THURSDAY: Life Out There

BY RASHMI PLUSCEC

Copyright is held by the author.

ABOVE THE highest mountain she floated. Beyond the brightest star she drifted. Soaring higher and higher, flying farther and farther, till she was one with the infinite blackness they call Space. Beyond suns, moons, planets and galaxies, she finally came upon a world, and she instinctively knew that this was the one. She had finally reached it. She would finally make contact with other life forms here. This was her most precious dream, her …

“Miss Hale, would you care to perhaps join the rest of us, or are your classmates not good enough for your thoughts?”

Mr. Darze’s voice came piercingly through and Luna’s thoughts came crashing down, right in the midst of some 12 pairs of disapproving eyes and snickering faces. Embarrassed, she bent her head down to her palm-tablet, and tried to follow the words and the sentences on the screen– “… and has to wait another two years before being able to run for presidency again. According to the 9th amendment of the Charter, which was last cleared in Year 3718, the position also allows for a more inclusive jurisdiction, which encompasses more than just the United Federation of…”

Yes, more than just this canton, this country, this planet, even this star system … no boundaries, no limitations. Free to travel at will. Free to see new places. Meet new people. Interact with different cultures. Different species… And Luna was off again!

Since childhood, Luna’s head had been crowded with one question: do you think there is life out there? This was Year 3763 and Clarkston Canton was one of the more advanced cities of the time. Every field of technology had reached unfathomable frontiers; cars that flew across cities and buildings that floated way above ground were more the mundane norm than futuristic exceptions. Yet Luna always knew there was something more, something far superior to all of this.

Luna had always been obsessed with the future, with concepts of infinite space and alien civilizations. Perhaps she had her father, eminent scientist, Arthur Hale to thank for that passion. Dr. Hale was the director of I.I.S.T., the International Institute of Space Technology. The thinking of that visionary man had not only shaped the minds of the employees at the institute, it had also permeated through to his own child and instilled in her a deep rooted belief that there was life out there, and – in more recent years — an increasing faith that she would locate and contact that life. From the time Luna could formulate the most basic thought in her mind, Luna had lived, breathed and tried to answer that one question, and one question alone.

Her neighbours still spoke of the day when Luna, a mere child of six, had run away to a small clearing in the nearby woods, with an assorted variety of aluminium utensils and radio wires, and tried to set up a “link” to outer space, to “life out there” as she explained to the frantic search party that found her almost at the break of dawn the following day.

That was nine years ago. Family and friends alike hoped that she would try to “see reason” and give up these “foolish flights of fancy.” But Luna’s passion had only increased, and — against all odds — her faith had only deepened.

The Hales had built a very sophisticated communication centre, fitted with the most advanced systems, and backed by the most complex knowledge of space technology. Twice every day, for the last nine years, Luna had followed a routine that her father had established almost two decades ago. The routine involved going into the centre (the “space station” Luna called it!), bringing to life an intricate network of countless wires, probes and scanners, and sending out, over and over, a sound signal into the farthest reaches of outer space, in the hopes of contacting alien life forms. Dr. Hale had developed the pattern, based on a combination of all the primary sounds that exist in the universe — a pattern he believed would connect to, and hold meaning for, any life form. A pattern that would bring a response some day.

Once in a while there had indeed been responses. Sure, the responses were so weak it had not led to any kind of conclusive proclamations; but there was always hope. Always some signal that made them feel they were moving closer to their goal, however slowly. And in all those years, Luna maintained a daily record of every painstaking step they took. From the setting up of the equipment to the most microscopic of reactions, everything was noted in complete and accurate detail. Most children her age had a “Dear Diary” half hour … Luna had a “Space Station Log” hour!

And then came that day. THE day. The day that started off as ordinary as any other but ended up being one of the most memorable — not just in Luna’s life, not just for Clarkston, but indeed for an entire planet and for all of civilization.

Late in the evening Luna went into the den and started setting up the connections, testing the microphones, checking the speakers, and tuning the frequency signals. As she waited for her father to join her, Luna initiated the standard signal pattern they had developed and started sending preliminary tones into the farthest reaches of space.

As always, the first few moments were usually the most anxious ones. Those were the moments filled with an excited impatience. As more and more of those moments passed by uneventfully, that excitement usually tended to give way to stoic patience, then to boredom, and then borderline frustration as all systems had to be carefully shut down after yet another failed attempt.

Once again, Luna had waited long enough, and once again she was reaching that point of frustration again. Her father’s voice came across the intercom, “Luna, I’m afraid this vidcon is taking longer than I anticipated. You go on ahead without me”.

“Oh OK, father. Don’t bother though … nothing again today. I am going to power down the sequence now … we’ll try again tomor…”

Luna froze mid-sentence.

A few things seemed to be coming to life. The receiver started playing a distorted pattern of sound signals. The monitor started recording faint beeps. The screen started forming some blurred images.

Luna managed to shake herself out of her frozen stupor and nervously approached the communication set. Trembling, Luna adjusted the frequency and ventured a timid “Hello?”

After what seemed an eternity, a shaky reply came through, “H–lo?”

Luna’s palms started sweating and her voice started trembling. Her whole body leaned forward in excitement. Could it be? Could it really be that years — nay, decades — of work by two generations had finally come to fruition? Could it truly be that they had broken through the barriers of time and space? Could it be that contact had finally been made?

Luna haltingly continued, “My name is … is … Er, I am from … this is actually … M-m-my name is. Luna. What … I mean, who are you? Wh–Where are you … ?”

Clear from beyond the infinite space came the reply, filled with an intense giddiness.

“My name is Shiyori … I am in a country called Japan … on planet Earth. Who … Where are you?”

4 comments

  1. Pingback: RERUN FRIDAY: Life Out There |

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