Signals

When they finally came, it was in a giant flying saucer, just like in the movies. People in bathrobes stepped out of their front doors to collect their morning papers from their driveways and looked up to see its underside obscuring the sun–just like in the movies.

The aliens themselves were your traditional garden-variety greys of B-movie and conspiracy nut fame, giving the latter a tremendous opportunity to gloat.

Even I, as a jaded and seasoned veteran reporter, was just as taken aback by this turn of events as anyone else–and I’ve seen it all.

At least, I thought I had. I suppose the most surprising aspect of their arrival was the location they chose. It wasn’t anywhere one would expect–not Washington, the U.N. or anywhere like that.

They came to Hollywood.

Not only that, but the message they transmitted to us over the airwaves to announce themselves contained no requests to meet with world leaders, Nobel Peace Prize winners, renowned scientists, or anyone else of similar stature.

Instead, they expressed a desire to speak with actors, studio heads, and the CEOs of major corporations from across the globe.

Everyone, including myself, was utterly baffled by this request, but within days a meeting was arranged at Vasquez rocks out by Agua Dulce. You know the place–it’s an iconic filming location. Google it and you’ll go “Oh, yeah, that place.”

Anyway, legions of them flocked to the desert to be a part of this unprecedented event, including yours truly. Very few journalists were permitted to attend, but because I’m a fairly popular TV personality, I was considered eligible.

The assembled crowd stood watching in silent awe as the saucer descended from the sky to the dusty ground, and held its collective breath as the ramp came down–just like in the movies.

Three aliens exited the spacecraft, and everyone either gasped, whooped, clapped, chattered excitedly, or engaged in some combination of said actions. One of the greys approached the podium that had been set up earlier that day by people who now weren’t allowed to be there, and the crowd fell dead silent.

Some guy cleared his throat, eliciting reproachful scowls from everyone within earshot.

The alien spoke.

“Good morning. I am communicating to you through a device which translates my thoughts into human English speech. I apologize in advance for any pronunciation or grammatical errors.”

Its voice didn’t sound artificial in the least–it might as well have been a real person’s.

“I am TūQuoque, from Annuit Virtus, located in the Verum Publicus Galaxy.”

I looked at the faces of the people around me, and everyone seemed to be wondering the same thing: Is this really happening?

“We have observed your species for quite some time,” TūQuoque went on. “Until recently, we have always regarded your kind as superstitious, primitive savages–not suitable for contact. However, after viewing many hours of your television broadcasts and studying your online interactions via your primitive ‘internet,’ we have concluded the following: In the face of a global pandemic, your politicians have misdirected and confused you. Your information media has done the same. The vast majority of humankind has cast aside the mask of civility it hides behind and exposed its true, barbaric nature.”

You could’ve heard a pin drop. It was so quiet, in fact, that for a moment o thought I could hear the movement of passing clouds.

“All except for you,” he added.

One clap. Two. Six. Twenty. Everyone.

When the applause died down, TūQuoque continued. “We are inspired by your words of hope and encouragement. We are touched by your heroic acts of kindness and mercy.”

TūQuoque waved his hand, and a movie screen-sized three-dimensional projection of a television commercial appeared against the sky behind him. The projection changed to another commercial, and another, as if TūQuoque were channel surfing. They were all advertisements from the companies whose CEOs were in attendance, and every single one of them was stuffed to the gills with meaningless, sentimental claptrap about COVID-19. There was an overwhelming abundance of hugging, smiling families building living room forts, coworkers Zooming, masked warehouse employees gushing about how much the company they work for cares about them–all kinds of warm, fuzzy things. It made me want to wretch. Apparently, these stupid aliens thought these commercials represented genuine human empathy.

…We’re all in this together…because your family’s safety means as much to us, as ours…keeping you in touch…no interest until 2021…It’s about taco Tuesdays. Movie nights. The things that bring us together…That’s why we’ve donated over two million dollars to COVID awareness…relax and share those magical moments with the ones you love. We’ll come to you…We’ll make it through this. Together…

Thankfully, the presentation was a short one, but as the applause died down, I soon realized there was more to come.

“And you… All of you actors, directors; creators of myths and keepers of great wisdom,” said TūQuoque, with a distinct note of admiration creeping into his translating machine’s tone, “the songs you have sung, the public statements you have made concerning the events of these turbulent times in which you all live… You are perhaps the noblest beings on this planet. You truly are the heroes you portray in your entertainment films.”

More applause, which intensified as soon as a collaborative music video of wealthy celebrities singing some sappy old song via zoom from their luxuriously comfy living rooms appeared in the sky.

Stay home, save lives!” chirped some zoomer chick with purple hair at the end.

“This is our offer to you,” said TūQuoque as the people quieted down again. “We will destroy all of the other human beings on this planet except for yourselves, that you may begin human civilization anew. A reboot, in your words.”

Silence, for a moment. And then someone broke it.

Wait, what?” came a voice from somewhere. That one voice soon multiplied to thousands of others raised in confusion and anger.

“SILENCE!” boomed TūQuoque, his “voice” so loud that several people fell to their knees, covering their ears in agony.

My own ears were ringing like they were after I covered a Stones concert in ’96, back when I was still doing local news.

TūQuoque’s speech returned to a tolerable volume. “You are not in favor of this proposal?”

The crowd roared.

“Good,” said TūQuoque. “That was a test, to determine whether or not your virtuousness was genuine. It is. You truly are remarkable exceptions to the savage, malevolent ferocity of your general populace. We believe you to be the next step in your race’s evolution, and we now have full confidence that someday, your planet will be deemed fit to join our galactic alliance. Until then, we bid you adieu, and good luck.”

They turned around and walked back up the ramp, into the flying saucer, which rose higher and higher and higher until it was nothing but a speck to the observers on the ground. And then it vanished.

It was at that point that I woke up and realized that not only had none of that actually happened, but that I wasn’t a journalist. I didn’t even have a job.

The TV was on. Commercial for some credit card company with puppies and kids getting out of vans, and families sitting down to elaborate feasts in big dining rooms with big chandeliers.

Taunting me.

Live your best life,” said the narrator. We’re here to help.

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