A glowing surf evaporates on impact. Everybody is cheering. Sterilizing planets, especially the bioluminescent ones, that is the finest tier of excitement. We’ve all paid top dollar.
I shield my eyes from the blast with my hands. My thoughts are somewhere else, this night.
On principle, the Quadlrup had few issues with entering the virtual world we had created.
They didn’t mind discarding their interlocking musculature and their squared bones— and they held no spiritual objection to entering our servers as non-material ghosts.
What stopped them in their tracks was solely the aesthetics of the affair. What would need to be their permanent bodies offended their senses enough to spoil the promise of paradise: hairy, blanched neural tissues, plopped down into rounded glass bottles bubbling over with bronze syrup.
How will the U.S. government prepare the public before they admit to a long history of alien encounters?
They’ll begin by telling us that they have found water on Mars.
THE STATE OF THINGS
1. We are the predators. We eviscerate every living thing that runs and especially those that hide. We teach our children to spare some of your adults and some of your children to guarantee a meal for another day. Movement is our nourishment and we revel in carnage.
2. We are the holiest of beings. We harvest pure energy from the most powerful of all material forces — blazing bright stars. We overdrink the most golden of all molten radiation, filling ourselves on its generous, eternal bounty.
3, We are the embers that feed on our planet’s very heat. It churns, angry at its violent creation and at the pull of moons, forging complex chemistries into being from myriad light and heavy elements — the true and supreme purpose of your stars. We are the first life and take no interest in your light or your surface.
0. I Am The Great Cold Eater, The Releasor, The Expanding Quiet. All of your energies are suitable to my palate and they are mine and mine alone. I uncoil your tightly wound watches into the deflating universal average. I am the Reason why matter cannibalizes and why all of its forms are wholly insatiable. Everywhere I eat and eat and eat. And wait for the quiet arrival of a chilling, long rest.
The tour guide led the tourists into an atrium, inhaling and exhaling the stale air loudly, as though he was young again and back on stage before a paying audience.
“And here’s the dungeon… a generous description, given a medieval dungeon would be a noticeable improvement over this place, haha. Yes, it’s clinical and it’s grim. But remember, it’s the only guaranteed way to stop our monarchs from torturing their people.
And truly, the severity is necessary to properly torture each newly elected ruler here. We’ve advanced our techniques so that the ordeal is finished in a matter of days. The brain is maxed out from the trauma by then.
After some basic rehabilitation, monarchs who have endured such hell are more than willing to sign the most important legal document. It binds themselves to death should they ever order torture for anyone else. That includes enemies on other planets, too.”
A man wearing a day-glo visor coughed. They proceeded to the next hall.
“In this next wing, we see a most impressive collection. Generations of regalia… oh, pardon me. Of course after the document is signed, we erase the ruler’s memory of the experience so that we don’t accidentally create a psychologically broken leader, or worse, a monster, haha. Somehow that point always nearly eludes me.”
Out there, above, hangs an empty metallic robot suspended by gravitational strings. A structural mess, modest in size, made of black wires and support columns and crystal.
She does not send messages across the cosmos. And if she receives such, has no programmed response that might relay back information to help those who seek her. The age of space expands by some equation and with it every attempt to reach her grows in futility. Only the foolish try to find her.
But she patiently watches for and expects you. She expects you.
There is a siren that waits in her vacuum somewhere in the black of space.
I didn’t care about when Kelly kissed Screech. I was never moved by shows about crime, about war, or comedies about dysfunctional families. The reason I stayed up all night after watching The Shining for the first time was because I napped halfway through the movie and was too well-rested to fall asleep.
I knew I’d never relate to you people by the time I turned fifteen. That was before I could even drive, and years before I found out I didn’t, I couldn’t even, hold any interest in sex.
Because it wasn’t until I saw E.T. the Extraterrestrial that I knew for sure I was an alien.
When I was four years old, my parents took me to visit their aunt and uncle in rural Arkansas. The, truly lovely pair, were probably in their early 70s. It was around this time, in the white chalk of a economically dead town, that I had the first taste of what it meant to be limited.
I was aware that people had things going on between them that I wasn’t privy to. The adults talked and talked, with some words I understood, others I didn’t. Sometimes they came together in ways I could decipher, but usually this was limited to three, maybe four words in a phrase.
I felt like I had no business there. Aside from, maybe, being a passing topic of their conversation. “He starts kindergarten something fall. Yes, we’re excited. Something something other children. Something.” And then an adult, knowing laugh I couldn’t possibly share in.
My neurons just hadn’t formed enough mature connections and relays. Or I hadn’t had been through situations that would let me understand the significance of these visits. Or both. I was as naive as they come.
I knew that these relatives, who meant something important to my parents, were near death. Which was equivalent to “going away” for me, at the time. But since it was understood they’d die soon, would they even be around next time we had planned to see them? Did I have any logical investment in spending my time here? It was a boring house without television or toys. I took naps.
The experience of sitting before thirty-two representatives of the outer rim of the Milky Way was flatly… Well, there is no single word for it.
For my next performance piece, I’m going to walk out of this thesis panel, return to my hometown, get a job in tax preparation, and marry a girl who loves me a little less than I do her. We’ll have kids that I will develop a drinking habit over. But I won’t get into much trouble beyond that one time I get a little too drunk at the parade and try to fight the local policeman who happens to be an old friend from high school. He’ll understand. My family and I will vacation mostly in the contiguous states at cryptozoology and UFO tourist attractions and maybe Disneyworld, depending on the kids. I will never touch a book about art again.
My name will be legally changed before the marriage. If you can find me, you can award me the degree.
I’m sorry, Catherine. It began, of course, with your recommendation to affix onto my person extra intelligences and sensory faculties. I could live forever, then.
Only then could I bear witness to long-time, to that endless theatre of species popping in and out of existence – always making things. Having watched not one, but one million quartenary systems collapse onto themselves takes its toll. And meeting my father, finally, after all of that time, this too was a burden. All of these experiences together changed me.
But there is a problem with change. It is irreversible. There is one frontier I have yet to breach, and will soon. Good-bye, love. Oblivion is patient, but not infinitely so.
The pain in what Greg felt were his kidneys wasn’t going away. He’d sneak in a session at the Jacuzzi later, before nightfall. It was his one day off the road for the next week.
The continental breakfast at the Motor Inn consisted of Fruit Loops in almond milk, a banana, coffee, and the local paper. Greg gathered these things and sat at a table alone. He admired the way the sun glinted off his red glitter rig through the window.
He opened the paper to the Funnies first. This always helped him start the day out in a good mood, and when finished, went straight to the science “Discovery” section. Always good to have some new facts to chat about with others on the CB, even if it was more of an advert than science journalism.
The irrefutable facts it proclaimed (to your benefit) were as follows:
Hot tubs LOWER sperm viability!
7/8 die in >105F heat!
Are you and your partner having trouble conceiving?
Call for a free legal consultation! You may be entitled to a BIG PAY OUT!!!
What happened to the other 1/8 sperms? Maybe they were heat resistant, or found a way to survive in colder areas of the balls. That is where sperms lived, right? Greg had smaller-than-average testicles as best as he could judge from pornography. Then he forgot about most of the article.
Candy sat on the stale, maroon comforter in Greg’s motel room and took off her earrings.
“You got any kids?” she asked.
“Yeah… two teens. Phew!”
“Me too. A little girl. She lives with her daddy, though.” She put her earrings on the nightstand and paused her movement for a second. “You ever think you want any more?”
The “Discovery” blurb was in Greg’s mind when he replied, “No. I can’t. It’s biologically impossible.”
She smiled and put down her purse.
excerpt from “And the Skies Came Crashing Down” documentary:
Are we alone? [Pause] Are we alone? Are we alone in this incomprehensibly expansive universe?
This question had plagued countless laymen and scholars alike since the discovery of the first planet, Mercury, in 1781. At the time, humans wondered whether Earth had found a long lost sibling. Did other men walk on that distant, foreign surface?
Fast forward a few hundred years into the future, and by 2009 scientists had pinned down a dozen new planets that might be suitable to carry the kind of life we’re familiar with, based on their chemical compositions and the presence of water. Improved methodologies in spectrometry helped astrobiologists find several hundred more life-friendly planets by 2018. In 2020, the United Nations made an unexpectedly bold move and radioed welcome messages to several tens of thousands of these newly identified worlds.
But Earth was contacted well before any of the greetings reached their intended targets. In 2036, an extraterrestrial civilization sent us an encoded encyclopedia of information and addresses of well over 300,000 intelligent species in the Milky Way. Some entities even shared custody of overlapping territories several thousand light-years across.
[cut to still of NY Times front page October 14, 2036]:
“Plenty of Aliens Up There, Humans Still Alone.”
I don’t know if anyone will get to read this, but here goes. They’ve held me captive for… come to think of it, not sure how long, exactly, but at least a few weeks. I have been locked without human contact in a cell. Not just any normal prison cell, it’s made to look like my old bedroom in my parent’s house.
It’s eerily accurate in many ways, down to the creases of my favorite pages in a Hustler I stole from my neighbor, way back in 1983. It’s vintage now, from 1981. Very vintage. I don’t know if that detail is important. But there are some striking differences in the pages, which, I will add, seem deliberate. All of the faces of the girls are rubbed out. The same is true for a few other magazines and also my comic books and my yearbooks. My G.I. Joe’s heads are like fleshy thumbs without thumb prints.
And in the center of the ceiling, aimed down at me, where the light used to be, is what I can only gather is a reproduction of that painting, The Lovers, by Magritte.
I think I got a little desperate to see a face, because I peeled back the paint with my (now grossly overgrown) fingernails as carefully as I could, just in case whoever painted it left faces behind the shrouds. I only revealed a thin, glowing film of microchips, though.
I get the sense there are more rooms… maybe even right next to mine.
I never understood my father or the mind he inherited – and I don’t care to. Anymore than I care to comprehend or defend his dad and whatever savage came before that.
And if you want to go further back, maybe half a million years, I feel my empathy run cold when I think about those first primates. The ones just barely haunted by, if we’re being generous, consciousness. Slipping in and out of what we would consider a rudimentary morality. Killing their offspring, their “lovers”, their parents, alike.
The worst part, of course, is that they were happy to die when their bodies gave out. Disinterested in taking any simple measure to stop death from overwhelming others. Unable to save their own skin. Sipping their fucking Coca-Colas.