I had always liked it, no, loved it whenever Jen shampooed her hair in the shower. I do not know what it was about the act of shampooing in the shower that I loved but I do know that I love it. Maybe it has to do with the water from the shower head drumming on Jen's skull like raindrops on a tin roof, or the fact that Jen loves to give her scalp a good long massage to really get the shampoo down to the roots of her hair. Or maybe it's because of Jen's singing in the shower. Jen actually has a nice singing voice, something which she has put to good use by being part of the local church's choir. Jen is also part of a band, and they have actually won a few awards, chief among them "Best Rammstein Tribute Act" from a few years ago. Jen and her bandmates (the majority of which were also girls; only their drummer Lester was a boy) had used their looks to surprise the competition in that particular contest; everyone was thinking that they were actually a country or folk band that had gotten lost and signed up for the wrong competition before they unleashed riffs and vocals that they had honed through years of practice, and both Jen and I believe that it was the shock factor of these three girls belting out Rammstein's German lyrics that won them the award that day.
But back to the act of shampooing being one of my favorite moments of Jen's day-to-day life. Truth be told, this particular story isn't about something that happened while Jen was shampooing her hair. No, that happened as it had always happened. No, it was what happened after Jen had come out of the bath that is the focus of this particular vignette. So Jen had just changed into a shirt and jean shorts (her regular housewear) and she had tied up a towel over her hair like a turban to dry it off when we both smelled the delectable smell of potatoes being cooked. (You smell that, Yems?) Jen asked me.
(Yes, indeed, I do,) I replied.
(Mom must be cooking fries or mashed potatoes. Wonder if I can get her to give me some?)
Something that you should know about Jennifer Carson, dear readers. She won't admit it, and she will never admit it, but Jennifer Carson is a spoiled brat and a half. Being an only child has made her the center of affection of her parents, and this had led to Jen always getting what she wanted, as long as it was within reason and her parents thought that she deserved to get the treat. Jen wouldn't get spoiled if she didn't deserve to be spoiled, like those times that Jen had gotten straight Cs during elementary, which was before I arrived at the scene to put her on the right path, which is the main reason that she will claim that she is not a spoiled brat. But I also feel like it was because I got Jen to focus on her academics that she became spoiled like she is now.
I bring this up because the clearest times that you can get to see Jen being a spoiled brat is during times when she is eating food, especially French fries and chocolate, but really specifically French fries. French fries are cut and sliced sticks of potatoes which are deep-fried and salted and is very fatty, and Jen knows this. But this doesn't stop her from eating French fries. And you will never, ever see Jen share her French fries with her friends. Jen might share her fries with her family because she knows that she will get reminded to share, but when it comes to sharing her fries with her friends, all bets are off. Jen has a sixth sense with regards to French fries; she can sense if someone is trying to reach out and grab even just one fry when she isn't looking. She could be studying or reading a book or texting or watching a video on her phone and she will still sense if someone is reaching for one of her fries, and she's not subtle in telling them off. Jen's favorite tactic to fend off fry thieves is to slap their hands away, sometimes without even looking. If both of Jen's hands are occupied then she might use a leg to kick at whoever is reaching out for a fry. She would often accompany this slap or kick with words like "Shoo!" or "No!" or even "Go get your own fries!" None of her friends are safe from this treatment; not Julia Baker, not Carina Russolini, not Sonia Torres, and especially not Lester Ivory. Even her cousin Jude Rivers gets this kind of treatment from Jen from time to time, but Jude can sometimes get away with it because he does it when the family or at the very least Jen's parents are around. Jen oftentimes still gets the last laugh though because many other members of the Carson and Rivers families can't finish their own fries and end up giving their unfinished fries to Jen. I was the only being whom Jen shared her fries with, and that's most probably only because we are practically sharing everything, even Jennifer's body. (Jen: Jennifer's Body? Get it?)
Like I said, a spoiled brat and a half.
Back to the story. Jen popped out of her room and walked down the hallway to the living room where her mother Eve was watching HBO on the big flatscreen TV. The movie was the one where John Travolta and Nicolas Cage switch faces and fight each other. Jen's mother has a thing for 90s action movies, and Jen says that her mother has a crush on the likes of Nicolas Cage and Keanu Reeves. Jen's mother had confided in her that it was Nicolas Cage's eyes that attracts Jen's mom.
"Face/Off again?" Jen asked.
Eve nodded. "You know me, Jen," she said. "I never miss a Nic Cage movie if I can't help it."
"Hey, uh, Mom, are you cooking up some potatoes? Because I smelled potatoes when I got out of the bathroom."
Eve sniffed the air for a moment. "Yeah, I smell it too," she replied. "I'm cooking up some mashed potatoes for the Mastersons and the other families. They're coming over later tonight." The Mastersons were the Carsons' neighbors. Every other Tuesday night, the families along the street where the Carsons lived would get together at one house and have a family night. This Thursday it was the Carsons' turn to host the family night.
"Yeah, about tonight…" Jen said. "I've got soccer practice with the team this afternoon and then I gotta work a late shift at the diner. I don't know if I'll be able to make it."
"Just get home safe, sweetie, but do try to get home as early as you can. Your father's going to be home at ten at the earliest so that means that I'm going to be dealing with these people alone unless you can get back home around that time."
"Okay. Maybe I can get home by nine, if Mr. Tenkiss is in a good mood. Oh, and can I get some mashed potatoes?" Jen asked.
"I knew you were going to ask that question," Eve replied. "I set aside some just for you. It's in the little brown china bowl beside the big pot on the stove."
"Thanks, Mom! You're the best," Jen called out even as she was already walking her way to the kitchen. We saw the brown bowl right where Jen's mom said it would be, and Jen grabbed a spoon and then went over to the stove to get the bowl. "Mmm, that's really good," Jen muttered as she tucked into the mashed potatoes. I knew that physically I couldn't consume the mashed potatoes at all but I still got to enjoy it all the same thanks to my connections to Jen's mouth and nose. "Could use some more gravy though," she added.
Jen was about to walk away from the stove and towards the kitchen counter when we noticed a smaller pan with eggs boiling in water behind the pot with the mashed potatoes for the guests. "Hey, Mom," Jen called out, "are you boiling eggs for family night as well?"
We didn't hear any verbal reply from Jen's mother. All we heard was the sound of Eve's feet running on the floor, and it was only when she had arrived at the kitchen that Eve finally spoke. "Oh, my God! The eggs!" she shouted as she ran over to the stove to check on the eggs. Jen was left at the edge of the counter staring at her mother frantically checking if the eggs had been tragically overcooked or not (still eating her mashed potatoes, believe it or not). "God, how could I have forgotten about this?" Eve said to herself. "I knew I forgot about something when I walked out here. Oh, I really am getting old. And you got to see your dear mother become a senile old woman," she said with a sheepish smile to Jen after she had turned off the stove.
"Oh, don't say that, Mom," Jen replied immediately. "You're gonna be just fine."
"I know, sweetheart," Eve said. As she walked back to the living room though, we both heard her mutter, "These senior moments are going to be the death of me."
"You're not gonna die, Mom!" Jen called out. "It's not gonna happen. Mom can be so morbid sometimes," she said to herself once her mother was out of earshot.
(It must run in the family then,) I said. (In my whole life, I have never ever met someone more morbid than the members of both the Carson and Rivers families.)
(Hey, Yems, speaking of senior moments,) Jen said, (do Yeerks go through those too? Have you ever had a senior moment in your life? I know you've helped me prevent my own senior moments but have you ever experienced a senior moment of your own in your life?)
If I had shoulders then I would have shrugged as I pondered Jen's question. In any case I gave Jen a mental image of a girl shrugging. (I cannot speak for myself since I am not yet, in Yeerk terms, a senior,) I replied.
(Oh, don't give me that, Yems,) Jen retorted. (How old are you, really?)
(I don't know,) I replied. (Seriously, I don't know. I don't know when I was grubbed, and I don't know how long I have been on Earth since then.)
(Come on! Not even an estimate?)
(All right, fine! I know you're going to pester me all about it for the next thirty minutes so I am just going to cut my suffering short and say that I believe, I believe, that I might be between 12 to 23 Earth years old.)
(Huh. I'm actually surprised by that,) Jen admitted. (You really think you could be at least 12 years old?)
(Yeerk cycles do not exactly match up precisely to Earth years, you know. It got to the point where we were practically using your time units back in the invasion.)
(Now that I think about it, though, it probably makes sense that you think you could be just 12 years old. You certainly act like one sometimes anyway.)
(I do not!) I retorted, and I mentally blew a raspberry at Jen, who sent me back a mental smile and said, (Thank you for proving my point.) We were both silent for a few moments and then Jen asked, (How about some of the other Yeerks though? Tarash, Yibey, Moxach, I mean. I wonder if they've had their senior moments.)
(I think it's best that you didn't ask them that at all,) I told Jen. Jen shrugged her shoulders even though she knew that I wouldn't be able to see it unless we were looking at a mirror, but I got the idea nonetheless. Jen then walked back to her room to watch some YouTube or Netflix with spoon and mashed potatoes both still in hand. We had already seen Face/Off a few times before (although never in its full length, strangely enough) and Jen knew that whoever got to the TV first had first dibs.
"You know what to do with the bowl, Jen," Eve called out from the living room.
"Yes, Mom!" Jen said back.
The good thing about being a Yeerk (at least in the Yeerkish perspective; humans are somewhat bothered by this thing) is that while you can tell what your host is thinking all the time because of your connections to their brain, they cannot know a lot of what you are thinking unless you tell them directly or you actually open yourself up to them. Most Yeerks don't really see the need to let their host know what they are thinking day in and day out, letting their host know what and how they feel about something when they think it's necessary to do so. I admit to being one of those Yeerks, and for this particular instance I was glad that thought transfer between Yeerk and host brain is one-way for the most part as the thoughts that I began to entertain will certainly serve as fodder for Jen and her own thought processes. (Jen: I knew you were thinking about senior moments at that time!) (Yemra: All right, I'm admitting it. Are you happy now, Jen?) (Jen: Just continue with the story, Yems.)
In all of my years of existence, I can distinctly remember only one Yeerk who would fall under the bracket of what both Yeerks and humans would consider as a senior, someone whose age is approaching the average lifespan of their species. We Yeerks could not remember our species' average lifespan in the years since we were uplifted from our homeworld by Seerow's Kindness and then began fighting our costly war against the very same Andalites who had brought us to the stars, but recent estimates have placed the Yeerk's average lifespan at almost exactly one hundred human years. The Yeerk whom I remember whose age would be quite near to that one hundred human years' average lifespan was around ninety human years or so old, meaning that he would most certainly qualify as a senior citizen in human terms. (Jen: Ninety years old? This guy isn't just old, he's ancient!)
His name was Carger Four-Seven-Five-One. By the time that I matured from my grub stage and embarked upon the Imperial training course, Carger was an instructor in the sensory overload management course. The sensory overload course is where we Yeerks have to learn to control our instincts to observe and interact with the universe around us whenever we infest a host body. Carger, having lived as long as he has, still remembers the time when Yeerk-kind swam around in the natural pools of our homeworld and had only Gedds as our host bodies. The Gedds were sentient creatures; they had a sense of their own identity but had not yet sowed the seeds of a culture, at least until we Yeerks came along and helped the Gedds establish a very primitive agricultural society. Carger had told us newly matured symbionts that in the old days, all Yeerk-kind cared about was the fact that they could finally see, smell, sense and observe the world around them through the Gedds. But now things were different; we had to set aside our base instinct to marvel at the universe and focus on the task of getting used to controlling a host body as this was how we were going to fight against the Andalites. The Gedds, being a sentient species with the physical handicap of one leg being shorter than the other (a trait that simply does not make sense for Earth's scientists as it does not fit with their theory of evolution), was simply incapable of fighting a direct war against the Andalites, but we had new host species in the form of the Taxxons and the Hork-Bajir.
"The Gedd is where we start," Carger had told our batch of trainees when it was our turn to be taught by him. "The Gedd has basic vision alongside the standard sensory package. The Gedd's vision is practical on our homeworld, but anywhere else in the universe and the Gedd's vision is practically useless. But think about this: if Gedd vision at this state is already so overwhelming for us, how then are we going to deal with Hork-Bajir and Taxxon vision? A Hork-Bajir's vision is markedly better than that of a Gedd's, very much better. Imagine how distracting that would be? And A Taxxon looks like it has only a dozen red eyes, but in truth each of those 'eyes' is actually a thousand columns of visible spectrum-sensitive receptor cells. Each of these cells has its own miniscule field of vision that when combined together by the Taxxon brain produces vision that is paradoxically both intact and fragmented at the same time. That is an entirely different level of distractions altogether. But we cannot let it stop us or distract us from the mission. We are fighting for the survival of our species, and we cannot let a simple thing such as the marvel of sight or senses to distract our minds while we fight against the Andalites."
That was the "opening speech," as the humans call it, that Carger gave to us at the start of our sensory overload management course. But when I managed to get to talk to Carger on one of the very few off days that Yeerk trainees get during their training course for Imperial service, I learned of what he really believed in and not just what he had been told to tell us, his trainees. "Young one, if one of the sub-vissers so much as hears of anything that I am about to say then we are both going to be sentenced to starvation," Carger said nonchalantly. "I have been around for so long that I am already starting to forget what it feels like to live on our home planet. Maybe the embrace of death will finally allow me to remember those details once again. Those were the days, young one. Those were the days when Yeerk-kind was possibly at its best. Now we are an empire, and we are shoving ourselves into the heads of beings who don't want us in their heads. I know that this is what we must do now to survive, but I must say that I yearn for the days of old, when being a Yeerk did not mean that we must become a scourge upon the galaxy and the universe."
Granted, it was not a senior moment like the kind that Jen's mother had just experienced. But that was most certainly an instance of a Yeerk acting very much like a human senior: reminiscing about the old days, not caring about the consequences of non-conforming behavior being revealed to someone in power, and looking forward to the cessation of his own existence. I had never seen anything like it throughout the entirety of my time as a soldier of the Yeerk Empire and I never thought that I would ever again see anything like it until my time on Earth proved me wrong by the mere fact that I saw through both Mallory and Jen's eyes human seniors doing the same things and expressing the same views that Carger had shown to me in that brief time that I got to know him.
Having said that, I have no idea where Carger is now or if he is even alive. If he is, he would probably be 110 Earth years old. Do Yeerks even live that long? I know that there are some humans who have managed to live to 110 years old but I have never ever heard of a Yeerk living that long? If that is the case then rest in peace, Carger Four-Seven-Five-One of the Fleet Niaar Pool. You will be missed.
A/N: Apologies in advance if this chapters seems a bit disjointed. I was trying out a new style of storytelling for this story and well, it came out like this. This was also done mostly through stream of consciousness which might explain why it jumps around a little bit. Still, I do appreciate it if you can drop a review telling me if you liked it or not, and follow and/or favoriting this story also makes me happy both on the outside and the inside. I hope to improve this new style of mine through subsequent chapters though! That's all, and thanks for reading this far into the chapter! - GR