HomeScriptToday I Met A Space Alien - A Play by Caitlin Johnstone

Today I Met A Space Alien - A Play by Caitlin Johnstone

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CHARACTERS

HUMAN Any gender, any age

ALIEN Any gender, any age

SETTING

The play is set by a river. HUMAN is dressed in casual clothes, ALIEN is wearing a hoodie and a baseball cap so its face is obscured.

TIME

Daytime.

(Lights up, sound of a burbling creek. HUMAN sits beside a river with a stack of paper and a pen dressed casually. She is writing thoughtfully but with intensity. ALIEN appears behind her, its face obscured by a hoodie and baseball cap, hands in pockets, watching her write. HUMAN does not notice. She finishes writing a page, reads it back, and then tosses it in the water.)

ALIEN 

That’s probably bad for the environment.

HUMAN

(Without looking up:) Environment’s fucked anyway. If it makes you feel better though, they’re biodegradable papers containing sodium carboxyl methyl cellulose. They’re environmentally safe and dissolve almost instantly in cold water. River never knows the difference.

(HUMAN resumes writing.)

ALIEN 

Yeah. Your environment is pretty fucked

HUMAN

(Terse.) What do you mean ‘my’ environment?

(HUMAN throws down her notepad, raises her head to face the intruder. The pen falls from her fingers.)

HUMAN

(Pause) Oh. Whoa. You’re not from around here.

ALIEN 

(Shakes its head) Can we talk?

HUMAN

(Gestures to sit beside her.) Uhh… sure.

(ALIEN Takes a seat, stares at the water.)

HUMAN

Were you expecting me to freak out?

ALIEN 

No. I have a feel for people.

HUMAN

You can read minds?

ALIEN   

Not without a lot of technology I wasn’t able to bring with me on this trip. Reading human minds is generally pretty uncomfortable anyway. I just kinda get a feel for everyone’s personal essence.

HUMAN

What’s mine like?

ALIEN 

Open. Open and clean.

HUMAN

Oh. So like, are you going to ask me to take you to my leader or something?

ALIEN 

Who? [NAME OF CURRENT POLITICAL LEADER]? What the fuck could I learn from that dipshit?

HUMAN

Ha! Good point I guess. So you’re here to learn? You guys are watching us and researching us and stuff?

ALIEN 

Nah, not us guys. My people don’t care about Earth much. Life here isn’t expected to last much longer, so it’s generally seen as a waste of time. I’m here sightseeing on my lonesome.

HUMAN

Shit. So we don’t make it after all…

ALIEN

Well, hey, we don’t know. We can’t time travel or predict the future or anything like that. It’s just that once life evolves to a certain point of complexity it tends to… wipe itself out. And you guys are at about the point in development where that tends to happen. If you make it through to the other side of the challenges you’re facing you’ll eventually attract the interest of the others. But if we spent all our time buzzing around the universe talking to every organism that evolves the capacity for abstract thought we’d just waste a lot of time and experience a lot of heartache when they kill themselves off.

HUMAN

(Upset.) Whoa.

ALIEN

It’s not easy getting to know a whole world and then watching it die, you know?

HUMAN

(Escalates.) What?!

ALIEN

We’re a very emotionally advanced species, and watching an entire planet obliterate itself after you’ve become emotionally invested in it is just devastating.

HUMAN

(Angry.) Well why can’t you help us?? You know what we need! Clean energy! Sustainable living technology! Hell, anything that lets us live without having to strip the earth bare to survive! Why don’t you pricks just give it to us??

ALIEN

Look, first of all I’m not in charge, okay? I’m just one dude and I can’t just go around doing whatever I want. We have laws, we respect sovereignty. Secondly, think about what you’re saying. You’re obviously someone who understands humans fairly well; what do you think happens if we hand over our tech to you right now while you’re all running around exploiting and killing each other all the time?

(HUMAN opens her mouth to respond, then closes it. She drew her knees up to her chest and hugs her legs.)

HUMAN

(Deep sigh.) We’d just use it to kill ourselves faster.

ALIEN

(Protests.) I mean, it’s not like we haven’t tried! The last civilization we gave it to wiped out its entire star system. Everything gone in a giant blue flash, poof! Because they almost immediately figured out how to turn it into a weapon. If they don’t turn it into a weapon then one of them figures out how to control all the tech for themselves and enslaves the entire planet until they all become a bunch of mindless drones and stop developing, which is even shittier to watch. Until a species has matured psychologically and emotionally to the point where it’s not murdering and exploiting everything all the time, giving it advanced technology is like handing the detonator of a nuclear bomb to a toddler.

HUMAN

Well, like, what the hell then? Why the fuck are you even here, man? Is this how you get your little Martian jollies, cruising around to inferior civilizations and gloating about how we’re all gonna die?

ALIEN

No.

HUMAN

(Upset, mocking.) I get it, okay! Ha ha, we’re stupid monkeys and you have giant brains, ha ha ha! As your chosen ambassador to our species, I thank you for smugly monologuing at me about how un-evolved and stupid we all are and invite you to smugly float on back to your other lightbulb-headed friends and high-five each other about how awesome you are. High-four, whatever, sorry.

ALIEN

That’s not what this is. I’m really sorry for upsetting you. I didn’t come here to monologue at you, I’m only telling you stuff because you’re asking me questions and I didn’t want to be rude. I approached you to ask you questions.

HUMAN

Oh! Okay. What questions?

ALIEN

I want to know what it’s like. For you, personally. What’s it like living on this planet? What’s it like being born and growing up here? What’s it like walking around on this dirt day after day and interacting with all the people and plants and animals here? What’s it like being human, and living among humans your whole life?

HUMAN 

Those… aren’t very scientific questions.

ALIEN

I’m not a scientist.

HUMAN

Oh. Sorry for assuming.

ALIEN

It’s okay.

HUMAN

Right. Well, hmm. Let me think.

(Pause.)

Umm… well… I guess I don’t know any different so it’s hard to say…

ALIEN

Try. Just let the words come together. You can’t get it wrong.

HUMAN

(Murmurs to herself.) Well I guess you’ll never know if I don’t get it right, will you?

(HUMAN bursts out laughing.)

ALIEN 

(Taken aback.) What?

HUMAN

Ha well, I was just trying to think about how to describe here and getting all worried about getting it wrong, and then it struck me that that’s probably the most human experience of all.

ALIEN   

Getting it wrong?

HUMAN

Umm, no, more like being worried about getting it wrong. I live my whole life trying not to get it wrong, worrying if I got it wrong in the past, hoping I won’t get it wrong in the future. It’s a very human thing to do. It’s like our favorite hobby, even though we all hate it.

ALIEN 

You worry that you got it wrong in the past? Weird.

HUMAN

Huh?

ALIEN

Well you obviously didn’t get it wrong in the past, ’cause you’re still here. So you can’t have gotten it that wrong.

HUMAN

Yeah, I guess so. Well, anyway, it doesn’t seem to matter, we all know it’s stupid but we do it anyway. We worry about getting it wrong. I’d feel scared not to!

ALIEN

Because why?

HUMAN

Because what if something went wrong!?

ALIEN

So it’s like… like a superstition practice? Like something you do in your mind to ward off bad luck?

(HUMAN is about to protest but words won’t come. She gapes for a moment before breaking into a giggle.)

HUMAN

You’re cute. That’s cute. That’s cute and probably true!

(ALIEN bows. HUMAN laughs again.)

ALIEN

What else? What’s your favorite thing about living on earth?

HUMAN

Well, uhhh, gosh. So much stuff. Like, the animals are really cool!

ALIEN

You guys have such a weird relationship with animals. The house pet thing is a trip.

HUMAN

The house pet thing?

ALIEN

I mean like, you have them. I don’t generally see that in other civilizations. You build these anti-nature fortresses called houses to keep the animals out, and then you go “Uh-oh, there aren’t any animals in here!” And you bring some in to live with you.

HUMAN

Ha! Yeah, we do that with plants too.

ALIEN   

So you like the animals here? Which are your favorite?

HUMAN

(Pauses, thinks, and then says with feeling.) Humans.

ALIEN

Humans. Really. Tell me more about that.

HUMAN

Well… They, I mean, we are really fragile. Anyone could crunch down on my finger easier than a carrot at any moment. But for some reason they don’t, for some reason we’re all super tender with each other’s fragile bits whether they’re body parts or mind parts. We carry each other’s wounds. Well, for the most part anyway. We try not to hurt them because we know what it is to hurt and we don’t want to do that to someone else. That’s really beautiful, don’t you think?

(ALIEN nods in agreement.)

HUMAN

And when we’re young, we really should still be in the womb. Like we haven’t developed like other animals have at birth, so we’re basically fetuses in baby blankets and everyone tiptoes around us and carries us real careful because our little skulls are still soft and you can see our hearts beating through our fontanelles. And at the end of our lives too, we can lose everything, even our personalities, and our loved ones will still wheel us around and be careful with our soft bits and even when our minds are gone and our body is just a home where we used to live. They are careful with us because this body is where someone they love dearly once resided. I mean, really, we’re so fucking sweet.

We hug when we’re happy, we hug when we’re sad, and we jump up and down and shake our asses when music plays. I mean, we make music. How cool is that? We played around with wood and strings and bone and skins until we made contraptions that made buzzes that sounded good in our earholes. We play all the time! We love to play with all sorts of things. We make toys that sound good and look good and feel good and make us fly through the air for hours at a time. No other animal does shit like that.

We’re really fun. We find smells we like and make them into oils that we put on our bodies so we smell like a piece of candy. We put paint on our faces and flowers in our hair to go and stand in a field and listen to humans play with the contraptions that make the nice noises. Sometimes the noises remind us of when someone hurt our tender bits, and we hold hands with the person next to us and let water fall out of our eyeballs until the hurt goes away again. I mean, if you saw an animal in the wild like that, you would think it was the cutest fucking thing ever.

And we love helping. Sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep I watch videos of accidents or disasters just to watch people spring into action. You know, one of  the nicest things you can do for someone is let them help you. People really love to be useful. It’s nourishing in a way that I can’t really put words to. It’s just nice to be needed, you know? And you know what, sometimes I wonder… 

(HUMAN stops and looks at ALIEN.)

ALIEN

Go on… ?

HUMAN

Well I just wonder sometimes if… well if… if the challenges… if what you say is coming is coming…

ALIEN

Yes?

HUMAN

Well I wonder if it would be the best thing to have it all turn to shit. Like, not kill us, but have all the systems collapse. Doomsday. Armageddon. End of days crap, you know what I mean?

ALIEN

How do you think that would go down?

HUMAN

Well, like… I don’t buy all the dystopia stories that we read and watch. I just don’t buy it. If there was a massive catastrophe today and everyone had to live by their wits, we wouldn’t dissolve into a Mad Max hellscape where it was every man for himself. That just wouldn’t happen. In an emergency situation, people aren’t like that. Emergencies always bring out the best in people. They help each other as much as they can. They can’t do enough to help. I’ve seen it over and over. After a tsunami or a hurricane or whatever, people won’t sleep until they know everyone is safe and accounted for. They will travel miles to help a stranger. And I think we all know that deep inside us. I think maybe that’s why…

(HUMAN pauses and sends a blank piece of paper drifting into the river current.)

ALIEN

That’s why what?

HUMAN

It’s just… sometimes I wonder if we’re trying to force it. Everyone’s so sick of the money game, it’s made us crazy and turned everything bad, and maybe subconsciously we want to get back to a time where plain old goodwill is the currency again. Like, a time when you share whatever you have and be grateful for whatever comes your way and enjoy building a new world together. A reset. (Pause.) Sometimes I wonder if deep down, that’s all we really want.

ALIEN

That’s… very beautiful. (Pause.) So hey, look at that. Maybe humanity makes it through after all. Maybe your species is one of the rare exceptions.

(Silence.)

HUMAN

Okay! My turn to ask a question.

ALIEN

I don’t have a lot of time.

HUMAN

Oh come on, you can’t just visit a girl from the other side of the galaxy and tell her she can’t ask questions! I’m the one who’ll have to live the rest of her life knowing she met an actual, literal space alien and never asked him stuff. What do you have to do that’s so important? Gotta go ghetto rig a ‘phone home’ machine with a Speak & Spell?

ALIEN

I don’t even know what that is. Look, fine, ask your question.

HUMAN

Alright. What’s your actual deal, anyway? Nothing you’ve said about what you’re doing here makes any sense. You’re really curious about humans and you ask a bunch of questions about us, but you said you’re not here for scientific research. You also said your kind doesn’t like interacting with civilizations at our stage of development because it’s too painful watching them self-destruct after you get to know them, but, I mean, here you are. You are here, getting to know us. Why?

ALIEN

Well, it’s… it’s kind of my thing. A very long time ago I noticed that there are all these worlds and civilizations blossoming and extinguishing themselves all across the universe, and nobody really cares. A populated planet that wipes itself out is of no use to science, and because they destroy themselves before they can mature it’s not like they make for particularly stimulating conversation…

HUMAN

Gee thanks.

ALIEN

Present company excluded of course. But it’s generally kind of like what hanging out with a house pet would be like for you. It’s not worth the hassle of traveling across the galaxy far removed from where all the cool stuff is happening just to go hang out with a hamster, especially if you know the hamster’s probably just gonna commit harakiri any minute now.

(HUMAN’S face drops, appalled.)

ALIEN

I mean, it’s like that for them! Not for me. Never has been. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve never been able to ignore the beauty of civilizations at this point in development. They crackle with a white hot spiritual energy that’s unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter anywhere. The exuberance of exploding technological and cultural innovation coupled with the steadily growing realization that it’s completely unsustainable to continue living as they’ve been living, the thrill of a completely unprecedented world paired with the white-knuckled terror of seeing it gasping its last breaths, the last-minute shift in collective consciousness as the advanced species makes one last Hail Mary pass at rescuing itself, the regret, the goodbyes, the last flickers of the last life forms as the final curtain is drawn on that world forever.

There’s just absolutely nothing like a world when it’s facing the great test. There’s always chaos, there’s usually violence, but there’s also something that kicks in when it dawns on a species that it’s signed its own death warrant by destroying its ecosystem or inventing doomsday weapons. A sudden pivot toward humility as they realize that they’d always had the freedom to pass the great test if they’d just done things a bit differently, starting a bit sooner. It almost always happens like that, and yes, it’s the most painful, heartbreaking thing you can possibly experience if you make yourself a part of it. But it’s also the most beautiful thing in the universe.

So I do make myself a part of it. I move around, speaking to the organisms who will speak with me, asking them questions and learning what their time here has been like, familiarizing myself with each world’s unique little facets. And, when it all starts falling apart, I stay. I stay fully present for all of it. I don’t hold back any part of myself, any part of my guts. I feel it all. I watch the final thrust toward survival, I listen to the screams, I feel every little bit of the anguish of a dying world, and I wave goodbye forever. But it didn’t die alone. It didn’t die unwitnessed. It didn’t die unmet. I met it. I experienced its beauty. And then I try my best — I always fail but I try my very, very best — to convey that beauty to the others.

HUMAN

(Emotional.) Artist. You’re an artist.

(ALIEN nods.)

Like me.

ALIEN

Like you.

(They stare at each other for a moment.)

ALIEN

It’s my turn to ask a question.

HUMAN

Okay.

ALIEN

Why do you sit here day after day writing poems and throwing them into the water?

HUMAN

I guess… maybe kinda for the same reason you zip around having love affairs with dying worlds?

ALIEN

Say more?

HUMAN

I just, well, at a certain point I realized that most of the beauty happening in this world is coming and going almost completely unwitnessed and unappreciated, and it doesn’t even bother anybody. The silly things a crow does to amuse itself when all its food-finding is done. The way the sun bounces off the pieces of a broken beer bottle. Or like, our dreams. Have you ever watched humans trying to tell each other about their dreams? The way the other person reacts most of the time you’d think they were trying to stick needles in their face. Nobody wants to hear about anyone else’s dreams, but every night there are seven billion of us cranking out these weird, wonderful tapestries that only we ever get to see. Seven billion movie theaters playing a different movie every single night, and nobody will even let you tell them a bit about one of them.

I’ve always loved poetry, and I used to try to write things that other people could appreciate, so that we could share that one flash of a perspective together in that moment. But at some point I realized that I was excluding almost the entire world of beauty just to focus on that little tiny slice that people appreciate and relate to enough for one of my poems to dance around between their ears in an enjoyable way. It has to have some kind of egoic relevance to them or it might as well be nothing, and most of life doesn’t care about anyone’s ego. Trying to share art that people don’t relate to is like trying to tell someone your dream; almost all the beauty happening in our world is beauty that people don’t care about. To let all these unwitnessed, unappreciated aspects of life slip by uncelebrated and un-honored feels… I dunno, sacrilegious I guess. But I also don’t want to fill up my apartment with thousands of poems nobody will ever care about and have some well-meaning relative print up a bunch of worthless vanity publisher books with my name on them after I die which everyone will feel guilty about not reading.

So whenever I get time I come here and I scribble something about whatever’s jumping out at me, and then I send it off to disappear into the water. That way I don’t wind up with a bunch of worthless papers cluttering up my life, and there’s one less part of this nonstop explosion of miracles that I have to let slip by uncelebrated.

ALIEN

So very much slips by.

HUMAN

Right? I mean, look at you. Today I met a space alien. Nobody will ever believe me if I tell them about it, so I won’t, and I’m sure you knew that, which is why you felt comfortable coming up and telling me the secrets of the universe and stuff. You’re just like one of my poems; you come in, you express something weird and wonderful, then you’re gone forever. Except instead of dissolving in the water you’re going to buzz off in a flying saucer or some shit.

ALIEN

Portal.

HUMAN

(Amused.) Portal, excuse the hell outta me. The miracles rush in, we honor them as best we can, and they rush right on out. That’s my point.

(ALIEN points to HUMAN’S pen.)

ALIEN

Mind if I try?

HUMAN

Be my guest man, least I can do after you had the decency not to anally probe me.

ALIEN

Gross.

(ALIEN takes pen and starts writing. HUMAN watches in silence. ALIEN tears page off the pad and begins crumpling it up.)

HUMAN

Wait! You don’t wanna share?

ALIEN

I… okay. But please understand this is not anywhere remotely close to my first language.

HUMAN

Shush. Lemme read.

(HUMAN takes crumpled piece of paper from ALIEN, smooths it out and begins reading, melodramatically at first, but obviously touched by the words as they read on.)

Ladies and gentlemen, A Poem. By, A Space Alien. (Clears throat)

Some humans throw pennies into the water

because they have wished for miracles.

She throws poems into the water

because the miracles dance between her ears.

And now the river is full of pennies and poems,

and we are all getting older,

and the shadows are getting long.

The stars swirl in clusters

like the eddies on the water,

and I am swirling with them

wherever the current goes.

Maybe they will get their miracle.

Maybe the miracles dance only between her ears.

But her gentle eyes will live in me

until the river carries us all

to wherever it is going,

and the pennies and poems twirl

with the galaxies.

(HUMAN pauses and looks back to ALIEN.)

HUMAN

I love it. I really, really love it. Thank you.

ALIEN

Can I throw it in now?

HUMAN

Yeah. You can throw it in.

ALIEN

(Crumples up paper and throws it in the river.)

I have to go.

HUMAN

I know.

ALIEN

Thank you for talking to me.

HUMAN

Oh, hey, you me too. Thank you for this.

ALIEN places both hands on its chest, and HUMAN watches him carefully and then does the same. She watched it turn and walk away. HUMAN picks up her pen, starts writing, narrating what she’s writing.

HUMAN

A man from another world visited me today,

and then he was gone.

And hell, fuck me,

I just realized

I never even asked him his name.

Damn.

And there I go again,

worrying I’ve somehow gotten it wrong

in a world on the brink of armageddon.

Ha!

(HUMAN sets the paper down flat in the water and watches it disintegrate as it flows away.)

END SCENE

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Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out my podcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal,buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

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Latest comments

  • Wonderful!!! I also liked your Veteran’s day piece. Very few people are willing to fight the war machine. Keep up the great work

  • TY C.J., and Free Assange, and others. TRUTH is good…Spread the word. Help Wanted and TY again CJ & others.

  • Off Topic! Just saw Rosie Odonnel on MSM(MIC)BC. She has had a facelift, and may have been paid a Million $ from the D’s or the MIC. Have a nice day…Wage Peace! (Fake News, Free Palestine). BDS Roger Waters/ 2020 Keep on for the children. When Obama or Trump Drones Fly, children Die. Time Out…

  • Caitlin,

    Marvelous – Congratulations.

    Bruce

  • Brilliant! Thank you.

  • In order to get passed the media censors, Rod Serling incorporated science fiction and supernatural elements for his Twilight Zone series of the late fifties through to the mid-sixties. The political messages were. therefore, attributed to strange characters and situations in the stories, including anti-racist themes.

    Is this what you’ve decided to do, Caitlin?

  • Comment deleted for virulent antisemitism. Keep your medieval superstitions the fuck off my page.
    – Caitlin

  • For someone that grew up watching Star Trek I just loved this series of stories.

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