It appeared over night, one morning it was just there in the centre of the city, this big silver blob. Nobody thought too much about it, they assumed it was just some new public work of art. Some smiled when they saw it and went about their business, others grumbled under their breath about it being a waste of money, or about it not being in keeping with the surrounding architecture. Each department of local government assumed another had been responsible for the installation and ascribed their lack of information regarding it to typical bureaucratic incompetence.
It quickly became a popular meeting place and people could often be found sitting by it, eating their lunch, and enjoying the distorted reflection of the city’s skyline in its curved sides. Nobody ever really questioned what it was and why it was there. It was just “one of those” and it was there “because”.
It was some time before anybody realised that it wasn’t the only one. There were four others, one in Birmingham in England, one in Lille in France, another in St. Petersburg in Russia, and one in Barcelona in Spain. Together with the one in Chicago, that made five mysterious objects, and they’d been there for months without anyone really realising. If they’d appeared in New York or Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Madrid, then the world would have reacted far more quickly, but they didn’t appear there, and so nobody noticed.
Eventually, almost a year after they’d appeared, the authorities decided that something ought to be done. It took them another six months to decide what that should be. A further six months of planning and research and they were ready to make their move, only to find a ring of protestors around the objects. People had grown used to them being there, and people don’t like change. How dare the government do anything to such a beloved landmark? Besides, they’d been there for years; if they were harmful something would have happened by now.
Months passed, and court orders and injunctions were sought, and eventually the protestors were cleared.
On the day that the scientists surrounded the object in Chicago and prepared to probe it and investigate it with the instruments they’d spent months designing and building, the object suddenly rose off the ground and hovered in the air, about five feet off the ground. There was a barely audible hum and the air beneath the object shimmered like heat haze.
A booming voice resounded from the object, “How many beans make five?”
The scientists conferred and discussed, and after a few minutes one man stepped forward from the group to offer an answer. He looked back at the group nervously, receiving a flurry of encouraging nods in response, before he proffered their reply.
“Five beans make five,” he declared in a clear, confident voice.
“You are incorrect,” boomed the mechanical, alien voice from the object.
“We are?” replied the scientist, confused. “Then how many beans make five?”
“A bean, half a bean, two beans and a bean and a half,” boomed the voice. “You were incorrect, your species is unworthy, and it will be eradicated.”
Screams filled the city for the rest of the day.