_____The flickering black and white images danced across the wide screen before the celebrating audience. The frantic male human rushed anxiously into the scene, crying out in protest: “It’s a cookbook!” The audience expressed its appreciation of this example of ancient human entertainment. Their digians fluttered and the rippling clittering bounced off the walls of the auditorium.
_____The house lights came up to daylight equivalent and the principal speaker moved to the podium that rose from the floor of the stage. She made the ceremonial obeisance to the hive-queen, who sat in the center of the front row.
_____“The Institute used many of these examples of human entertainment in our study of our subjects’ psychology. Our supposition was that we could deduce dominant patterns of thought in the analysis of their stories. The popularity of the series under the title The Twilight Zone led to its selection as fertile material for study. Its proven durability with the humans was a deciding factor. Indeed, as we progressed in our study of human psychology, we discovered the humans themselves had studied the phenomena of this series. There are a number of studies and commentaries in human archives concerning the so-called ‘Twilight Zone ending’.”
_____The orator paused to scan the audience. The hive-queen remained attentive, and for the orator that was the crucial thing. It was known — as was natural with the hive-mind link – that the queen had not yet selected her principal heir. All those of the worker caste were vying for the Kiss of Elevation, wherein the recipient would receive the enzymes and hormones that would raise them to nascent queen. The orator desired the elevation, and sought to prove her worth by demonstrating her part in the successful territorial expansion.
_____She resumed her exposition, energized by the memory of her success. “The selection of stories gave us examples of the human desire for conformity. In a significant portion of these tales, the principal figure in the story is at odds with the society around it. At the end of the tale, the principal character faces a dire consequence of being the outsider or learns a secret that others know. In the example just displayed, the principal character becomes separated from loved ones because it persists in studying something which its colleagues felt had been addressed. The Institute team enjoyed examining this particular story due to the motif of off-world territorial expansion.”
_____She brought up the next set of notes. “The human discussions of the ‘Twilight Zone ending’ focus on over-use of surprise as a story resolution, particularly when disconnected from previous elements in the story. From this, the Institute team concluded that the humans take comfort in conformity and frown upon surprise in courses of action. With this in mind, we developed the alpha wave broadcaster, which reinforced the desire for conformity and stability in the humans. Once the broadcasters came on-line, our forces were easily able to guide the humans into stable, productive activity in support of our territorial expansion. The efforts of my team in the Institute have caused the territorial subjugation to proceed with unprecedented speed. The humans, after initial resistance, were pacified and re-educated to our needs. Thus, it is with great pleasure, I am ready to declare Subject Stability so early, on this our first orbital anniversary of planet-fall.”
_____She made obeisance to the hive-queen again, as the audience flittered their digians. The ripple of clickings elated the speaker. She knew she had been bold in placing herself in position of primary credit, but none of her minioners would contest the claim. They were useful workers, but their imaginations barely rose above those of drones.
_____The speaker watched with suppressed excitement as the hive-queen rose to her pediants. She gestured for the speaker to approach.
_____A hush fell on the audience as they anticipated what was to come.
_____“Your initiative has proven of service to the hive. Receive now the Kiss of Elevation.”
_____The speaker moved forward, thrilling to the clittering of the audience.
_____The noise bounced off the hall’s walls. A fine film of dust precipitated down on the audience. Everyone, including the hive-queen, looked upward.
_____A central section of the ceiling broke free and collapsed down on the upturned insectoid faces.
_____Outside, the exterior walls crumbled following additional minor explosions. A single human stood in the roadway watching the collapse, holding the detonator control. The rest of the human population of the city was quietly conforming to the alpha wave broadcasts, safe in their homes.
_____The orator crawled out of the rubble, thankful the ceiling collapse had missed her. But the hive-queen had been crushed by the falling ceiling, before passing on the enzymes and hormones.
_____The orator must have made a noticeable movement, for the human turned toward her. It approached her and watched her with cold interest.
_____“How… possible?” she managed to gasp out at the human.
_____It frowned. She struggled to speak louder.
_____He suddenly realized she was attempting to communicate. He reached up and pulled a pair of plugs out of his ears.
_____“What’s that?” he asked.
_____She felt her cardiac organ jolt. Earplugs! It would not be affected by the alpha wave broadcast! How had the team not anticipated that innovation?
_____He crouched down to meet her gaze as she clutched the rubble. “I found your lecture most interesting,” he said.
_____She could not help herself. The investigator aspect in her personality needed to know. “I was right?”
_____A few seconds passed while it processed her accent. When it did, it began making the noise the team had cataloged as laughter.
_____“Oh, no. You misunderstood the nature of Twilight Zone tales.”
_____A distressed skitter escaped her mandibles.
_____He leaned closer. “What’s that?” She couldn’t answer, but he realized what she wanted. “They were horror stories,” he said. “Do you understand what that means?”
_____The assimilation of this information washed over her. They had greatly miscalculated! A species that explored its fears and horrors as entertainment would be far more resilient than her people had ever encountered! The heart-hive must be informed!
_____She tried to pull herself upright, but her limbs could not function correctly.
_____The human stood up.
_____He smiled. It horrified her. “How do you like my Twilight Zone ending?” he asked.
_____Her life fluids were oozing out. Her strength was waning. She must warn the heart-hive.
_____He looked down at her. “Too late,” he said. He put the plugs back in his ears.
_____The Resistance had begun.
(Originally published in “Literary Landscapes”, Vol. 3, no. 1, 2013, the journal of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society.)