There are two aliens sitting at a bar. There’s a mounted TV hanging from the ceiling that they check in with, from time to time. It’s playing sports. It’s after work, normal bar time for aliens who want to relax and drink a responsible amount of alien alcohol with their friends. It’s dark outside. One alien goes to the other and says, “Hey, you wanna hear a joke?”
And the other one says, “Yeah, alright.”
The first alien says, “Okay, so this is how it goes. I heard this from some guy at my cousin’s wed- ding, I’d never really met him before but we got talking. Anyway, so there’s this guy. Like, a human. He’s an accountant, and he loves his job. Not too much, not in a way that’s over the top or weird, but with the small and dogged happiness that comes with being able to accurately do an important job. It is an important job, accounting is important. Otherwise how would we know how much of things there are, right?”
“Mhmm.” Says the second alien. “My sister’s an accountant.”
“Right.” Says the first. “So this guy, he’s an accountant, and he loves accounting. So like, he ac- counts for everything in his life. Everything he sees, experiences, all that, he counts it and remem- bers it. Not in an obsessive way either, like, he’s a very normal, run of the mill, kinda guy. Just with a good memory and a knack for accounting.”
“Like the Rainman.”
“Yeah. Actually no, not like that at all – that guy was weird, or something. Like he had something, but he was also good at maths or something. I don’t know, i haven’t seen that movie anyway.” “Alright, get back to the joke.” Says the second alien.
“Well I could’ve been done by now, if you hadn’t’ve got me off track.” Says the first alien.
“No you wouldn’t’ve.”
“Shut up. Anyway,” Continues the first alien, “There’s this accountant, loves accounting, good at accounting, always knows how many of everything there is. How many grains of sugar he puts in his tea, how many times he stirs it, how much the spoon weighs, how many spoons he has, where the spoons came from, remembers how much they cost, knows their net worth, knows how much he was overcharged for the spoons-”
“Alright I get it, he knows about the spoons.”
“And everything else.”
“Everything?” Says the second alien.
“Oh well like, only things that are reasonable for him to know about. Like, if he looked up the aver- age annual rainfall of some place, like, Guatemala, then he’d know, because he’d remember, but if he didn’t look it up he wouldn’t know, y’know? He’s not psychic.”
“But he remembers?”
“Why doesn’t he write it down, like any other accountant?” Asks the second alien.
“Because he doesn’t need to, he’s that good.”
“Yep. So, what happens to this guy is that-”
“Hold on.” Says the second alien. “Does he remember like, non-factual things?”
The first alien pauses. “What’s a non-factual thing?”
“Like a feeling.”
The second alien’s alien brow is furrowed. “Like, feelings aren’t deadset fact, right? So does he remember and account for things that can’t be like, put down as fact?”
The first alien thinks for a while. “Well, I think he can remember and account for every time he has personally felt, like, sad, for example. Because when you’re having a feeling, that feeling is factual to you, yeah?”
“Right.” The second alien nods.
“And I also think that he accounts for all the times other people have communicated their own feel- ings to him. Because saying a feeling puts it on record.”
“And even if the person was lying, they still said they felt, like, excited, for example.” “Yes.”
“Okay. So, what happens is – where am I up to?” Asks the first alien.
The second alien says, “Um, you were saying about how he remembers everything, I think. I don’t know, just continue from where you remember.”
“Alright. Oh, right. So, what happens to this guy is that one day when he’s going to work, every- thing’s normal, right? Like he’s accounting for everyone on the bus, he’s accounting for the tem- perature and the route and the traffic and the birds outside and all of it, like I said. He logs it all and he’s a great accountant.”
The second alien nods.
“So he goes to work and he’s his office and he’s about to start his days’ accounting, like, I don’t know, he opens up a spreadsheet or whatever, and then this voice says, like, ‘Hey, you!’”
The second alien scoffs. “Does it really say that?”
“Look, no, I can’t remember what the guy at the wedding actually said that the voice said, right? Just like, the voice was loud and booming and coming from nowhere, and it wanted the accoun- tant’s attention.”
“Okay so the voice tells him that it’s from another planet, and the accountant is like, ‘What?’”
“I know right. So the voice is from another planet, I don’t know which one, and it says that the ac- countant has been chosen out of all the human accountants, to do the accounting for the whole planet of Earth.”
“What?” Says the second alien.
“Okay just let me keep going and you’ll find out.” said the first alien. “The voice explains that it wants the accountant to count up every single thing on earth. So the accountant does, he counts all the people and all the animals, every type of animal, every book ever published, how many edi- tions there are, every type of fabric and all the styles of clothes, every grain of sand and molecule, all the technology-”
“All the technology? Like, all the technology that’s ever existed?”
“Yep. Every single object and entity that’s ever existed on the planet Earth, this accountant ac- counts for. All the dead ones, all the alive ones, everything. So it takes him ages-”
“Yeah like wouldn’t this take such a long time, even if you were the world’s best accountant? Like, wouldn’t he be dead or like, wouldn’t his workmates ask him why he wasn’t left work in so long?” Asks the second alien.
“Oh right, I forgot. The big voice said it would pause time so that the accountant can work comfort- ably.”
“So he’s done all that and he says, into the empty office, ‘I’m finished.’ Y’know, he’s not really sure who to talk to, like, what direction to talk in, cause the voice is just a voice. But the voice hears him and it says, ‘No you’re not.’ Turns out the accountant has to account for actually everything on earth. He has to count how much happiness there is, and how much pride, and how much loss, and how much hunger and how much want and need and waste and even abstract concepts like right and wrong.”
“Shit.” Says the second alien.
“I know right.” Says the first.
“Does he get it all done?”
“Yeah, eventually. He’s so tired by the end of it though. Not because he needs sleep, because time was frozen, so he had plenty of rest and everything, and he loves accounting, so it’s not like he’s bored or anything, he’s just so exhausted from everything that he’s seen. He’s seen and accounted for literally everything. All of humanity’s triumphs and failures and big wars and tiny happy mo- ments and everything man, like, the guy at the wedding was so poetic about it, and I’d also had more to drink then, but like, god, I can hardly even begin to tell you how much this accountant’s seen.”
“Like, he would’ve seen all his heroes die.” “Yep.”
“And then like, counted exactly how sad everyone was.” “Yeah.”
“And every single time anyone ever smiled, he counted it.”
“So what happens next?”
“The voice says, ‘Well done,’ and gets the data off him and returns time to normal and the accoun- tant finishes up the rest of his day at the accounting firm, kind of in a blur though, obviously, and then he goes home and goes to sleep.”
“And?” The second alien says.
“And what? That’s it, that’s the end.”
“Is he still an accountant?”
“Well yeah, why wouldn’t he be? He’s the best in the world. And he likes accounting.”
“I thought you said that was gonna be a joke.” Says the second alien.
“Oh right.” Says the first. “Well maybe I told it wrong. Sorry.”
“Nah don’t worry, it was still a cool story.”
“Yeah?” Asks the first alien.
“Yeah, definitely, it just wan’t funny.”
“That’s okay then. Not everything has to be funny.”
“True. But jokes kind of do, that’s why they’re jokes.” Says the second alien.
“Yeah, I’ll give you that.” Says the first alien.
Then the two aliens finished their drinks, talk about the game, order one last round, and keep chat- ting. The second alien tells a joke that’s actually funny, and confesses that he’s always kind of had a crush on the first alien’s cousin, who had just gotten married, which was where the first alien heard that accountant joke. The first alien is pretty nonplussed, he liked his cousin’s husband, he’s pretty nice, but he also wouldn’t’ve minded if she’s married the second alien. They chat some more, and go home.
By Kate Pimblett from Australia