First contact

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Copyright Douglas MacIlroy

In the gloom, the instruments ticked and flickered, following the founders’ instructions. Kahlia wondered at their ingenuity, recalling childhood lessons about First Contact, achieved here, in this facility, lifetimes ago.

Now, her world lay buried beneath ever-deepening ice, and her people, perishing in underground shelters, relied on her dutiful attentiveness to her nightly task. Confidently, she approached an ancient artefact, battered but intact, and reverently, gently, rotated its small golden disc.

Its voices and harmonies exploded into life and boomed out into the silence. Kahlia added her prayer, begging for rescue.

The Voyagers had found them once. They would hear her call and return.

*****

This story is for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. To read  more about the golden disc, click on the photo of Voyager 1 below.

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This week, the region where I live has been pounded by a huge storm, tragically resulting in four deaths and much property damage. Trees are down, roads have been cut and traffic lights out of service.

We’ve been without power for three days now. The freezer has defrosted, the hot water gave out this afternoon, my laptop battery is flat. I’m grateful that the temperature has been cool and my house is dry and safe.

Perhaps this has coloured my response to this week’s beautiful picture. How different life seems when our support systems are interrupted.

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35 thoughts on “First contact

  1. I’m short on time for links today, sorry, but the world you created in this story was vivid and stark, especially with the picture to go along with it. There felt like a lot of exposition, but it’s hard to avoid this when creating a world, and you still left me with a sense of the character too, so well done.

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    • You picked up on the issue I struggled with while writing this. I had so much I wanted to include, but of course, that’s the challenge – to get the balance between background information, atmosphere, storyline and character. My last week’s story I felt was a dud because it was too obscure; so I was determined not to make that mistake this time. I really appreciate your helpful feedback, and I’ve made a couple of little changes to the story, hopefully to liven up the pace a little. Thank you so much.

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  2. This does conjure up an image of a bleak and dying civilization. I think there is a bigger story in there. Sorry to hear that your part has taken a battering from the storm, I hope things get better soon.

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    • Thank you for that. I struggled to select the key ideas in this to keep it short. I’ve certainly got more I wanted to say to develop it, so maybe … Thanks also for your good wishes. Our neighbourhood is quite a mess, but not as bad as some, thankfully. We now have power, and what a difference that makes.

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    • Hope is what I was aiming to show, but also a tragedy: the futility of their hope – no-one is coming to rescue them. Thank you for your comment and wishes. The worst is over and we really haven’t suffered compared to some.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love a story that takes you on a journey.
    I’m wondering if Kahlia is ‘wondering’ in many senses about the founders’ instructions.

    This is very Ursula le Guin – people are forever full of doubt and confusion as to their true purpose in her stories – her magic is never simple!

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    • I’m thrilled that you draw a parallel with Ursula le Guin. She’s been one of my favourite authors for so long. Her novel ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ was the book that got me hooked into science fiction. I don’t love all of it, but I do love Le Guin. I agree with you about her characters – she’s a master of characterisation. Thank you for your feedback. I’m smiling.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is wonderful, I’d love to read more. There is so much already in these few words: an intriguing character, a dying civilization, aliens who seem benevolent… so well done, great story.

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  5. I love the world you have created in this piece, Margaret. It’s stark and barren, with people begging to be rescued. Kahlia’s role in this is well portrayed as she works tirelessly in the hope of making contact with the Voyagers. Well written.

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    • Thank you, Millie. I wanted to show the bleakness of the place, and Kahlia’s hope and determination as a contrast. I’m glad it worked for you. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the idea of a civilisation treating technology like an ancient ritual, not knowing what it does but going through the motions. I hope they are found and saved!

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    • That’s exactly what I wanted to convey. I’m so glad you saw it. I like this idea, too. Have you read Russell Hoban’s ‘Riddley Walker’? It’s a fascinating novel about a post-nuclear holocaust Earth, where a similar situation exists. He does marvellous things with the language his characters speak. Unfortunately, I don’t think my characters’ world is going to be saved. Their only hope is us, unfortunately. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. Some people believe in the miracle of prayer. Her’s is such an important prayer…I hope they are rescued.

    What a horrible week for your area, Margaret 😦 Thank goodness your power is back and you are okay.

    Ellespeth

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    • They’ll need a miracle indeed. Unfortunately it’s not going to come from the source they’re addressing their prayers to. We have had a horrible week, but the clean-up is underway all over the place, and I’m grateful all we had was a few days of inconvenience. News of the dreadful earthquake in Nepal has put even the storm damage in my wider area into perspective. What a fragile home world we have.

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    • Thank you, Patrick. I was imagining a far distant world in a far distant future for my story. How long might a Voyager spacecraft endure if protected and maintained? Our house is now fully functional again, with no ill-effects.

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  8. A wonderfully tragic story Margaret and yet the human heart never gives up its hope. I hope your character is rescued and I hope your current troubles quickly fade into the background. I will pray for your region.

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    • Kahlia is definitely determined to hold out for the sake of her people. Kahlia’s hope is sadly misplaced, however – I don’t see rescue in her future. Thank you, Joseph, for your comment, and for your consideration of my home situation. The storms are over, the damage is being repaired, and most people have power, although there are still several hundred homes which, apparently, won’t be connected until early next week.

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