Aliens arrive too late to a ruined world.
|Lost in Translation
A tempest erupted outside the long abandoned museum in the ghost-town called Chicago. Completely unexpected, it’d been ages since anything interesting had happened, so I bolted down the main staircase and out into the empty streets.
I’d spent days cataloging this location, for whatever reasons I really didn’t know. The rest of the planet, every soul, had been wiped away by an unstoppable pandemic. I was alone. At least the work gave me purpose, and I was hopeful that mankind’s most beautiful achievements would be preserved forever digitally, immortal to the ravages of time.
Outside, a thunderous rumble came from the park along the lake, and I raced to meet it, stopping immediately at a sight I couldn’t believe – a slender rocket standing on end, like a fifties spaceship from an old Twilight Zone episode. The rolling winds fading, a ramp descend and I retreated to cover in the nearby brush.
Two figures emerged, silhouetted by the retreating haze. Taller and more slender than any man I recalled, their movements were too gracile, almost elegant. “Where is it?” a voice suddenly asked in my mind. Words. It had been so long.
“Him,” another voice corrected. “This is a binary species – a male in this case, I think. The correct pronoun is him.”
“Of course…I keep forgetting.” Large obsidian eyes surveyed an unfamiliar landscape and each held a small device which scanned their surroundings. “Human, are you there?” the first of them asked, only not aloud, and I dared not respond.
“Over here,” the second said and headed directly toward me.
My heart raced and my hands trembled. I hoped to escape, so I bolted away in a desperate run, only to instantly freeze in place.
“Ah, there you are,” the first said. “You see, I told you they were here.” Trapped within an invisible force, I was helplessly drawn closer to them. “An interesting specimen, though the tension in its muscles…”
“HIS muscles,” the other corrected.
“Right, HIS muscles. And the elevated neuroendocrine levels?”
“Perhaps,” the first agreed. “Our scientists said that might happen.” It leaned in. “Do not fear us, human. We are here to help. If I release you, will you promise not to scamper away?”
“What…what do you want here?” I asked.
“Why, we’ve come from the Great Galactic Quorum.”
“He won’t know what that means,” the second quipped.
“Oh, sorry. We are messengers from the civilized worlds in this galaxy. You received our invitation, though never responded. The message was clearly dispersed 3.25 solar cycles ago.” Of course, I hadn’t a clue and shook my head. So, it turned to its companion, irritated, “I don’t think they got it.”
Then, a revelation hit me. “Wait, three years ago?”
“Our probe confirmed touch-down, its message dispersed into the atmosphere.”
“Brilliant biotechnology really – a genetically programmed micromessenger, designed specifically for humans, to spread throughout your body and then to others, rewriting your genetic code so we can better understand each other.” It tapped its forehead. “That is how your mind hears me. In fact, you can now survive in thirteen non-Earth environments without any need for a containment suit. Anyways, I’m sure for you it’s quite amazing!”
“Three years ago?!”
“We bring a new age of enlightenment for mankind, our technology and the wonders of the universe! Now, where are the rest of your people? Let us meet them!”
My chuckled became a boisterous, desperate laugh. “You killed them! You killed them all!”
“Killed?” the second asked. “What is ‘killed?’”
“It means ‘cease to exist,’” the first explained, now concerned. “How?”
“A horrible plague.” The images were fresh in my mind. “Bleeding from the eyes. Tissues liquefied as people slowly melted over a period of weeks. Their brains were the last, so they were aware. Human immunity…”
“The human body fights against infection.”
“Impossible!” it scoffed. “The messenger was programmed with its own protocols to ensure delivery against any defense.”
“And it destroyed them.”
Both were clearly appalled, “And you?”
“I’m from Praxia-19, outside the Quorum, in the Outlands. It took me seven plastisurgeries to pass for human,” I sighed. “And I really thought I’d picked the perfect place to retire.” A storm welled inside me. “Now, go back to those fools and tell them they’ve destroyed this civilization!”
“Oh, dear, not another one,” the first lamented and motioned the second to follow. “It really is becoming a bore to be the bearer of bad news again.”