By Josh Pearce
Artwork by Jose Baetas.
You are alone in the dark. What do you do?
You see stars. What do you do?
From memory, you draw star charts and match them with what you see in the sky. Eventually, you are able to determine your exact position in space/time. You are alone on an alien world. The sun starts to rise and you see before you a pool of liquid. A nearby sign says "drinking water?" The day is uncomfortably hot, and you may be suffering from dehydration. The sky is blue. What do you do?
Because you can breathe the air and because the sky is blue, you infer that there is oxygen on the planet -- which is 1/3 of what is needed for water. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the galaxy, so its presence is more probable than oxygen. You feel safe in assuming that hydrogen is also present on the planet, and therefore the liquid before you may be water. What do you do?
You are too tired from drawing star charts all night to walk away from the pool. What do you do?
You see a brightly colored spot in the sky grow larger and resolve
into a hot air balloon. It descends and lands next to the pool. The
floating head of James Polk emerges from the basket and drinks from
the pool. When it is finished, it returns to the balloon, which ascends and disappears from sight.
What do you do?
Everything seems to be spinning quickly. You note that there is no change in wind speed or your sense of weight, and that the shadow of the sign is not moving at a noticeable speed. You therefore conclude that the planet has not increased its rotational speed but rather that you are in an advanced state of dehydration. What do you do?
The sign is in English. Because of the diversity of languages arising on your single planet, it is statistically impossible that an alien race evolved English as their primary form of communication in parallel to your own development. You conclude, then, that some other English-speaking human wrote this sign to guide future explorers. You conclude this tentatively, though, because you cannot eliminate the possibility that an English-speaking human taught the language to aliens, who then wrote this sign. You also cannot discount the possibility that the sign is not written in English, but rather in an alien language that evolved "d r i n k g w a t e" and "?" as characters in its written form. There is the slight possibility that the sign actually says, "Your mom is fat," in another language. In what language is the sign written?
Who wrote it?
The Drake Equation states that the variables for determining the possibility of the evolution of alien intelligence are the average rate of new stars born per year in our galaxy times the fraction of those stars that have planets times the number of those planets that can potentially support life times the fraction of those planets that actually go on to evolve life times the fraction of those planets that evolve intelligent life times the fraction of those intelligences that develop civilization advanced enough to make their presence heard in space times the length of time it takes them to do so (N = R* X Fp X Ne X Fl X Fi X Fc X L), all of which are unknown, but that due to the number of stars in the universe, the probability that ET life has evolved is high. The probability that that life has traveled light years to contact humanity directly and to physically build a sign in their language is much lower. On the other hand, you are here. If you are here, it is to be deduced that the probability of other humans arriving here before you is higher than the probability that aliens wrote it. Are you human?
Are you here?
Humans wrote it. What do you do?
look for humans
There is no sign of anyone near you. Nor are there corpses, bones, graves, or footprints. Whoever wrote the sign made it out of here alive, and did so quite a while ago. What do you do?
drink the water
You assume that a human had to replenish his or her water from the pool in order to travel out of sight in this climate, therefore answering the sign's question with "yes." You drink the water. However, you forgot to take into account the fact that "drinking" is not only an adjective, it is also a verb, so the sign is actually asking if you have been drinking water, much like the "got milk?" series of advertisements. The sign actually has nothing to do with the pool, which is poisoned.
You are dead.
You were killed by: grammar
You traveled: 0 meters
You vanquished: 1 creature (self)
Would you like to play again? (y/n)