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The Last Great Hope
by Ken Goldman
"We have come to visit you in peace -- and with good will."
Klaatu addresses the people of Earth and gets shot for his effort
-"The Day The Earth Stood Still" (1951)
. . . And so when the end finally did come, it came during the tumultuous early days of the new millennium. The troubled civilized world finally pulled together as one, but only as the beleaguered global village prepared to experience the worst, both apocalypse and Armageddon condensed into one terrible hour.
Doomsday, the real one this time, had arrived . . .
To a species already pummeled by its own inadequacies, the alien vessel's unannounced arrival, lacking either protocol or ceremony, did not bode well. The hulking representative spoke to an open-mouthed worldwide television audience, his brief pledge to Earth meant to serve a single purpose.
"You have fought your last war, desecrated your last deity. Your planet has become both a nuisance and an embarrassment to this universe! If there is a champion among you, during this hour he shall determine Earth's fate!"
As the only member of his delegation capable of speaking English, the alien resembled a badly sculpted mannequin. Arrived from some unpronounceable distant galaxy he had alighted from a spacecraft the size of a small suburb. Standing with a backfield of cohorts before the great dome of the Capital Building he addressed the people of Earth.
"My planet is not interested in your formalities nor in the rambling babble of your chieftains! We desire no introductions to leaders nor any mannerly exchange of names. Only your advocate's wisdom will deliver you, and the time to yield your champion is now!" This clearly was not some tenderhearted "Take-me-to-your-leader" science fiction emissary with whom the people of Earth were dealing. Producing an object resembling a large cell phone he recited a five digit call number. "This communication device has the required numerals. Contact me now, Advocate, and convince us why Earth deserves to endure. Otherwise I have instructions to destroy your entire planet within this hour." With a magician's flourish he pulled from his garment a small black box, its glowing red button resembling a clown's bulbous nose. He placed the object on the dais before him. "Now, who among your species chooses to represent you?"
His second in command hooked the communication device to a huge coned speaker tethered to his ship to create an effective sound system. For an agonizing moment the alien's instrument did not indicate a signal from anyone calling in, but then the object glowed green and chirped to life. He held it to his ear and the speaker cone resonated with a distinctively male voice. It seemed doubtful the caller wore either a cape or cowl.
"Am I speaking to the extraterrestrial?"
"And your specific challenge is?"
"Evidence of your wisdom, nothing more."
Some anonymous robed Middle Eastern delegate was raising his fist to the skies while shrieking his complaint. "No one has selected this man to represent us! Who is this fool?" The space creature paid him no mind.
The caller continued, "I accept your challenge, but I require a small demonstration of wisdom as well, an answer to a riddle, if you will. This is only fair."
The slightest hint of a smile appeared on the space creature's face.
"You are not in a position to make the rules."
"The best defense is a good offense, and you force me to defend my planet. So what do you say to a wager? If you cannot answer my simple challenge, then you may press your little button. Are you game?"
"This is most irregular. However . . ." The alien looked to his second in command, entered into a discussion consisting of prattling clicks and clucks that must have been speech, and returned to the phone device.
"Agreed. But you shall die the moment we solve your conundrum! We are an astute people. Your riddle cannot fool us. Your planet is one already dead!"
"We'll see about that. Here's your question . . . Why did the chicken cross the road?"
"Some clarification? What is a chicken?"
"A bird. We eat them. But it could easily be a pigeon, lizard, or four-toed snark." Earth's fate rested on the oldest and possibly most simple-minded riddle known to mankind.
"This is fool's play. Simple logic tells us your chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, to avoid being eaten, of course."
"Nope. Sorry. Try again."
"You're lying! We have studied your culture. The riddle is one of your most ancient! The answer is exactly what I said!"
"Any kid on earth would tell you different."
The alien's smirk evaporated. "There can be no other logical answer to your question!"
"Oh, but there is. And that means you lose.
The alien conferred with his companions on stage, but each responded with a shake of the head. The space traveler returned to the phone device.
"There has never been any other solution to this! You trick us!"
"Why not save us time and admit that we are the more worthy species? These roaming charges are killing me!"
Struggling for dignity the alien removed his thin finger from the glowing crimson button but kept it poised close enough to allow for any change of heart. "All right. Perhaps you win. If that is not the correct answer, then I do not know why the chicken crossed the road."
A huzzah arose from around the globe. When the tumult died down, the extraterrestrial countered with the inevitable rebut.
"We are an honorable and civilized people, and we shall remain true to our word. Possibly there is more to you humans than we have observed. Answer us why your chicken crossed the road and we shall spare your planet, as promised."
A purposeful hesitation followed, the new champion's effort to give the six billion bewildered people of Earth a moment worth remembering.
"Glad to oblige. You see, the chicken crossed the road because . . . because . . ."
Another delay carefully calculated for ultimate dramatic effect.
" . . . because he wanted to see Howard Stern's balls!! Babba Boowie!! Babba Boowie!!!"
Story copyright 2003 by Kenneth C. Goldman KGOL991920@aol.com
Illustration copyright 2003 by Ehrad email@example.com
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