Aliens can't recognize sarcasm. It's as simple as that.
"I wish I could be just like you," Marie said.
"Yes, Vernon. You're my idol," Joe said.
"Let's start a Vernon Fan Club and do everything he tells us to," Clark said.
And then the people laughed, but of course, aliens don't recognize sarcasm, so they assumed this was glee and that Vernon would be their medium for world domination. They had traveled light years to get here, they had only one chance to get it right, and they were thanking their lucky stars for their good fortune.
Getting Vernon alone wasn't difficult-he didn't have any friends, but how would the aliens know that? When he laid his head on his pillow, they entered his room and entered his brain, in a simple process that had taken them centuries to master. Then they waited.
Vernon felt a little queasy when he awoke in the morning. He couldn't place exactly what was wrong, but he was a bit out of sorts. He went through his morning routine without becoming terribly sick, so he went into the office, with the conviction that he was indispensable.
"Good morning, Vernon," Marie said as she passed him in the hallway.
"You will be mine," Vernon said, letting out an evil laugh.
"I don't think so," Marie said. "Oh, look, it's the Human Resources office. I wonder what they'll think about this."
"I'll rule them, too," he said. "You'll all be mine."
Marie shook her head in disgust and walked away, muttering under her breath.
"Hey, Vernon!" Joe said, as he walked into Vernon's office.
"Go to the main computer and shut it down," Vernon said.
"Brilliant idea," Joe said. "What in the world would that prove?"
"We will reprogram it so I can begin my plans for world domination," Vernon said, and the bizarre, evil laugh broke forth form somewhere deep inside of him.
Joe laughed and began to walk away.
"Are you shutting down the computer?" Vernon asked.
"Absolutely!" Joe said, then muttered inaudibly, "when my boss tells me to, weirdo."
Clark patted Vernon on the back. "Marie tells me you're a little under the weather today."
"I've never felt better," Vernon said. "In fact, I feel like I'm on top of the world."
"You keep thinking that, big guy," Clark said.
"I'll dominate you later," Vernon said.
"You got it," Clark said, and waved goodbye.
Vernon sat at his desk and began writing a program that would enable his company's computer to access every computer system in the world, at which point he would send world domination messages to every email account. The aliens were at a distinct disadvantage in this area, too, because they were unaware that Vernon was one of the only people in the world who liked seeing spam in his inbox. It made him feel as if he had friends.
When Vernon's stomach began speaking to him in words he could understand, he decided it was lunchtime. He went to the cafeteria and saw Joe motioning him toward his table, so he took his tray of creamed spinach and sat with his office mates.
"How's the world domination plan coming?" Joe asked.
"It's slow work," Vernon said.
"You mean you aren't finished yet?" Marie asked.
"Something that has taken hundreds of years to execute does not happen overnight," Vernon said.
"Hundreds of years?" Clark said.
"I've already said too much, "Vernon said. "I must go back to my programming. Check in with me before you go home tonight."
"Sure thing, boss," Clark said.
When Vernon had left the room, the people laughed.
Marie stopped in Vernon's office before she left work for the night. "Say, Vernon, is there something bothering you?" she asked.
"No," he said. "Nothing at all. I've never felt better. Why do you ask?"
Marie shook her head. "I can't put my finger on it, but you just aren't acting like yourself."
"You mean you know what I act like?"
"You really are a nice guy, normally," she said. "But you're acting really strange, almost as if your brain's been taken over by aliens or something."
"You think I'm a nice guy?"
"See you tomorrow," Marie said.
Vernon watched her walk away. "She likes me. She really likes me."
Vernon was thinking so hard about Marie that, for a moment, the aliens lost control, a moment in which Vernon felt a strange tickle in his brain. He shivered. He shook. He tilted his head to the side and banged on his ear, then stood and hopped up and down, banging his head. The aliens weren't expecting this at all and Vernon dislodged them. He sat back at his desk and noticed small living creatures on the desktop, some weird kind of bug or something. He took off his shoe and smashed them, then put his shoe back on and rubbed the aliens into the carpet. He looked at his monitor in disbelief for a moment as he read what he had typed on the screen.
"What was I thinking?" he asked. "I must have been out of my mind. I wonder if Joe put something in my water bottle again."
Vernon pressed delete, rose from his desk, and walked out of his office with a spring in his step. Did he have an inkling that he had just saved the world? We may never know, but something changed that day. Somewhere in a landfill in New Jersey, there's a vacuum cleaner bag that contains dead aliens, and in a small home in the Garden State, there's a man reading his email and smiling as he watches his new spam filter clean out that junk mail he used to like to read, but suddenly has no interest in any more.
© 2003 Lisa Christine Svenson