The Venus Bed

“Our mattress is still good.” Pinch-faced Nan hurried after her heavy husband.

“It’s lumpy and it smells.” Balding Herbert scanned the storefronts along 8th Street. Early Sunday in Greenwich Village, most hadn’t opened their doors. He’d forgotten his umbrella, but Nan held hers up against the sooty rain.

“That mattress is only nine years old. It’s supposed to last ten years.”

“Here’s that pop-up store.” A building ripe for the wrecker’s ball had sprouted a pink sign: “Venus Beds.” As the two peered inside, the lights flicked on and dreamy, New Age music wafted into the rainy street.

“Come on, honey.” Herbert shook himself like a wet dog and lunged inside. Nan followed:

“Looks like one of those concept stores where you pay for the décor.”

Copper-colored standing lamps shed a rosy glow. A young woman in a clingy pantsuit glided towards the middle-aged couple, smiling like a toothpaste ad. Nan scowled.

“Good morning,” said Herbert brightly. “I read about your beds on the internet. We’d like to try one.”

He’d like to,” Nan corrected.

“This way, please.” The saleswoman herded them towards the rear of the store, where three plump beds stood side by side. “These are our best-ever beds. Try one, and you’ll never want another.” With a ripping sound she pulled the middle bed open, disclosing a ridge of Velcro-like nap along its edges.

“How peculiar,” said Nan.

“You don’t sleep on a Venus bed,” said Herbert. “You sleep inside.”

“That’s right; there’s no bed on Earth like our Venus. The halves mold around your body, creating a sensation of weightlessness.”

“I’m ready.” He gazed at his wife defiantly.

“Please just remove your coat and shoes.”

“How long will this take?” Nan demanded.

“A standard nap is 20 minutes.”

“I’ll go pick up our dry-cleaning.”

“Ma’am, wouldn’t you like to try one yourself? We have a special offer.”

“No, thanks.”

“She’ll never try anything new.” Herbert pulled off his loafers.

“I’ll be back,” Nan said irritably and stalked away.

Just then a handsome black man with golden earrings pranced into the store. Hadn’t she seen him on TV? She paused as the saleslady, having settled Herbert, turned to the younger man.

“I’m a rock musician,” he said. “I keep crazy hours. Wish I could sleep without pills.”

“A Venus bed can help you,” the saleslady said.

Nan snorted and headed for the door, but a bowl with colorful bonbons caught her eye. Unwrapping one, she bit into it–and it bit back. Like a dream she saw a well-upholstered woman easing into a Venus Bed, which gently closed around her, leaving her face exposed. Her eyelids drooped, and smiling she sank deeper, and disappeared. Moments later the bed sprang open, empty, as a cheerful voice chirped in a language Nan didn’t recognize.

Was this an ad? For what? Nan pulled the candy from her bleeding mouth and inspected its tiny prong. “Every day another swindle in New York,” she muttered, and threw the candy on the floor. Brandishing her umbrella she marched back towards the beds.

Her back turned, the saleswoman chattered on a phone–in the language from the ad… Herbert, snoring like a drunken lord, wore a smile on his fleshy, placid face. Suddenly his wife of 22 years felt the urge to abandon him. She’d let the bed have him.

Nan glanced at the musician’s bed: empty. It gave a belch and lifted its lid. On the pillow lay two gold earrings…

“You ate him!” she cried, and strained to pry open Herbert’s lid, which wouldn’t budge. Dropping her umbrella she slashed at the fibrous fasteners with her house key. The whole bed shivered and a milky liquid dripped from its gashes.

“What are you doing?” the saleswoman shrilled, grabbing her arm. Nan slapped her and her blond hairdo fell off, revealing a shiny metal scalp. Clicking excitedly the robot swept Nan up like a doll and stuffed her into the unused bed–which spit her out with a furious “Ptuii!”

She snatched up her sharp-pointed umbrella and stabbed the robot in the chest. Backwards it toppled with a sound like falling pots and pans, and lay still.

Herbert’s cheeks looked strangely sunken now. The man could sleep through an alien invasion. Maybe he already had?

“Get up, you lump!” Nan shouted in his ear. “This comfy bed is killing you!” Herbert only groaned.

She rummaged in her bag for her mini-can of mace (never left home without it), and squirted some into the slashes she’d made with her key. Shuddering, the bed began to open.

She tugged at Herbert, taking care not to touch the bed’s inside, which looked sticky. Digestive juices?

“Urrghhhh,” he groaned. “Is it time for the baseball game?”

“Get up! These beds are man-eating aliens.”

“You read too much sci-fi.” Looking as if he’d lost 30 pounds (he looked great), slowly he stood up and stretched. “I had the most delicious nap.” He noticed the sprawled robot. “What happened to her?”

“I broke her. Let’s get out of here!”

His bed wriggled from its frame and snapped at him.

“You see? You never listen!” she accused. He grabbed a standing lamp and whacked at the bed, which burst into smoky flames. “Light the other one too,” she urged. “It ate another man.”

The burning aliens writhed on the floor as orange flames slithered up the walls. Sirens yowled in the distance as Nan and Herbert staggered out into the rain.

“With my luck they’ll arrest us for arson,” she moaned. “No one will believe our tale. And to top it off, you forgot our anniversary.”

“I didn’t,” he vowed as they hurried down 8th Street together, forgetting their dry-cleaning. “I bought us front row tickets for Barry Manilow. Happy Anniversary, honey.”

“Oh why did you spend all that money?”