First Contact for Dummies
A Science Fiction Short Story
I was just about to dig into my mouthwatering lentil and quinoa bowl at Happy Herb’s Vegan Restaurant when the aliens walked in.
I stopped, spoon halfway to my mouth, and stared at the newcomers.
I normally try not to stare but, well, they did have tentacles trailing out from under their arms and a third eye smack in the middle of their foreheads.
The one on the right was wearing a long black coat with no shirt, the blue tentacles curling around the edges of the open garment. He marched over to where I sat, phone in hand to take a picture of my meal, and pointed a three-jointed blue finger at me. “You! You are a vegan?”
Well, I never expected that to be the first question a space alien asked me.
“Um… yes?” Just my luck, the guy was apparently from some planet where everyone angrily demanded to know where vegans get their protein…just like here on Earth.
The second alien, who was wearing a Grateful Dead shirt and chinos, leaned over my table and glared at me with all three of his eyes. I guess it was a him. Actually, they were both wearing pants and I had no idea if they were mammals, so the lack of boobs might not mean anything…
“You started a war!” he yelled at me.
Well, that was different. Usually I got accused of killing carrots or eating all the rabbits’ food or some other nonsense. “What are you talking about?”
Johnny Cash reached out and pulled Grateful Dead back with one of his tentacles. “We know what you people did to our planet, and we’re not going to take it.”
“Your planet? Look, we humans have fucked up Earth royally, but to the best of my knowledge we haven’t managed to ruin any other planets… yet.” In retrospect, that was maybe not the best argument.
Johnny Cash gripped the edges of my table with two tentacles. They had suckers that adhered to the plastic-coated surface, pulling the table a few centimeters back toward the aliens. “Look, this isn’t…I believe the expression on your planet is, ‘This isn’t funny.’”
Ah, so they were using some sort of internal translation device. I wondered about that.
This isn’t funny lost something in the translation, though. “I’m not laughing. And I don’t know what you think we vegans did, but I promise you, we didn’t start an interplanetary war or whatever. All we do is eat plants and take pictures of our food and post them on Instagram, I swear.”
Grateful Dead slapped the table with a tentacle. “What if we don’t believe you?”
Shit, what should I do now? “Did you look at our planet when you were… about to land? You might have seen some satellites in orbit and a couple space stations, but did you see anything that looked like it was capable of taking off for another solar system? Google it from that computer chip in your head if you don’t believe me, but we humans have never been farther than our own moon.”
“But you’re not human,” snarled Grateful Dead, while Johnny Cash stared off into space, presumably taking my advice. “You’re vegans.”
I blinked. “Vegans are humans. We’re just humans who eat plants. Like this.” I gestured at my quickly-cooling bowl of quinoa and lentils. If these aliens didn’t leave me alone soon, it was going to be ice cold.
Johnny Cash looked down and locked all three of his green eyes on me. “The net says you’re telling the truth. Your physiology is a 100 percent match for our database’s info on humans.”
“Um… thanks?” It’s not often I get called normal, but I’d let it pass if it got rid of these two.
“But there are vegans here. Your net has many references to them. It says this is a vegan restaurant.” Grateful waved a tentacle around the room. None of the other diners notice.
“But they’re all human, according to our database.” Johnny looked around, confused, then turned back to me. “Why did you say you were a vegan if you’re not?”
Why would he think a bunch of vegans started a space war? Why would he be searching our internet for info about vegans in the first place? Did vegan mean something else on their planet?
Their planet! I smacked my hand to my forehead, forgetting it was holding my phone, and nearly gave myself a black eye. Of course, Vega was a constellation somewhere in space.
“You’re looking for people from Vega?” I asked.
They both blinked all their eyes at me like I was stupid. “Yes. That’s what we’re saying. This is supposed to be a restaurant for vegans.”
I couldn’t help it. I started laughing.
“We are not amused,” said Grateful Dead, and they definitely did not look amused.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “But we don’t have any people from Vega here. When you find the word vegan on our internet, it means people who eat vegan food. Like this.” I point at my bowl again. “It has nothing to do with being from Vega, okay? We’ve never even had alien visitors before.”
All three of Johnny’s eyes went wide. “Wait, you mean you eat… “
He trailed off and looked at Grateful. I didn’t know if they were communicating via their chips or what, but they didn’t say anything, they just stared at each other for a minute. Then they swiveled their heads back around to face me.
“We’re sorry for the misunderstanding,” said Johnny, slowly backing away. “We won’t bother you or your planet again.”
They both turned and sprinted for the door.
Now, why would they be afraid of a plant eater like me? Most people make jokes like, “Oh, a vegan, guess you don’t know how to hunt, huh?”
Unless he misunderstood me a second time…
I turned my attention back to my food and finally took a bite of my perfectly-flavored quinoa and lentils. I guess the pieces of tofu might have looked a little like meat. But why would anyone eat people from Vega when they could eat quinoa and lentils?
And that’s the story of how I, armed only with a bowl of lentils and quinoa, saved Earth from being attacked by confused and angry aliens.
V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”