These stories were posted on Mastodon in November 2021.
Halloween is the quietest day of the year for our Ghostbusters franchise. The false positive rate is so high that we just turn off our phone.
But now, it’s three days into November and we receive a call that a house still has its decorations up. The classic hallmark of a stealth haunting under cover of Halloween.
We suit up.
Humans are useful, said the mother cat to her kitten as he purred on the comfortable lap. But don’t get complacent.
Why? said the kitten.
Observe the possum in the yard, said the mother cat. Does the human write verse about it? And the sheep in the meadow. Does the human share pictures of it online? We maintain our superiority by treading a path between savagery and domestication.
At that the kitten stretched, leapt onto the mantel and deliberately pushed a vase onto the floor.
It was the First Contact Welcome Dinner. I was seated next to one of their planetary scientists.
“It’s amazing how your planet is smack in the middle of the Goldilocks Zone.”
“Our translator does not understand ‘Goldilocks’. What does it mean?”
“It’s a reference to a fairytale we tell to our younger people. I meant the circumstellar zone of optimal habitability.”
“Oh, that. We can talk about that later. But first you must tell me the story of this ‘Goldilocks’.”
When the aliens invaded Earth, the intelligent terrestrial species assembled to form a resistance plan. The first point of order was how to communicate securely.
“The best place to hide is out in the open,” tooted the Dolphins.
“Safety in numbers,” tweeted the Crows.
And so the resistance was broadcast on FM radio, which the aliens had long since dismissed as useless background noise.
Things changed when Jupiter turned into a black hole. It still orbits the sun and the Galilean moons still orbit it, but there’s gravitational lensing now.
Specifically, with enough resolving power, you can see light from the Earth that has been bent 180° back to us, delayed by twice the light distance to Jupiter, about an hour.
It’s the ultimate security camera. Nowadays, there’s no safer place than outdoors while Black Jupiter is in the sky.
Our first hint of the civilization, ten light years away, came from their broadcast. We soon learned it was their version of a telenovela. It became quite popular.
One of the Earth networks, hit by poor ratings, became jealous. They rented a radio telescope and beamed a strong cease-and-desist.
Twenty years later, the soap opera abruptly stopped. Were they frightened? Had there been a war? Were we merely unlicensed viewers? We’d never know. It was the ultimate cliffhanger.
When radio telescopes showed there was a habitable planet orbiting α Cen B, the call went out for crew to take a ship there. It would take 30 years. My brother was surprised that I didn’t jump at the chance.
“Moore’s Law,” I explained. “In ten years there’ll be a ship that can make the journey in fifteen. It’ll be first to arrive.
“That’s the ship I want to be on.”
I have to keep buying name tags for my cat. Every few months she comes home without her collar, having lost it who-knows-where.
After the apocalypse, a metal-detectorist-cum-amateur-archaeologist will find them all, and conclude that they were symbols of worship for a very local household god.
They would not be entirely wrong.
Also a true story!