Category: 09. The Slacker’s Tale


Dear Planet Earth,

More noteworthy notes from the intriguing A History of the Inheritors:

“Homo soricomorpha and homo sapien evolved simultaneously and somewhat peacefully — at first. Their numerous shared characteristics are too dominant to ignore. They are nearly identical physically, both bipedal and with two upper appendages infinitely useful for their respective tools.

“However, the humans can easily be discerned by their comparatively colossal height. Though some fully-developed humans do resemble the Inheritors’ short stature, no significant studies have yet found a common link between these supposed ‘dwarves’ and homo soricomorpha. Humans also deviate in that they are virtually hairless. Both sexes grow ample hair on the tops of their heads, and some males do often sprout more on other parts of their bodies, yet they still contrast greatly with the superior Inheritors.

“Those who have had the opportunity to study both of these species up close generally agree that the most striking difference between them lies in the eyes. Humans are notorious for having a wide spectrum of pigments in their eyes due to the constant strain of adapting to both sunlight and natural darkness. This, in addition to their oftentimes darker skin, make them an odd sight next to the familiar whiteness of their evolutionary cousins. Interestingly, there are some cases of humans born with naturally light skin, hair, and eyes who display an extreme aversion to sunlight, though as with the ‘dwarves,’ it is unlikely that they share any ancestry with homo soricomorpha.”


Dear Planet Earth,

Something’s coming. Something big if Perry’s anxiety can be believed. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just screwing with me though; he’s been playing psychological warfare since this father-son kidnapping adventure began, and the fact that he can read this blog means I’m literally an open book. Maybe not literally.

He came in and took his usual seat at my small table. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were as big as golf balls. I was about to offer him a drink  using my best Dr. No impression, which (I’m not ashamed to say) I’d been practicing for much of the day, but he beat me to the punch by asking if I’d been in contact with any of my military comrades.

I almost flat out told him no. Instead I asked what it mattered, would he really believe me either way. He didn’t seem to give that a lot of thought and just went into his other accusatory questions.

Did I know where my friends from LA were? Did I see who attacked the overturned truck outside the camp? Where exactly was the library we camped out at? I gave him some more contemplative non-answers, and he ignored every one of them.

We went on like this for about ten minutes until he finally looked me straight in the eyes and urged me not to try to leave. And then he left.


Dear Planet Earth,

It was the first day in a while that Perry hasn’t come by to dispense fatherly advice or spread the Good Word about the mole people. He’s been trying to interpret passages for me from A History of the Inheritors, the ancient manifesto of our underground overlords. It’s all bullshit, and I’ve told him as much since he started his temptation to bring me to the dark side and join him so that we may rule the galaxy as father and son.

I did have another awkward conversation with my gruffy gaoler to make up for Perry’s absence. He dropped off my usual gruel at the usual time, and I asked him, “What’s your name?”

He looked through the window suspiciously.


“It seems important,” I said. “You feed me everyday, recharge my laptop, clean my bedpan. But I don’t even know what to call you.”

His gaze eased, perhaps understanding the bigger conflict on my mind.


I nodded.

“Well, nice to meet you, Ryan.”

I briefly considered offering him my hand. He was about to go, but I stopped him with another question.

“You have any kids, Ryan?”

“Look, pal, this ain’t the Marriott here. You’re not a guest and I’m not your friend. Any issues you got with The Big Guy are between you and him.”

He stormed off after that, leaving me with a half-full bedpan and dreams of a paternal relationship I never knew I wanted.

An Excerpt

Dear Planet Earth,

For your perusal, an excerpt from A History of the Inheritors:

“The upworlder year of 1629 was a turning point in the ever-shifting truce between the layers. The humans developed the steam turbine, a technology that had already been in widespread use by the Inheritors for centuries.

“It appeared the upworlders were creating new tools at a more rapid rate than first predicted, and the possibility of true coexistence among all of the planet’s sentients seemed likely at long last. There were serious discussions among The Wise Ones contemplating whether or not upworlders had achieved a level of communal intellect worthy of the Inheritors’ recognition.

“All dreams of such a symbiosis quickly crumbled as humanity entered its so-called ‘Industrial Revolution’ 100 years later. They brazenly ignored the ill-effects of overusing steam and coal power on the upper crust. The environmental damage from their hasty, unnecessary innovations were drastic enough to be observed by even the most naive human, yet their unfiltered greed and arrogance blinded them to the inescapable truth that they were destroying the Earth beyond repair.

“The Inheritors, by contrast, carefully measured the changing states of the crust and mantle, taking great care to maintain the most prime of conditions — and prepared for the day when they could finally liberate the planet from its most dangerous parasites.”


Dear Planet Earth,


That’s how he greeted me the last time he came to my cell. He was all smiles as he sauntered in, sat at the table and crossed his legs.

“My name is Perry. I guess you could call me that if ‘Dad’ or ‘Father’ feels too weird. It would feel weird to me.”

I laid on my cot, doing my best to hide the old book he gave me, A History of the Inheritors, behind my head. I didn’t want him to know I was reading it, that I’ve been reading it nonstop since I got it in the vain hope of finding some worthwhile reason to abandon family, friends, and species.

I’m tempted to not write anything. He’s watching. He’s reading this blog right now and there’s nothing I can do to stop him from learning about me besides staring at a blank wall all day.

There’s no use in trying to hide anything now. So, if you are reading this, Perry — and I know you are — screw you. Screw you for walking out on your wife and child. Screw you for kidnapping me multiple times. Screw you for selling out humanity to the mole people.

“Is there something you wanna say, little guy?” he asked me last time. His smile was stone, unperturbed by even my most fiery glares.

“I’d hate to have been you in middle school, Perry Panus.”

He laughed — more than I’d like for him to have laughed. He stood up to go with a painful grunt and said, “Well, I guess things don’t get more real than that.”

Screw you.

The Talk

Dear Planet Earth,

He’s been coming to my cell for the past couple mornings. My father. My dad. I don’t know what to call him. He didn’t stick around long enough when I was a kid for me to give him one of those common labels. I don’t even know his first name. Maybe I’ll ask him next time — if I don’t try to punch him in the face.

He told me that they worked on recruiting him even before I was born. The homies — he chuckled over my new nickname for them. He said that they told him about the coming invasion, of the mole people, the true inheritors of the upper crust. He chuckled when he used the word “mole people,” too. To him and his fellow homeless minions, they were and always will be the “Inheritors.”

They ruled over all levels of the Earth for thousands of years until we homo sapiens revolted and drove them underground. This was eventually seen as a truce by the Inheritors. They could tolerate our dominion over the inferior crust so long as we maintained peace and the fragile ecosystem affecting all of the layers. But humans screwed it up. We destroyed our planet beyond repair and the Inheritors saw invasion as their only option to protect the Earth.

He said he’d understand if I couldn’t forgive him for abandoning me and Mom. He said he tried to save us from the same fate as the others, using his considerable pull to keep us away from the fighting before it began.

I sat silent for much of this, turning this new information over and over in my mind, seething. He left me a book to read — the same one that convinced him to leave us all those years ago.

I should have punched him in the face.

The Big Guy

Dear Planet Earth,

“Hey, little guy.”

I awoke this morning to see a strange man sitting on the edge of my bed. He had ragged clothing and dark, greasy hair. He was hunched over and smiling at me.

“But I guess you’re not so little anymore.”

I sat up and pushed myself against the wall.

“They say that you’re starting to talk again. That you’re not so sick.”

The glare of the morning sun and dirty patches of facial hair obscured much of his face, but I could still make out that lupine smile.

“I guess we kept on missing each other, huh? When Martha told me you were with the army, it was too late. My friends tried to keep you at that motel before that, but you ran off before I could get there.”

He seemed to be waiting for me to say something. When I didn’t, he motioned to my laptop sitting on a table and continued.

“I’ve been reading your blog. I’m sorry they shot at you. They weren’t supposed to. And you lost a friend.”

“Diana,” I said. “Her name was Diana.”

“Well, I’m sorry about Diana.” He nodded and it looked like he might have had some tears in his eyes. “It looks like you’ve been through a lot of adventures. I’m just happy you’re safe.”

He stood up and walked to the door.

“We’ll talk tomorrow,” he said. “You don’t look like you want to say anything today.”

I said, “Wait.” And he waited. “Are you really. . . are you. . .”

The words wouldn’t come out of me. My head was pounding, refusing to believe what I saw in front of me.

“Yeah, it’s really me, son.”

And he left.


Dear Planet Earth,

The narrow window of my cell door opened with the same rusty creak it screamed everyday at 12:15. My gaoler tossed in a steel plate of “food” and asked the same questions he always asked.

“You need any water?”

“You need your bedpan changed?”

“You need your computer charged?”

I always answered him with grunts and gestures — at first out of a principle I can’t remember, though it’s now evolved into a comfortable habit. But something got to me today. I was looking at the still-drying blood where Mr. Ozawa or Carl or whoever he was got his head blown off two days ago. For the past two days, I’ve been slowly taking apart the image I had of him as the mute ally, the unlikely friend in perilous times. I know now he was an agent of the mole people — a homie, as I’ve started calling them.

The splattered blood, the memory of betrayal, and the awful, noxious smell of whatever was on that plate got to me, and I had to finally break down and ask this homie the question I’ve been simultaneous ignoring and dreading.

“What’s going to happen to me?”

He seemed to freeze in place for a moment, the way you might stop yourself if you come across a small animal in the woods. He brought his face to the window to reveal his clean brown eyes, framed by sunburned skin and tufts of facial hair.

“I really don’t know,” he said. “We gave you your chance with The Big Guy. As soon as the Inheritors remember you’re here, they’ll probably put you out to work on the camp.”

I tried to make sense of that for a while until he asked, “Are you sure you don’t need any water?”

I grunted.

The Bet

Dear Planet Earth,

They came to my cell today. The homies (trademark pending) marched in dragging a bloody Mr. Ozawa by the shoulders. I said his name, trying to mask any sense of shock or relief I felt. My elderly Japanese friend gave a small grunt as he fell to the floor and attempted to roll on his side.

I took careful note of my jailers. There were three of them, all middle-aged, if not older. They wore the same dirty, unassuming clothing you’d see any homeless person wearing on the street. They smelled almost as badly as myself (though I may be biased). The biggest of them had a large, gruesome scab on the left side of his face. He took a couple steps toward me and smiled.

“We have a little bet going on here,” he said. “We’re trying to find out if Carl here is completely full of shit or just partly full of shit.”

He stepped on Mr. Ozawa’s hand as I contemplated how Japanese the name “Carl” really is. He winced in pain and the big homie continued.

“According to him, you people saw him making off with your weapons and fellow upworlders, and that’s what made him flee in a ‘dignified’ manner.” He put more weight on Mr. Ozawa’s hand, who gave another short shriek. “Then you ambushed him outside our camp here, effectively destroying the truck and it’s primitive supplies.”

I interpreted all of this as quickly and clearly as I could. I sat agape as the entire room of enemies awaited my next response.

“He. . . He kidnapped them?”

Mr. Ozawa started to cough out plea after plea, alleging his unshakable devotion to “the cause,” decrying the “unscrupulous lies” of upworlders like me — all in perfect English.

The big homie smiled wide enough to reveal his many brown and missing teeth. He turned to his companions and said, “Looks like you owe me a Coke.”

He took out a large pistol covered with thin pipes and promptly blew off Carl Ozawa’s traitorous head.

Previously on Beneath Average

Dear Planet Earth,

In case you just tuned in, I’ve been held in an underground cell by mole people for the past two weeks. So far, they’ve killed two friends of mine that I know of. They asked me random questions for days on end before giving me my laptop and imploring me to report on everything I’ve seen.

The mole people themselves are keeping their distance from me, delegating all interactions with me to their homeless henchmen, whom I’ve just now decided to start calling “homies” (it was between that and “homos”).

They fed me the shittiest food, which I’m hesitant to describe for fear of offending actual shit. This gruel made me empty my bowels from holes I didn’t know I had and caused me to see visions of my father, Jesus Christ, my dead girlfriend, and Billy Dee Williams.

When I’m alone, I reflect on my many past mistakes and play infinite scenarios through my head about how to escape and liberate my fellow humans from this torturous slave labor camp. I wonder how I’m still alive and why they’re keeping me in here instead of working on their strange machines outside. I whisper to the empty cells next to me, vainly hoping to hear Maria or Karter tell me that we’re going to be okay. I’ve started to really hate being alone.