Tabdir’s Chalk Drawing
by Cliff Dossey

Go figure

     Tabdir’s computer analyzed the data from the excavation. The machine seemed to linger particularly long over one item. It was a drawing found on a flat stone pavement.

     It was an odd drawing. It seemed to portray a female of the ancient species. The drawing had exaggerated pink lips. Her upper body had enlarged lobes. The figure wore a blueish dress, quite stylized. It was not an indistinct image, only crudely drawn. It had what seemed an uncertain, immature quality about it. There was also an odd box diagram faintly visible near it.

     The drawing puzzled the alien with his head made of soft shell of chitin. Was it primitive art? Was it some message from the past? Did it explain why the Earthlings disappeared? It was odd the young Earthlings drew on a pad for driving a vehicle into a shelter’s—what was the term that had been recovered for it?—“driveway”. Drawing on a driveway was an odd concept for the insectoid brain. Was it a sacred symbol to protect them from evil?

     Tabdir was determined to get his master’s degree. This was the key to the degree. This odd drawing executed by the young Earthlings just before the final nuclear war broke out. The resultant destruction and release of biological weapons by the terrorist insurgents and their supporter nations had destroyed all life.

     The insectoid archaeologist student recorded the image. He gamma-faxed it back to Professor Zelock on Handacia. It was an amazing find—no other drawing quite like it had been found since they had begun their work on the ancient Earth.

     The methodical computer said it was drawing done for self-amusement by a child on a lark but he knew the computer was sometimes wrong in its analysis. Impossible.

     Maybe the Earthlings had left a message for posterity about the decadence that had led to their downfall. Maybe this was really what had caused thermonuclear war and biologic devastation to the planet. He could not finish his thesis. He knew his doctorate from the Handacia University depended on his skillful analysis and ability to comprehend the message. He wondered who these intelligent beings were with the uncontrollable destructive impulse. What was their message, if any?

     The computer described the boy who had drawn the picture as a typical American suburbanite living in California in Tract 19172 in Santa Carlotta on the California coast. The boxes were to play a game with.

     Tabdir struggled with the odd concept—a game controlled by drawing on pavement. Were they doing something solely to waste time?  How odd and peculiar—no wonder these ancients had disappeared.

     Ah, Tabdir thought—the Earthling had suffered from untreated childhood madness. Perhaps it was from spoiling and over-indulging their offspring. Well, it was good theory anyway, and who could refute it?

     He could finalize his report and supplement it with actual images of the field data about a society which had decayed before it had destroyed itself. The decay necessary to explain the destruction was clearly evident in the chalk.

     The intergalactic archaeological society would surely award him a prize for the most original research this solar cycle. But still there was a wondrous, childlike, untrammeled quality in the drawing. Tabdir found it appealing even if it had been done by a decadent child artist from a civilization that had itself destroyed.