I was visited by an alien last night.
I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest. I’d just settled down with a book and brew.
“Hello” said the alien.
“Hello” I responded. “Can I make you a brew? The kettles just boiled.”
“No, thanks. I don’t, with being a non-corporeal being and all” I should probably explain; this alien wasn’t one of those little grey fellas you see on the TV. He was more of a shimmering light floating about eighteen inches off the top of my sofa.
With hindsight, asking him if he fancied a brew was probably a stupid question.
“So, why are you here?” I enquired (recovering from my shock, my questions were becoming a little more relevant)
“Oh, you know, just bobbing by”
“Are you going to give me an anal probe?”
“Well, I could if you wanted, but I’d prefer not to. Is this something you often ask of house guests?”
“No” I responded, relieved. “Not usually”.
We chatted for a while. I asked him his name. He said it didn’t really translate well into our language, but would sound something like “oooooooooooooo”. He said he liked to add an “x” at the start and the end so it was spelt “Xooox”, to break up the vowels and sound a little funky. I suggested he could have put the x’s in the middle, but he had some kind of beef about that.
Conversation with an alien isn’t as easy as you might imagine. They’re generally not interested in local weather, or the football. So I asked:
“How old are you?”
“I was just interested”
“Oh. Well, I’m not sure how to answer to be honest. Do you measure time based on your planets circulatory pattern of the local star?”
“OK. Well, in that case, I guess I’d be about 37 million circuits by your reckoning”
“37 million years old!? Wow. That’s really old. And I was worried about approaching 40.”
“37 million of your years isn’t that old you know! Your planet is 4.5 BILLION years old. Do you have any idea how big a number a billion is?”
“Well, it’s fairly big I suppose” was the best response I could muster.
“If you sat there and counted to 4.5 billion, it would take you about 140 of your years.”
“Does that include toilet breaks?”
“No” replied Xooox.
“It’s pretty amazing though isn’t it?” I asked
“This! Here I am sat here, a sentient life form, talking to another sentient life form from a completely different planet! I mean, there really is other life out there. Of all the flukes and quirks and chances involved in creating life, and then evolving to sentient life, that two sentient beings from different planets should ever meet like this is just amazing. The odds must be minute!”
“Not at all! Life is common. Almost inevitable really, in the right conditions, and given enough time.”
“Oh yes. Most definitely. Listen: your planet is 4.5 billion years old. Yet within 500 million years, by about 4 billion years ago, life has already formed as single-celled organisms. It took another 2 billion years before they started to develop into the first complex cells, and it was 1.2 billion years ago by the time multi cellular life forms appeared. Half a billion years ago you started to see the first back-boned fish and by 400 million years ago, you started to see life on the land too. By 250 million years ago, your dinosaurs were in charge and remained so for almost 200 million years. Your species has only been about 2 million years in comparison.
“But my point is” Xooox continued “that life appeared very quickly in the history of your world, as it does in many others. In fact, life has been present for 4 billion of the 4.5 billion years your world has been in existence. It didn’t take that long, in relative terms, to get started, and then marched consistently on from that point”
“And now it’s culminated in our existence. Humans! Sentient species.” It was starting to make sense to me now. We were the end result of 4 billion years of life and evolution!
“Hardly!” responded Xooox with a chuckle
“What do you mean?” I asked, sharper than I’d intended.
“Well, look at you. I mean all of you. As a species. You’re hardly the culmination of anything. Sure, you’re sentient, to an extent, but you’re not the end result. Just another dead-end I’m afraid”
“What do you mean, dead-end?”
“Listen: over 99% of the organisms that have ever existed on your planet no longer exist. Why should you be any different? And what makes you think you are the culmination? The end game?”
“You’re not the end game. You’re just another dead-end, I’m afraid”
“So what’s the end game?”
“I can’t tell you that. You wouldn’t understand it. You’re still tied to your corporeal world”
“So should we evolve into something like you?”
“Possibly. Eventually. But not your line. Your line isn’t a keeper. More a throw-away draft.”
“Well if not humans, then who? Chimps?”
“Listen, I need to get going. I’ve hung around too long, but thanks for the chat.” Xooox started to fade.
“No, wait…you’ve got to tell me…is it the chimps?”
“….no……you’re thinking too laterally….” Xooox responded faintly
“No? Erm….the birds?”
“………..no………..” came the almost inaudible response
“Not the ants?!”
I bloody hate ants.