Pligxok waved his key-fob. His craft beeped and then disappeared behind its cloaking device. He loved that feature—it had been worth the extra fifty thousand kritoks, regardless of what his wife said. He adjusted his facial-mirroring device, pulled on his brown gloves, and then tugged on his tunic until it covered the bulge showing like a goog-top over the waistband of his pants. Humans didn’t like the look of blue skin; he’d found that out the hard way during the earth’s so called “Age of Enlightenment.”
It had been too long since he’d visited earth—three hundred years ago when Scottish pretender to the throne, James III Edward, returned to France. That had been quite the fête. He’d always enjoyed a holiday on the blue planet, with its beautiful floura, fauna, and geology, much better than Yglick that Marge had dragged him to fifty years ago. That’s why they were doing separate vacations this year. She could wallow in Vrish mud to her hearts’ content; he was going to drink ale, listen to the bards and musicians, and blow some human-minds with his scientific knowledge, maybe kickstart them into some real enlightenment.
As he strolled down the sidewalk, he kept his eyes and nostril open for an inn. He smiled into the soft radiance of the yellow sun and listening to the peeping chatter of the winged animals in the trees. In a few steps, he spotted a sign hanging above a doorway–a large, green circle with a two-tailed mermaid. Perfect! A fisherman’s tavern.
He expected the smell of chowder, the lively sounds of pipes, and the raucous voices of the patrons to greet him, but instead, the establishment was surprisingly quiet. He stopped in the doorway, staring. The place was tidy, the floor clean, and instead of fish, his nostrils was assaulted by coffee fumes—burnt coffee fumes. Soft music played, but it wasn’t from the live musicians he’d always loved. And there were humans at tables, lots of them, and they all had tall cups of liquid from which they’d take an occasional sip, but instead of talking with each other or singing, they were all hunched forward over small screens in their hands. Some had wires from their devices to their ears, others tapped frantically on the screen with their thumbs, while still others held the machines up, smiled at the screen that held their own image.
Oh, Zork! he thought, gaping at the screen-engrossed humans, did that woman just take a ‘selfie’? The last place he’d been where the residents had been taking pictures of themselves like that had collapsed into anarchy and the culture had disappeared not long after. A great vacation get-away, ruined.
He backed out the door. Maybe it was just this one place. Maybe the other humans at other inns weren’t like this. He turned and started back down the street. Then, he noticed the people. A large group of adult humans were gathered around an apparently empty space in the sidewalk. What were they doing? Were they going to fight? Or was there something fascinating on the concrete at their feet?
“Hey, I think I see Ditto!” said one man, holding up his hand-held device with its shining screen.
“No way! I totally need him for my team. He’s super rare!” said a young woman with spirals of color painted all over her arms.
“I’m going to catch him first,” said an old man as he squinted at his screen, his gnarled finger poking and swiping over his screen. “Gym battle is on.”
Pligxok pushed forward into the group, straining to see what the others were looking at.
“Watch it!” said a middle-aged human woman in a dark blue suit. “I almost had him until you bumped me.”
Pligxok frowned and looked around. “Had who?”
Pligxok frowned harder. What was wrong with these humans? The sidewalk was empty, yet they all had their little screens out, pointing at the cement. He peered over a short woman’s shoulder and stared at the image on her screen. The picture was a crude map of the street with a little purple blob in the middle. It looked like a geelott that had been stepped on, except it had two eyes, a smile, and was hopping around. In the next moment, it disappeared.
“Got ‘em!” yelled the old man. “Whoo hoo, eat my dust, you clumsy fingered Mystics. Plus one for Valor team.”
“Ah, no way,” said the painted woman. “That sucks.”
The group started to break apart, though no one spoke to each other; their eyes were focused on the screens in their hands.
“What in Zork’s name is going on?” Pligxok said, stopping the young woman.
“What were you all doing back there?”
She gaped at him a moment, her fifty earrings jangling as she shook her head. “Dude, where are you from, Mars?”
Pligxok’s hearts beat faster, and he anxiously tugged on his tunic. Had his belly been showing? “Um, no. I’m an earthling alright. Yep. Human through and through.”
The young woman rolled her eyes. “It’s Pokémon Go, of course.”
“Geeze, do you live under a rock?” she asked. “It’s an app for your phone. You go around looking for these little Japanese anime creatures called Pokémon—there’s like, hundreds of them.” She held up her phone and Pligxok peered at the rows of little animated beasts. “And when you find them,” she continued, “you catch them by throwing a bubble around them. It gets you points and medals.”
Pligxok scratched his head. “It’s for little children?”
The woman shrugged and thumbed through the images on her device.
“So,” Pligxok continued, “you walk around looking at the screen of your phone, but instead of seeing reality, you’re looking at a fake world and poorly animated creatures dancing around?” Pligxok glanced around at the scattered Pokémon Go players, all with their noses to their screens. “You spend your time doing this instead of making music, or eating a fine meal with friends, or enjoying the tweeting of real birds?”
“Ya,” the woman said, her eyes on her screen. Why had he even bothered with a disguise? No one looked at each other anyway. The woman turned and hurried away, her phone held up at eye-level. “I still need a freakin’ Ditto.”
“Hey!” Pligxok yelled. “Watch out for the—”
He cringed as the woman ran straight into a street-lamp. But she simply cursed and rubbed at the lump forming on her forehead without raising her gaze from her device. She hurried away in search of her quarry.
“Humans have devolved,” Pligxok said, shaking his head. “There’s no other explanation. They’re worse than they were during the Enlightenment.” He trudged back to his craft, punched the button on his key fob, and climbed in.
“I guess,” he sighed, starting up the engines, “I’ll just join Marge on Yglick. Vrish mud can’t be as bad as this.”