Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
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The Minister of Interaction

by David Baresch

            “Visitors from the stars! Welcome!”

“Err, where to?”


“Where to?” asked the Minister of Interaction.


“Yes, come where? said an interstellar traveller, “Where to?”


Come…? Oh, no, no, I said ‘welcome’ and not ‘wellcome’.


Bemusement crossed the visages of the visitors.


            “Now, I must inform the world of your arrival.”


            “Sir,” said one alien spokesperson. “I come in peace. I am not a rival.”


            “What…? Oh, no, no, I didn’t say, ‘you’re a rival’. I said ‘your arrival,’ ‘your arriving’ ‘your coming here,’ that is.”


Further bewilderment infused the star-folk, they muttered together (‘Come in here???’ ‘Well… come???’ They muttered. ‘come in where???’ ‘What’s he talking about???’). 


            “And, let me tell you,” said the Minister, “we’re very pleased to meet you. On this world, here, we make every effort to be united. ‘United,’ is our hope!”


            “Oh really! Thank you very much! We have studied the history of this planet’s ancient heritage and its royal acts. That sounds very nice! That’s so kind of you!”


            “Um? Ancient royal acts?”


            “Yes, we have learnt that it is one of the highest honours, here, to be knighted. Thank you! Are you knighted?”


            “… ‘R united? Oh! Are you knighted...?’ Ah, I see… Um, no, no, I said, ‘united’ u-n-i-t-e-d and not ‘you knighted’, ‘y-o-u’ ‘k-n-i-g-h-t-e-d’. But, of course, in communique there are many barriers.”


            “Barriers? Many? So… there wasn’t just John Barry only? Many people share that name on this world, yes?”




            “Yes, Barry Manilow, Barry White, and Barry Gibbs. Many Barriers? It seems to be a very common name here, yes?”


            “Ah! Barry, Barriers, erm… yes… well… it’s a well-used name, but I’m only just beginning to realized how diverse language can be.”


            “Oh! Hamlet!”




“That’s Hamlet! From our research that must be Hamlet.” 




            “Yes, by William Shakespeare. Hamlet died speaking in verse at the end of the play. The die verse scene.”  


            “Oh… err… yes… err… that’s right, ‘the die verse,’ um, ‘diverse’. I see, and, err, to move on, please let me know if you have any questions.”



“Yes! We are on several quests of discovery right now. But none of us are named ‘John’.”  




“We haven’t heard of ‘The Quest of John’. Was he a knight of the round table?”


            “Ah… question, quest John... Umm… this isn’t quite how I had anticipated things.”


            “Yes, ‘The Quest of John,’ can you expand?”


            Expand? OK… Well… think of it like this… exercise, deep-breathing, it expands the lungs, good exercise.”


            “Ah, your ex a size, eh? A big partner, yes? Your ex a size?”


            “Hmm… size… Oh dear. Hear my sighs. OK! Well… I upset my partner and gave her sighs, at times, and my partner gave me sighs too, but we’re only living apart… for now.”


            “Wow, so, now is only a part of your living. You mean that on this world life stops and starts, and stops and starts, again and again, in many parts.”


“Err… Stop sand? Start sand? A gay nan? Da gain???”


“Yes, so you die then come back to life again, yes? Wow! That’s surreal!”


“So real? Unreal.”


“Your life now is only a part of a much longer series of lives? How did that evolve?”  


            “No, no… no, ‘Apart’ means separated. ‘A part’ means a section of something, and... anyway, forget it, forget it. Err… so, tell me about your lifespan?” 


            “Yes indeed! On our world there are those who say that life’s a pan. A toilet pan that is! But it’s a matter of opinion. But here, do most think life’s a pan, yes?” 


            “Err, um, some do, yes, and err… Well… to move on, can you describe your planet?”


            “Oh yes, successfully. Our technology de-scribed a long time ago. Scribes were replaced by voice input, and voice-input was replaced by thought-input.”


            “Oh, scribes, de-scribed. I get it.”


“Yes, there are very few scribes now. Though, those who do still scribe have a very elegant writing style, but, unfortunately, it is very costly to purchase.”


            I see.”


            “Yes, we want to go there, ‘the ice sea’. We have learnt that drift ice flows south from the arctic on this world. It sails like a stately crystal armada over the oceans. It would be great to see that.”    


            “Ah, yes, well… early springtime.”


            Spring time? Oh, you mean you have to up and go now? That’s a shame. We’ve learnt a lot from our contact with you. And we, too, will be on our way. We’ll spring away, as you might say on this world.”


 “Well… yes… and it is sad, but you must take your leave.”


“Thank you very much, and yes, our scientists will sample the leaves. Their origin, their photosynthesis ability, it will be of great interest to us.”


“Ahh… yes… farewell.”


“Ooo, yes, yes, the fares are well expensive for our interstellar travel. You wouldn’t believe the cost.”


“Err, quite.”


“OK, we’ll be as silent as possible. We’ll try not to make a noisy departure. We don’t want to disturb the inhabitants here.”


“No… Thank you… and goodbye.”


“No, no, we’re not buying anything this time. We’re just investigating. Maybe we’ll do some shopping next time. We’ll try ‘The Nile’.”


“Ah… ‘Amazon’.” 


“Oh! You’re a son! I’m a son too. Then please say, ‘Hello’ to your dear parents for us. Well, now, it’s back to the stars for us! Au revoir!”  


“‘Oh, we’re far??? Oh, you’re travelling far. Yes, I get it, I understand. I think…”


And the excited aliens went on their way and cheerfully continued their quest to make alien contact with Ministers of Interaction!


2022 David Baresch

Bio: David Baresch has published with;
The Telegraph media
New Humanist
Austin McCauley Publishers
David Baresch also
Produces and publishes music videos, writes song.

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