Alien Artifacts - A Day at the Gallery
2005 - Bryce Render
This piece is one of my explorations that combines some visual art with some other creative endeavor. In this case, writing. I like to think of these as “Oh, and then this happened…” pieces, because that’s how it usually goes. I’ll be working on some visual art or a piece of writing and then my muse taps me on my shoulder and says “Hey! Look over here. This is happening too.”
For “A Day at the Gallery” the image came first, then the story. Sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes I’m in the middle of one and the other part barges in and demands some attention for a time and the parts end-up chasing each other around like playful kittens. However it happens, the parts all become part of “the piece” at some point.
Alas, the story that goes with “A Day at the Gallery” is not yet finished. Apparently, many other shiny distractions arose at the time. Here, at least, is how it begins…
Alien Artifact Tales – A Day at the Gallery
copyright 2005 James Allen
Excerpt from the log of the starship Zeno’s Paradox, 7188.8.131.52 GUT, Stephen Arrens recording…
It was the loss of the main water supply that forced us to land on Fomalhaut IV. Hundreds of years of technological refinement have seen enormous strides made in the design and manufacture of the shipboard toilet, such that when it decides to become leaky, as they all do at some stage, it is no longer a matter of some small inconvenience, but, instead, a life and death emergency. It would seem that the number of people in the universe that are blissfully unaware that toilets are eventually bound to leak are quite few, but, inexplicably, they are are all in the business of designing those very fixtures. It comes as no great surprise, of course, that even the most marvelously refined and sophisticated shipboard toilet – such as the well-known Recycoilet, with their now famous slogan – Waste a Lot, Want Not! – will eventually develop a leak. After all, when your entire existence consists of being continually dumped upon, sooner or later rebellion is bound to occur. This line of thought brings to mind the bizarre, if not downright terrifying, developments that have come about in the way of toilet paper dispensers. Seeing, however, as that particular device played no known role in the incident I am describing, I shall, for the time being, let it pass.
When we realized that all of our water had been leaked into the unquenchable thirst of the hard vacuum of space, we consulted the star charts for the nearest uninhabitated planet upon which water was known to exist. There was none. Well, that of course is not strictly true. If, in fact, there was only one such planet in the entire universe, then it would by definition be the nearest one. Indeed, there were many uninhabitated water bearing worlds listed in our charts. The unpleasant fact, however, was that none of them were located near enough so that we would still be able to appreciate the water when we arrived there. Or, for that matter, much of anything else. That left us with looking for any nearby planet with water, even if inhabitated. Now, please note that I use the word “inhabitated” as a technical term specific to my profession. For the sake of the lay person that may chance to read this account, I will explain.
As a xenoarchaeologist it is both my business, as well as my lifelong delight, to find, record and study that which has been left behind by ancient alien civilizations. By its very nature, it tends to be much easier to find and study ancient alien artifacts and remains if the modern day version of said aliens are not currently building on top of said ancient remains, or, as is more likely, burying them under tons of not-at-all-ancient, but often quite pungent, alien trash in their landfills. Hence, when I say “uninhabitated”, I refer to a planet that does not currently support one or more dominant, technological, landfill-possessing species. For the purposes of my definition, a planet that is currently occupied solely by frogoids and mugwuppies, is, essentially, uninhabitated. “But wait!” you may protest, “You could be missing out on some of the most important and fascinating archaeological finds by avoiding the currently inhabitated worlds. Some of them may harbor incredible knowledge of cosmic importance!” This is, of course, true. Unfortunately, as some of the early practitioners in the field discovered, planets that are inhabitated by aliens busily burying their ancient artifacts often tend to be in possession of newer, shinier, more modern artifacts. These artifacts are typically of recent make, and hence of no professional interest, but do have a disturbing tendency to be pointed at unknown spacecraft, often with unpleasant results. Unpleasant, especially, if you happen to be in the spacecraft at the time. So, by and large, xenoarchaeology has come to be practiced on worlds that are now uninhabited, in the technical sense of the term.
. . .
(to be continued)