A Distant Voice, Part 4: A Challenge

(Click here for the first part of this story: A Distant Voice: Preface.)

Here at last I was facing my enemy, the man who had taken credit for my aunt’s discovery, a man I knew only from textbooks and TV. He was shorter than I thought, his hair now white and wispy. He didn’t seem malicious. He looked calm and concerned. He offered me a chair, and I refused.

All at once, I felt unsure of myself, a bit lost in front of this fatherly figure. I set my motorcycle helmet on the chair and unzipped my jacket, pulling the folded emails out of an inner pocket. I tossed them onto his desk, and they slid off, falling at his feet. He looked down at them, but made no move to pick them up.

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A Distant Voice, Part 3: A Glimpse

(Click here for the first part of this story: A Distant Voice: Preface.)

A Glimpse

“You have to keep fighting, Auntie Azra,” I said, as I took off my motorcycle helmet, shook out my hair, and plopped myself down in the threadbare armchair. “You can’t let that slimeball, that smegma, keep taking credit. I still see his fucking face everywhere, even after all this time: in our science books at school, on talk shows, in magazines. Christ, there’s even a dessert named after him: the almond siverling! Did you know that? They sell it in a cafe on Telegraph Avenue. Makes me sick. He’s more famous than the 266’s themselves. No one knows what to do with a signal from space that we cannot understand, but they sure know how to make a celebrity out of an asshole.”

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A Distant Voice, Part 2: The Mentor

(Click here for the first part of this story: A Distant Voice: Preface.)

The Mentor

The rest of that evening and all day Sunday, Auntie was irritable, scolding me for the slightest infraction, especially if I made noise. She worked obsessively in her thinking room, only coming out for prayers or to give me another dry granola bar that I could hardly swallow. She wouldn’t let me invite my friend Kenneth over, so I went to his apartment, three stories above us, a much bigger, brighter place with polished hard-wood floors, new furniture, and sunflowers in a vase.

As we were jumping on his bed, I told him that my auntie had called E.T. He didn’t believe me and pushed me off the bed. I wasn’t sure I believed it either, so I didn’t fight back. I stayed as long as his mother would allow, even after Kenneth stopped playing with me. Quietly, I watched him play computer games.

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A Distant Voice, Part 1: Contact

(Click here for the first part of this story: A Distant Voice: Preface.)

The day Auntie Azra realized that she had probably found traces of extraterrestrial communication, I was bored and lonely. No one to play with, no one to talk to.

I was alone, as usual.

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A Distant Voice: Preface

When we made contact, it was not an earth-shattering meeting. It was not an invasion, nor an offer of friendship. It was not even contact. It was a whisper overheard in the darkness.

We were eavesdropping on a conversation that had taken place 90 years before. It would take 90 years before our ecstatic greetings reached Kepler 266f and another 90 years before we could hope for a reply.

Yet that distant voice changed everything.


Image credit: NASA Ames / SETI Institute

Continue reading “A Distant Voice: Preface”