“Is a train considered ground transport?” The voice on the phone asked. I considered answering with “Well, if it flew, it’d be an airplane and if it floated, it’d be a boat,” but then I thought about my bread and butter.
“Yes,” I said. The genius on the other end of the line considered that.
“Is it considered mass transit?” again, I considered answers, “why did you buy one,” came to mind, but the rent is due.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Ok, thanks,” there was a click and the caller was gone. I filled in the ticket, while wondering just why the genius had called an IT service desk with that question. I doubted that I’d ever know. It was scary enough to think that people like him were out there. My shift ended and I went home. That’s when things really got weird.
“What did they say?” The voice sounded odd to me, as though the speaker has a slight lisp. I passed the open window cautiously. There was not supposed to be anyone in the house. I lived alone, except for Digger, my dog, and Patches, my cat.
I crept to the den where I thought the voices were coming from. I know, it was stupid of me. I should have called the cops, but it was probably better that I didn’t. I would have felt more of a fool than I did. Anyway, I eased open the den door and saw Patches at my computer. She had both paws on the keyboard. She seemed to be wearing gloves with long fingers that tapped the keys. Digger had his paws on the desk so that he could watch what Patches was doing.
“What the hell?” I exclaimed. Patches hit a few keys and the computer screen when dark. She glared at Digger.
“You were supposed to be watching for him.” Digger hung his head.
“I’m sorry,” he said in the lisping voice I’d heard. My dog was talking. You can see how the cops would have taken it. Man’s best friend my arse – he’d never said one word to me in all the hours we’d spent in the park playing Frisbee®.
“How long have you been able to talk?” I demanded. Digger whined a little and wagged his tail. “How long?” The tail drooped.
“Oh for the sake of Bast,” Patches sounded disgusted. Her voice was a whispery lilting sound, rather like her meows were. “We’ve been able to talk since before you took us in.”
“Four years?” I was incredulous. “Can all cats and dogs talk?”
“I’m from the planet Felis,” Patches said. Before you ask, I did notice that she didn’t answer my question. “Diggs, here is from Cania. We are here for the best of reasons.”
“What would they be?” I demanded Patches licked her paw.
“Our mission is to determine the feasibility of keeping humankind out of space,” she admitted reluctantly.
Digger looked surprised.
“You have to ask?” he said. “Look at the state of this planet? It hasn’t been cleaned in years! Look at the way you treat the other denizens of this world…”
“Look at the way they treat each other!” Patches interjected. They had a point. We humans don’t exactly play well with others.
“So you are the advanced guard to wipe us out?” I asked.
“Of course not, Joe,” Digger said.
“I said we are here to keep you safely confined on Earth,” said Patches. “You have not matured enough as a species to be allowed out among civilized folk.” That was lowering. Animals were condemning humans as uncivilized, but then, they weren’t really animals, were they?
“So we have a chance to go into space?”
“At the rate you are going, probably not for a very long time.” Patches washed her other paw. I lifted Patches up and sat down in the desk chair.
“So what happens now?” I asked.
“Memwipe?” Digger suggested. Patches seemed to consider.
“No,” she said. “We don’t have the resources to do it properly and besides who would he tell?”
“No one will believe him,” Digger agreed. So did I.
So that’s how I came to start learning how to be civilized. It appears that I am trainable. It’s lowering in a way, but I might be able to get off this rock sooner than the rest of humankind and that has to count for something.