A few weeks ago, we intercepted the first message. I'm an astronomer, at the Gold-stone Space Communications Complex, essentially a radio telescope. Working here for nearly 6 years and finding nothing too exciting, you could only imagine the mayhem which broke loose when something fired back at our deep space messages. When we received the message, I was still busy in my office, busy with my salty Panzanella salad and a cold Latte Macchiato, when Jules, the head of our team as well as my wife burst through the door grinning widely like an 8 year old who stole a bar of chocolate.
"Mike! Somethings happened! Come to the control centre now!" and with that, she flew out the door again. Speechless, I set down my fork and moved towards the main control centre, my pace quickening as my curiosity of Jules’ ecstasy heightened. Picking my pace up to a jog, I noticed groups of workers converging on the control centre. As the sliding doors opened, two things hit me hard - the freezing air conditioned wind, and the flashing blue screen which illuminated the entire room. With the blast of air came the stench of sweat, sweat from the programmers working furiously at their stations, and the screen was the best part. Normally it was a black screen with small white dots, a map of the universe, today though there were strange letters popping up all over the main screen. Mind racing, heart pumping, I had no idea what to do. It took me moments of processing the reality together - we found... sentient... life... outside of Earth.
Jules was striding up the aisle and flicked her wrist over to a group of scientists talking behind a line of decoders. I complied with her implied order, and bolted over to my team, casually sliding into the flurry of words. "... Broken Fermi's Paradox and we can now rewrite Drake's equation! All we have to do is wait for this to finish!"
As the elated astronomer paused, one of the technicians yelled out, "We got it! We have the message." He sent the message on the screen and we all fell silent. The random characters on the screen morphed into the words, "We... need.... more...... [untranslated characters]....” This message was simply repeating itself over and over, unscrambling the language on the screen into the 3 words "We need more".
"The hell does that mean?" Someone shattered the silence. And for the next 4 days, we spent hours on end checking for translation mistakes, message character interception mistakes, checking for any new messages, hell we were taking a shot at every possibility we could imagine.
It was nearly 1 am, on the 4th day since the first message and most of the crew had either gone home or were asleep in the on-site housing. I was alone in the control centre when another message came through. At first I thought I was crazy. Then I thought the program had translated the message incorrectly. Logically I was going to call up the team, but when the message altered itself I froze. From "Help us... We need more... Please...." the message changed into, "Let us in Mike, Let us in!"
My heart caught in my throat, and as the surge of adrenaline hit me, I dashed for the mainframe, ripping out the power plugs. It was from then on my life has changed. Trembling in the darkness for what felt like a full few minutes, my vulnerability was quickly replaced by embarrassment. If someone walked in on me, I would look like a total bloody idiot, and with that thought, I quickly shoved the plugs back in. A low hum rung out as the computer system spun back to life.
A few minutes later, the messages reappeared as "We need more...” I let out a heavy sigh; I was probably far too tired to be working at this time. Stretching back, I made my way out the door, towards the car park. Jules was probably already home, I couldn't believe that she would be able to stay up working so late.
I live about 40 minutes drive away from the radio sites, and at this time of night, I was quite lucky that the road was entirely deserted save for a few late night travellers and the occasional police vehicle. I was about 10 minutes out from my house when I saw something in my mirror. I slammed the brakes, letting the seatbelt catch my body before I flew against the steering wheel. Leaping out of the car, I spun around to the backseat, reaching into my pocket for my flip knife (I had recently bought one due to the rise in crimes in my area). As I yanked open the door, I realised the car was empty.... but I could've sworn I saw someone clad in black duck behind my seat when I looked into my rear mirror. Somewhat shaken, I clambered back into the driver’s seat and sat there for a few minutes to collect myself.
When I finally reached my house, I headed straight for a shower, past the bedroom. Peeking in, I saw Jules sleeping in the darkness, her phone set next to her. Entering the shower, I slapped on the shower knobs, letting the warm water flood over my eyes, down my chin and feeling the splashes pool at my feet. The only thing on my mind was my work, and to be honest, it had been the only thing on my mind for the past few days. As I considered sending out another message with my team, I suddenly realised the water was going cold. Frustrated by the interruption, I turned off the 'Cold' Tap, but the water stayed cold. Stepping aside from the stream of water, my frustration turned into puzzlement as I proceeded to turn off the water entirely, but when I grabbed metal 'Hot' Tap, a chill hovered straight through my chest. The metal, which was doused in a stream of steaming water moments ago, had turned ice cold within a few seconds of exposure to the cold water. It was then that I felt something watching me. I spun around multiple times and saw absolutely nothing but myself.
Severely freaked out, I dried myself out and snatched a set of clothes closest to me, and checked that our bedroom was empty. Sitting down on my side of the bed, I suddenly realised the coldness had spread straight into our room. As my brain tried to piece together the strange occurrences, my wife's phone rang. She stirred next to me but said nothing. "Hello, this is Mike from Gold-stone Radio Operations, how may -" I was cut short by the caller who was absolutely furious.
"What the hell Mike, why did you leave me behind. How tired do you possibly be to leave me at work with no goddamn way of getting home? I swear...," my blood ran cold as I realised the caller was Jules. Dropping the phone onto the bed, I leaped off the bed, spinning around but there was no need to grab a weapon because the bed was empty. Scrambling for the phone, I was shaking so hard that I was struggling to hold the phone steady. "....hello? Mike?"
"Jules, I'm so sorry but I have no time to explain. I have to call the cops. Someone was in bed and I thought it was you. Uh... there should be fifty bucks in my second or third drawer in my office. Just grab it and take a taxi home or something. I'm so sorry honey, I love you." And without waiting for a reply I disconnected the call. With trembling fingers, I dialled 911.
By the time Jules got home, a patrol car had shown up and two officers had already searched the building twice. She rushed through the front door, into the bedroom, demanding to know what the hell just happened. The officers assured us that the house and the neighbour’s houses were all safe, and that there had been no signs of forced entry. Nonetheless, I knew I was not crazy, so when I insisted on the presence of... something, the officers decided to spend the night outside the house in their patrol car. As restless as we were, Jules and I decided to get as much sleep as we could for work tomorrow.
It must've been about 6am when I woke to a shrill screech. Jules had also woken, looking disorientated and completely confused. As I got up, I brushed Jule's phone onto the ground, and as it clattered loudly on the floor, the sound abruptly stopped. Swooping over to pick up the phone, I cautiously peeked into the empty hallway. With Jules following behind me, I walked into the bathroom to find all the glass shattered or scratched wildly. Something was wrong.
I backed out and bolted into the living room to find every glass object shredded. I dashed outside, ignoring the freezing wind tearing at my bare calves and immediately saw the glass from my neighbours windows shattered. I looked around and spotted the police car parked further down the road. Jogging towards it, I realised there was glass everywhere. It was on the road, on the side paths and in the bushes on the other side of the road. To my dismay the windscreen of the patrol car had disintegrated, the two officers were both slumped over the dashboard. Gently brushing off shards of glass off their backs, I laid them both back in their seats, and instinctively checked for a pulse. If only I had looked at their faces I would've realised they were already dead.
Stepping back, I suddenly saw the blood oozing down their faces. It took me a second to register this but on their faces were letters carved through their skin. They read "Thanks Mike, but we still need more room."
Bio: Bio: I am a 16 year old High School Student from Baulkham Hills High in Sydney, Australia. I've recently picked up writing in my spare time, both as a source of stress relief and a way of simply having fun.