Clouds 2

A comic-style picture of a girl and an alien walking down a sidewalk. The girl has curly brown hair and brown skin and wears a purple shirt with a happy face on it. The alien is purple with one big eye and some tentacles. In the background is a fence, some grass, and a blue sky.
Image background: Park view by anarres, public domain.

So, when you asked me to help you with your research into Earth culture, this isn’t what I expected.

Oh? What did you expect?

I don’t know, I guess I would have thought you’d be doing experiments on human bodies or something. Not that you’d – I mean, not on dead bodies, I know you wouldn’t – or, I guess doing experiments on live ones would be even worse – the point I’m trying to make is, I’m sure all your experiments are 100% ethical. I hope I didn’t offend you just now. Um, sorry if I did.

It’s fine, don’t worry about it.

It’s just, walking to the park to look at clouds? It doesn’t sound very scientific. It kinda sounds more like a date, actually. Are you trying to date me? Because I think you’re really great and all, but I just don’t feel that way about you.

Noted.

OK. But lots of planets have clouds, right? Clouds aren’t just an Earth thing. So why are clouds part of your Earth research?

It’s not so much the clouds themselves, as how you humans see them.

Well how do YOU see them? I guess since you just have one eye, you can’t see depth, right?

What do you mean? I see plenty of depth, but what does that have to do with – oh, I think I understand what you’re saying. But… well, I do have one eye, I suppose, but I don’t see with it.

You can’t see?

I have other sense organs. But the eye is mostly cosmetic.

You mean it’s fake? You have a fake eye?

I wouldn’t say it’s fake – my eye serves a function, it facilitates my social interactions with humans here on Earth. Research shows that humans find it much easier to relate to an unknown being if that being has eyes, or even just one eye; it lets them know where they should look when they’re talking to you. And I’ve got to look like something. I could just manifest myself on this planet as an invisible energy flow, but then how would you talk to me?

You mean, your whole body is fake. This isn’t even your real body.

It’s real, and it’s a body, and it’s mine; but no, this isn’t how I usually look. The way I look when I’m at home is impossible to describe in your language.

Why did you decide to have tentacles and one big eye?

Why not?

What do you mean why not?

I think I look good.

You do! You do, I’m not arguing with that. It’s just, why didn’t you just make yourself look like a human? Then you wouldn’t have to deal with people freaking out because you’re, I mean, because you don’t look normal.

People would freak out quite a lot more, actually – it turns out that people find a weird-looking alien significantly less terrifying than a perfectly human-looking alien. I wouldn’t manage to successfully mimic human behaviours, and people around me would suspect that I was some sort of sinister alien spy or something like that.

That makes sense, I guess. Why don’t you make yourself look like a 12-foot-tall lizard? Because that would be kind of cool.

Lizards are perceived as untrustworthy and lacking in emotional warmth. Also humans react best to beings of a size somewhat smaller than their own; smaller is perceived as less threatening. Roughly a third to a half of human size is considered ideal.

OK, but what if you wanted to be able to shoot lasers out of your eyes – could you?

Why would I ever want to do that?

But could you? Oh my god, could you make me be able to shoot lasers out of my eyes?

Is that a hypothetical question?

I want pink lasers. That shoot out of my eyes. Hot pink, not princess pink. Please?

That would be terrible. It would be like wearing coloured glasses all the time, but even more annoying. It would be distracting for you and for those around you, and it would undoubtedly damage your vision.

Could you just make me have laser eyes for one day?

Hypothetically could I do that? Yes. Will I? No.

You’re no fun.

I’m not here to amuse you. I’m here to gather information about Earth civilization and culture.

Half a day?

No.

Will you take me up for a ride in your ship then? To make up for not giving me laser eyes even though I really really want them?

No.

Do you really think I’m still going to help you with your stupid research?

Yes, absolutely.

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