Humans are an interesting species. The more intelligent ones are always asking questions because that’s what makes humans truly human. These people have a curiosity beyond whether Beyoncé is pregnant, why elevators don’t arrive any faster if you punch the up or down buttons in rapid succession or why no one has ever seen someone actually laughing all the way to the bank.
The problem with asking the really big questions is that no human is qualified to answer them. You’re too provincial, having barely left your planet a handful of times. No, it takes someone with a universal perspective. Someone who’s seen it all, from a guy who had front-row tickets to see two merging neutron stars, to one who uploaded his consciousness to the surface a black hole.
Someone like me, a hyperintelligent extraterrestrial.
My name is Stan Parallax and I come from a planet called Arcturus which has nothing to do with the star system you know on Earth as Arcturus. None whatsoever. I currently live in Los Angeles and like everyone here, I am currently working on a screenplay. But in between script revisions and waiting for a phone call from Christopher Nolan, I have time to answer the Really Big Questions.
So, go ahead and ask away.
The big questions: Where did we come from?
Most intelligent species, once they’ve passed beyond the point of asking the usual questions of what shall I kill and eat today or who shall I conquer, begin asking more profound questions and right at the top of the list is: Where did we come from?
If you’re a reasonably intelligent human, the obvious answer to that question would seem to be evolution. Evolution arising from amino acids stewing in warm pools of swampy liquid or spewing out of undersea volcanic vents and performing mind-bogglingly difficult somersaults through an improbably impossible series of events to arrive at bacteria that eventually evolved over billions of years into dodos, platypuses and yes, modern humans.
You’d also be completely wrong.
You’re about to be let in on the biggest secret in existence: you are the result of panspermia. But not the kind proposed by misguided scientists who say amino acids arrived on earth from asteroids and comets from far, far away. That idea, like that of life arising spontaneously from earthbound chemical compounds is also dead wrong
Life on Earth is the result of directed panspermia. You were planned.
Well, sort of.
A few billion years ago, directed panspermia was all the rage amongst advanced species in the galaxy. Because they had bypassed the ridiculously slow process of evolution and developed highly advanced technology, these life forms felt themselves special. So special that it seemed only right that every corner of the cosmos should be blessed with their specialness. These life forms decided that they would use unmanned spaceships, solar sails and a variety of interstellar vehicles to shoot quickly evolving microbial matrixes of themselves in every direction they could think of. Microbes were pretty tough when it came to interstellar travel.
It was a great and noble idea, spreading life in a lifeless galaxy.
In practice, the outcome was quite different. Before long, life—rather than being a scarce, wondrous and most importantly, sustainable commodity—was everywhere. There was just too much of it. Planets began to buckle under the weight of too many species. Wars broke out over dwindling resources. Trash began to pile up at an alarming rate. Climates began to warm. Something had to be done. Unity, the galactic government, declared a moratorium on the practice of panspermia, which slowed the overpopulation of the galaxy, but it didn’t solve the problem.
Nature came to the rescue, attacking invading life with its army of cosmic antibodies. Exploding supernovas, black holes, lethal radiation, comet impacts and an assortment of deadly meteorites wreaked havoc on life forms everywhere, blasting, pummeling and reducing them to a manageable number. An equilibrium was reached.
So there you are. Not the cosmic, touchy-feely answer you were expecting, but that’s it in a tiny nutshell. You are an invasive species, put on Earth by civilizations perhaps no longer in existence. Revel in your amazing stroke of luck. And be glad there is no galactic Environmental Protection Bureau, because as a non-native life forms, you Earthlings would be slated for eradication. No different than your zebra mussel, the Burmese python or the Kudzu vine. But don’t worry. I won’t tell. You’re safe for now.
The big questions: Where did the Arcturans come from?
I am indeed an extraterrestrial. A life form from a planet called Arcturus, that bears no resemblance to the star known as Arcturus to Earth-based astronomers. None whatsoever.
Located in the Pleiades star cluster, my people, the Arcturans, had the characteristic of being the richest, most intelligent, and the most beautiful species in the galaxy. Some say the most hated, too, but that was only because they are the richest, most intelligent and most stunningly attractive life forms in existence.
The Arcturans weren’t always so, however.
For millions of years, they did what most developing civilizations do, which was to fight. Mostly they fought over food and land, but since their weapons consisted of the rock, pointy stick and club, they could only maim each other so much. Life limped on with some help from crutches and evolution.
Then someone had the misfortune to invent the wheel, and before you knew it, the Arcturans had aircraft, bombs and guided missiles. They no longer had a good reason to fight since the north and south landmasses had more food, shelter and living space than they needed. So they manufactured reasons, now declaring war over the smallest of differences. They fought over whether the chicken or the egg came first. They fought about the color of the bombs they dropped on each other, periwinkle winning out on the northern landmass and a sort of orangey-frost color prevailing in the south. They even fought about the way the two landmasses pronounced the word aluminum. The north said it just like it was written: a-loom-a-num, while the south emphasized the second syllable and added an extra one near the end: al-U-min-E-um, even though everyone knew there was no i in the last syllable. This difference of opinion resulted in the Great Pronunciation War.
A succession of enlightened Arcturans stood up and pointed to the folly of endless warfare and how it had reduced their once-beautiful planet to a pile of rubble. These Arcturans were usually shot, disemboweled and buried in a dung heap as was the custom at the time. Although most Arcturans knew these oracles were right, many still harbored dominant and aggressive genes that made them want to fight. Some couldn’t think of anything else to do with their time. And still others pointed out that jobs, factories and huge military forces depended on constant aggression. Their economies were built on it. True, no one was very happy, but at least everyone had a purpose—albeit a destructive one.
Eventually, an Arcturan of considerable charisma and stunning appearance stood up and said essentially the same message as his predecessors, but this time it was heard. The reason, some said, was that they had run out of patience, but many suspected it was because they were running short of aluminum. The second reason was probably more likely: the guy was extremely photogenic. It’s a widely understood fact in the universe that it’s not how you say things or even what you say that’s important. The critical element is that you look good while saying it. And this Arcturan had good looks in spades.
Anyway, the message of this life form, Aragos the Stunning XXIV, was this: the Orb. The Orb was the invention of an incredibly intelligent Arcturan known as Grabelfrob the Really Smart. This galactic genius reasoned that while the Arcturans, through a stunning series of wild coincidences and completely undeserved genetic mutations had leap-frogged into one of the most advanced life forms in the universe, evolution was still too damn slow. Why wait millions of years for parts of the brain to increase in size and complexity when you could make it happen overnight? Or be limited to the five senses evolution gave them?
All it took was a tiny, quantum computer called the Orb and a fleet of microscopic, self-disposing nanobots. You swallowed the tiny components together and the Orb would slide into a spot in the brain carved out by one of the nanobots—a spot previously occupied by the primitive and aggressive parts of a life form’s brain. Once the Orb was in place, the nanobots would then make alterations to some of the body’s DNA and the brain’s infrastructure, hard-wiring it to the tiny Orb, which in turn, communicated with a mammoth, central quantum computer on Arcturus, able to compute on a scale unimaginable. The Really Big Orb they called it. The Arcturans would be connected to everything, everywhere. And have incredible powers and information right at their fingertips. Grabelfrob would slingshot them all millions of years into the future. Evolution and the law of natural selection were about to get a good ass-kicking.
The Arcturans rolled up the sleeves on their robes and got to work. The cost overruns were horrendous, but the Arcturans saved so much money because they were no longer putting all their resources and energy into making bombs and weapons which blew up buildings and homes, which then had to be reconstructed so that more bombs and weapons could blow them up again. Plus, working on this huge, planet-wide project gave them a purpose and kept them out of trouble. A million Earth years later, their work was complete.
They turned everything on and the information began to flow in and out, from billions of personal Orbs spread out across the galaxy to the Really Big Orb. And before you knew it, an astounding thing happened: The Orb network became really, really smart. Much smarter than Grabelfrob the Really Smart. So intelligent, in fact, that it recommended improvements to itself. And all this intelligence was imparted to the Arcturans, along with an incredible heightening of their senses, the capability to slip in and out of intersecting dimensions, and the ability to teleport across the entire universe in just seconds. Good-bye tedious, dangerous travel in spaceships.
The Orb network was a huge hit on Arcturus. As the Orb replaced the primitive areas of the brain that lead to never-ending fighting and everyone became infinitely more intelligent, they let go of mindless superstitions, irrational thinking and imaginary differences. They stopped fighting once and for all.
For a while, the Arcturans kept their amazing Orb to themselves, while they worked out the bugs. Then, salivating about the money it would soon earn them, they rolled out the Orb to the general galaxy. The Arcturans kept the more aggressive and defensive powers to themselves, including the ability to blow up shit with their eyes and reading what was on the minds of other life forms. The premium package so to speak. To everyone else, they would provide a more limited range of abilities that were still astounding no matter how you looked at them. Travel across the galaxy in an instant? Easy. Have a titanic amount of information about anything or anyone you merely looked at? Done. Want to experience a book, movie or hologram in mind-blowing vividness in your head? Without seeing or reading it? Okay. Or record everything you’ve seen for the last seven days and play it back to experience it again? A simple task.
Once life forms saw how amazing and useful this new perspective on the universe was, they wanted it. And they bought it in multitudes. This made the Arcturans very rich, but that wasn’t the end of it. Everyone was kept in the loop with improvements created by regular updates. Regular subscription updates. The Arcturans became even wealthier. They had also, inadvertently, transformed themselves into a race of trust-fund babies. Knowing what often happened to people with too much time and money on their hands, Grabelfrob searched for an activity that would keep the Arcturans out of rehab clinics, keep them continuously busy, burn through the ridiculous amounts of money that were endlessly piling up on the planet, and look really important. Really, really important.
So he did what great leaders have done since time immemorial, which was to pull an answer out of his ass.
Besides proposing a planetary motto of Keep Busy, he said that the Arcturans would attempt to answer the biggest questions in the universe. It was a brilliant idea. He knew the search would take big, expensive buildings filled with big, expensive equipment, run by big, expensive bureaucracies. There would be awards, awards ceremonies, documentaries about the big questions … it promised to be endless.
The Really Big Orb, seeing that Grabelfrob was looking for the answers to some of the most profound questions of the universe, took the liberty of running the questions through its impressive processors and it came up with the answers. It took just 37 seconds.
Grabelfrob asked The Really Big Orb if it had told anyone else its results. When the great computer responded, saying it hadn’t, Grabelfrob had a suggestion of his own.
“It will be our little secret,” he was purported to have said.