Patent Pending

by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith


I was waiting to board the spacecraft. I was waiting at the bottom of the ramp. The spacecraft looked like a standard, movie-maker issue, circular, always the outside spinning, pie pan body, spacecraft... just like the ones used in the movie, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers.

I took a few steps onto the ramp. Behind me was a very tall, very bulky, creepy looking alien dressed in white robes. In the distance I could see the neon-dark, skyline-shadowed, moonlit with street lamp, crack-house civilized, breathtakingly casual, beautifully barbarous city of New York.

My assistant, Sharon Drexler came running, her high heels clicking sharply on the concrete. “Stop!” she yelled. “Don’t get on that ship!”

I pushed my way towards her. “What is it?” I said.

“That folder they left at the U.N... the one labeled, ‘To Serve Men’... We’ve deciphered the papers... They’re subpoenas.”

“Too late,” I said, holding aloft my very own document.

* * *

We were parked out in space with the entire moon between us and Earth. The spaceship taking me away from New York proved to be nothing more than a conveyance from the surface out to the real ship. The real ship was bigger than influence and twice as fast. I’d been told it couldn’t approach any closer to Earth without affecting plate tectonics.

Strolling around was like visiting a land of faint echoes and ‘much bigger light bulbs needed’. Every room was big enough for a golf course and an extra aircraft carrier. I doubted I could even lift the ball of string it would take to Theseus my way back to my room; so I stayed in my own area quite a lot. Three times a day an alien would enter and place a tray of food on the table.

“I don’t want this..!” I yelled, pushing the food onto the floor.

“You must eat,” said the alien, “testifying will take energy.”

“Testifying about what?”

“You’ll see,” he said.

It was almost a week before I was called. On my way in, I saw George W. walking out. With the president was John Roberts and another man. The man with them used to vacuum the carpets in the Oval Office. After nominating Harriet Miers for Supreme Court justice, George elevated Kevin Hustex, white house janitor, to the job of Counsel to the President, which to most White House observers seemed just as logical as the move that opened up the counsel position in the first place.

As the three men were leaving I overheard them talking.

“Well you certainly smirked at the wrong time, that time.”

“I know,” George said.

“You almost started an intergalactic war.”

“Bring it on.”

“With all due respect, Mr. President: shut the hell up.”

They turned a corner and were gone.

I wanted to run away, but an alien stuck his head out the courtroom doors and beckoned me in, gesturing me to come ahead with a long light-at-the-end finger.

The courtroom looked like the set used by the Perry Mason TV series. I tried not to seem scared as I walked up to the witness stand. I sat very woodenly in the wooden seat.

One of the aliens at the prosecution table stood and walked towards me. “Will you state your full name?”

I said my name.

“Now, Mr. Smith, is it true you write political opinion pieces and often write letters to the editor and that you often call into radio talk shows and give reasoned opinions about topics and politics, science and superstitions?”

“I don’t know how ‘reasoned’, but yes I have opinions and share them.”

“Do you remember calling the Brad Shuster Baptist Worship Prayer Service Devotional Broadcast Hour on June seventh last year?”

“Maybe I did... Maybe I didn’t... I’m not sure.”

“Would it refresh your memory if we cut out your brain and squished it between two big rocks?”

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

I looked at the lawyer who raised the objection. He also, was an alien. As he sat back down he waved at me and smiled. He said something without actually speaking; moving his lips so I could try to read them. He said either “Try not to be nervous.” or “Fried nostrils are impervious.”

“Then would it refresh your memory if we played back a portion of the tape..?”

“Sure.” I said.

He played the tape. In the tape I was discussing intelligent design and how the fact that even if it were proved life on Earth was designed, it still wouldn’t prove there was a god.

“Is that you on the tape?”

“It is.”

“Let the record show that yet another Earthling has deduced from collected circumstances the fact that the creatures below owe their existence to outside forces and that they have often ascribed these occurrences to intervention.”

“What’s going on? Who’s on trial?” I asked. “Am I in trouble?”

“There’s nothing to worry about.” (It was the alien who wanted my brain squished, talking.) “This isn’t a trial in the strict sense of that word. What we have here is a judicial inquiry into ownership of the life on your planet. If you derived from muck and ooze you may have ownership over yourselves and your destinies.

“However, it may be that our race, the Vub Collective, actually started the life that developed on your planet; in which case our clients are seeking a ninety percent share of your productive output and available resources.”

“That’s crazy... What kind of percent is that?”

“It seems reasonable. Some of your very own corporations spend less than ten percent on their production-line employees. Sam Walton, for one, often takes, before taxes, in excess of...”

I interrupted him. “Why do you get to own our resources?”

“Well, if we designed you, then we own you.”

“Where’s the proof we were designed?” I said.

“The eye. Celibacy. Trees that stand upright in multiple sedimentary layers. Evidence of a flood. Also we have records of one of our Vub survey ships visiting Earth on October 7th 4004 B.C. and that ship lingered well into summer of 4003 B.C. That surely covers the period when life began on your planet. According to one of your very own leading academics, life on earth began on the evening of October 22nd 4004 B.C.”

“Ussher..? That crazy archbishop from Ireland..? You’re using his reasoning for... for... evidence?”

“If life began and we were here, maybe we began it.”

“Horseshit. Where did YOUR life begin?”

We’re not on trial. And besides, we never posited an outside origin, so we’re not open to... corporate raiders... to use one of your own terms. You, on the other hand, you’ve entertained the idea that an outside party delivered you into existence, and if that’s so, then you may actually be property. It doesn’t help your case that your very own Supreme Court has allowed patents to be taken out on living organisms.”

“Those aren’t sentient.”

“Granted. Immaterial. Irrelevant.” My own lawyers were nodding.

“Nobody actually believes in intelligent designers.” I said. “No one thinks there were blueprints for maple leafs and schematics for the Grand Canyon. No one is going to believe YOU started US.”

“We’ve had a hundred proponents sitting it that very chair stating their belief that Archbishop Ussher was correct. We’ve had person after person saying they believed life on Earth was intelligently designed. And I ask you: where can one find anything more intelligent than a Vub?”

His head was pretty big and one of the veins in his head was pulsing like the Tallosian’s vein in that one Star Trek episode, “The Cage.”

“I concede you are intelligent,” I said. “but the thing is... when Christians use the phrase ‘intelligent design’ they are using code words and obfuscation. What they mean to say is ‘God’. Those people are saying ‘designed’ but they’re trying to mean ’fashioned’. Like... molded from clay. God breathing into nostrils. The finger of God stretched across the Sistine chapel. It’s subtle but understood by all. God isn’t intelligent, he just is.”

“Not... intelligent...?”

“Look. Does it make sense that we are put on earth to pass some kind of test when He also knows whether we’ll pass or not? You say you came here and started life. According to your records one of your ships was in the area and just happened to stop by. Do you records mention trees or bugs or fish or fowl? Weren’t there already crawling things creeping about?”

“A lot of the data was lost.”

“I’ll bet.”

“So our application for ownership might be valid. We can only go by the documents produced into evidence.”

“You’ll never make it stick.”

“I don’t know, we’re the ones who crossed the universe. We’re the ones with interstellar travel and titanium hulls. Whether we win this suit or not, I think we’ll be taking a boatload of gravy off your tables this Thanksgiving.”

“So might makes right, even out to the very stars.”

“The fault is in yourselves, Brutus, not in the stars.”

“You seem to be familiar with a lot of our sayings. Are you familiar with, ‘What goes around comes around’ and ‘Shit rolls downhill’?” I was trying to get him mad.

“I know, we designed it that way,” he said.

“If there is a God he will deliver us from bondage.”

“I thought you weren’t a believer.”

“I’m not. It’s just that the language is so... accessible.”

“If He did not want you sheared, He would not have made you sheep.”

I thought to myself, ‘That’s no fair, quoting westerns, quoting Eli Wallach. That won’t do at all.’

I left, hoping beyond hope I could someday return. Hoping I could get to hear him say, “You came back..! A man like you for a place like this. Why?”


Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

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