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Turns Out
by Michael C. Keith

Can anything be beyond the knowledge of [things] like you?

                                                                       –– Pierre-Augustin


The people of Earth were excited and intrigued by the prospect of the arrival of extraterrestrials. First contact had been made a year earlier, and over the ensuing months it was clearly established that the soon-to-be visitors from Kotophostus, a planet in the Bode’s Galaxy, were benevolent––indeed, exactly like the species humans had hoped they would one day encounter from outer space. Theirs was a society of peace-loving intellectuals, whose advances in the sciences, medicine, and politics far exceeded those of the human race. The aliens’ historic visit held the promise of resolving many things that plagued Earth, including disease, famine, and war.

When the day finally arrived that the Kotophostusians were to arrive, all human attention was focused on their landing at California’s Muroc army airfield, which boasted the world’s longest runway. Traffic controllers directed the approach of the massive extraterrestrial airship. When it finally came to a stop, the visitors were directed to turn around and move their craft toward the main hangar where the vast number of dignitaries awaited.

The Kotosphostusians did not respond to the request, and traffic controllers could hear what sounded like a clamor of voice-like sounds in their headsets. After what seemed like a standoff, the spaceship took off and disappeared into the sky. Shortly thereafter, the aliens communicated with Earth.

“We did not understand what you asked.”

“We wanted you to come to where our leaders were waiting to officially welcome you.”

“That is what we wished as well. But we could not determine what it was you asked us to do after landing. We did not understand that directive.”

“Directive? No, no. We weren’t ordering you to do anything. We were just giving you directions to the place where we were waiting to greet you.”

“Sorry, we cannot meet.”

“But why? It is very important to us that we make contact. We have so much to learn from your advanced knowledge.”

“Perhaps we are more advanced than you. But you asked us something that we cannot grasp. Something beyond our accumulated knowledge. Something we could not process. Indeed, an action unknown to our species.”

“Would you tell us what it was we asked that you could not comprehend?”

“What is . . . turn around?”