The Lightning Bolt

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        The idea was old. The postulation was that the aliens’ language was either too rapid, or too slow for us to understand.

 

        I disembark the driverless, electric bus. Emitting a phony buzz, it continues along its trajectory, glowing and gliding like a bioluminescent anglerfish, and vanishing into the tarmac abyss.

        I draw my coat about myself as a shield for my precious luggage. Above me, veins of plasma fractalize against a cathedral of clouds, illuminating the enormous pillars and arches of the arborescent Cumulonimbus Incus thunderstorm cloud. 

        I close my eyes before they can adapt to the pitch-darkness that ensues. Suspended in my mind, the low-lying clouds resemble puffs of cotton, imbued with shades of glowing magenta.  Spectral roots are still discernible in their midst. I am excited by the notion that that photons hitting my photoreceptor cells are somehow observed and immortalized as information. 

 

        It is the 22nd century. A person living a century ago could never have guessed at how dramatically life has changed for us. In their day, they illustrated us with flying cars and mile high towers, whereas the real changes are hidden behind modest walls, flesh, and even genes. Most surprisingly, perhaps, is that we are still alone in this universe, as far as we know. We have yet to succeed in contacting intelligent beings beyond the human race. 

        From behind the walls of the rusty old building in the middle of the desert, we seek evidence of their existence. By means of a vast array of radio telescopes, we scan the heavens for alien life. The nearly defunct SETI, or Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, lacks both in funding and in any signs of an impending discovery. I have even heard rumors hinting that termination may be imminent. 

        When I arrive at the computer lab, I find my colleague in a frenzied state. Slumped against the wall, a cigarette dangles from between his fingers. Regarding the space in front of him, he takes a drag. Trembling, sweat-soaked hands send ashes fluttering like tiny moths. 

        “Eli…?” 

        His body lurches violently forward, and the cigarette tumbles to the floor. He attempts to slow his rapid breathing. “I… I didn’t see you there. I’ve been waiting for you.”

        “Are you okay, Eli?”

        “Look for yourself.” He gestures toward a computer screen, frozen mid-calculation from data too big to process.

        “Rio signal scale: 10.”

        The case I was concerned about before, which contains a quantum processor with a SPDC-type time cloak stabilizer, slips from my grasp and clatters to the floor. I barely notice. A 10 on the Rio Scale means that they are trying to contact us.

        We spot them, at last. They are eerily unfamiliar life forms, with unshapely eyes, faces, and legs. We are ecstatic, recognizing our privilege. What we see next, however, is almost sickening. They appear to be turned inside-out, with throbbing veins on fish-like faces, and glowing blood pumping beneath their moist flesh. Their unblinking, beady eyes are coated with a film that extends over their entire faces. The scintillating glowing of their faces appears to be a form of gestural communication, similar to human facial expressions.

        The signals turn out to be their equivalent of television. It is an entire history of their broadcasts, from monochromatics to holographics, from beginning to end. Celebration, wartime laments, and despair all spiral downward into nothingness.

We try to locate their home planet, but all we get is an error warning. The signal itself lasted for only 12 microseconds, yet these 12 microseconds comprise a timespan analogous to trillions of years of data. The signal has been echoing for longer than our universe is old, as if it were from a decayed universe.

        Was it unwrapped from a quantum time envelope? An entire universe, lasting for 12 microseconds?

        Then it occurs to me. What if times passes at a different pace for them? Non-classical space? A preposterous idea… Still, I set the telescope coordinate. To my utter disbelief, it is there. The parallax matches. The signal is coming from within a strike of lightning.

        The faint signal collapses back into white noise, followed by a death throe. “We have found you, O God.”

 

About the Author: 
Brian Soejadi comes from the humble city of Bandung, Indonesia. He is currently trying to publish his first science fiction novel. He yearns to see the redwood forests of the Pacific North Western United States.

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