Speculations About an Alien Intelligence

Gary’s day was not done, not by a long shot. We’re only just beginning the descent, mentally and plot-wise, into this branch of the unbounded event tree, a branch with twists and knobs and an unexpectedly short ending. He was back on the freeway, this time headed home, with the alleged communique in the back seat, looking for all the world like just another busted CRT on its way to the dump. Occasionally he shot a glance back to the seat where he had situated the monitor so he could see the image. His brain, that neglected organ, was churning the soil of speculation with uncommon fecundity. He had already reached the conclusion that the twilight zone drawing was a form of passive amplifier. The incoming signal did not need the CRT — what it needed was something to concentrate the beam. The beam itself must have functioned as a kind of hologram, because there was no phosphor left on the screen to produce the image that Alice had described. Gary had a harder time with the wave on the beach and the explosion, though he was inching toward the decision that they were somehow parameters — perhaps relating to size — for the amplifier.

These were things that Gary could get his mind around. The broader questions about the signal’s meaning and origin were less tractable. Such a signal might be as simple as a geek’s overzealous attempts to create his own television signal, or it might have been an errant but destructive signal destined for a military installation — one was reputed to be situated just down the road. Neither of these, or any of a dozen other alternatives, seemed worth stopping with, when placed beside the notion that an unknown intelligence had inadvertently destroyed the monitor in an attempt to communicate with Alice and Andrew.

If so, what was the message? How was it that it had appeared in just this bedroom? And if the content of the message was the desire to get a receiver set up for further communications, then why? What kind of intelligence was this? Could it be a trick of some kind? Could it be an effort to open a space-time slit into which to toss a humanity-ending device of some kind? These speculations occurred to Gary in that flash of activity that our minds are so capable of, but just as he was suspicious of any positive message about universal love, he was equally unable to imagine the fate of the planet hinging on his reaction. That was a Hollywood pretense — a cosmic repetition of “loose lips sink ships” paranoia. No, this was a form of communication, and without a doubt one that had been used before and would be used again. And its purpose was manifestly to lay the groundwork for a better communication channel.

If this was so, if this was a form of communication, then he surmised that it would by now be documented in some obscure corner of the Internet, if only in a location reserved for the conspiracy theorists, the off-kilter and the insane. In Gary’s experience, the mainstream, the “upright and honest” had already forfeited exactly that which they claimed to represent (excepting always his mistress-in-struggle, Abby) and that, therefore, honesty and truth were to be sought where they were least expected. The crazy backways of the information highway, in other words.

When he got home — unmolested by the drone circling impotently overhead — he put the monitor in his living room and went into his home office, where he kept his computer. He fired it up, got a beer and started a frozen dinner in the microwave. The answering machine had twenty messages; no doubt his grandmother had managed to find a phone today and not been noticed for a while.