It was morning when the Martians came. They flew above Rome and landed at the Circus Maximus, where the police deputy Fiorillo turned up right away backed up with seven thousand police vans.
They were three flying saucers. And three Martians stuck out their heads from the dome shaped windows. Their color was of a Spring green and they had antennas sticking out from their foreheads; they are exactly as humans imagine them to be. As they came out, one of the Martians bumped its head with the dome like window. Instantly, a little cloud popped up above its head with the following letters inscribed in it:
CLOC! -That must be their flag- said Sheriff Mentillo.
-And what about that other thing, what is that?- asked deputy Fiorillo.
Indeed, above the Martians head was another little cloud which read:
-But of course- said a boy that sneaked through the seven thousand police vans.
-What do you mean of course?- asked Mentillo.
-Even Donald Duck screams AAH! when Uncle Scrooge slaps him on the behind.- explained the boy.
From the head of another Martians a little cloud popped up saying:
HELLO! WE ARE MARTIANS AND WE HAVE COME WITH FRIENDLY INTENTIONS. I AM THE COMMANDER AB 17.
The little cloud disappeared when everyone finished reading it. The voice of the Martian has not yet been heard.
Deputy Fiorillo stepped forward.
-Good morning- he said. I am Deputy Fiorillo.
Three little clouds appeared respectively above the Martians’ heads saying:
??????? ?????? ???????
-I said I am Deputy Fiorillo- he repeated. And I am here representing the Chief of the police.
The Martians talked amongst each other and above their heads were clouds saying:
-What are they doing?- asked Sheriff Mentillo.
-Can’t you see?- asked the boy. They are thinking. Donald Duck also does this.
A new little cloud popped up above one of the Martians’ head asking:
WHY DON’T YOU ANSWER?
-Darn!- screamed deputy Fiorillo representing the Chief of the police.
The Martians insisted:
WE DO NOT SEE YOUR LITTLE CLOUDS….BLEEP!
-They are a bit sad- said the boy. Because if not the little clouds would have said something like GRRR! or AGH!
Deputy Fiorillo thinks about the strange situation. All of a sudden, his brilliant intelligence, exercised in years of research on all types of crimes, makes him realize the obvious: the Martians speak in comic strip language and can only understand comic strip language.
The deputy asked for a piece of paper, cut it in the shape of a little cloud and wrote: “wait one minute”, and placed it closer to his mouth. All of a sudden, many little clouds popped up above the flying saucers:
FINALLY! YOU DECIDED TO SPEAK! WOOHOO! YIPPIE! HURRAY!
Meanwhile forensic experts came, Ministers of Communications and Transport, some professors, a dozen Monsignors, a hundred and twenty journalists, a mayor and an ordinary man who sneaked into the group of authorities just because he has an authoritative beard. Everyone desperately was looking for someone who could speak comic strip language, but without any luck.
-What a shame- said De Mauris, Professor of Linguistics. I can read and write the comic strip language but cannot speak it. What else do you want? In our schools’ foreign language classes we make our students do a lot of grammar exercises but not so much conversation.
-This is true!- confirmed one who was present. For example, I can read Spanish but cannot speak it… There is no other solution than to communicate by using posters. Therefore, fifty kilos of white cardboard were bought, as well as ten pairs of scissors. Everyone was put to work cutting the cardboard into shapes of little clouds, and a screenwriter, especially good at dialogue, was prepared with a paint brush. Suddenly, they all realize this is a deplorable spatial misunderstanding. The Martians had received some comic strips from a secret agent, and so they thought that humans spoke with little clouds…
Everyone learns effortlessly to cut out cloud shapes with alphabet letters on them. Little by little everyone begins to speak in the comic strip language and a great silence fills up Circus Maximus.
Cloud after cloud, the moment for peaceful negotiations arrived. Martians and the authorities went to the Royal Academy. The crowd scattered away and continued to speak in comic strip language, which became easily contagious. Door bells learnt how to say “Ring!”; engines at high speeds quickly learnt to say “Ruuuuum”; and children would say an eloquent “Ughhh!” when they would see the same old soup in front of them, without forgetting the exclamation marks.
And of course, the government took advantage of the occasion and declared the comic strip language the official language of the State and abolished freedom of speech. The few who still want tough to speak with spoken words, instead of communicating with cardboard clouds, must meet at night in basements and speak low, because if not they will be arrested for “night scandal”.
How many are those who insist in wanting to speak by making noise, instead of smoke? Nobody knows. But we hope they are many.
Gianni Rodari. Typed tales. (Adaptation)
Instructions: Select one of the buttons with the letters a, b and c. The correct answer will turn red.