you take both of them into an embrace and begin to mimic the vibrations they were making earlier while going through every suggestive body contortion in your repertoire, drunk on lust and anticipation of victory. 

“Take your suits off,” you whisper. “Please.” It sounds real, because it is. 

“It is our obligation as hosts,” Noqnoq says wickedly. He reaches for a button on his wrist similar to the one on yours. Floflo does the same. Each claw-like Vlum-Vlum finger seems to move in slow motion as they approach it, and then the scene changes in an instant as the suits retract. 

Due to the reduced pressure, whatever body Floflo or Noqnoq may have had underneath their suit immediately splits at the skin and boils outwards in a cacophony of gore and liquids. A faint cry of surprise echoes around the cave as their utterly annihilated remnants float through a pool that is itself rapidly evaporating. Soon after, the Vlum-Vlum eggs pop like balloons, showering everything in boiling gel. You look across the scene, desire replaced by grim satisfaction. Some kind of alarm seems to be going off in the distance, blaring core-shaking vibrations. It seems the rest of the operation is going well. The airlock opens again, and several armed Vlum-Vlums step out, pointing railguns at you. 

“Surrender now, human!” one shouts. Never. You reach for your wrist, disable your own suit, and succumb to the caustic pleasure of the ammonia gas filling the room. It burns.


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