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The Message

G. O. Clark's writing has been published in Asimov's Science Fiction, Analog, Strange Horizons, Space & Time, Retro Spec: Tales of Fantasy and Nostalgia, A Sea Of Alone: Poems For Alfred Hitchcock, Tales Of The Talisman, and many other publications. He's the author of eleven poetry collections, the most recent, Gravediggers' Dance, Dark Renaissance Books, 2014. His fiction collection, The Saucer Under My Bed & Other Stories, was published by Sam's Dot Publishing in 2011. He won the Asimov's Readers Award for poetry in 2001, and has been a repeat Rhysling and Stoker Award nominee. He's retired, and lives in Davis, CA. See goclarkpoet.weebly.com for more info.
The message arrived on July 4, 2051. It came from deep space, thirty light years distant, picked up by radio telescopes around the world. It wasn't the first message Earth had received confirming the fact of alien life out there, but it was different, not the usual set of random numbers. This new alien message was crystal clear, and it blatantly stated in plain English, "We are coming to annihilate you." The "you" of course being the human race. Earth had a cosmic bulls eye painted on it, and bloodthirsty alien monsters had us within their sites.
It was assumed they were more technologically advanced than us, which meant bigger and better weapons, and presumably faster than light drive to freely roam the galaxy. The message was precise; total annihilation, no prisoners, no why or wherefore. No details on how they intended to do so, or even a date to mark on our calendars for the end of the world. The message lasted five days, then went silent.
After being kept under wraps while our government tried to come up with a defense plan, the message was leaked to the media, and the predictable happened. Mass rioting, looting, suicide, all the usual responses to news of the end of the world until countries around the globe reigned in the madness through martial law, and selective genocide. Things finally more or less stabilized when the rest of the world banded together to face the alien threat, those countries with the most advanced technology and military might in the lead.
Worldwide missile defenses were beefed up. The space stations were turned into armed fortresses in space, and our Moon and Mars colonies were outfitted with nuclear warheads and laser cannons. Humankind armed itself to the teeth, and waited. Observatories, radio telescopes, and amateur astronomers all trained their ears and eyes on the night sky, and waited. The big question on everyone's mind, when would the alien monsters finally appear. And mankind waited.
And waited. And waited. And waited for fifty-five years with no sign of invading aliens. No repeat of the original message, no bright lights in the sky. So the people of Earth became blasť about the whole alien invasion thing. The older, more conservative generation died off, and the younger generation wasn't interested in old history, the world of 2101 providing them with more amazing toys and distractions then any generation come before.
The powers that be stayed vigilant, but funding from the various governments got cut over the years, the threat taken less seriously by those holding the purse strings. Domestic ills and third world instability once again demanded increased fiscal attention. The missiles, etc. were still in place, but getting old, and some feared not all that reliable. A fair number still watched and waited, but most of the world slipped back into its comfortable routines and random bouts of chaos.
Then on July 4, 2102, the alien message suddenly blared forth again, and the radio telescopes around the world pinpointed its origin to be within near Earth orbit. Once again the headlines screamed, "We are coming to annihilate you," and once again everyone took notice, old and young alike. Churches, synagogues, and mosques filled up. Experts proliferated. Humanity waited.
The message was quite clear, yet still no physical signs of the alien invaders. No blips on the radar. No telescopic images of alien space ships. No strange lights in the sky. No alien monsters similar to those inhabiting the overtaxed imaginations of a very weary yet anxious public. The people of Earth were sick and tired of waiting.
The alien invaders were seasoned fighters, and their mission was clear. Annihilation of the planet's population at any cost, and to the victor the spoils. The command was given, the massive dark ships descended, touched down upon the Earth, and the mighty three-legged warriors rushed forward to do battle with the natives of another primitive world.
Ground troops engaged the tank-like creatures lethargically roaming about the bizarre landscape. Amphibious troops took on the nightmarish, but slowwitted water dwellers. In the end, the Earthlings proved no match for their superior fighting prowess, and the annihilation of the planet's inhabitants was over within a few day's time. Easy pickings, though the spoils proved nil. Another world conquered. Now off to the next one.
And humankind waited. And waited. And waited, unaware of the microscopic battle raging all about them. Of all the dust mites and copepods dying by the billions, the tiny alien force indiscriminately slaughtering everything in its path.
A year later, most people had once again put the message out of their minds, and slipped back into their pre-invasion routines. Some concluded the invasion had been nothing more than an elaborate hoax. Diehard conspiracy theorists reasserted their fears about a secretive government cabal and its agenda. The religious minded thanked God. As for the rest, they just continued to wait as before--fool me twice, but never fool me thrice.
Nobody saw the correlation between the alien invasion, and the increasingly clear airways of millions of allergy sufferers worldwide. The indisputable fact that cases of asthma had dramatically decreased overnight. Eventually some microbiologists trained their microscopes on portions of the sterile battlefield left behind after the invasion, looking for answers to the asthma question, but the aliens were long gone. The only evidence of their existence the recordings of their message, "We are coming to annihilate you," which proved just the opposite in the end.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

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