I have to admit, I was looking forward to Slippy the Wibble’s meeting with Norman Schultz. The scientific community regarded him as one of the superior physicists of the day and an elite among TV entertainers. To see one of the greatest minds of humanity chat with an advanced alien—that endearing creature that looked like four giant worms suspending a deflated beachball between them—would go down as one of my top three experiences in life, right after Five Guys burgers and Pokemon Go. We met him at a coffee shop just south of the University of Wisconsin.
We settled in with a Peppermint Mocha for me, an Americano for the scientist, and the usual Barium and Vinegar Latte for Slippy.
“I’m afraid I don’t believe you are an alien from the other side of the galaxy,” said Norman.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “This is supposed to be about sharing our perspectives, not calling each other liars.”
“I’m sorry, but there’s just no way. Space travel at the speed it would take is simply impossible,” said the physicist.
“What if they use an undiscov—”
“Can the Wibble respond, please?” asked Norman. “I can talk to humans anywhere.”
“Er. Sure.” I can take a hint.
The tops of a couple of Slippy’s worms were spiraling, which I’d come to take as a sign of mischief.
Norman soldiered on. “To reach our planet going the speed of light would take about eighty thousand years, and that would kill you. You say you were born on your home planet, so you have to be way older than eighty thousand years. How old are you?”
“By earth years I am fifty-three,” said Slippy, the translator strapped to one of the worms had a perfect Midwest accent.
“It’s impossible,” said Norman.
Slippy waggled a worm at him. “You must conclude then, that Wibbles are magic.”
Norman sat back and narrowed his eyes. “You’re messing with me.”
“There are many magical things in the world,” said Slippy. “Like Katie Melua’s voice and Gummy Bears.”
“What? Those hardly compare….”
“But they do. And the circumstance being that you don’ t know that shows how far behind you really are. In fact, you’ve regressed, and I have small hope for you.” Slippy shuffled out of the chair to leave.
“Wait! Wait!” said Norman. “Please give me a chance.”
“Only if you’re straight with me,” said Slippy.
“Sure, sure. I just need to establish your credibility, so if you could just explain how you traveled here—”
“Good-bye,” said Slippy.
“Why?” asked Norman. “I’m being straight with you.”
The physicist crumpled under the worm hovering before his nose. “No. I’m sorry. I let it slip that I discovered something big a few weeks ago, but I was just bragging, and now I need something to save face.” Norman fidgeted and looked down to the table’s edge. “I was hoping to trick something out of you.”
The Wibble’s worms swayed in a soft rhythm.
“There’s one great thing you can do for your science,” said Slippy.
“What is it?” Norman asked. His eagerness made him look like a small boy.
“You can revive what has been lost,” said Slippy.
Norman sat back. “How so?”
“The first step in science is wonder,” said Slippy.
“Okay,” said Norman. “That’s nothing new.”
“If it’s nothing new,” said Slippy, “then why is your science today making every effort to destroy wonder?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” said Norman.
“I know,” said the Wibble. “And that’s why we are the ones traveling across the galaxy, not you.”