Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The USA (01/08/09)
TITLE: The American Dream
By Melanie Kerr
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Gus nodded his head slowly. The feeler protruding from the centre of his head bobbed in the air, just in front of his third eye. I suppose if Gus had been entirely honest with himself he should have anticipated this happening.
“Geez, Gus, just what backward planet in the solar system do you come from?” He remembered the conversation with his cousin, Lionel. “They don’t mean real aliens…not like us. That rule is about guys that live in the neighbouring countries. It’s about the ones that swim across the river in the middle of the night, or sneak under fences. That’s not us.”
News of the newly discovered corner of the universe, the USA, had been playing on every channel. It was on a comparatively clean little orb the other side of the universe, all bright blue and emerald green, basking beneath a round yellow sun.
The ruling class had immediately ruled the place off limits to lowlifes like Gus, but that didn’t stop the flow of illegal cargo ships. Some passengers paid a lot of money, not just for the ticket, but for plastic surgery to disguise their obvious alien-ness.
What was it about life in the USA that made it so appealing? It was something about an American Dream. Gus had stopped dreaming a long time ago. Life was like a conveyor belt of predictable events. You were hatched, you grew up, you got downloaded with information relevant to the job assigned you, you worked, you ate, you rested and you drank copious amounts of moonbrew to dull your senses and silence the voice in your head that said there must be more to life than this.
The American dream seemed to involve a white picket fence and a dog.
Gus knew about fences. They were everywhere, stopping him from going to places the ruling class had ear-marked for their own use. He wasn’t sure what a dog was, but someone said dogs had tails and licked your hand. Gus wasn’t sure what a hand was and worried what a dog might lick if it couldn’t find a hand.
The USA was about liberty, freedom and equality. Once there you could say what you liked and no one would burst into your shell late at night and drag you away. Freedom sounded really good.
Gus bribed a captain of a cargo ship to drop him off somewhere in the USA in the middle of the night. There was just a little bit more oxygen in the air than what Gus was used to and he felt giddy and light headed. Looking upwards, Gus wondered what all the tiny pinpricks of light were. He realised he was looking at stars. On his home planet there was too much pollution in the air to see stars.
“Now to find my American Dream…” sighed Gus happily, as he lurched unsteadily on his three legs towards the lights of a city.
Gus had no way of knowing that the USA was entering a period of crippling recession. Hard enough that he was a different life form, but no one seemed to be hiring workers, alien or otherwise, and nothing advertised in the shop windows seemed to match up with his downloading.
As Gus joined the down and outs sleeping beneath the city flyovers, he couldn’t help thinking that the USA wasn’t so different from his home planet. Maybe there was such a thing as an American dream, but for many of the people Gus got to know, the dream never became a reality. The alcohol they imbibed, concealed in brown paper bags, had the same effect as moonbrew but didn’t taste half so nice.
It seemed that the white picket fences belonged to the ruling class and that all dogs barked and lifted their legs to water lampposts.
Gus straightened his feelers, and shook the dust from his three feet. So what if there was no American dream for him? The captain of the cargo ship would swing by on his return journey in a year or two. That left quite a bit of time for sightseeing.
He hailed a yellow taxi cab.
“The statue of Liberty, please!”
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