Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

SUBJECT: TALKING MEAT

A dialogue by Terry Bisson. From a series of stories entitled
"Alien/Nation" in the April [1991?] issue of _Omni_.

"They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"Meat. They're made out of meat."

"Meat?"

"There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts
of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all
the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to
the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from
them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat
made the machines."

"That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me
to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I 'm telling you. These creatures are the only
sentient race in the sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based
intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for
several of their life spans, which didn't take too long. Do you
have any idea the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the
Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plamsa brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the
Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the
way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made
out of meat!"

"So... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking.
The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat.
The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?"

"Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Finally, Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they've been
trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"So what does the meat have in mind."

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore
the universe, contact other sentients, swap ideas and information.
The usual."

"We're supposed to talk to meat?"

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio.
'Hello. Anyone out there? Anyone home?' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"

"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds.
You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They
talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by
squirting air through their meat."

"Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do
you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"

"Both."

"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any
and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without
prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase
the records and forget the whole thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make
contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say?" `Hello, meat.
How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we
dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat
containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they
only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of
light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact
pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who want to meet meat? And the
ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you have probed?
You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their
heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to
them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropiate, that we should be
meat's dream."

"And we can marked this sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any
others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence
in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic
rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the
universe would be if one were all alone.