The alien ship came down from space.
It came down with a hiss of superheated air, surrounded by a shell of plasma, but that was all. There were no roaring rockets, no screaming ramjets, no forms of technology that disproved Newton’s Third Law either. Like a meteor, it just fell.
It was really a very disappointing alien ship. It wasn’t a UFO, which could gladden conspiracy theorists’ hearts by pretending to be hot-air-balloons, high-flying aeroplanes, or the planet Venus. It didn’t even look like a saucer, a disc, or a flying cigar. It didn’t jink about and flash lights like a 1970s disco; it had no lights to flash. Its flat, oblong form looked more like a brick than most bricks looked like bricks, and when it fell through the atmosphere, the air it passed through burned and gave off a faintly charred smell.
And it didn’t behave the way a self-respecting alien ship should behave, either.
It didn’t come down at the dead of night over a lonely road in the middle of the wilderness, witnessed only by a couple of intoxicated village bumpkins in a clapped-out old car. It didn’t come down over a closed military zone, visible only to a high-flying fighter pilot who unsuccessfully attempted to shoot it down with an air-to-air missile. It didn’t perform acrobatics over a scenic harbour, to be photographed by hundreds of tourists, before disappearing back into the darkness.
Instead, it came down in the light of the noonday sun, and over a small island in the middle of the ocean. It wasn’t an important island either – it had no popular tourist resorts complete with nudist beaches, it hadn’t been used for hydrogen-bomb tests, and its people hadn’t been forcibly deported to make way for top-secret military bases. In fact, hardly anyone even knew it existed, except those who lived on it.
The alien spaceship came down over the centre of the island, where one of the inhabitants sat, chipping at a piece of wood with a stone axe, and thinking about the fact that he hadn’t had lunch. He was also thinking about the chief of the tribe. He was thinking of how fat the chief was, and his tall grass hat which nobody else had the right to wear, and of his many wives, each younger and prettier and nakeder than the last. He was thinking how he’d love to be fat like the chief, and have a better hat than the grass one, and have that many wives.
Someday, he thought, he would be chief instead of the chief, if only he could catch a lucky break for once. Then he wouldn’t be always hungry and he would actually be able to touch a woman – any woman he wanted – instead of just daydreaming. The chief was greedy and old and cowardly, anyway, and he knew perfectly well that he’d make a much better replacement. Why, even one of the monkeys which chattered in the trees would.
This man’s name was Bloog. He had a bone through his nose, feathers in his hair, paint on his chest, and no clothes on at all. He could not read or write, but he could hunt; and he worshipped the Great God Og, who ruled over the island, which was his world. Also, he was young and strong, and if the maidens of his people hadn't yet found him to be irresistible, that was by no means his own fault.
Bloog watched with curious interest as the alien spaceship came down over the island. Never having watched Hollywood films on alien invasions, he wasn’t aware that he ought to be afraid. He didn’t know about poison gas or death rays, or about evil galactic emperors, or even about the fact that space existed. Nor had he ever encountered anybody who wasn’t of the Tribe. So he wasn’t afraid even when the spaceship hissed down on to the grass before him, and extruded a shining metal pathway from halfway up its flat side down to the ground.
Then a hatch opened at the top of the pathway and the alien got out and came down.
It didn’t look like a hairless grey macrocephalic dwarf with huge black eyes and a tiny mouth. Nor did it resemble an octopus or a cloud of glowing gas. It was black and rotund and had a short snout under a round hat with transparent eye panels. In fact, it looked a lot like a pig wearing a Second World War leather aviator’s flying helmet.
“Greetings,” the alien said. “I take it you’re surprised to see me.”
Bloog said nothing. He stared at the alien while his hand with the stone axe went chip, chip, chipping away at the piece of wood.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” the alien said. “I’m not here to hurt you. As a matter of fact, I’m on a mission of peace, to contact the highest example of civilisation on this planet.”
Bloog tilted his head to one side and looked at the alien. Then he tilted his head to the other side and looked at the alien some more.
“Garrh,” he said, noncommittally.
“Yes,” the alien said, “of course I could have gone to one of the big cities – there are so many of them. But they aren’t civilised. In fact, they’ve gone in the diametrically opposite direction to civilisation, eating the world they live in alive, sacrificing their tomorrow to feed today’s greed. They’re poisoning themselves, raping the planet, and murdering that which has done them no harm. In a hundred years they’ll poison themselves to destruction – if they haven’t wiped out all life already, first.”
“Gurgg,” Bloog said, picking at his nose bone.
“You, on the other hand,” the alien said, “live in grass huts which return to nature when their use is over. You waste nothing and want nothing which can’t be used. You could live forever in this way and it wouldn’t hurt the planet even a tiny little bit. You have no generals, lawyers, insurance adjustors, stock markets, or taxmen. Media don’t sell you wars like toothpaste and distract you with glitz from what’s actually going on. You don’t pretend there’s nothing wrong when there patently is. In fact, you’re the civilised ones, not they. In fact, you are more civilised than any other species I’ve ever met, including my own.”
“Ung,” Bloog replied pleasantly.
“Allow me, therefore, to present myself as the ambassador of my people to yours,” said the alien, and bent in a low, reverent bow.
Bloog considered the situation. He looked at the bowing alien, looked at the stone axe he was holding, and at the alien again. Then he took the axe and bashed the alien over the head with it.
Pig meat was a delicacy on Bloog’s island, and it had been a long time since he’d had any, because pigs weren’t easy to hunt.
The feast was splendid, more so because it was a feast of one.
Later, Bloog put on the headgear like a leather flying helmet and went back to the village. People fell back from him in awe, and he challenged the chief to single combat. The chief took one look at his stone axe and his helmet, threw away his grass hat, and waddled off as quickly as he could. Then Bloog took over the village and was the chief instead of the chief, and he had all the women he could ever want.
Bloog woke up with a start. He shook his head, annoyed at being woken from such a splendid dream, and looked around to see who’d disturbed his rest. There was nobody.
He looked up, and froze.
An alien spaceship was descending over the island, right where Bloog was sitting.
Picking at his nose bone, and wishing he’d had his stone axe with him, he watched it come down to him.
Copyright Biswapriya Purkayastha 2013