Aerials – Countdown
surfs sites for information
gets her fix from news
While I mainlined information for my daily fix, Ro had slipped back to her apartment next door. She clunked in, her heeled snow boots with their faux fur lining looking far more fashionable than my ski boot cousins. My stomach growled reminding me of the breakfast I hadn’t eaten. I fished my travel mug out of my jacket relieving the ache that its top stabbing into my pelvis had created. I speed-munched (inhaled) crushed Protein Ohs and sipped my now cool tea.
“I knew we still had it.” Ro laid a brochure on my coffee table and there it was, just as she’d described it, a grainy depiction of what my telescope had caught. Though mine was better quality.
I dropped the ziplock containing my half-eaten breakfast and switched screens to the telescope feed. Sometimes I am such a moron. Zooming in, I found the object wasn’t completely silhouetted. I could make out faint structures and more than that, with the sun as reference, I could make some educated guesses about the size of the thing. Probably the mass too if I could figure out the speed.
While I crunched some numbers and fed some hungry algorithms raw data, Ro scrutinized her contribution to the unfolding mystery. “You know something, there’s a string of numbers on here. I can barely see it, it’s so faint.”
“An IP address you mean? Read it out to me.”
“What’s an IP address?” Ro gave me a blank look and I almost slapped myself. Sometimes I forgot that when Ro was a kid, telephones were a big deal.
“It’s like an internet address for a specific computer or a server made up of numbers and periods.”
I pulled up a blank browser window and waited, fingers poised over the keys as Ro rolled around my explanation and found it to her liking. She nodded after a minute. “So you’re saying we could connect directly to the mothership–assuming my Joe’s theory’s correct?” Her lips quirked up at the ridiculousness of the idea but her logic was sound.
troll the internet for hacks
who controls the ‘net?
“If that ‘advanced’ scouts operation was on the web.” I traced air quotes when I said ‘advanced scout’ and paused.
I’d caught her smile. In another breath we’d be giggling like a pair of school girls if I didn’t pull it together. A deep breath helped push the mirth down but it continued to bubble away. I didn’t believe her late hubby’s story about a lady with a brochure being an advanced scout for an alien race. More likely she’d been canvasing the area for a vacuum cleaner salesman.
“But it’s possible?”
I raised both palms up and shrugged. “This is Westchester. Anything’s possible here. Maybe the mothership has cable.”
We both laughed at that and then sobered. Ro squinted at the line of text through her reading glasses and started rattling off numbers. I typed them into my browser’s address bar and hit enter. A 500 error page filled the screen right on cue. Ro still hadn’t said how old that brochure was. It could predate the internet for all I knew. Those numbers could be a bar code or control number or the pantone color of the sky.
Ro tapped the address bar on my laptop screen. “Colon 8080–you forgot to put that at the end.”
They’re eyes watched the sky where a bright orb flew.
Camera feeds cut out as speculation
grew. Was it an alien ship that blew
past the international space station?
Or did it have a cosmological
explanation? A rogue comet perhaps,
or some reason that’s astrological
in nature? A true phenomenon mayhap,
unless YouTube’s vision lies, or my eyes
deceive me. Lens flaring changes the orb
from an ovoid to a cross shape that flies,
perhaps its a sign that our lives absorb
a mind much vaster still, a Creator
who’s come spying like an aviator.
Or perhaps an alien invasion
closes, sending scouts to survey nations…
The poem jarred me. It described exactly what had just happened–the YouTube video cutting out, the odd shaped vessel–everything thus far. Yet it sat on an archaic website with bilious green 1s and 0s tiled behind the table that held the sonnet and a counter. Except the counter wasn’t tallying hits to the site. It was counting down.
What event did it count down to? Its numbers flipped with no message explaining them. A rather large number remained but as we watched, it dwindled fast.
Ten thousand eighty (10080)
seconds, minutes, days or years
A minute later, it read 10079.45. I blinked; opened up a calculator program and did some math, then stared at the read out. We had one week–10077.10 minutes–to whatever this thing heralded.
Ro met my gaze; her eyes as troubled as my own.
“It must be talking about some other event that took place a decade or so ago. This site’s too old to be recent.”
Ro pointed to the silhouette of a cross on the brochure’s cover. Her brows knitted in thought. “If it’s the end of days, I’m okay with that. I’ve lived my life, but you haven’t even begun to live.”
“Ah I’m thirty-eight not eighteen.” And currently careerless with nothing to show for all my degrees and dedication save a flat bare of husband, children or even a boyfriend. Working nights six days a week was hell on a love life, which explained my lack.
Ro rolled her eyes ceiling wards and got a good look at the ceiling fan which I had neglected to dust. “You’re still young.”
Yeah I guess I was–young, single, jobless and soon to be homeless when my cash reserve ran out. Could I register for unemployment if the government laid me off? Well, I’d find out soon enough. Or maybe not. Maybe that countdown would solve all my problems.
~ ~ ~
To be continued next Friday.
Hooked on Aerials? Check out the previous posts in this sci-fi saga: