300-word story: Aliens secretly visit Earth but are confused by what they find.
When an alien race visited Earth, we didn't even know about it.
Infiltrating our society was a doddle, mainly because they looked just like us. Having initially studied humanity from afar, they had learnt our way of life, much of which was similar to their own, as well as our many languages. They also examined anomalies that are unique to this planet, such as Christmas, asparagus, staplers and jeggings, but otherwise it was a very straightforward process. The only area they had genuine trouble with was our relationship with time.
To the aliens, time was an untouchable constant. No matter what you measured it in, from the fleeting nanosecond to the lifespan of a galaxy, its passage was inevitable. Humans, on the other hand, treated it in a way that was strange and foolish. It wasn't that we didn't understand the concept of time; on the contrary, we were obsessed with it. Like the aliens, we had invented everything from the sundial to the wristwatch, but it was our simultaneous reverence and bitterness towards time that proved deeply confusing.
Despite being very intelligent, humans treated time like a commodity. Day after day, the visitors witnessed celebrations, arguments, compliments and lamentations in regards to time being saved, wasted, invested and lost. Apparently, watching a bad movie was two hours you would never get back, whereas cutting five minutes off a daily commute justified exaggerated displays of self-congratulation.
To the visitors, who had an innate comprehension of the difference between time and the actions that take place within it, this behaviour was, quite simply, too alien. It was for this reason that they abandoned us, believing that a species so intent on controlling something inherently uncontrollable is destined for madness. Perhaps one day this will be our fate. Only time will tell.
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland
Image: Francesco Ungaro