“The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
You’re walking your dog, as usual.
And as usual for this time of year, it is a beautiful night: a clear, dark blue sky with dozens of faint stars.
You take your time, enjoying the peaceful sounds of crickets chirping and tree leaves rustling. You keep the leash slack so your dog can roam around the sidewalk, sniffing here, there, and everywhere and occasionally taking a little pee break.
And so it is that you are completely taken by surprise when there is a sound like rolling thunder and a flash like lightning.
You recoil, blinded. Your dog begins barking furiously. You grip the leash tighter, but there’s a pain in your head, sharp and probing. You can’t think, you can’t breathe, you can’t —
The word pierces your psyche, and then . . . the pain is gone. The light fades. It is quiet.
An alien stands before you.
How you know this, you cannot explain. But nor can you explain how the figure is not an alien. No costume or digital rendering could capture the essence of this living being. Their grey skin glistens in the moonlight. Their dark, inky eyes gaze at you, seeing something incomprehensible. They look like every stereotypical alien you have ever seen in the movies, and yet like nothing ever imagined.
“Hello,” they say again.
The voice has a pitch that makes you think “female,” though you can’t say why or if that is even a fair assumption. Your brain is scrambling for normalcy, something tangible to grasp onto.
“Hi,” you rasp. Your throat is dry. (Had you been screaming?)
“We’ve been watching you,” the alien says. She tilts her head, though her eyes never leave yours.
“Not just you.” She almost sounds amused. “All of you. The Earth.”
The way she says “Earth” makes you shiver.
You’re about to ask why, when you notice that your dog is being abnormally quiet. You look around for him. You realize that not only is he nowhere to be seen, you are no longer where you were. Gone is the sidewalk and grassy front lawns. Gone is the street and the trees and the sound of crickets. You are in a place filled with stars, more than you’ve ever seen in your life put together. You and the alien are standing on nothing but the space between the stars. Panic slides into your stomach, but before it goes up your throat, a calm descends upon you.
“Don’t worry,” the alien says. “I won’t hurt you.”
That possibility hadn’t even crossed your mind yet, but you let the thought float past. It doesn’t matter now.
“Have you been taking good care of our planet?” she asks, once you feel at ease.
There’s a lot to unpack in that question, and you take a few minutes to let full comprehension sink in. The alien doesn’t seem to mind the delay. In fact, she might already know the answer. You don’t know if you even can lie.
So, you say, “Not really.”
The alien looks away from you at last. “The project doesn’t seem to be working out as planned.”
She doesn’t answer. She’s looking at the surrounding stars. One is particularly large and bright. Perhaps that is her sun. Her home.
“We might destroy the Earth.”
Whatever influence she’s put on you prevents you from downright blanking out from shock, but your chest still feels tight and your heart feels like it’s skipped several beats.
“A-and everything on it? Everyone?” you manage to choke out.
“That would be . . . ” Horrible? Terrible? Genocide? You search for anything that sounds convincing. ” . . . a waste of resources, wouldn’t it?”
(You congratulate yourself on that bit of intergalactic tactics brilliance.)
The alien shrugs in the manner of one who has never known want. “It’s not ideal.”
Your heart sinks. A chance to save the world, and you blew it.
“Why me?” you say. It is an effort not to shout. “Out of all the people on Earth, why are you telling me this?”
“Why not you?”
And of course, there’s no answer for that.
The both of you float there in all that space, each in your own thoughts. You’re thinking of everything and nothing. The alien’s face doesn’t give anything away.
At last, she says, “Do you think there’s a chance? For humans to save themselves and the world they were given?”
A tiny flame of hope rekindles in your stomach. You stare the alien right in their unblinking eyes.
“I think we just need more time.”
An emotion you can’t describe passes over her face. She nods.
“Good to know.”
As if controlled by a switch, the blinding light suddenly returns in full force. Bolts of pain rocket in your skull. Raw sound pummels your ears.
Then, you are back. (Back home? Back on earth? Back in reality?)
Nothing seems changed, except for you.
Your dog is still pulling at the leash that you somehow still have wrapped around your wrist. The crickets make their melodious music, and the breeze blowing through the trees is cool on your sweaty skin. You look up. The dark blue of the sky and its sparse smattering of stars almost looks sickly compared to the splendor of the cosmos you had just seen.
The memory is already fading, but you know, somehow, that you managed to earn the Earth a reprieve. Perhaps you weren’t the only one. Perhaps you were merely part of an immense interview process. You’ll never know.
But you know one thing.
“We have time,” you say out loud. Your dog bounces over to you at the sound of your voice. You secure the leash more tightly in your hand.
And then, you begin walking home.
What does it all mean??? WHO KNOWS? or dares to dream . . .
This story was inspired by a prompt found in this book: Write the Story