Statement salvaged from abandoned capsule near Eris
I normally wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night, especially since I could sleep through most of my alarms. However, I knew something was wrong when I felt the heat of the light toasting my eyelids. When I came to, the first thing I remembered feeling was my stomach turning. I felt like I was sleeping on the ceiling while my body was planted on solid ground. The second thing I remembered was seeing the green light flooding my room. I could tell the source came from outside and was moving. And yet it was as if the light itself was leaking into the room, contorting itself into a myriad of shapes, glowing in corners where not even sunlight goes. It beckoned me to follow it, to spring out of my bed. I knew then my time in this capsule on this moon had come to an end.
My legs felt itchy as the heat and sweat climbed the length of my body, starting from my toes. I felt wobbly as the ground felt heavier than before and stepping on the floor sent chills up my spine, even though it was most definitely burning. Somehow, at some point in the night, the cabin caught fire. All my research notes, all my clothes, my plants, all ashes. I could tell the fire extinguishing system had gone off, but the fire was too hot to be contained completely. However, instead of sulfur, the air had a smell similar to ground pepper and rubber. The bed sheet was smouldering and yet I was unscathed. I looked down at my feet and saw they were hovering ever so slightly off the floor as if that green light came right in between my foot and the hot metal floor of the capsule-like a protective layer. When I looked up, I saw the humanoid shape in the vapours; the shape the being presents itself as in order to appear familiar. Its true form is unknowable.
I didn’t feel scared. I had seen that shape before. A few weeks ago, I had lost communications with my mission captain, and all attempts at communicating with Earth were futile at this distance. We had reached too deep into space to get a reasonable response. I felt panicked for several days, sending multiple signals out hoping for a reply. Eventually, I accepted I might die here. Then I saw it. At first, I thought I was simply hallucinating, especially since what I saw wasn’t solid. But when my communications device began chirping a high-pitched bleep at regular intervals, I knew it was out there, trying to speak to me. I was not the first human to ever speak with an extra-terrestrial being. That honour goes to the team at CETI. However, I might be the first to have made actual physical contact.
The chirps had come through every hour, for exactly five minutes, twenty-one seconds, and thirty-two milliseconds. It took me a while to figure out what method to use to decipher the message, but eventually I settled on a triangle grid pattern with the modified Steinberg-Garth code sheet, the “newest” standard for message decoding. I was able to transpose the chirps into the grid, and with the help of the recorded length of time, matched them with their corresponding words. Communication was limited to three mood words formed in triangular patterns. I received word combinations such as HESITATION-FEAR-RELUCTANCE and FRIENDLY-ANXIETY-HELPFUL. It took me some time to figure out how to respond. I had some experience with this system, but never thought I’d have to actually use it. It had also been years since the last official communication with the beings and we never fully understood each other. We believed they had simply disappeared, but this encounter proved otherwise. Why did they return? And why speak to me?
I wasn’t sure if it could receive a message back, but I tried using the same communicator with this combination: UNDERSTANDING-FRIENDLY-ANXIOUS. These words were chosen carefully as any wrong word could be interpreted as an open to attack. However, I was confident that my choices would be well received, if they were delivered at all. You had to send a stamp pattern for the moods. Unlike human language, the moods were received all at once and interpreted as such. An algorithm was created for exactly this work.
Despite the fact that they are sent and received as triangular stamps, the positioning of the moods still mattered when read. Placing a word first would be considered the response to the last word sent, the middle word would be your current mood, and the last word would be the “mood question” or “mood expectation”. In the event that you are opening the conversation, like the messages I had received, the first word acted as a mood anchor, meaning it informed the complexity of the other moods.
Initially, it was hard to establish communications since humanity was stuck asking questions with nouns. The beings didn’t have a concept for nouns, adjectives, numbers or any of the usual staples of human communications, only moods and pure experience. And since pure experience was hard to translate, we could only communicate in moods, and those took years to figure out. As much as we tried asking directly if we could meet them face to face, it was hard to formulate that question using only moods. So, when it came to my message, I was solely relying on the years of incomplete research we have come up with. I sent it out, and I waited.
The next time I heard the chirps come through, the message only lasted one minute, forty-two seconds and eleven milliseconds. I redrew the code grid using the time given and received this message: UNDERSTANDING-LONELY-WARM.
I looked out the window of the capsule and saw a shimmering green light phase into the rocky cliff. Even with the light of the sun, the moon’s surface was still dark. This small celestial body orbits within the Kuiper belt. Every time I looked outside my window, I felt the weight of being alone. Which is why I was confused by the placement of the words in the message. Did the being actually mean to say that it was “lonely” and that I was “warm”? I knew I had to respond carefully. I assumed their message wasn’t an error and replied with: CONFUSED-LONELY-WARM.
I kept staring out of the window hoping to catch another glimpse of the being, but saw only rock and space. When the hour came up, there was no message. My stomach panged in grief as I spiraled back into hopelessness. I did not realize how much communicating with the being had lifted my spirits after my alleged abandonment. I spent days in darkness, wondering if I should go on.
The day before the fire, I received a new message, this one lasting two minutes, three seconds and forty-three milliseconds. I redrew the grid. WORRIED-SYMPATHETIC-CALM. This time, the green light did not move when I saw it outside. Excited, I tried waving at it, but I don’t believe it understood the gesture. I became calm that night. It felt as if it was watching over me, protecting me. At some point, I forgot it was even there and went to sleep. I began to have vivid dreams where I began to feel what I could only describe a pure experience. I now know the being began to slowly expose me to the concept by allowing me to relive one of its calmest memories. The day I discovered I was sentient. The sudden plop into existence, coming to be, fully formed, ready to start being. It was simple, but I felt it as if it was my own experience. Maybe, in some way, it was; an awakening.
When the capsule caught fire, the being shielded me from the explosion. It kept some air for me in order to breathe. It guided me to my enviro-suit which it had protected. I suited up. Once I was safe, it unplugged itself from the holes in the capsule and the air dissipated, instantly killing the flames within. I felt the green glow inside my suit, and held my stomach from purging. It would take some time to adjust to the feeling queasiness when being held by it. I felt a growing headache crescendo as I kept breathing in the pepper and rubber smell. Then, just like the pressure popping in the ears of a scuba diver equalizing on their way back to the surface, the headache burst and my mind fell into place. It took a while to recognize the fact that the moods I was feeling were not my own, but communicated to me by it. My mind adjusted and soon I felt more feelings than the human mind could name. It was overwhelming; I was drowning in feelings. Polar opposite feelings uploaded into my mind simultaneously, causing me to feel both loved and unloved, fear and safety, darkness and happiness all at once. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to plea for the being to slow down and let me breathe. Tears ran down my face as I gasped for air before fainting outside of the burned capsule.
When I awoke, my body felt as if it was floating. I could hear the being speak to me calmly, explaining why it had chosen to save me. It knew my capsule would fail. It intercepted a signal meant to self-destruct my capsule with me in it. I was expendable, according to my captain who had already left the moon several weeks ago. I felt betrayed.
What I didn’t expect was the being to feel my emotions in return. It understood my betrayal, not from its point of view, but from mine. It soon after felt joy from my confusion, which I in turn had also felt. Soon I began to forgive the captain. I understood his mind to be too primitive with its logical and literal thinking. I began to feel the truth as it is in the universe. I could even understand why mathematical numbers and equations are too restrictive and also completely inaccurate. The real numbers are too strange to understand. I never thought I could understand infinity, but once you understand pure experience, infinity becomes an exhilarating experience.
However, my new way of thinking came at a cost. I slowly began losing the ability to process the concepts of self-identity. I began melding with the being, and my mind soon converted to thinking like it. Writing this down has taken me much more effort than I would like to admit, but I hope whoever comes across this message will be able to decipher it and know my story. Otherwise, here in this hard drive my personal account will stay until future explorers will excavate my capsule and the computer spared from the fire.
I would like to tell you my name, my age, or my past, but these are concepts of the self that have since slipped away from my mind, and I could not even tell you if I was a man or woman, even while looking at this body in the mirror. All I know is that soon I will become a being of pure experience just like the green light that guided me in this darkness. Soon, my body will be abandoned near the capsule and I will pass on, becoming a being of light itself. I will become a translator between human and the beings and bring about better understanding between both species. I will retain my ability to think with nouns and convert the ideas of pure experience into something humanity can understand. And one day, I will come back home.
About the author
He / Him
LGBTQ writer with ADHD
A fan of Queer stories, cosmic horror, science-fiction, and contemporary literature.
Also a fan of non-fiction, history, science, biographies, and wellness.