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Thumbs Up

By Bret Zawilski

The Universe is a very odd place. And in this odd Universe, an equally odd planet developed. On this planet lived a species of ape, which strangely, were even more odd than the planet they lived on. Now, you may be saying to yourself, "What harm can a few apes do?" These, however, were not your common, cute, clumsy, bug-eating apes. They were remarkably different in one way. They had thumbs.

Now, this may not seem all that important, but it would shape the apes culture forever. You see, these apes loved to thumb wrestle. Day and night, they thumb wrestled. Each wanted to be the best with vicious fervor.

One day, a particularly despicable ape challenged the current champion to a match. Of course the despicable ape lost rather quickly. But, what occurred next would change everything.

This ill-tempered ape stood and raised his fist. He wound up, swung, and punched the poor honest ape straight in the nose. Of course this triggered a horrible round of punching, kicking, and biting. Soon the other apes joined in. It looked interesting, after all.

A few of the apes gathered thick sticks and began clubbing the others. Eventually the rest caught on and grabbed their own sticks; so, the smart apes gathered rocks and sharpened their own sticks into points. Soon poor little apes were being stabbed left and right. They began to like this hobby much more than boring old thumb wrestling.

Things continued much the same until a clever little bugger of an ape that hit two rocks together over a pile of dry wood. Suddenly flames roared up, catching the ape's hair on fire. His sacrifice was not in vain, though.

When the other apes saw this, they had a remarkably clever idea. One of them lifted a piece of the flaming wood and hit another ape with it. So began the Age of Fire.

Since many of the apes with long hair burned more easily, the apes with less hair survived more often. Eventually, the apes became virtually hairless due to evolution. Soon they developed their own language and called themselves Human.

As with everything else, however, the humans became bored with fire as well. Sure, the screeches of pain amused them, but it was so...primitive in their eyes. This boredom triggered a Renaissance of thinking where the humans delved into the arts. They began to paint beautiful pictures and sculpt giant nude statues. To keep innocent children...innocent, a gigantic building was erected for the statues. Above the entrance, a large letter 'X' was carved out of stone. And so the first rating system was developed.

Soon after, another brilliant invention was placed inside the building. Alcohol. Many of the adults went to this building and drank all the alcohol they could handle (and of course later denied it when confronted by their spouses.) The stone sculptures were soon put in the back room. Live dancers were brought in to entertain guests. Hence, the noble birth of the strip joint.

While alcohol was a great innovation, it caused another event to occur, known as the drunken brawl. Humans would consume too much alcohol and return to the behavior of their long forgotten ape ancestors, smashing each other over the head with anything in range of their hands. It was in this manner that humans remembered all the fun times that they had with fire. Sadly, this brought the Renaissance to an end.

When iron was found, many of the humans used iron clubs instead of wooden sticks. After all, they were shinier and made a nice ringing sound when you hit someone with it. Today, the proud tradition of baseball pays tribute to this game of the past by remembering the first techniques used in the Era of Metal.

From these nifty iron rods developed swords, spears, and eventually armor. The next major innovation occurred when a clever human combined the idea of gunpowder with small metal projectiles. Now the humans could kill without being so dangerously close to one another. The humans crowned themselves King of the planet on which they lived, and persisted with their life-style. The once cute apes were content with life in an odd sort of way.

Things in their short violent lives continued much the same. New weapons were developed constantly with each generation. Things went smoothly until a group of egotistical, self-centered, clever humans, called scientists, developed the atom bomb. It slowly sunk in that now they had the power to totally obliterate the world and everything on it. Being so egotistical they realized it included them as well.

Steadily humans began to become more docile. It was a slow process, but it's the truth. No one knew, however, that one ill-tempered farmer would change all that.

It was late one night in 1947 when farmer Billy-Bob Radley was walking through his fields. Billy-Bob was not the kind of man who would do favors for anybody. In fact, he was not the kind of man most people would admit to knowing. Billy-Bow always seemed to be in a bad mood. He hated New Mexico, which was where he lived. He hated the rats next of a little town he lived near. Heck, he hated farming, so you can see why he'd always be in a somewhat glum mood.

Billy was thinking about many things that night, most about the things he hated. It was rather like any other night, except that he noticed a shooting star streak across the sky. He made a wish that he would become rich and leave the barren wasteland of a home he had. His exact thoughts, however, are unsuitable for minors to read and cannot be published at this time.

The star began to look strange. It grew in size rapidly. Billy gaped in awe as it slammed into the ground. A deep trench was burrowed though his field. The fallen star came to a rest only a few feet away from where Billy was standing.

Taking a closer look, Billy saw it wasn't made of stone, but instead, of metal. Now, our friend Billy (and now, now, don't deny it) had seen some strange things in his life. Like cows with six legs, birds with 3 wings, and most notably, paved roads, but nothing could have prepared him for this night.

A small hatch opened in the side of the metal ship. Out of the hatch hopped a short creature. It looked around carefully then stared at Billy. He had bloodshot eyes and hiccuped several times. Reaching into his pocket, he brought out a small box. It was his old faithful Universal Translator.

Universal Translators are common items for interstellar travelers to carry with them. They work on an advanced linguistic system, which of course is based on the universal language of pig latin. After being hit a number of times, the translator decided it would work properly.

"Yo!" said the alien. Yo being the acceptable universal greeting at the time.

Billy-Bob stood silently in a daze, unmoving.

"Happen to know-" the alien hiccuped again, "-the way to Alpha Centauri?"

Billy-Bob simply stared blankly, his mouth opening and closing very much like a fishes would.

The alien pounded on his Translator once again, thinking it must have malfunctioned. "Hey, any idea which way it is to Alpha Centauri? You know...Proxima?"

At last the messages traveling from Billy-Bob's optic nerves reached the brain. They had taken a slight detour through the left arm but were back on track now. Since every sensible farmer keeps a handgun by his side, (to scare away prowlers, animals, and for weekly hillbilly rampages in town) Billy reached down to his side and did the only sensible thing he could think of. He shot at it.

The alien screamed then shouted curses while he scrambled back into his ship. He fired up the engines and zipped away into space. Being in a drunken stupor, he accidentally rammed a weather balloon, causing it to crash down where his ship had just been.

Billy wrote a book about the occasion, leaving out all mention of the gunshot however. After being seriously edited (the editors didn't like words such as "Y'all" for some reason.), it was published. Billy made millions on the movie deal and eventually moved away from New Mexico. He wasn't happy though. He just found new things to hate. Billy went into politics, enough said.

The frightened alien rushed back to his home. After sobering up some, he spread the tale of his adventure among the hairless ape people. Sure, he left out the part where he crashed into a field because he was drunk, but the rest was more or less present in his story.

This outraged the alien population greatly. The story spread quite far. Soon after, the ape planet became the practical joke of the universe. Aliens from around the cosmos visited the planet, freaking out drivers on the back roads. Occasionally they abducted people too and pretended to be attracted by them, making their victim quite unstable. Mutilated cows began to appear across the globe and finally the aliens took a form of personal revenge by writing obscene messages in the fields of farmers in their own language.

It was all quite funny. Well, maybe not for the humans. After a number of years, they were understandably, a tad pissed. Who wouldn't be after half a century of antagonization? It was simple for mankind to resume their weapons research, it being second nature to them by this point.

Atom bombs were considered too small for humanity's purpose. Soon scientists developed more powerful laser weapons. The Zap-O-Blaster Gun was the official name for their crowning achievement. Zap-O-Blasters were set up around the world. Whenever an alien vessel entered the solar system, the Zap-O-Blasters shot them down.

You may now be thinking that with the universe being so large, why didn't the aliens just find another path? Well, unfortunately for them, the Solar system was a well-known shortcut to Proxima Centauri, and they would give that up over their dead bodies.

An emergency meeting of the interstellar motorist's society was called to order. President Geep Bler stood on a podium in front of the assembled members. With a dazzling speech about the power of motorists, Geep moved the audience to thirst for blood.

"We can not," Geep shouted, "let apes hinder our freedom to drive. We have a right to go where we choose to reach our destinations. We must convince our leaders to irradiate these pesky monkeys!"

The crowd cheered wildly. Convince their leaders they did. It was almost election time and they figured this was a sure-fire way of getting back into office. Soon a massive battle fleet was assembled. It had one purpose. The annihilation of the ape-planet. Armed with the best Bull Sheet shielding technology, the fleet would be invisible against the Zap-O-Blasters.

The fleet slowly moved toward their destination. Of course the humans noticed eventually. They panicked and screamed and ran around thinking it would save them. But it was too late. For once it felt to the humans like they were holding a wooden stick while the aliens were wielding the atom bomb.

On the footsteps of a university, a history professor stared up at the huge fleet. He thought about what was happening, but didn't panic. He uttered the very final competent human words.

"Thumbs up."