Little Green Men

When I grow up I aspire to communicate with aliens.
Digital illustration: Little Green Man

You know how it is, when you’re a kid: the stories of the unknown are easy for anybody to concoct, since practically everything in the universe is still complete terra incognito to a kid. When I was a little squirt, there were endless options for what could be considered alien, from plain old grownups I couldn’t understand to spies and horror-story monsters, teachers and people who spoke indecipherable languages (you know, like Mathematics), ghosts and clowns. Or any combination thereof. But the best kind of aliens about which to tell tall tales would pretty much have to be extraterrestrials, nearly all of them apparently coming from Mars in the popular lore of my youth, and virtually every one of the Martians being, evidently, a little green man.

We make our gods and monsters in our own image, to a certain extent, even as grownups but most especially as children, so it makes sense that my childhood’s aliens should still have been humanoid, even if from 225 million kilometers away in space, give or take. I suppose that the green skin was mainly to clarify just how different these otherwise similar creatures were from us earthlings, and the littleness perhaps meant to signify their being lesser life forms than the obviously superior terrestrial ones.

But we little life forms known as kids were also savvy enough to make up our tales of Martians and Little Green Men in ways that would generally prove that our own smallness wasn’t so much a marker of inferiority in our race; we could best the invaders (as they always were, in those days) just as much as our elders could, maybe better. And of course we all knew at some point that we could best the human grownups, too. Especially as we grew older and began to realize that, like all of the other sorts of unknown and fearsome creatures that were alien to us, those ghosts and monsters and clowns and teachers, aliens might prove to be different from what we had imagined them to be.

Some might, in fact, turn out to be smarter than us. Be revealed as benign or, to our amazement, even benevolent. Just as we began to understand that not all humans and creatures that resembled humans to the casual observer were intelligent or benevolent or, indeed, quite human at all, we started to realize that each being whose path intersects with our own might prove, on closer observation and interaction, to have unknown depths and nuances, hidden flaws and unimagined strengths and gifts. We all begin as aliens to one another, in a way. It’s in learning to know each other as real and distinct individuals, to see each other with unprejudiced and open-eyed clarity and no preconceived notions of worth, of the good and bad of our hearts, that we can discover connections. Kinship.

I can’t say I think it at all likely that my ancestors were little green men who arrived in a flying saucer from Mars. And I’m not so all-embracing that I’ve given up my sense that there’s something alien and not quite right about most clowns. But I’ve got my own set of strange quirks and characteristics, and since I’d like to think other people will give me the chance to become a good person if I’m not already there, I hope I’m at least smart enough to get to know them as well as I can before assuming that they’re from another planet.

Here I am. Now.

Honey Badger is not alone. Dead people don’t care, either. Even if they’re going to be reincarnated, they couldn’t possibly care less, I assume, about what anybody thought of them in life. The past is a lock.

What matters, if anything does, to the dead as much as to the living is what’s yet possible (if that includes reincarnation). The only way to get to the future, furthermore, is to be present in the present. All of the yesterdays that ever were can only be altered—at least without a time machine, which, of course, must be built in the present or future since there isn’t one yet, other than the hard to find Vernean one or the wonderful TARDIS of course—by improving the outcomes of those yesterdays in the present and future. Funny how that all works.

But what it tells me is that while I can (I very much hope) learn from the past, there’s no benefit in dwelling on it. And I don’t even think there’s much to be gained from living exclusively for the future. I’m not guaranteed one, after all. I could be caught unawares by a fatal disease, slip on a blot of mud and fall off a cliff, or be eaten by aliens tomorrow. And I can’t be sitting around knitting my brow and fretting over whether anyone will express admiration and gratitude for the wonderfulness of me after that happens.

I’d like to be way too busy until tomorrow, or whenever that cutoff time arrives, to expend any real energy conjuring up what grand eulogies I’ll get and what perfect art will be applied to my tomb, when I’ll be much too dead to care. Not to mention that whether I’m cremated [post-mortem, thankyouverymuch!] as I intend or it’s because there’s nothing left of me but my socks and hat after the aliens ingest me, there won’t be any need for a tomb. In any case, joy and contentment should be usurping all of the space that any such thoughts would aim to occupy. I prefer to think that I’m living out my eulogy, and lest it be of any interest to anyone but me, the most fitting one I can imagine would be that I was too busy living to sit around for a funerary portrait.

I know that I am loved. That is the best of all possible epitaphs I could possibly desire. And it’s a cheering enough thought to keep me occupied for as long as I get to be in the Here and Now. I guess my job is to pass it along to those in my immediate vicinity, my small orbit, so that they might be able to make the same claim.photo

Hot Flash Fiction 11: Undocumented Alien

digital illustrationThough we all saw our third grade teacher as a pretty lady and wonderfully good-natured, she was also quietly self-effacing and exceedingly proper, so when she was summarily carted off as an unregistered and presumably dangerous foreigner, everyone in the school, nay, in the entire town, was mightily surprised. Of course, when the government interrogation of her was deep in progress and her skin suddenly began to luminesce and the shoulders of her nice dress ripped at the seams as her wings unfurled from underneath, it turned out that nobody could be more surprised than the feds.digital illustration

Alienation

The aliens are very disappointed in us. If we wreck all the prettiness of the planet and use up all its treasures, what’ll be left for them to conquer and acquire?

Of course, this might seem like motivation for us pusillanimous pigs to keep trashing the earth–eliminate everything desirable and we’ll never be attacked by aliens who want it.

Except that even in our dullest-witted science fiction, we tend to acknowledge that alien races not only might be light years smarter and more advanced than we are, they probably also have different needs and desires than ours.

So they might just be sad because we haven’t managed to wipe ourselves out quite yet, meaning that they’ll still have cleanup to do when they arrive.

Marauding and usurpation are just as much hassle as ever. Unless we perfect self-annihilation as quickly as our present rate would seem to presage.

Do aliens smile?digital illustration

Messengers

I admire real journalists and documentarians. Now, I do think that they are a very rare breed among news-people, the rest of whom are too driven by their corporate sponsors’ and their own biases by a long shot, no matter where on the spectrum of politics, religion, personal philosophy or other conviction they fall, but there are those honest characters who, if they do consistently let their beliefs steer their messages, at least recognize those prejudices and are quite open about them and still manage to give air time to opposing or differing points of view.

Still, the ones I really find compelling are a different sort of message bearers. They are harder to recognize, because they can be quite ordinary seeming mortals or wholly incorporeal, quotidian or fantastical, intentional or entirely, serendipitously accidental in their delivery of important news in our lives. Are they strangers we meet by happenstance and happy crossing of paths, like the townspeople in Germany who saw my older sister and me debarking a train after dark and looking around to orient ourselves? The kind couple approached us, told us that Celle (however lovely) was a very small town indeed and that there were few places for visitors to stop overnight but they’d help us find one, gave us directions and set us on the path to a very cozy little bed and breakfast before disappearing into the dark like a mist.

Are the messengers those outstanding teachers who have acted not only as educators in our lives but also as inspiration, as mentors, counselors, guides and friends? Mrs. Willis, Mr. Cunningham, Prof. Keyes: I salute you! Teachers have done as much to bring light to my life as to the dim corners of my mind over the years, and I am grateful for the news and stories and messages they bring. Are there other beings among us able to protect and direct us without our even being aware of it? Of course there are. Some of them are simply gracious fellow humans whose good deeds and kindness will never be seen or fully known and recognized in our lifetimes, either because we are too dim-witted and self-involved to notice as we should or because they merely do their mitzvahs without fanfare, without expecting or needing any recognition and recompense. These we should imitate and their message should be spread further by our going out in turn to do kindnesses for others and requiring no attention or glory.

And I think that–given how beautiful and rich life can be when we do pay attention–there must be others in our midst too; angels or aliens, I don’t much care what we name them, but there must be Love looking out for us to make even the tiniest good possible, let alone the many graces that fill our days if we only look. Their message, I suspect, is nothing more or less than that we are being well looked after, and our little lives recorded no matter how small they may seem to us.pen and ink

Hot Flash Fiction 4: Man’s Better Friend than He Ever Knew

 

digital artworkThe interviewer from Wagging Wonders paused. Biscuit cocked her head thoughtfully, now reminiscing about her youth. In the old days, before the invention of the Frisbee®, dogs had to be so much more clever and agile to chase and catch those passing spaceships. Pups these days! They have no idea how easy they have it. Why, if it hadn’t been for Biscuit and Sprocket, all of Montana would’ve been overrun by those little orange beings that dodged their yipping and nipping, landing covertly in Seattle instead, in ’62.