“What did SETI ever do for us except take?”
Her mother’s raw words echo in her mind as Maggie reviews the setup. Sound absorbers hang on dark walls, insulated wiring trails around the den and out the window to receptors on the roof two stories up. She is ready.
Too bad Mum’s not here for this, she thinks. To see it was all worth it. Dad’s disappearance, her own fixation; the years of education Mum said she’d wasted on false hope; the bills unpaid, the friends and family estranged.
Tonight, she will prove them all wrong.
The Beatles’ White Album—Dad’s favourite—blares from her Bluetooth speaker. Maggie scans the computers again and glances at her go-pro. Smiles. Waves. Her heart pounds. She checks the time.
“November 28th, 2007,” she narrates aloud. “Eleven oh six pm. Four minutes to rendezvous.”
A computer screen lights up. Software Maggie tweaked—not what it’s meant for, but she couldn’t help it, she had to try—translates radio frequencies to binary to English.
Are you there?
The words are green on black and echo Dad’s final transmission. She shivers.
Yes, she types.
We are waiting.
The building shudders, lights flicker off and on again; the backup generator whines.
“Maggie!” Tom, her landlord and ex-boyfriend, takes a moment out of his party to yell down the stairs. She passes him at a run, his face a mixture of frown and drunken surprise that she actually emerged from the basement. She doesn’t care, taking the steps two at a time, backpack heavy, banging her ribs with each leap. One more flight, heart thumping in time to Starr’s drums, then the fire exit.
Maggie gains the roof and stands, gasping, staring at the huge black triangle hovering in the sky above her. It blocks out the moon.
“Here!” She waves her arms and turns up the music on her speaker. The agreed signal.
“I’m coming, Dad,” she whispers.
Written over a year ago, the first iteration of this flash story was a response to a prompt calling for something set in a ‘den’ and making use of an ‘album’. Upon reread, a few things occurred to me:
I remember as a child being enamored with the idea of radio-frequency communication with aliens, and the SETI program of NASA: the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (the SETI Institute is still in operation as part of the Carl Sagan Center). I think we even looked into signing up for it once, but our home computer had to be connected to the internet more frequently than my dial-up allowance, so that didn’t eventuate. In this story, SETI worked. But who’s to say it won’t yet, for us?
The first job I ever said I wanted was to be an astrophysicist. I was really into space facts for a while (then I learned I could not be an astronaut because of health issues, and ventured into zoology instead). Did you know, the Voyager probe left the solar system with a record filled with Earth music? ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry is on it. Try not singing that song now I’ve mentioned it. Though personally, I’d still have chosen The Beatles.
And then there’s my favourite Marvel movie, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘: in which space adventure, retro music, and a [spoiler!] alien abduction are tied together…
I think I can safely say these things influenced the above story, which is really only a small snapshot in Maggie’s life. And like the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, what might next happen to her is, as yet, unknown.
Have you ever written or read something where you can say, ‘aha!’, and pinpoint the story’s influences? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In the meantime, I’m readying my post for next week’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop, and will be sharing a link to my next published short story soon. Thank you to everyone who supported the release of ‘School Sports Carnival’ at Flash Fiction Magazine this month. Whilst not speculative, it is a fantastic feeling to have another short story out there–and has prompted me to change my personal description to ‘science fiction, fantasy, and flash fiction writer’. I hope to continue producing a range of all of these types of stories.
Have a great week. 🙂