Cold Lights

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“What gets me about the Lights is how they are silent,” he said, lying back in the snow and sighing at the beauty overhead.

Above them, as it had done since the dawn of man, the magical aurora borealis danced through the Finnish night skies. Green and white light flowed like chords rippling across a dark, starry night sky and moved as if some great, unseen cosmic conductor was plucking at its strings.

“What I mean is, they are just light, so obviously they are silent,” he continued, each word a puff of mist in the sub-zero air, “But, when you see pictures and videos of the Lights, the colors are so intense that your mind almost gives them sound. But, when you are here in person and lying below them, they are absolutely and completely silent. Not a single sound is made by them. If we closed our eyes right now or looked down at the ground, we would have no–literally!–no idea that such ethereal beauty was happening just above our heads…”

He sighed again and carried on looking.

“I still prefer my theory,” his friend said, chuckling.

“What? Really?” he replied, “But my thoughts are so romantic. Your theory that the Lights are alien communication reaching our planet, well, it’s just not romantic…”

“Man, there are just two dudes out here in the snow,” his friend said laughing, “Romantic is not what I am going for.”

They both giggled, and then they got up and started unpacking the gear they had brought. It was a high-quality smart-camera that would feed full spectrum light–more colors than even the human eye could see!–into a neuro-network. The neuro-network had been trained in all the languages known to man with an aim towards translation of basic linguistic patterns.

“To be fair,” he said, as his quickly-freezing fingers struggled with the small, intricate cords, plugs and buttons, “Your idea has merit. Humans communicate via sound waves, but who is to say that all or, even, any other intelligent lifeforms communicate that way. Why not have an alien species that communicates through light waves? Light moves faster than sound, so it might actually work better. This light-based communication could also get beamed around the cosmos, but our Sun and daylight would destroy it much like cosmic noise can destroy sound signals. So, why not find it in the quiet–or dark–parts of our planet late at night? Why shouldn’t the Northern Lights be an alien light-based radio signal to our planet? Why not?”

“Yeah, man, besides, even on Earth, bees and flowers and other things actually communicate with colour, which is just light,” his friend agreed, launching into his usual pseudo-scientific tirade, “Besides, the cosmos is filled with energy, stars and other sources of light, which an intelligent alien could manipulate or hijack to send light-based communication out there. It would be like us finding a sustainable radio way out in space that we could beam our voices over, only this is light. We know how the Northern Lights are formed but do we know why they make the exact patterns that they make? Why couldn’t it be because some alien is jacking into it and using it as a free, sustainable communication device? Why not?”

The instruments were now set up and they both happily put their gloves back on. It was fine to be exposed to the air for a few minutes, but after these passed, the coldness began to bite.

His friend turned the camera on, and it began streaming the full-spectrum light from the night sky into the neuro-network. He double checked the inputs and noted that everything was working perfectly. The neuro-network being simulated on his laptop was accepting the datastream successfully.

“OK,” his friend noted, nodding, “Now we wait. Did you bring the beers?”

He nodded and grabbed two cans out of a clump of snow. Threw one to his friend, opened the other himself and then sat back down in the snow, staring in awe as the cosmic phenomenon dancing above them.

***

Time passed, and so did a six-pack of beers. Then another six-pack and some snacks.

Far above, the Lights continued dancing and the camera continued feeding its optical data into the neuro-network.

“Man, I think we call it a night?” he said, yawning.

“That’s funny because this Finnish night lasts like six months up here,” his friend chuckled.

“Very funny, dude,” he replied, standing up and stretching, “But you know what I mean. This crazy idea has been fun, but we nee–”

There was a loud ping. It was a notification. It was, in fact, the sound that the neuro-network made when it translated a sentence for you.

He froze and then turned and looked his friend. His friend looked at him, and then they both launched themselves at the laptop hosting the neuro-network.

“Ah, it’s translated something,” his friend said, “It has actually translated something…”

There was silence as they looked at the notification. They both looked at each other again, and then–holding his breath–he slipped his shaking hand out of its glove and pressed ‘enter’ on the laptop to play the notification.

In the silence of deep Finland below the ethereal Northern Lights, a synthetic voice began to speak on the laptop:

“THIS IS THE OFFICIAL GALACTIC NOTICE 427(B) INFORMING SENTIENT BIOLOGICAL ENTITIES OF PLANET 9/52CP/8105 OF THE IMPENDING DEMOLITION PROCEDURES FOR EXTENSION OF THE STARWAY M52 THROUGH THEIR SPACE-TIME. PER THE ‘COSMIC EXPROPRIATION ACT’, THIS GALACTIC NOTICE 427(B) IS SERVED WITH SUFFICIENT TIME FOR EVOLUTION AND EVACUATION TO OCCUR AT A SPECIES-LEVEL. PER THE ‘INDEPENDENT INDIGENOUS RELATIONS ACT’, NO OUTSIDE INFLUENCE SHALL TAMPER WITH THE PLANET AND ITS SPECIES DURING THIS TIME PERIOD. THE GALACTIC GOVERNMENT AND ITS AGENTS WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGES INCURRED BY NOT HEADING SAID NOTICE.”

Far above the two paling, frozen men, the aurora borealis swirled through the dark, night sky. Its green and white lights no longer magical, but implying a colder, more bureaucratic apocalypse than anyone had ever imagined possible.

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