The Big Cheese

(This is the last part of a story starting here.)

“You told me yourself, Scumdaddy,” said Julia. “There are only two kinds of life-forms: the kind which eats their parents, and the kind which eats their young. To quit hurting kids—kids like me and Sasha over there—you’ll need to eat your parents.”

The Scumbug bubbled. “I don’t even know who my parents are.”

“Not my problem. You told me it was a metaphor anyway.”

“Julia!” The mother seahorse disembarked her spaceship with her husband. “Maybe we can help, Mr. Scumbug, sir. The galaxy is only so big; we can find where you came from. What’s your first memory?”

The Scumbug boiled. “I woke up in my scrambag with amnesia. I didn’t know where I’d come from, or where I was going, but I was stuck. I was stuck in the Big Empty in a giant cluster of Easy Cheese. I didn’t even know how to operate my scrambag.”

Julia blinked. “You told me your scrambag was your egg.”

“Well, yeah, metaphorically, since it’s the location of my first memory. Anyway, all I had with me were my lumps. My kids.”

“How did you know they were your kids?” asked Sasha. “You had a bunch of little lumps and you assumed they were your kids?”

“At the time they looked just like me,” said the Scumbug. “Big blobby masses. When I got hungry, I blorped on, and it crunched into a lump like this. Then I just couldn’t stop myself from eating all the rest, too. Then I had nothing left to do but learn to operate the scrambag.”

“…And… how do you operate the scrambag?” asked Julia.

The Scumbug shrugged by making blobby shoulders. “Thinking, mostly. I thought my way back to the galaxy. For a while I searched for the poor sod who got me trapped out there. Never found a clue about them, though.”

“…Back to the galaxy?” said Julia. “You said this was your first memory. What makes you think you’d ever been to this galaxy before?”

“I had an urge,” said the Scumbug.

“Okay,” said the mother seahorse. “So you were in an egg. And you had an urge to come to the galaxy. And then you left the egg.”

“The metaphorical egg,” clarified the Scumbug.

“I think it’s more literal than you intended,” said the mother seahorse. “I think you were born by the Big Empty. Maybe your parents are Easy Cheese.”

The Scumbug burbled. “I don’t look like Easy Cheese.”

The mother seahorse’s husband shook. “Maybe you’re not done being born yet. Seahorse-fetuses get pumped from mother to father. Maybe Scumbugs get pumped from Easy Cheese to the center of the nearest galaxy.”

The ambassador laughed. “You survived giving birth, Mr. Seahorse. Maybe the Scumbug is more like a wasp-larva injected into a caterpillar, and the galaxy isn’t meant to live long enough to see what it turns into.” Julia made sure the ambassador remembered she had the laser-gun under his chin.

“No, no. That… that doesn’t sound right.” The Scumbug blorped its scrambag. It drifted upward, out of the lunar office, into the black sky.

“Where are you going?” asked Sasha.

“I’m gonna eat Easy Cheese until there’s nothing left of it, or nothing left of me.”

“Hey.” Julia pushed the ambassador into the center of the office. “Take this guy, too. Show him what it really means to be cheesy.”

The Scumbug never returned. Eventually the night sky changed from black to dark green, but it was hardly noticeable.

The seahorses took Julia, Sasha, and the giant spider to Italy, where a horrified restaurant relinquished all the pasta they could stomach. Sasha said noodles were nice, but she preferred the algae she had back on her home-planet. Julia was glad to get her spaghetti, but knew no noodles could replace the childhood she’d lost.

Everyone in the restaurant with a smartphone took pictures of the seahorses and giant spider eating noodles. Earthlings knew aliens existed, having entered the galactic theater a decade ago, but their ambassador had sheltered them from the supposedly evil alien overlords. They’d never seen a spider devour ravioli with quite such insatiable fervor.

When those photos were posted on ButtBook, commenters realized the teen beside the spider could only be Julia, the ambassador’s kidnapped daughter. As the photos grew in online popularity, it became easier and easier for Julia to track down her old friends in the comment-sections.

In the coming months, Julia and her old friends met in person for the first time ever. They got along just as well as they had a decade ago, sharing stories about the cheese they’d had to deal with on Earth or in space. Her friends were glad to meet seahorses and a giant internet-famous spider.

Then Sasha and the spider returned to space with the seahorse mother, also never to return. The seahorse father lived on the moon as Earth’s ambassador. Julia ignored him, as she’d lost her taste for space-politics.

Instead, she started a noodle-restaurant. The restaurant became very popular because of Julia’s famous story of being kidnapped and dragged across the cosmos, but really, she just wanted to make noodles, even if they didn’t fulfill her. Noodles filled her, and that was enough.

Julia always wondered how much her speed-sickness was impacting her perception of time. As soon as she had a schedule to follow at her restaurant, she felt months pass every time she blinked. Time slid by. She was quite old when the Scumbug contacted her on a warm summer night.

She was halfway through a bowl of linguine when the dark green sky grew light green spots which orbited like the lumps in the Scumbug’s blob. The lumps vibrated at her, and a voice emanated from the spot across Julia’s table. “Julia!”

“Leave me alone, Scumdaddy.”

“I’ve eaten all the Easy Cheese in the whole universe,” said the Scumbug. “It turns out your ambassadaddy was right. Easy Cheese injects Scumbugs into galaxies to make them into more Easy Cheese.”

“I don’t care.”

“But you helped me, Julia! I’m the first Scumbug to ever resist eating the galaxy to eat the universe instead, uniting all galaxies across the cosmos in a golden age of—”

“Leave it to Mr. Seahorse. He’s Earth’s ambassador now, on the moon. I cook noodles.”

The light green circles bobbed. “But I want to make you Queen of the Universe.”


“Because you helped me learn not to abduct and indoctrinate children—to rule the universe with a lighter touch.”

“Then you know how and why to leave me alone.” Julia slurped linguine. “I’m not one of your kids anymore, Scumdaddy. I’m 74 years old.”

“Is that old for a human?”

“Yeah.” Julia twisted her fork. “You took ten of those years. And with the speed-sickness, you’ve taken most of my time ever since, too.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Leave me alone, Scumdaddy.” When she said it, Julia couldn’t help but smile. She loved how much that name annoyed the Scumbug. But it had never driven it away from her.

The light green orbs in the sky merged with the dark green surroundings. Julia finished her noodles, checked ButtBook, and went to bed.


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