51 comments

Science Fiction Funny

The arrival of extraterrestrial visitors had been so widely featured in popular culture that when it finally happened it was something of an anti-climax. The strange, oblong-shaped craft touched down on the front lawn of the White House to minimal fanfare, not a single reporter in evidence.

Conspiracy theorists, had they known, would surely have cried ‘government coverup’ and rushed to their blogs and Youtube channels to share the ‘truth’ with anybody foolish enough to listen. There was no coverup, though. Given all the goings-on in the world, aliens just didn’t rate the attention they would have a few decades ago.

Besides, the visit had been expected. A message had been sent ahead: We come in peace and wish to discuss a trade deal.

The being that emerged from the ship looked hideously alien to the small crowd of dignitaries that comprised the modest welcome party. But then, they looked just as strange to his extraterrestrial eye. Or eyes – he had thirteen in total, scattered around his narrow, purple face, the centerpiece of which was a beak-like snout sporing row upon row of wickedly sharp teeth. The elongated stem which extended back from his head contained a brain of formidable power.

The curious creature was merely an envoy. He had been sent alone to initiate talks with the primitive, ape-like beings of this peculiar little planet whose name appeared to mean dirt; a fitting moniker, given its insignificance in the greater galactic scheme of things.

The alien was from a race that had evolved beyond verbal communication – they conversed by way of low-grade telepathy – but the envoy, in preparation for his visit, had conducted an extensive study on the customs and language of the human race and had mastered a guttural form of speech to communicate with his hosts. His kind had no names, as such. Telepathy, of course, made the human obsession with attaching labels to things largely redundant for them. But, in the spirit of cooperation, the being had decided to christen himself with one of theirs. Choosing a name proved a bit of a challenge. He needed something short and easy to pronounce, but at the same time, serious-sounding. He’d considered Larry, Barry, Terry, and Brett, but they didn’t seem quite right. Bob, Rob, Ted, and Todd were briefly in the running, but none suited his personality. Or, rather, his alienality. It had to be one both official and non-threatening. In the end, he’d gone with Phil.

As he was led into the Oval Office, Phil put his new linguistic learning to the test and offered interplanetary greetings to the leader of the free world. Some minor concern had arisen amongst the aliens when it was learned that the president was something of a bigot and had ridden into office on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. But they’d discovered his animosity was reserved solely for terrestrial aliens – nothing a wall or two couldn’t fix – and thus, the ET’s concluded, they had nothing to fear from him.

And so it proved. The president warmly welcomed his extraterrestrial counterpart and then launched immediately into what seemed like a rehearsed speech, sprouting such incomprehensible words as ‘sustainable development, measurable progress, mutual cooperation, and humanitarian aid.’ Phil was aware of human politicians’ ability to speak without actually saying anything of substance, but even so, this disgorging of meaningless platitudes was painful to bear. He was tempted to evolve tear-ducts on the spot just so he could cry with frustration.

How did these people manage to get anything done? Primitive indeed.

Phil wanted to get down to business, to discuss the issue which had brought him here from the far reaches of the galaxy – famine. His race was in desperate need of a new source of food. They’d long since mastered the development of perpetually renewable resources, but that didn’t extend to their preferred form of sustenance. They’d scoured the solar system in search of a solution, but one hadn’t been forthcoming, until now.

Earth had exactly what they needed, in abundance. The queer little planet had a dilemma of its own – it was fast running out of natural resources and all its leaders could do about it was talk, as the president was still doing. As luck would have it, the sole cause of Earth’s problems, the one thing they had in plentiful supply, was the very thing the aliens hungered for.

Hence the visit and proposed trade negotiations. The task, however, was easier said than done. Phil’s limited grasp of the English language, along with his fast-fading patience with the blow-hard bureaucrat, left him inadequately equipped to negotiate the intricacies of diplomacy in this inexplicable, round-about manner.

Added to that, breathing oxygen was an enormous strain on his system. How these beings managed not just to ingest, but to actually function, on one of the most corrosive gasses in existence was beyond his comprehension. No wonder they all died in infancy (Phil had recently celebrated his 221st birthday, the traditional age at which aliens entered adulthood).

He needed to retire to his ship to rest and recuperate before any serious discussions could commence. But he was also famished and eager to learn whether his human hosts would be open to meeting their visitor’s needs, or whether his race was destined to succumb to starvation.

So, having already learned a thing or two about diplomacy, Phil informed the president that he needed to return to his craft forthwith, but extended an invitation to the man and his wife to join him on board for dinner that evening.

The president readily agreed, adding, “Just so you know, I’m a strict vegetarian, okay?”

Phil was not familiar with the term and searched his vast store of human knowledge for its meaning. As best he could ascertain, a vegetarian was one who eschewed meat in favor of plant matter. How barbaric! Still, if the president felt now was the appropriate time to bring up the matter, Phil felt he should share his own culinary preferences with the man, to prepare him for what was to come.

He was about to delve once more into his infinite intellect for the appropriate term for his own dietary habits when a word the president had used repeatedly before came to him. If someone who ate only plants was a vegetarian, that made him a…

“Don’t worry, Mr. President. I, like all my kind, am a strict humanitarian.”

He’d been led to believe his hosts would find the matter somewhat distasteful, but the man before him seemed not put out in the least. In fact, the president clapped his hands together and exclaimed, “Terrific, Phil! Glad to hear it. I think our races will get on just fine, then.”

What a relief! As he turned to go, however, Phil wanted to make his intentions abundantly clear. He knew that the combination of cultural differences and the nuances of the mongrel tongue that is the English language made for frequent misunderstandings. He wanted to make things as clear as could be.

“Mr. President,” he said from the doorway, “it will be a pleasure to have you and your wife for dinner.”

“Oh no, Phil, good buddy. The pleasure, I can assure you, will be all ours.”

So, it was settled then.

Mightily relieved, and with a new spring in his step, the alien returned to his craft to get ready for dinner.

Phil could hardly wait – he was starving.

August 28, 2020 04:29

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51 comments

Pragya Rathore
05:32 Aug 28, 2020

Oh my god! I feel sad for the President! Humanitarian, indeed. My favorite line was: "He was tempted to evolve tear-ducts on the spot just so he could cry with frustration." This alien is the most hilarious extraterrestrial ever. Funny story, I enjoyed it immensely! Reminded me of the Harfang Giant Fest in Narnia. Wonderfully written, as usual. :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:30 Aug 28, 2020

You are just the best, you know that? In future, if ever I’m feeling down, I know I can just submit a story and within minutes you’ll have commented and I’ll be smiling again 😊 Your support would mean so much no matter what, but seeing how good your writing is, it means extra much. Thank you!

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Pragya Rathore
14:54 Aug 28, 2020

My pleasure :)

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Jonathan Blaauw
04:32 Aug 28, 2020

Author’s note: The inspiration for this crazy little story came from Pragya Rathore – a few days ago she tried to convince me that an egalitarian is not someone who eats eagles. I remain unconvinced. Also, no discussion of man-eating aliens is complete without a nod to Damon Knight, who put them on the map (not literally, thank goodness) way back in 1950.

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Pragya Rathore
08:50 Aug 28, 2020

This is one crazily hilarious story you've got here! Now, the only creatures who can tell you what 'egalitarian' means are the eagles themselves. :p

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:31 Aug 28, 2020

Not if they've all been eaten. Nice try...

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:05 Aug 29, 2020

An eagle downvoted my author's note.

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Pragya Rathore
14:38 Aug 31, 2020

Don't worry, I upvoted it. And the eagle mysteriously vanished... (On a completely unrelated note, dinner was sumptuous today.)

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:52 Aug 31, 2020

Fancy that! Thank you. You'll be hearing from PETA soon...

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Laura Everly
01:25 Sep 03, 2020

very funny...I was a little slow on what alien was subtle talking about what aliens ate until the humanitarian line that and the ending nice job

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:07 Sep 03, 2020

Thank you! It's not your slowness - I deliberately made it vague enough that it wouldn't be obvious but would make sense later on. Who would've thought - hungry aliens saving us from overpopulation? A classic win-win! Thanks for reading.

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Katina Foster
14:55 Sep 02, 2020

So, I love this. I am a linguistics nerd with a MA degree in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution (a real degree, I promise). I frequently think it’s a miracle that we manage to communicate at all. I would love for this story to be taught and discussed in one of the international mediation classes I took. All of the nuance of cross-cultural communication, the media and politics are on display in the best possible way. 🤣 I actually laughed out loud when the alien chose the name Phil. Soo good! Not really related, but have you read...

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Jonathan Blaauw
16:17 Sep 02, 2020

I haven't read her but I'll add it to my list. My inspiration for this was partly To Serve Man, and partly Hannibal (Lecter not Barca 🤣) They really should teach your area of expertise in school. To everyone. All the time. The world needs less conflict and more resolution, which is why we're facing revolution. I tried to think of a way to include evolution as well in that sentence but it's been a long day and my brain is tired.

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Katina Foster
16:39 Sep 02, 2020

I love that episode of The Twilight Zone! Now I need to read the short story that inspired it! I don't think it's a coincidence that revolution contains the word evolution... just sayin' 🤷‍♀️

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I.B. Dunn
23:15 Aug 31, 2020

You crack me up. You write like I think. I wish I had that skill. I also like that with everything that’s going on now you can write a story about politics that is hilarious. You drop your jokes in like hand grenades. They don’t explode until the end of the sentence. The line about coming for a trade deal made me laugh out loud, take a sip of my drink, and sit back ready to read and chuckle. Please keep writing. I write stories in part so I can read yours. Fantastic job.

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:06 Sep 01, 2020

Thank you so much, your comments are so encouraging. You're not half bad in the skills department yourself though, so don't discount your own ability.

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11:30 Aug 30, 2020

Ahhhhhhhhh!😂😂😂😂 Oh noooo, pres and his wife gonna be main course!🍲😂😂 This was so lovely Blaauw. Really enjoyable! I loved it! And the descriptions and narration was just fab! Great job Blaauw!!!🙃 (P.S. Do you mind checking out my recent story? Feedback would be nice too! Thanks!!!!!)

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Jonathan Blaauw
11:36 Aug 30, 2020

This is amazing - I was busy reading your story at the exact same time you must have been reading mine! Incredible! So yes, I have feededback some feedback after I managed to stop laughing at your crazy story. Genius is what you are! Thanks for reading mine :)

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11:40 Aug 30, 2020

😘😘😘😁😁😁THANKS!!! Feededback some feedback🤣🤣🤣

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:43 Aug 30, 2020

I feel like any day now you're going to evolve beyond English and start communicating entirely in emojis 🕵️⛄🦓🐜🥝🍱🚓🚀🗽🌅🎀🏈🥇🥊🎲🎰🔫🎩🎧🎻📻📞💵🖱️🧦🧤🧦☂️🛰️⚙️✒️📊📭🕖📢🛡️🗡️⚔️❗⁉️♨️🎦🎶🔅☢️🈯🈁Ⓜ️🏧✖️♠️➰🎌🇳🇬🇳🇬🇳🇬

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15:45 Aug 30, 2020

Yes, yes, yes!!😂😂😂😂😋😋😙 You are entirely right!!!😘😘🤗😙😗😄😅😆🤣😂😂😁😁😀🤡🤡🤠🤔😌 I think the whole of humanity's gonna start doing that someday... 😌😝😜😛 I love how you call it 'evolving'. 🤣😂😂😘😘😘

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Jonathan Blaauw
16:41 Aug 30, 2020

Sorry, I meant devolving.

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13:17 Sep 01, 2020

Crushing as always, my man! I would call it ironic, but it's written in words and not metal. I'll bet americans taste like shit, especially trump.

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Jonathan Blaauw
15:22 Sep 01, 2020

I bet old Jeffrey Dahmer could tell us 🍽️ That "irony" joke is so lame - I love it! Exactly the kind of thing I'd say 😂 and get eyes rolled at me in response. Nobody appreciates good humour these days. At least there are some of us holding the line.

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15:50 Sep 01, 2020

Amen, brother. PC has ruined the world!

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Kristin Neubauer
22:42 Aug 28, 2020

Hah! So clever - as someone else said, if only we had a real Phil who could come down and save us by feasting on Trump. And three cheers to Pragya for the eagalitarian/eagle conversation....you guys are so creative, that never would have occurred to me. Love the word play!

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:10 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Shreya S
17:54 Aug 28, 2020

I had a smile on the whole time reading this (the laughing kind of smile)! Hilarious story, with the perfect comedic elements- aliens and Trump. I like how Phil is like ‘there’s almost for sure a misunderstanding that might’ve happened because of this dratted language’ so he makes his intentions clear again, but English is English, and so Phil still gets a nice and refreshing dinner. Disgorging of meaningless platitudes 😂 and alienality and humanitarian were my favorite parts. Loved reading this!

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:13 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you! Your comments are so reassuring. I see you have a new story and didn't tell me. If this happens again I'm going to have to have a stern talking to you 🤣 On my way over to read right now.

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Shreya S
07:28 Aug 29, 2020

:)) I promise I posted it like 15 min ago, otherwise I would have asked you to read it- I’m not going to turn down someone like you! I really hope you like it🤞🏻

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Laura Clark
09:08 Aug 28, 2020

Do you think the first real alien contact we have could be persuaded to eat Trump? Because I would be significantly more open to the idea of interplanetary connections if they could eat him first. This is, of course, extremely funny. The miscommunications pull on the bedrock of good comedy and I loved how you even acknowledged that Phil knew that a miscommunication was likely. The issues with this - how did they have humans as a good source if Earth is the only source of humans? Why does he think that eating the leader of a major par...

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:29 Aug 28, 2020

Thank you top favorite Reedsy friend/commentator/story advisor/SPaG fixer/cheerleader. As you can see, this little story doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. The only reason I wrote it is that I was up early this morning with an hour or two to kill. And I’ve been watching lots of Ancient Aliens lately. And because Pragya was fighting with me about eagle eating. And because I was on 13 stories before this (to quote Michael Scott – I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious). And because someone told me to write a story in their...

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Laura Clark
06:51 Aug 29, 2020

🧡 it’s just so much FUN. I think your stories often have that element of just enjoyment and fun. I have to say, I’m on your side again Pragya here. Vegetarian, egalitarian ... It seems pretty straightforward in my eyes. I will forever be wary of the people who proudly claim to be humanitarians now.

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:09 Aug 29, 2020

Thank you, at last, someone sees my side! It reminds me of an old joke (I know, me and my jokes) – a guy goes around telling everyone he’s put his cat on a vegan diet. They’re outraged, how could he be so cruel? He can’t understand it, his cat loves eating fresh vegans.

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:25 Aug 29, 2020

As authors, we need to always be on the lookout for authoritarians 🥩 Question - how does punctuation work with emojis? Before/after/none at all? I was never taught that in school.

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Laura Clark
08:01 Aug 29, 2020

Absolutely no idea. I just use them with a casual disregard for grammar normally only reserved for Trump and, apparently, the South African government. 💁‍♀️🥳🤷‍♀️

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Laura Clark
08:02 Aug 29, 2020

Also I’ve just seen your new profile pic - you have a CAT. A gorgeous cat. I have a black and white tomcat named Albus Dumblepaw. We call him Albie. Tell me all about yours.

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Jonathan Blaauw
08:57 Aug 29, 2020

I once met a cat called Katie Purry. That was my favorite… until Albus Dumblepaw! The cat pictured is Marmalade. He came from nowhere, just walked in one day, and latched onto me. We grew very close. Sadly, I moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg not long after and couldn’t bring Marmalade along, so I donated him to a friend with many cats. I hear he’s doing very well. Lockdown’s been no problem for him – he was already staying indoors, eating and sleeping all day, and cleaning himself constantly before it became fashionable. And that is th...

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Keerththan 😀
05:46 Sep 05, 2020

Phil's character flowed smoothly. I feel sad for the president and his wife. Nice ending. Well written. Vegetarian to humanitarian. Great. Would you mind reading my new one and sharing your views on it?

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E. K. Rebeles
04:57 Sep 04, 2020

Wow!!! Loved this! So impressive. I could visualize everything as it happened and your satire was on point, IMO. Loved it!

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10:56 Sep 02, 2020

This is so funny, how clever. A humanitarian, makes sense. You have a great comedic talent, I don't know how you come up with this stuff. I like that you didn't mention our president's name but merely 'the president.' This reminded of the Twilight Zone 'To Serve Man.' Remember that one? Or am I the only one who watches that show. I like that you described what he looked like. I would be too overwhelmed with possibilities I'd probably just not. And I feel like the day the aliens DO show up, because they will, will be sort of like this. I ...

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Amy De Matt
13:15 Aug 31, 2020

What a great read! This reminds me of Jonathan Swift, and exactly the qualities of incisiveness, insightfulness and humor that I love in a friend. You nailed the double meanings again, and the deadpan style makes it all the funnier! And yet, the observations are just enough to leave the reader just a little cold. IMHO, this is what great writing is—a splash of cold water done with wit. Thanks for the great read!

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Vanessa Marczan
23:48 Aug 30, 2020

Ripper story Jonathan. Flowed really well, good pacing. I had a big grin on my face reading it. Thanks!

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Barbara Burgess
12:25 Aug 30, 2020

an excellent story - and funny - well done. Fabulous take on the prompt.

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08:32 Aug 28, 2020

This is hilarious. In a way, I understand the entire scenario. It's more or less a communication problem as you show towards the end. I can barely fault either of them, which is highly unheard of. I have to make sure my language henceforth is understandable because I can't afford to...(you know what I mean) Great story, Nathan.

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Jonathan Blaauw
14:39 Aug 28, 2020

Your language thusforth has always beeneth understandable. And I’m glad you understand the scenario… in a way 😊 Your stories are so completely different to mine yet we still enjoy each other's work so much. Writing is a universal language, bringing all kinds of people together. Just like in this story! Okay, so not like in this story. You always seem to cause me to make these poor comparisons 😊

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