The Old People
Humanity had always been intensely interested in the unknown. We have always sought to explain how the world worked, through mythology, through logic, through science. I guess it’s always been my expectation that one day we’d discover it all, we’d be masters of time and space, be able to explain every minutiae of the Universe through observation and calculation. You see, I work at Unicom labs, one of the most advanced laboratories in the modern world.
I had been born in Ireland, but had immigrated to the United States along with my mother and grandfather when I was young. I grew up on fairy tale and strong Protestant beliefs, so of course, I became an atheist and stringent scientist. My background was physics, graduated top of my class from MIT, and I was assigned to a group working on a new method of communication. Being fresh out of grad school I figured I couldn’t complain much about the position, I mean, sure, it wasn’t ground breaking stuff, but every new discovery brought us one step closer that all-knowing goal. Yep, I thought I had it all figured out, until we picked up the signal.
The method we were attempting to perfect was a type of subspace signal. Using massless particles, not bound by the speed of light, we were attempting to communicate instantaneously with our sister lab on the moon. So far we had been able to send several signals, but detecting and decoding them were giving us some trouble. After several days of writing complex algorithms for decryption and a complete sensor recalibration we believed we had the problem licked. We were about to request a test signal from the lunar base when the instruments began recording an incoming signal.
It wasn’t from the moon, we were sure of that right away, just to be sure we verified that no signal had been sent. The signal originated from the direction of Jupiter and repeated itself every 30 minutes. At first we couldn’t understand it, but then I realized that it was in binary, not really coded, but just a simple message of congratulations. We sent several replies via our new communications system, but the message remained the same for several hours. By the time it changed, I was a wreck. The Pentagon had been notified, we had government agents crawling all over the lab, but, thankfully, not touching anything.
When the message changed, it wasn’t much better. In fact, the second message was even more terrifying than being faced with the fact that the original message had no human origin. By that time every satellite and telescope in the world was scanning the skies searching for the source and no terrestrial organization had any craft, manned or unmanned at the coordinates the message originated from, Europa. Message two read simply, “Stand by for traditional communication.”
Our specialized instruments did not pick up the third signal; rather it was picked up, or more accurately forced, onto every satellite network in the world. My jaw dropped as every TV screen and computer monitor in the lab buzzed to life and showed the same view. Even twelve years of steadfast faithlessness could prevent my lips from saying a silent prayer. The alien that smiled at us, at every nation on Earth, I knew. This was no monster or bug-eyed creature. It was a creature from my past, right out of the bedtime stories grandfather told me as a child. It was one of the Little People.
“Greetings race of man. We have been waiting.”