~ a short story
Many say “The Fermi Paradox” terrifies them.
The thought of species evolving outside of us, before us. Likely after us. They are out there and we cannot see them. They hate us and ignore us, or they hit a filter that shook them out of existence.
Consider the effect that has on the collective psyche.
The concept of our interstellar shunning means we are a corrupted species. Worse, life is so destructive that it always eventually expels itself from existence. And we are next. Even this moment we await our end, and with it another set of brakes applied to the Universe’s conscious processing.
The truth is that the void was a comfort.
That deafening silence protects us. Something far worse than outer life advanced beyond us in far space, or under us in extinction, awaited us. It was only a matter of time before we peeked and pried for too long.
All it took for us to realize it was to pursue ourselves down the wormhole. Unlike Alice, we made our own rabbit hole. Pushed ourselves to inhabit a future not fit for us. Sacrificed a ton to get there, just about as much as we had to give. And we did, bled ourselves to build the tech we knew we could build.
Blueprinted from scattered etchings in ancient stone returned by restorative technologies to fill out a message from the deep, we found ourselves on the brink of changing our society forever. With success, time and space would become so much less relevant to our continued ordeal of existence. Space colonies would be just the beginning.
Teleportation would change logistics and infrastructure and commerce forever. Transmutation could alter our unsustainable materials into sustainable ones. Transformation, on a cellular level, meant that we may not have to die anymore. Big stuff we yearned for.
Bigger, nastier stuff is what we got.
If only any of these technologies ever came to fruition. If only we understood just what it was that we were doing. If only we could know what kind of cost advancing ourselves past our limits would hold.
If only. If only we knew in advance.
It wasn’t the stars that we should’ve been fearing. It was between the stars where real horror lay.
The first question they asked was why?
“Why would an ancient alien species want to help us?”
“What’s in it for them?”
“Who were they?”
“What are we building?”
“Where will it go?”
Relevant questions. Ones we should’ve pursued further, to their possible answers. Some of those certainly would have halted us. Others would have had us reversing course in a flash.
I resigned from my research work and professorship when I heard about the discovery. Soon as I knew my skillset would be of use, I took the first flight out. I wanted to be a part of history. To be able to decipher the words of an alien. A true alien. I helped the team for a spell with the underlying linguistic ecosystem.
Archeologists found a gate. Broken but high-tech. Buried under the pyramids in a sturdy bunker. Tool remains unlike anything we’d ever seen. Computers, long dead but well-designed. They were buried there far before any sapiens hit the ground running. An extant alien species, right underneath our history all along.
Scientists gathered to study their remains. The most promising materials lay on their parchment, not in their iron. Their machines were connected to their bodies through coffins. Spoken language and coding language were one in the same, unimaginably so. The words came like music, even yet untranslated.
We nicknamed them “The Bard” for their seemingly collective connection to music. The Borg from Star Trek carried themselves through space like a plague, a hive mind of malevolence. But almost instantly we were disabused of the notion of any foul play from our old friends living in Earth’s basement. The Bard left us so much to help us.
On their most hallowed, well-secured pages they wrote out formulas. Numbers and calculations as instructions. With them under scrutiny from the best minds in the world, we’d be able to build supersonic devices, quantum computers, gates. Gates just like the one we’d found them circled around in that fateful deep-frakking job. Gates just like they built their final tomb around.
We should have known right then. It was in how they laid their remains as eternally prostrate before that mishappen steel circle. The thing held religious significance for them. We couldn’t have known that the gates weren’t just teleporting them through their colonies. Eventually, the device was for bringing their Gods to this reality.
I still remember that morning like it was yesterday. Who knows how many years it has been now? My mind will never return enough to solve that question. Certainly, no one then wrote anything down. No, they were too busy dying.
We opened that completed gate in the morning so that we’d have the whole ‘day’ to work through any complications. What a silly notion, to think we’d ever have a single day more.
Our industrialists did not keep hold of a single day in the decade leading up to the completion of that first gate. Far past a war economy, in the months after our discovery — we moved into an interstellar economy. All resources were shoved into research and development. The extractive models worked overtime, feeding off debts paid in the blood of the lesser-than populations.
We juiced the pipes of our social organism in order to wring out the future. The ancient Bard left us a path we could realize. And so we would, no matter the cost.
The promises of infinite energy, a perfected economy, free modular devices for everyone that could heal and entertain. After we crossed this horizon, for a limited period of sacrificial bloodletting to underclass and environment alike, we’d have no more need for any of the toxins, any of the exploitation.
Resources would become free and everyone would do poetry. Everyone could live in luxury, forever.
That is what they promised. This is what I hoped for.
As the gate ignited on global TV live, I sat with my trio of grandchildren. I had practically ordered them from my heirs, to give my bloodline a chance to see an extaterrestrial future. That’s what I wanted, even as people were dying to realize its fruition in the grinding gears of the interstellar economy. In my selfishness and pride at having worked on the thing, I longed for its success even as it unleashed horrors upon the least of us.
I watched on TV as the gate began to crumble in hellfire. My grandchildren, alongside so many other grandchildren, saw the chaos emerge in real-time. Their young minds were shattered in an instant, a grace unto the coming terrors. They’d be unlike any Man had ever seen, ones reserved for old wolves like me.
We will never know why those ancient, subterranean aliens, those ancient Men from another time and space, loved and feared The-Things-That-Came-From-Between-The-Stars like Gods. Or, the kaos, as we survivors have to come to name them.
We soon understood what a profound mistake we’d made. By powering the gate’s quantum technology, we’d ripped our own wormhole into existence. Not interstellar. Interdimensional.
And the things that crawled from out of hyperspace came to devour Time. ~