[Vl'hurg archive]

Sent with invitation to dinner at Zen Restaurant, Hampstead on May 1993.

It started with a speck in the eastern sky---a tiny glimmer in the region of the Crab Nebula, but it moved in such an effete, mincing way that to two of the stranded Vl'hurgs, who, gazing by chance into the January night sky, it was clear that this could only be a type gamma Vl'hurg "cruising" the western spiral arm. There then followed a long and lonely search through all the gay bars in the solar system---most notoriously the Rock 'n Roll Fag Bar in New York, Earth; the Viking Horny Helmet Memorial Club in Golders Green, Mars (where a central feature is the juke box made out of the Earthling's Viking space probe) and the Give Me Hot Venus, Babe Happening Space on the solar system's second planet. However, neither Vl'hurg turned up anything, and eventually, meeting by chance in the King William IV pub in Hampstead, Earth, they started to reminisce about old times.

"I remember the time when I came out of a lime-green cloud on Gobblegobl LXIX only to find a flight of G'guggvuntts thick as mosquitoes all around. And then my electric flail jammed. If it wasn't for the fact that Boreas, a leather love slave I had rented from the Commissar, spoke fluent G'guggvuntt, we'd have been barbied for sure."

The erstwhile emperor, forgetting his recently-diminished status, scowled at the very notion of G'guggvuntts not being instantly annihilated on sight.

"What did he do?" he enquired nonchalantly, picking his ex-imperial teeth with a match stick.

"Well, he was able to convince them that we were G'guggvuntt students who, finding the space craft in an auction car park, had stolen it, and were going to try it in a dog race."

"A dog race?"

"Yeah, y'know, like when you race around a planet but you can only operate the controls with your mouth, and communicate only by barking."

"What, Barking, Essex, Earth? Wouldn't that take a while?" queried the ex-emperor, making it readily apparent that he had already spent far too long on planet Earth.

"No, like this---" The former imperial poet-master D'nee Hn'ree crouched on all fours and started yelping like a dog, drawing appreciative eyes on his semi-supine form from around the bar. A burly, if rather prissy Julyann (a dayglo pink native of Zlapntikkl) advanced lasciviously towards his caninely prostrate form, his eye stalks waving lustily in anticipation of the love that dare not bark its name, but was instantly repelled with a blast from the Emperor's "Pain knob", a state-of-the-art weapon produced by the Vl'hurgs on their R & D planet, Sinclair C5. The ex-emperor reflected irritably on the fact that extra-terrestrials did have to congregate in gay pubs in order not to be noticed amid the Earthlings.

"Damn Julyanns," susurrated the emperor petulantly, "they get everywhere. And yet not the smallest trace of that type gamma Vl'hurg."

Their gloomy speculations were spectacularly upstaged by a throaty roar akin to the warming up of the mega-galactic rock band Drug-Crazed Brain Death, combined with an unearthly subterranean throbbing and a pyrotechnic array of pulsating lasers that made an interstellar battle look like the sputterings of a dying firefly.

"Bloody Porsche drivers they think they can park where they like," said the landlord. He was not to know that what had in fact transpired was the landing of a Bronigon Hectavurple Lithium-ion-cage personal space chariot in his beer garden. Into the smoke-filled interior of the fag bar strode the Madonna-like figure of the Vl'hurg Admiral J'lee, resplendent in her black leathern jewelled battle shorts, her laser raised in salute. She was accompanied by an unkempt, though handsome and laid-back, bodyguard.

"I've been looking for you guys everywhere!" she exclaimed, touching her forehead in the ancient imperial greeting. "I've borrowed this chariot from Bo-Zee, who's the first Vl'hurg visitor to this galaxy in ages. He's been looking for boys to sing in his choir back on Vl'hurgia, and is currently at a fashion show on Jupiter. He may be able to get us back home!"

To the emperor and poet-master, this was the one thing during all those barren years at the unfashionable end of a non-happening galaxy that they had not dared to hope for. The memory of the blue suns, purple skies and crimson hydrocarbon-capped mountains stretching into the distance flashed across their minds in a moment of nostalgia of such intensity that no word exists in any terrestrial language to describe it (although Hnunynun, in a now-defunct ancient Eskimo language comes close).

"We both saw the space craft," said D'nee. "But we couldn't find the owner, though we looked everywhere!"

"That's where it helps to be an equities broker," smiled J'lee, "if you really want to know what's going down on the street. Now listen carefully as I have to return with this buggy pretty soon. Get all the Vl'hurgs together on cosmodate 23.69.69.45.34, roughly corresponding to 7 p.m. on Saturday, 1st May 1993, at the earth-address of 19 Perrins Lane, Hampstead, where cocktails will be consumed, followed at 8 p.m. by dinner at Zen restaurant, and then, if they're lucky, a ride home. Make sure that they reply by 24 April, and make them aware that although the empire will foot the bill for the cocktails, the cost of the dinner will be in the region of 30 Earth-sterling per person. Also warn them that they may have to put up with sleazy "speeches" by the erstwhile Vl'hurg commanders.

"Quoi? Moi?" exclaimed the emperor and poet master in unison.