AND THEY HAVE CORONAVIRUS ADVICE
The world is in the grips of coronavirus fever. Every day brings updated numbers of those infected and breathless stories about clusters where the virus seems to be spreading. It’s affecting schools, malls, even markets.
The result is a global citizenry that doesn’t know where to turn, or how to change its habits. Should people shake hands? Should they travel? If someone is coughing in their vicinity, should they drive themselves immediately to the emergency room? Tests are in great demand, and statistics are in great supply, but what about common sense?
That’s where the Zeebans can help.
The Zeebans, a race of aliens from Planet Zeeba (hence the name) have long observed humans, and sometimes they have lived among us. They also try to help whenever they can. Just a few months ago, in fact, seven of their spaceships landed in Central China—following a similar landing by the another, more malicious alien race, the Gootans. “Where they go, we follow, especially if humans can be helped,” said a senior Zeeban scientists who identified himself, for the convenience of humans, as “Dr. Bob.”
The Zeebans roughly ten billion years old as a species, and as a result, they have dealt with several pandemics over the course of their history.
“Oh, yeah,” said Dr. Bob. “We’ve had what you would call flu, what you would call plague, what you would call viruses. Tons of ‘em. We had one about eight million years ago that wiped out a plox of Zeebans. It’s hard for me to explain how many that is, since we’re a half-autonomous, half-hive species, but trust me: it was lots of us.”
SOME ARE MORE RECENT
Not all Zeeban pandemics are ancient history. “It still happens, yes, and every time a Zeeban sneezes, there are a certain number of worrywarts who freak out,” said Dr. Bob. “It is sort of gross. That’s I’ll admit. We sneeze right out of our open eyes. But over these billions of years, we have worked out some basic rules. We printed them on a small laminated k-loxxer-s/teen, or what you would call a card, and handed them out to as many people as possible.”
He produced a card. It was filled with undecipherable markings. “Let me translate,” Dr. Bob said. “It says cover your eyes: in your case, that would be nose and mouth. It says make sure you apply…what’s the word you people use?…soap to your I-yy-u-I-6, or skin.”
The long list included other familiar pieces of advice: stay inside if you suspect that you are a carrier, stay out of crowds if you have other illnesses, pay special attention to the need for social separation on the part of the elderly and immunocompromised. The last item on the card, Dr. Bob said, was a kind of Zeeban proverb. “It goes something like ‘Don’t dream of the fire when you are merely warm from a fluffy blanket,’” he said. “I guess that means not to let your fear run away and make things worse than they are. I mean, maybe that’s what it means. I’m a doctor, not a proverb analyst.”
NOT ALL BAD
Dr. Bob said that his society does sometimes overreact to viruses. “It’s understandable,” he said. “Especially since we travel to other planets, including yours. We’re here to help you, to protect you from the Gootans, but we are at risk as well. Have you ever seen that movie War of the Worlds? It has aliens who are wiped out by a common human virus. What? It’s a book also? Is it good? I had no idea.”
And the Zeebans are different in one important respect from us. “When we get a virus like this,” Dr. Bob said. “It temporarily increases the average f-hh-98-otx, or what you would call the intensity of desire, of more than half of the members of our half-autonomous hive. So I guess you could say there’s a a8o-be-xx-laala.” He laughed. “You know: a silver lining.”