“Jean the Sloth” – Part 2

“What is it you are reading?” Jean asked Tyler. It was afternoon in early June. Tyler had been to the zoo to visit Jean every single day he could. He’d even faked sick to visit once or twice.

“Hmm? Oh, this?” the boy asks, raising the book up so the Sloth could see the cover, “It’s just my science textbook.”

“Studying on the weekend? Nerd.”

“Where did you learn that word?”

“I have infinite cosmic knowledge of all things. Also other kids call you that all the time when you leave.”

“Terrific. Well, I don’t really care. I like problems, and there are an infinite amount of problems to solve when it comes to science. Want to hear about what I’m reading?”

“As a Sloth I don’t ever want much of anything, so no, not really.”

“Well, as a Sloth you also won’t stop me if I start will you?”

“Of course not.”

“Then shush. I’m reading about the Fermi Paradox. It’s one of the greatest riddles in extraterrestrial study. Do you know it?”

“Again, I know all things, but please do your best to explain it to me.”

“It’s a problem of probability. There seems to be an inherent contradiction with how probable other life in the galaxy is, yet us never seeing any sign of it. I wonder why that is? I guess life outside of the Sol system isn’t as likely as we think it is. Perhaps it takes such a specific evolutionary line to develop intelligence that it may never happen again. Though I like to believe that’s not the case. That if other life won’t come to us, that we will one day go to them.”

“Other life has visited you hundreds of times actually.” The Sloth said matter-of-factly before grabbing a single leaf and lazily guiding it to his mouth. He chewed slowly as the young boy looked at him, shocked and confused.

“What?! Really?”

“It’s a good sign that you believe me instinctually now. No reason to doubt what I say. I like that.”

“So you are telling me the truth? We have been…visited?”

“Are you kidding? Earth has been passed by more times than a freeway McDonalds. I guess you can say this system is at a major intersection.”

“Then why haven’t we seen any of them?”

“I don’t like company. It’s tiresome to host visitors.” As slowly as the Sloth chewed the leaf, he swallowed it with the same lazy speed. The boy’s face had yet to change from being shocked.

“You can’t be serious. Please. Pleeeeease tell me you aren’t serious.” The boy raised his hands to his head, a legitimate prayer running across his lips.

“What? What’s so wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong? You just openly admitted to denying our entire planet first contact with other life because it would be tiresome!”

With clenched fists, the boy stood up. The Sloth had never seen a human face so red, and he had seen most everything.

“Well yes. As the most powerful and intelligent being here, despite not being a native, they would all come to me first, assuming me supreme leader. You see, I happen to radiate intelligence. There is actually a scanner that could detect it, it’s very fascinating. I’m sure your people will figure it out in a few centuries-“

“We could have had it already!”

“Oh, calm down. What’s so exciting about aliens? Especially when you have me to visit,” Sloths can’t smile in a normal way, but what the Sloth was doing was as close as they could get. The boy sat back down. Well, more like he fell back onto the bench. He was still dumbfounded.

Humans weren’t alone in the universe. He looked to his science text book, and it didn’t have the same appeal anymore. So much of what was in it was pointless now. Who cares how plants make energy on Earth? All he could think about was how they do it on Proxima Centauri.

“So…” Jean finally spoke up, “Have you come up with your wish yet?”

“My…what?” Tyler was still dead in the eyes from the news he just received.

“Your wish. I enjoy your visits for the most part, but aren’t you here to cash in your one-free-wish card?”

“You never gave me a card…”

“You could wish for one. Though it would just be a piece of paper. I’m not going to be tricked into doing two whole things for you.”

Tyler sighed and packed his textbook into his bag. He stood up and began walking to the exit.

“Maybe another day Jean…I have to go home and rethink my place in the galaxy.” Tyler said and his eyes looked down at his feet as he walked slowly home.

“Hmmm, I should give him news like that more often. Makes him walk just like a sloth…”

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