Thursday, October 21, 2004

"Honey, there's an alien in my television"

The dark clouds on the horizon were moving fast in my direction and would soon replace the thick white clouds which presently obscured my celestial horizon so I reluctantly decided to take down my telescope, go inside and do something different for the evening: turn on the television, if I could remember how.

After tossing the batteries that lay in a goo inside the TV remote, I scraped the inner contacts until only a trace of green remained and then popped in some fresh cells that I borrowed from a long-unused telescope guiding paddle. The familiar you-have-spam alarm dinged relentlessly in the other room as I removed a tattered Sky and Telescope magazine from my bedside tub chair and settled in to catch up on television's version of today's news.

The set warmed up to a random, monochromatic channel, devoid of color. I was about to adjust the settings when a scene showed a picture of the United Nations building and then a picture of U.N. representatives huddled around a table, interviewing a very tall human-looking man dressed in white. "I must've missed this on the internet news", I thought as I munched a cookie and decided to find another news home page the next time I visited my computer.

I began to realize that while I had been outside trying to watch the stars, a fleet of aliens from a world far away had slipped past me, coming to the Earth to share their knowledge and cure our world of all its problems. In just moments the head alien convinced our world leaders of his mission and set about his philanthropic task, accidentally leaving on the table a thick book written in an alien language which he had brought into the room. A slightly skeptical scientist gave the book to his secretary who hoped to translate the transgalactic tome. Almost instantly she deciphered the title, "To Serve Man", which seemed to verify the high puposes of the visitors from afar, but she was unable to make out the contents of the volume.

As I watched, the Earth became a wonderful, perfect place. Hate and greed became a thing of the past. Mere sprinkles of the alien's proffered fertilizer turned deserts into lush gardens. Hunger and war were no more. All diseases became cured. "Surely this is more interesting than the Eskimo Nebula", I mused. I concluded that I had been missing something in life and decided to watch TV again sometime.

Now the scene shifted to show many thousands of Earthlings queued in terminals, eagerly waiting to board space ships, to take a journey of only a few days to happily vacation on the friendly alien world so far away. Even the skeptical scientist decided at the last minute to go with them, and was among the last group to leave.

As he was walking up the ladder to enter the space ship, the scientist's secretary emerged from the crowd and shouted up to him. "Don't go", she cried out. "I deciphered the rest of the book: 'To Serve Man': It's a cookbook!"

But her warning was too late. The scientist was hustled on board and the final scene showed our hero locked in his solitary cabin despondently eating a meal, which the alien keeper had promised would keep him from losing weight on his trip.

It was then that I knew that those purloined 1.5 volt cells from my Celestron Astro Master guiding paddle had propelled me into...The Twilight Zone.

-- Dalton Hammond

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