Traders, A Fiction Sketch


This story fragment owes a debt to Year Zero by Reid, to Mall World by Somtow, and to a short story, whose name I have forgotten, about a record store owner & alien traders. Note, I have no idea what happens next. This is as far as I got. Unsatisfying. I agree. At least it’s something. [Thoughts On Fiction]


First contact.

It wasn’t what we thought it would be.

It wasn’t E.T.

It wasn’t The War of the Worlds.

It was nothing.

If a huge ship hovering over the North Pole could be said to be nothing.

It appeared. The world went nuts.

It did nothing.

We radioed it. We used x-rayed. We send drones.

It did nothing.

We tried to land a SWAT team on it.

It moved to the South Pole. And did nothing.

Being human, we eventually shot at it.

It did nothing.

Then the orders came.

Orders for books, for DVD movie sets, for a DVD player.

Orders for traditional handcrafts from every continent.

Orders for paintings, sculptures, jewelry.

Money appeared in accounts as with any other online order.

Delivery info was to warehouses in major ports.

The piles sat there. Then they disappeared. Then the ship disappeared.

Physicists struggled to rewrite their rules.

Mystics pondered the existence of alien gods.

Monotheistic orders struggled to rewrite their rules.

People panicked.

People rioted.

And then we gave up worrying.

Aliens exist. They came. They left. Other than that, we know nothing.

There is only so much hair-tearing you can do with so little data.

They come back every few months. Order stuff. A few people get rich. Everyone wants to read the book the aliens bought.

The things they order are never the same. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to draw a line between the items. Academics publish papers. Start-ups gamble on piles of “alien-approved” inventory. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

Most of us have stopped trying to predict what appeals to the aliens. Ancient. Modern. Made of yarn. Made of metal. Mass-produced. One-off Etsy shops. A range of comic rubber ducks. Yeah, that one caught us all by surprise.

We go about our lives. We produce what we have always produced. Maybe we hit the jackpot. Maybe we don’t.

Of course, this favors people who make stuff. Service industries are out of luck.

It’s almost always crafted or manufactured items. Sometimes raw materials, usually not.

They never take anything that is alive.

Except once.

This is my story.

~~~ curtain ~~~

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