Thomas (or ‘Tom’ to people who couldn’t care less what he liked to be called) looked at the image that had replaced the program he was watching on TV. It was an amorphous blob. Except for the eyes.
He sat in his recliner for a while, expecting normal transmission to resume, consuming his pizza and red wine while he waited.
When the image spoke, Thomas spilled wine down the work shirt he’d hoped would last another day if no-one looked closely.
‘Well, are you going to speak to me or what?’ the image said, sounding a trifle miffed.
Still trying to mop up the wet mess on his shirt with a paper napkin, Thomas replied ‘Speak to whom?’
‘So formal, even in distress. Your English teacher would be impressed. Me, of course, the image on your screen.’
‘I’m sorry but is this some sort of hidden camera thing the guys at work have set up’ said Thomas, desperately scanning the ceiling for CCTV cameras.
‘No’ sighed the image. ‘I’m a life force from another universe and I’m trying to communicate with you.’
‘You mean like ET or Martians? Or like that movie? Kind Encounters or something?’
‘Close but no cigar. Your universe is one of our experiments and I’m the technician assigned to what you call Earth.’
‘Yes, we have several going on at any one time, looking into what evolves in a range of atmospheres. I have to say that you humans are way more fun than most.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Well, we’ve been able to deduce that, past a certain point in evolution, an organism’s intelligence goes into reverse until it destroys itself in an orgy of stupidity.’
‘You mean the world’s going to end? How?’
‘I forgot to mention that a concomitant of stupidity is arrogance. No, the world will continue. It will be re-absorbed into your Sun and then re-issued in another form for our next experiment.’
‘So everyone’s going to die in some sort of apocalypse.’
‘Not everyone. A few will be saved, like you, if you so choose.’
‘What do I have to do to be saved?’
‘Simple. Just believe.’
‘Believe that you are communicating with an intelligence from another universe that is controlling everything, has always controlled everything and will always control everything.’
‘But how do I know that’s true?’
The image sighed. ‘I hate this part. So you want a few tricks. You humans are so tedious sometimes. OK, look at your shirt.’
Thomas looked down at his shirt, now damp but clean.
‘Wine into water’ the image said wearily. ‘Now try to turn me off.’
Thomas clicked the TV remote but the image remained. He leapt up and hit the Off button. Same result. He reached around and pulled the plug. No difference.
Thomas collapsed back into his chair, trembling. ‘Do you have a name?’ he said timorously.
‘For convenience, you can call me Gordon. Not that it matters. I’m always here. All you have to do is think of me.’
‘Why would I have to think of you?’
‘In case you ever need any help. With anything.’
‘Oh, say you’re lying on the beach sunning yourself and suddenly a tsunami rises up and is about to engulf you.’
‘Now I get it. I’d call for you or just think of you and you’d save me.’
‘Maybe. Or maybe not. I might be attending to something else at the time.’
‘But then I’d die!’
‘Oh, for goodness sake, stop whining. That’s going to happen one day any way you slice it. But if you believe, your body would simply be converted to eternal energy. And then you’ll be one of us.’
Thomas seemed satisfied and a little more relaxed. ‘So should I tell other people about this?’
Gordon quickly said, ‘No, don’t do that! Leave the evangelising to me. It’ll end up like Chinese whispers and then there’ll be arguments about which version of the story is correct. Direct marketing is the way to go.’
‘But that’ll take forever’, protested Thomas.
Gordon rolled his eyes and said ‘Which part of me being everywhere at once did you miss? Dumbing it down, think Santa on Christmas Eve.’
‘Oh, OK. So what do I do now?’
‘Do you believe?’
‘Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.’
‘Then just keep doing what you’ve always done.’
Thomas paused and then said sheepishly ‘So, can I go back to watching FoxNews now?’
Gordon’s image began to fade from the screen and his voice could just be heard faintly, saying ‘Why do I even bother?’