(900 words)
The day my life changed was the day the lives of everyone changed. Finally, there was irrefutable, cast-iron evidence of extra-terrestrial civilisation. Evidence that couldn’t be fobbed off by governments as weather balloons, Venus, hallucination or just being plain drunk. But for me it was different. There I’d been, watching the whole shebang from my weightless viewpoint, floating around the International Space Station or ISS.
“Hey, Jabez, there it is. I’ve got it on the viewing screen!” astronaut Vladimir Chekhov exclaimed.
“Wow. Let’s have a look.” There, on our wall-to-wall cinema was a tiny pinprick of light, still tens of thousands of miles away but, without doubt, on its way to good ‘ol Planet Earth.
Since first detected by Pan-STARRS, a specially designed telescope to monitor the cosmos for unidentified movement of heavenly – and not-so-heavenly – bodies, the approaching object had been dismissed as a comet or asteroid, never mind the fact that at Jupiter it had accelerated at a rate faster than gravity predicted. Astrophysicists, that lofty breed of super-intelligent humans – or so they thought – had said it was down to ‘outgassing’ of some unknown – and invisible – substance, thus accelerating the object by ‘natural’ means.
But as it grew closer, instruments could no longer refute that it was some kind of ‘light-sail’ craft.
“Hey, Dad, what’s with this spacecraft coming to Earth?”
I’d looked at Richardson’s earnest young face. Since his mother had died, our weekly meetings via the ISS video interface had been all we’d had to look forward to. All the technology in the world couldn’t replace a pretty face, bright blue eyes, a wide smile and the tight hug of a beautiful woman. But, like they say, ‘Life moves on.’ “Well, telescopes the world over have seen this thing. And no one can say it isn’t real now.”
“What is it though, Dad, do you think it might be dangerous, a weapon or something?”
I looked out of the window, down onto our brilliant blue marble in the endless blackness of space and sighed. “Hey, Rich, you’ve been watching too much science fiction. They’re likely just like you and me. They just wanna say ‘Hello’.” I kept to myself how I’d lain awake at night worrying about this being some kind of doomsday device, designed to decimate our planet, if not destroy it like you’d burst a beautiful sparkling bubble. One minute, swirling rainbow colour, the next a pop … and empty space.
But as the object grew closer it seemed like there was no ‘they,’ not alive, anyway. There was no signal of any description, just the brightness and a spinning motion and silence.
“Jabez, I don’t want you to go, honey.”
I could see a film of moisture on Hannah’s eyes. “Look, sweetheart, this is the greatest opportunity I, or anyone in my family’s had, like, ever. Just think, the ISS, practically the most advanced bit of machinery ever made, and I’ll be onboard! It’s only for a year and you and Richardson can call me every week. We can see each other on the big screen. It’s like we’ll be in the same room.”
Hannah had smiled wistfully, “Well, not quite, we won’t be able to hug and, well, y’know.” She blushed. “Do it.”
I’d laughed. “Don’t worry sweetheart, I’ll make up for it when I get back! And time passes quickly.”
But no matter how quickly time passes, it can’t bring someone back from a fatal auto accident, nor heal the hurt left by the huge empty space inside, greater even than the infinite universe outside.
Now, from our exalted places on the roof of the world, we were privy to the latest developments from NASA. It had indeed been a light-sail craft, and by man’s, or that is to say, NASA’s, ingenuity, a rocket had been modified in time to launch into space and capture the alien craft. One week earlier it had returned to earth, since when there’d been no news, other than NASA’s announcement that, ‘This appears to be an alien craft propelled by a light sail that has been travelling across the universe for an indeterminate time, possibly millions or even billions of years. It is currently undergoing investigative procedures.” That was it, to the chagrin of the whole, impatient world.
But now the communicator buzzed. The serious face of NASA’s William Bark appeared on the screen. “Hiya, Jabez, well we’ve got some intel on the aliens, it’s not good.”
I felt myself breaking out in a cold sweat. “It’s not a weapon, is it?”
Bark waved a hand away. “Nope, nothing like that. The sail itself is pretty similar to sails we’ve developed here on earth, nothing new material-wise.”
“That’s disappointing.”
“Yeah, there’s nothing electronic either. Seems it was likely blasted through space by the impetus of a high-powered laser, maybe half the speed of light, originally.”
I felt impatient. “Well, what is it then?”
Bark sighed. “Look, we’re not sure what to announce, right now. There’s a cylinder full of empty containers, plastics, metals, but nothing new to science, and a lot of organic substance.”
“Organic substance?”
“Yeah, well, it looks like these aliens blasted their rubbish into space, saving on landfill I guess. So, what we’ve got is a load of rubbish, literally.”
“But what about the organic stuff?”
“Well, seems they didn’t want to overload their sewage plants either. Would you believe … billion-year-old shit?”

Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth

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2 thoughts on “Contact

  1. Superb! What a take on aliens and contact with them. We’re so eager to meet them. Guess they give a shit too. (Quite literally!) Haha! Wonderful story.

  2. “Beam me up, Scotty.” I feel like I just watched an episode of Star Trek – and it was probably the best show ever! What a great script you’ve got here; somebody call George Lucas! Seriously, you never cease to amaze, entertain and make us think. I enjoyed this story so much. There are countless unanswered questions about the existence of life ‘out there’. Don’t we earthlings have huge egos to believe we’re the only living beings in the universe?! You touched on a lot of different topics – the science aspect as well as the human (and not-so-human) – never once losing the flow and the essence of the story. And the ending! Can you say “coprolite”, boys and girls? Excellent!! 👏🏼👏🏼👽🪐🌟

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