Before humanity was destroyed the aliens paused time and took Tex Halders aside. He was standing in a parking lot in Houston. The sky paused. The traffic paused. The neon light at the Hard Rock Café across the street paused. The aliens approached Tex and told him the score. All human life has been paused and will be destroyed in short order, they said in their hive-voice. We’d like a tour and we’ve chosen you to be our guide.
Why me? Tex said.
Why not? they said.
You’ve got a point, Tex said.
Everything everywhere was paused. Monster truck races. Twinkie factories. High-fructose corn syrup distilleries. Marketing firms.
What do you want to know? Tex asked the aliens.
Well, the aliens said, take us through the whole of human achievement. Before we destroy we like to know. For ages and ages we’ve observed. It’s been quite informative, but we’d like to have our questions answered.
All right, Tex said, ask away.
Why war? the aliens said. Why genocide?
Hell, Tex said, I don’t know. At some point you got to start killing.
The aliens looked at each other. The answer didn’t seem satisfactory to them. But, they said, why war?
Listen, Tex said, if you’re gonna ask questions I’m gonna give you answers. If you don’t like ‘em, then go screw off.
All right, the aliens said. That’s fair. Tell us then, they said, what about art?
You’ve got the wrong guy, Tex said. I don’t know fuck-all about art.
What about Van Gogh? they said. Picasso? Pollock?
Here’s what I know about art, Tex said. I know sometimes there are pictures of flowers in my hotel rooms. You want to know about pictures of flowers in hotel rooms, I’m your man.
What of the great books? they said. Explain them to us. Explain literature. Explain philosophy.
Tex was tired. The sun, frozen like everything else in existence and suspended overhead, was beating down. Hey, he said, I get that you’re curious, but hell, it’s hotter than a fat boy’s crotch out here.
Fine, the aliens said. What about this?
They took Tex to another quadrant of the parking lot where a steel gray minivan was parked. One of the aliens motioned his hand under the rear bumper and the hatch opened on its own.
Oh, Tex said, that’s an easy one. Let’s say you just got done shopping at the Target. Say you got an armload of groceries. He pantomimed like he was carrying an armful of sacks. All right, he said, you can’t reach out and open the hatch, right? He moved his foot under the bumper and the hatch opened again. Open sesame, he said.
Interesting, the aliens said in their hive mind. Utility. Common sense.
That’s right, Tex said.
The pinnacle of human achievement, they said.
You bet your ass, Tex said.
Fine, they said. Thank you, they said and blinked the Earth out of existence.
Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University and serves as Managing Editor of the literary magazine BULL. His work has been nominated for a handful of Pushcart's, The Million Writer's Award, and was a finalist for The New American Fiction Prize. His first book, An End To All Things, is available from Atticus Books. Find him online at jysexton.com.