little odious vermin

One day, advanced extra-terrestrial beings from another galaxy came to Planet Earth. This was not the first time the aliens had come to the Planet, so they were very surprised at the dramatic extent to which the level of bio-diversity had fallen since their last visit. Every single one of the species that they had previously identified as having potential for self consciousness, had seemingly become extinct in a relatively short period of time.

It was therefore very sad, quite tragic in fact, but not at all surprising, that of all the life-forms still living on the Planet only one species, Homo Sapiens, was in the least bit interested in the arrival of the aliens. So interested in fact that members of that species made a right royal nuisance of themselves pestering the aliens at all hours of the day and night, imploring them piteously for answers to such questions as:

"How can we solve the problem of world hunger?"

"How can we prevent or at least reduce the intensity of global war?"

"Why are there fewer fish?"

"Where have all the frogs gone?"

"When will we ever learn?"

"Where can we find happiness and peace within ourselves?"

"What is the meaning and purpose of life?"

And the aliens would turn toward the person or people asking the question, and a bemused vibration would move up and down each of their seven eye-stalks in turn. The alien answering the question would then clench zer throat-wattles in a complicated way so that a semblance of human speech would emerge from their central feeder-cavity, "Earth person, if you are in need of information, may we suggest that you direct your enquiry to your XXXXX…"

Sometimes ze would say, "We are certain your XXXX will be able to enlighten you in relation to that matter…"

Or, depending on the question, ze might say, "There's no cause for alarm or undue emotional affect. Undoubtedly your XXXX has foreseen these events..."

And sometimes, demonstrating that even alien patience has its limits, ze would say, "Don't ask us, stupid earthling, ask your bleepiddy bleep XXXX!"

Now, most people understood what "bleepiddy bleep" meant (an alien expletive which translates roughly into "…go fertilise your mother's seed-pod!"), but as to "XXXX", no-one had the foggiest idea what that meant. "XXXX" is almost impossible to capture within written or spoken English, or in any of the living or dead languages of the world. Phonetically speaking, the sound of "XXXX" would not even be close to the snorting screech or screeching snort you might get from an angry wombat flying high on methamphetamine. But to communicate about "XXXX", the best that the people of Earth could do was to agree on a long and very clumsy formulation based on the sound of a high and angry wombat, as follows: "bberymudrrkycsssz".

For example, here's an excerpt from a letter that one leading world leader sent to another leading world leader: "…cannot be tolerated…absolutely unacceptable… how can we ask our so-called " bberymudrrkycsssz " when we do not know who or what or where that is, let alone pronounce it correctly?"

World leaders queued up in front of the alien spaceship to ask about the bberymudrrkycsssz:

"Is it the Pope?"

"No, it's not the Pope."

"Is it the Secretary General of the United Nuclear Nations?"

"No, it is not the Secretary General."

"Is it the President of Elbonia?" (Elbonia was the number one superpower in the world at that stage.)

"No, it is not the President of Elbonia," the aliens would say, "and furthermore, if you don't know your bberymudrrkycsssz, you probably never will. Therefore we certainly can never assist you in any way because it would be in direct contravention of Galactic Ordinance 7.1 b, Section 13, Paragraph 42.2, which absolutely prohibits any exchange of data in relation to the bberymudrrkycsssz, on pain of defenestration."

So that was that. The people of Earth had not the foggiest idea about the bberymudrrkycsssz, nor were the aliens going to help them find out. Of course, many people felt that this was the least of their worries considering that the end of the world was coming up fast. (Of course, it wasn't really the end of the world, it was just the end of the species, but nobody quite got that.) What with global warming, pollution, acid rain, toxic foodstuffs, loss of topsoil, pandemic disease of many varieties, Satan and the Messiah engaged in one-on-one full contact combat, and a number of horsemen of the apocalypse galloping at full pelt to Armageddon, there didn't seem to be much point worrying about a funny alien word that nobody could articulate let alone understand.

Well, actually I tell a lie. There was one person who knew about the bberymudrrkycsssz, a gnarled and aged guru, sitting on top of a very high mountain in the Himalayas. Thanks to the wisdom he had accumulated during the course of eighty four lifetimes, he knew all about the bberymudrrkycsssz, and he knew full well what was happening down below, with the aliens and everything, but he did not feel it was his place to interfere. Besides, this was his eighty fifth incarnation, and he was determined to enjoy a little peace and quiet. So he didn't tell anyone what he knew about the bberymudrrkycsssz. He continued to sit on top of the mountain, meditating, and eating a grain of rice every week, which was brought to him by a devoted peasant farmer who lived in the valley below.

Then one day, the devoted peasant farmer arrived empty-handed. He was very ashamed and unhappy that he could not provide the guru with his sustenance for the week. "Oh master," said, "siphu, the rice paddies are all drying up, everything is destroyed, there is no food left…"

This news jolted the guru into action. It was one thing to sit and meditate and not say anything about the bberymudrrkycsssz, but when one's weekly meal was at risk, well, that was another thing entirely. So he put on his cleanest loincloth, picked up his walking stick, and set off down the dangerous mountain pass that led to the village in the valley.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a number of hair-raising adventures, the Guru approached the Dalai Lama, and spilled all the beans about the bberymudrrkycsssz.

"Every once in a very long while, ten-thousand generations perhaps," the guru said to the Dalai Lama, "emerges a being, an entity, technically a person, but a person of such unique qualities that ze stands apart, above, beyond, and ahead of every other person on the planet, living or dead. Such a being is the bberymudrrkycsssz. Ze is the Guardian, the leader, the wisest and most powerful being on the Planet, the one and only, the sole and solitary Being with divinely inspired power and authority to lead and build and save our wretched souls and our even more wretched lives. Such is the bberymudrrkycsssz," said the guru to the Dalai Lama, "Now all we have to do is find zer, and plead with zer for mercy and assistance in our time of travail."

"Yes," said the Dalai Lama, "that is what we must do."

"Not 'we'," replied the guru, "you. I'm hungry. Where can an old codger get a bowl of rice around here?"

* * *

It took the Dalai Lama and all his helpers and assistants and supporters six long months to find the bberymudrrkycsssz. By that stage, of course, things were really starting to get bad, with hundreds of thousands of people dying every day from plague or napalm or mercury poisoning from eating contaminated foodstuffs, or from simply being shot in the head or having their arms and legs chopped off by child soldiers recruited from the slums of the world's major cities.

Fortunately, the Dalai Lama and his supporters did manage to find the bberymudrrkycsssz, which was great news, except for the rather sad and disconcerting fact that the bberymudrrkycsssz had no special powers or wonderful insights into the human condition, nor even an intention to do good and help his fellow man and woman. In fact the bberymudrrkycsssz was just a Public Relations coordinator for the World Bank, and a lowly one at that. Nor was he particularly pleased or excited by what the Dalai Lama and his supporters had to say.

"Look here, your Eminence," said Bruce (the bberymudrrkycsssz's name was Bruce Flamstead) "I don't know what you are talking about, and I am certainly not in a position to drop everything and start saving the world. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a media release to draft."

Naturally, the Dalai Lama and his supporters were not going to take no for an answer, not with the future of the species at stake. But they didn't really know what to do, or how to persuade Bruce to put on the mantle of the bberymudrrkycsssz. Eventually, after much green tea, meditation, visualisation and affirmation, they decided to ask the aliens. Which they did, and what the aliens said was "Bring the Guardian to us, so that we may bask in zer effulgence."

So they quietly snuck into Bruce's house, hit him over the head with a garden gnome, tied him up and took him off to the aliens to ask them what to do in the event of a reluctant bberymudrrkycsssz.

"Is this the bberymudrrkycsssz?" the Dalai Lama asked the aliens.

"Why yes," they replied, "of course it is, well done on finding him!"

"He's not much good," said the Dalai Lama, "he's got no superpowers or anything. I can't see how much help he going to be to man, woman or beast."

"Don't you worry your shaven little head about that," replied the aliens, "you leave him to us, we'll power him up in no time at all."

And that is exactly what they did. By means of several procedures involving advanced technology indistinguishable from magic, they turned the rather wimpish cowardly Bruce into a being of majesty and power beyond the dreams of mice or men or women. He got it all, the full treatment. He got the x-ray vision, the force field of invulnerability, the strength of Samson and Delilah put together, the mind of Socrates, Einstein and Newton combined, and a whole lot of other good powers as well.

But the aliens even went one better. No only did they give Bruce all the superpowers, but they also operated on his psyche, they changed his personality, his selfhood. The turned him into a saint, an enlightened one, a Bodhisattva. They made it so that he wanted nothing more than to save the world (well, save the human beings anyway).

And off went Bruce to do his stuff. The first thing he did was to appear on television and the Internet all over the world simultaneously. "My fellow humans," he said, "for too long have we followed the path of wrongdoing. Now we must follow the path of righteousness. Look into your hearts, and you will see the light. Well, you won't see the light in your hearts, but you know what I mean.

"Let's think about what we are doing to ourselves and this planet. We have built an economic system that delivers plenty of goods and services. Yet we live lives of quiet desperation and misery. We measure gross domestic product, but we have no idea what domestic bliss is all about. There's too much choice, too much stuff. Anyone can walk into a supermarket and choose from 165 varieties of hairspray, or 433 varieties of hydroxilising moisturiser, or 666 types of instant coffee. And just around the corner, children are starving to death for want of a crust of bread. We hop into our powerful four wheel drives and conquer every hill or surface or beach or ditch there is. But we can't conquer the fear and loneliness in our hearts.

"Well I've got news for everyone. Things are going to be different. I've got the power of the bberymudrrkycsssz, and I'm going to make sure we change things for the better. And let nobody try and stop me, because I'm invulnerable, and I'm very very very strong too. And I can travel from place to place at the blink of an eyelid. In fact, I can even walk through walls if I want to. So when I say something needs to be done, it is going to be done, and that's that, end of story!"

Some of the initial changes introduced by the bberymudrrkycsssz were well-received, or at least, not received as badly as you might have expected. For instance, he made a law that said that no more trees could be cut down to make paper products. Instead, all paper products would be made from cannabis sativa plants, hemp, if you will. (Which is actually a really great way to make paper, rope, even clothing. If only yellow-bellied politicians and vested interest groups had not prevented Earthlings from cultivating hemp for industrial purposes, they might actually have gotten by even without a bberymudrrkycsssz!)

Bruce made another law that said that there would be no more coal mining, and no more digging for oil. And that we would meet all our energy needs through a combination of climate-friendly, environment-friendly technologies including nuclear power---fusion, to be specific, which by the way is even better than fission, notwithstanding the ignorance of deep green loonies and their blind hatred of science---as well as solar, wave power, hydro and so on.

Of course, not everyone was happy about these changes, and about the new laws that Bruce the bberymudrrkycsssz was introducing. In fact, there were large numbers of people who were really very unhappy about the changes, and they tried to block the changes, even sabotage their implementation. But with all his alien-given superpowers, Bruce was more than a match for the blockers. "Resistance is futile!" he would say, suddenly appearing out of nowhere having walked through a wall. With his super-strength and x-ray vision and super-intelligence, he took care of all the opposition to his wonderful plans to rejuvenate the Earth and make humankind a much better species for everyone to get along with.

But---there's always a "but", isn't there?---somehow, nothing seemed to work the way he planned it or intended it to. Take the whole hemp thing, for instance. It worked out well for a while. People stopped cutting down old growth rainforest trees to make newspapers and magazines. Instead they made all the newsprint out of hemp. The problem was, they all started smoking their newspapers.

They didn't get very high, because most of the psycho-active ingredient, the hallucinogenic THC tetra hydro cannabinol or something like that, was removed from the genetic structure of the hemp plants that were cultivated in huge plantations all over the world. No, people didn't get high from smoking their newspapers, but they did all start suffering from terrible respiratory diseases. All over the world, first thing in the morning, you could hear the hacking and spluttering and coughing and phlegming, pretty disgusting really, a global chorus of newspaper smokers expiring their last.

Yes, so as I say, nothing that Bruce the bberymudrrkycsssz did turned out the way he planned or expected or hoped. For instance, he put a stop to the underground slave trade in Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and elsewhere. He did this by personally bashing up all the leading slave traders and freezing their bank accounts. What happened next though was totally unexpected and regrettable. All the people who previously would have been enslaved, were suddenly free and roaming around their countries of origin looking for food, thus making the whole starvation issue that much more pronounced. Not to mention the fact that in the wealthier countries, like Elbonia, people suddenly had to start doing their own cooking, cleaning and washing up---tasks which previously had been undertaken by so-called 'domestic servants' (actually, slaves).

And that was the pattern: everything Bruce tried to do ended up going bad. He would stop a war, and a new one would spring up behind his back. He would prevent a species from going extinct, and that species would then experience a population explosion, destroy their ecology and prey on other species until those became extinct.

So, to cut a long story short for the third time, sure enough, right on cue per the original script the human species died out (killed itself off would be more accurate). Bruce, however, with all his superpowers and his invulnerability, was entirely unaffected by the cataclysm, and he remained alive and well, but very very miserable.

One gloomy day, he put on his best bberymudrrkycsssz robe and his best bberymudrrkycsssz face, and off he went to have a chat with the aliens.

They seemed happy to see him, in their inscrutable alien way---they even offered him a cup of tea, which he refused. "No thanks," said Bruce, "I couldn't keep anything down. I'm so depressed," he moaned and sobbed, "I can't get anything right, and every man woman and child is now dead because of me. Even with all the superpowers you gave me, with the x-ray vision and all that, I still couldn't do my job properly. Everything I touched turned to shit. What a deadbeat I am, a waste of space. I'm a failure, a total failure, complete and utter and hopeless failure, I tell you!"

The aliens rattled their throat wattles in a semblance of sinister evil laughter. "Au contraire, Bruce mon amis," the chief alien said, "quite the opposite, you are a huge success, a true hero. You have single-handedly saved this planet from the depredations of the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth!"

And with that, they got into their spaceship and took off.

And that was the end.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

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