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Coke or Pepsi

The alien was found on the fifth planet, circling a dying star. The creature, like the star around which its home orbited, was fading. Every human in the system fought for a chance to question the creature, however it was old and tired and said that it would only allow one person to question it. In the end a drawing was held to determine who would have this amazing opportunity. The winner became an overnight celebrity. He was swamped with messages demanding to know what he would ask the last of this great race. Finally he issued a statement, he would ask the meaning behind one of the race's most commonly found written symbols.
The language of the alien had so far been impenetrable to human analysis. The only information that could be gathered was how frequently symbols were used. For some reason this symbol dominated their writing. It was discovered carved into stone walls, long abandoned holographic projectors shone the symbol, in one prominent instance the symbol was blasted into the side of a moon, so that any passing spacecraft could see it from orbit. For centuries debate had raged over the symbol's significance. Some felt that it must be the name of the alien's deity. Others felt that it was the unified theory, the long sought after scientific explanation of all aspects of our physical universe. A small group of people even began a religion based around the symbol. When the contest winner announced that he would question the alien about the symbol's meaning, the human population waited with baited breath.
The day finally came for the man to pose his question. He was wary as he approached the creature. It was massive, dozens of tentacles sprouted from its bulbous body. A body that seemed to make the very planet shudder as it breathed heavily. It was nearing the end now.
The man held up a portable hologram of the symbol and bowed.
"Please, ancient one. I ask for you to tell me the meaning of this symbol, which your kind spread so widely." The device attached to the creature's side translated his speech into the dull groans of their language. It paused for a moment and then answered slowly.
"This symbol is the name of a drink that was widely enjoyed by my people." The man stared blankly at the massive creature. The alien whose species had achieved wonders that the human race as yet could only dream. Before the man could think of anything else to ask, it emitted a hitching rumble that sounded suspiciously like laughter and then relaxed and sank into the ground, becoming still and silent.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, March 15th, 2018

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