Major Smith was walking along, minding his own business when the space spiders descended. Gigantic, skinnier than daddy long legs (which is why they didn’t burn in the atmosphere) (and just floated like thistledown instead), but highly destructive. Their webs were inescapable, their bite deadly. Their victims liquified inside, and were sucked hollow by the alien invaders, and spent the rest of their lives walking around empty, sitting at their computer screens reading the latest on Huffington Post, and ringing like bells when they bumped into each other on the street.
The aliens left as abruptly as they had appeared, launching themselves beyond the Earth’s gravitational pull and drifting in a huge cloud back into the black depths of space.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, an empty playground swing swang in a breeze, squeaking. A dog sniffed a shoe. A refrigerator opened and closed, the person who had opened it having decided they weren’t really hungry just restless. The person. A man of an age when men were expected to be more certain than he felt. Major Smith. He tried to figure out if he was sad or feeling sorry for himself, depressed or melancholy, sad or unhappy. As part of his exercise he tried to determine the opposite of sad.
Not “unhappy,” which is the opposite of happy. Sadness is too pervasive to have an opposite when sadness is the clay from which you are formed. Unfortunately, like clay, sadness bestows no particular grace or value, no charm or intelligence or any other intrinsic value. It’s just clay. You can make a wonky kindergarten ashtray with it, or a 3-legged lizard or a perfect sphere or a brick. You can burn the brick in a kiln and throw it through a bank window. You just can’t make a space spider with clay because they’re too… ethereal for clay.
Major Smith remembered he had to cook spaghetti, with instant sauce, for lunch, and two batches of chili con carne for lunch the next day, one batch spicy, one not.