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art by Alan Bao

Crickets

William Greeley lives in Grand Terrace, California with his brother, who is a tattoo artist, and three cats. When he is not writing, he enjoys acting Shakespeare. He has been acting since 1972, before cell phones or the internet. Back then messages were sent by smoke signal and pony express.
Dr. Arroyo sighs. It's over. NASA has shut down, SETI has folded, the donors have forgotten the cause, the computers are out of date, the telescopes are old and broken. The decades of silence had defeated his mission.
How many billions of dollars had SETI spend over his lifetime, searching the sky for something, anything, some little sign that they're out there? All of Dr. Arroyo's life was spent listening for a sign of extraterrestrial intelligence in the vast universe. His career was looking to the sky and pleading, "Speak to us. Please, just one bleep of signal. We're waiting."
And all his life nothing but the sound of crickets had filled the night air.
He is the last one out of the building. He turns off the lights.
Dr. Arroyo looks at the night sky as he steps from the institute, a lifelong habit, but this will be the last time. "Are you there?" he asks the stars.
Nothing but crickets.
He slouches toward his ancient Toyota Corolla, the only car in the parking lot. When he began working here he had been a young man, full of energy and promise; tonight he feels the age in tired old bones.
Meanwhile, the crickets wonder: when will they answer?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

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