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La Paella

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley obsessively writes letters to her mother, her teenage offspring, her accountant, as well as to unknown beings in outer space. Only her mother admits to reading them. Born in Heidelberg, she spent her childhood in California and now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia, two coastal regions with almost nothing in common. You can find out more about her at intrigue.co.uk.

Find other works in the Postmark Andromeda sequence and other unrelated stories by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley at dailysciencefiction.com.

To Commissar Vance Whitelaw
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Nations
Dear Señor Whitelaw,
I am writing to inform you of my role in the events on the Fedcom Reliant preceding the Peace Treaty Meetings on Tau Ceti last week and to defend myself of the charges laid against me.
I am not a diplomat, sir, so it is difficult for me to outline in a professional way what happened. Please allow me some leeway as I try to tell the story. What happened, it's difficult to explain. Pues, I was homesick. I was standing in the lab looking out the porthole. You have seen the photographs of Tau Ceti, I'm sure, the viridian water and the black coast. I just felt all choked up about how alien it all looked, like something out of a film of science fiction horror, verdad? And I was wishing I could go back home, all the way back to Málaga in 2035, before the disaster and well, you know. Back then, where I come from, we always spent the summer evenings outside. We'd grill anchoas on the beach and drink San Miguel and, when the sun was setting, someone would pull out a classical guitar and we would listen to the music while the moon rose over the Mediterranean. I miss the music of the guitar in the Spanish night most of all.
Lo siento, that explains nothing and everything. I'll get to the point. I was feeling this sad way and there was rice for dinner in the canteen, with that awful cream of chicken that the Americans love so much. And well, I had noticed before that the ship supplies includes tartrazine, the yellow dye powder for alimentations. I don't know why, there is a big tub of it by the mustard powder. And I thought, perhaps I could make a taste of home, with the things we have here on the ship. So I got the colorante and some dried shrimp and mixed it into the rice, and it was not bad, sabe? A little salty. That's when I remembered seeing this shell-thing hanging onto the outside, by the edge of the hatch. Sir, it was just a little one, it looked like, well, like an ultra-violet mussel. At home, before, we used to scrape them off the rocks at home and steam them for dinner. I looked again at the hatch and there were a few there this time, seven or eight. I thought, I will take just two or three, mixed in with the rice, to give my dinner a real taste of home. The water here isn't poisonous, so I felt confident that its fruits would be good to eat.
I just, well, I got one of the diving knives and I pried them off. They came off easily. And I got a pot of boiling water like Christopher uses for his tea and I dropped them in. Sir, I know what they are saying and I most certainly did *not* hear them scream in my mind. I am not even sure what that means. Señor, there was nothing at all to tell me that they were what you call sentient. How could I have known? Pues, sí, I know that we are a UN delegation and , I know that the Tau Ceti negotiations are critical for our future here, but I didn't know that they were the Tau Ceti. All I can tell you is that I would never have steamed them if I had known.
I hope this helps to demonstrate that my intentions were not malicious. I understand that I will be discharged from the space-fleet but I am hopeful that three charges of Torture of a Foreign Representative be dropped.
Un saludo cordial,
Midshipman Fernandez
previously of the UN delegation to Tau Ceti
Fedcom Reliant
PS: Posiblemente this does not help my case but, in case you are not able to make reparations on Tau Ceti I thought I should let you know that it was, in fact, the most delicious paella that I have ever eaten.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Author Comments

I'm allergic to seafood and someone has recently pointed out to me that I have a recurring theme of shellfish being deadly. Perhaps I'm just more sensitive to alien life than the rest of you!

- Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
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