On the whole, the aliens were benign. They came to earth not to loot and destroy, but to study. What goes on here? What sort of species are we dealing with? Extraterrestrial anthropologists, if you like.
Their Commander was therefore intrigued when Tapioca, his best PhD student, brought a specimen before him, claiming she’d discovered a different species. ‘What’s so special about him?’ he asked. On the face of it, the specimen, who went by the name of Curtis, looked quite normal.
‘At first sight, I thought he was like all the others,’ she said. ‘But after a while, I noticed something was missing. I believe he’s a throwback to a primitive form of the species. Either that or his DNA is faulty – he appears to be missing a specific gene. From an evolutionary point of view, he’s at a standstill. I found it hard to believe, but I’ve examined him closely – and he doesn’t have a mobile phone!‘
The Commander was flabbergasted. ‘Yet he’s managed to survive? How does he put up with such misfortune?’
‘He’s developed a limited number of alternative strategies. The default is to borrow his wife’s. But his use of it is extremely backward, and after a while he shows signs of frustration and annoyance. I’ve also observed that he’s at a great disadvantage in supermarkets, where the ability to check on what sort of pasta to buy is crucial to survival. On café terraces, he appears withdrawn and isolated, having no one else to converse with. He claims to be happy, but I suspect that’s a mere defence mechanism.’
‘And how will he do today’s 201 assignment? Surely he’s doomed to fail?’
Tapioca looked across at Curtis with a blend of bewilderment and pity. She made no answer.