In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt Worldly Encounters.
The friendly, English-speaking extraterrestrial you run into outside your house is asking you to recommend the one book, movie, or song that explains what humans are all about. What do you pick?
Angela had never liked science fiction movies: Encounter of the Third King, ET, Mars Attacks, Independence Day and other Men In Black. She loathed them. All these movies only enhanced the need of the human race to show themselves as superior. Hello! They called them aliens – the epitome of otherness – and even titled a movie that way. And what a movie! A creature bent on destroying everything within its reach.
It was just a new way of defining an us vs a them. And either extra-terrestrial creatures were here to destroy us or they were so far superior like in Stargate that they could pass themselves off for gods. So they had to be fought as the invader, a colonial force of a new nature. She hated the discourse behind the movies and she hope no extra-terrestrial being would ever be so foolish as to try and understand her very own species. She had no issue believing that there were planets out there that would sustain a life form that could be similar yet different from earthling. But the entire propaganda left a bitter aftertaste.
Don’t be mistaken. Angela was no misanthrope. She was an anthropologist in fact and had spent years studying human reactions and behaviours. She loved seeing how societies changed, how people’s spirit changed. She found it fascinating that people believed that things changed when they actually didn’t. She studied the power of movies and video games on the people’s psyche and how it impacted their behaviours. And yet, mankind seemed to need some form of spirituality. Still the need to be “better” seemed to motivate most members of society. Those who would ‘serve’ had no backbone.
So when that day, Angela left the house to go to university and give her class on society imperatives on women – like having big doe eyes that make them the perfect of desire while infantilizing them – and found herself in front of someone obviously not from earth, you can imagine her shock. They looked nothing like Elliot’s friend in ET nor the blue giant natives of Avatar, but there were humanoid traits to them, as if they had gone through the same path of evolution but in a world where water might have been even more present. Their skins had the slight transparency of a water creature and the eyes with bigger irises that leaving in a darker place might trigger.
Her very own encounter of the third kind. She passed out of course. When she opened her eyes, she was on her sofa. She must have dozed off and dreamed. But they were still here, sitting by her side as if they were concerned for her.
“I’m sorry to have frightened you.” How was it that they spoke perfect English? “I learned some of your languages.”
And they did mind reading. That was a little scary.
“Yes… only on contact though.”
That’s when Angela realized they were holding her hand. As if they knew, they let go. Of course they knew.
“I’m sorry. I believed you’d be the best person to speak with, seeing as I study the same thing as you. Same job?”
“Are you an anthropologist?”
“We don’t call it that. But I study the different life forms on planet, species that have evolved to a certain degree of communication and industrialization. I think that’s what you call it here.”
“Why have you come here?” Angela blurted. It might be impolite but she really didn’t think it was a good idea. What if someone had seen them? The government would come and arrest them, capture them and make experiment without anyone the wiser. Come to think of it, Angela herself might be arrested as well… See the selfish streak here. She knew it too.
“Well I have a paper to write for my teacher. And I’d like to know what book to read to explain what humans are all about. Or a song. Do you have an idea?”
Angela thought about it; it was totally weird. She shouldn’t have that type of conversation. Unearthly people didn’t belong on earth; they belonged in people’s imagination. Still she gave the visitor’s question her full attention as she would for one of her students. For all that mankind was imperfect, they still sought perfection. And they found it, fulfilled themselves in love. Whether love of something or someone, mankind always showed its best when it embraced that feeling. But it was ever in contention with that individual selfish streak that she herself experienced.
“I guess you want to hear All You Need Is Love and Sound of Silence.”
Angela pulled her iPod and played the two songs for her guest.
“They seem contradictory.” The visitor said once the songs were over.
“They are. But that’s what earthlings are. Full of contradiction. Selfish and isolated yet caring and searching for connections. We aren’t perfect but we aim for it.”
They smiled as the sun kissed their skin through her window. “Thank you,” and they disappeared, as if the light had rendered them completely transparent.
Maybe they would make it back to their world without catching the attention of the government after all. She could only hope so.