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**A ONE ACT PLAY by Terry Bisson**
[The set is a deep space galactic panorama projected on a screen--the Universe. Two lights moving like fireflies among the stars on the screen represent the the TWO VOICES.]
(As a radio play, there are just the TWO VOICES, with a slight echo added for strangeness.)
Voice One: "They're made out of meat."
Voice Two: "Meat?"
Voice One: "Meat. They're made out of meat."
Voice Two: "Meat?"
Voice One: "There's no doubt about it. We took several aboard our recon vessels from different parts of the planet and probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."
Voice Two: "That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"
Voice One: "They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."
Voice Two: "So who made the machines? That's who we want to contact."
Voice One: "They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."
Voice Two: "That's ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."
Voice One: "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in that sector and they're made out of meat."
Voice Two: "Maybe they're like the orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."
Voice One: "Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take long. Do you have any idea what's the life span of meat?"
Voice Two: "Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."
Voice One: "Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads, like the weddilei. But I told you, we probed them all the way through."
Voice Two: "No brain?"
Voice One: "Oh, there's a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat! That's what I've been trying to tell you."
Voice Two: "So ... what does the thinking?"
Voice One: "You're not getting it, are you? You're refusing to deal with what I'm telling you. The brain does the thinking. The meat."
Voice Two: "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!"
Voice One: "Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
Voice Two: "Omigod. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."
Voice One: "Thank you. Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out of meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."
Voice Two: "Omigod. So what does this meat have in mind?"
Voice One: "First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the Universe, contact other sentiences, communicate, swap ideas and information. The usual."
Voice Two: "We're supposed to talk to meat?"
Voice One: "That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there. Anybody home.' That sort of thing."
Voice Two: "They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"
Voice One: "Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."
Voice Two: "I thought you just told me they used radio."
Voice One: "They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat, it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."
Voice Two: "Omigod. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"
Voice One: "Officially or unofficially?"
Voice Two: "Both."
Voice One: "Officially, we are required to contact, welcome and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in this quadrant of the Universe, without prejudice, fear or favor. Unofficially, we advise that we erase the records and forget the whole thing."
Voice Two: "I was hoping you would say that."
Voice One: "It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"
Voice Two: "I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say? 'Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"
Voice One: "Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they are limited to the speed of light, which makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."
Voice Two: "So we just pretend there's no one home in the Universe."
Voice One: "That's it."
Voice Two: "Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? But the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you probed? You're sure they won't remember?"
Voice One: "They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."
Voice Two: "A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."
Voice One: "And we marked the entire sector unoccupied."
Voice Two: "Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"
Voice One: "Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."
Voice Two: "They always come around."
Voice One: "And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the Universe would be if one were all alone ..."