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What Is Expected of a Wedding Host

Ken Liu (kneliu.name) is an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. His fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's, Analog, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons, among other places. He has won a Nebula, two Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, and a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the Sturgeon and the Locus Awards. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Kenís debut novel, The Chrysanthemum and the Dandelion, the first in a fantasy series, will be published by Simon & Schusterís new genre fiction imprint in 2015, along with a collection of his short stories. This is Ken's 12th appearance in Daily Science Fiction. Go to the site and find the others.

Welcome, Curious Volunteer!
You've taken the first steps on a path that we hope will be rewarding (financially and spiritually) for you as well as the human race:
1. You'll be put through a vigorous series of tests: physical, intellectual, hormonal, and psychological. Don't worry. The tests are only designed to ensure that you'll be a suitable venue.
2. If you pass the tests, your results will be added to the directory for prospective Paru couples. We're not sure how couples ultimately decide on their host, but picking the wedding site is understandably very personal.
3. Once you've been selected, a First Contact Corps doctor will perform a simple, painless ceremony resembling a flu shot. The Paru of the First Part, no larger than the comma at the end of this phrase, will be injected first (naturally); and the Paru of the Second Part, no larger than the period at the end of this sentence, will be injected next. The actual wedding takes place inside your bloodstream while you sleep.
4. What happens next is, admittedly, kind of hazy (we haven't been doing this for very long, after all). The Paru promise to treat your body with the courtesy befitting responsible tenants. Besides the minimal alterations necessary to tap into your systems for nutrition, waste elimination, and communication, the Paru will not engage in extensive modifications of your body. Indeed, having the Paru can be very helpful. After weddings, volunteers have reported effects ranging from a 50-point jump in IQ to a sudden increase in athletic ability--you've heard about that kid playing for the Yankees? (Warning: MLB is still not sure if hosting the Paru counts as cheating).
5. The Paru have also promised humanity a small, random gift for each volunteer: a new theory in physics, or maybe a poem that no one can read. Think of the royalties you'll receive if your gift turns out to have commercial applications!
6. You must be asking: why? We believe the Paru were born in the early days after the Big Bang, when the universe was hot and small, and the Paru danced from star to star. But the universe has cooled since then, the stars are dying, and the distance between everything has grown immense. Now, in this wintery twilight of time's arrow, the Paru are too tired to chase after distant lights. They'd rather settle down in whatever pocket of local resistance to entropy they can find. You're a miracle, a bulwark against the dying of the light.
7. As for those prophecies you've heard--"visions" where humanity walks into spaceships we build with Paru-taught technology, where we lie down in neat, compact rows so that we can serve as food for the Paru larvae inside us during the long journey to the next port of call where the Paru can do it all again--come on, really? You'll see how absurd these rumors are after hosting a wedding yourself.
8. The feeling of cosmic peace is indescribable.
Your Coordinator, Rita (host #233)
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
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