The Encounter - by Genna East and Mike Friedman
The Encounter Challenge
The following story refers to my original hub, "The Encounter ... A Writing Challenge" ...
For decades, alien visitors to our planet have captured the imaginations of readers and film audiences, causing them to reflect on real-world crises and what they reveal about humanity. These stories are often a product of the times in which they were created.
How would you envision an encounter with extraterrestrials visiting earth? Would their intent be peace, discovery and enlightenment, or conquest and annihilation? How would we receive and attempt to interact with them? Did you agree with the late physicist, Stephen Hawking, that the METI project (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) involved in sending signals into space for extra-terrestrials might actually endanger us? The challenge -- should you decide to accept it -- is to write a story about such an alien encounter.
Mike (Mckbirdbks) and I teamed together and have written a fast-paced, six-part story in answer to that challenge. Installments were published weekly, every Sunday.
The music videos accompanying each chapter convey elements of the story. Links to subsequent chapters appear at the end of each installment.
We hope you enjoy the journey.
Introduction (Culled from the original Encounter challenge.)
"The year on earth is 2020. METI has been sending unsolicited messages to other worlds for over two years. Scientists from across the globe are excited about the launch of the powerful James Webb Space Telescope, an enormous leap forward that surpasses NASA's Hubble Telescope in the quest to understand the Universe and the origins of humanity.
Astronomers were also thrilled to discover a super earth located three light years from our solar system. Rather than a lifeless rock or something resembling the fiery gates of hell, Jate 22c is an exo-planet that appears to have a similar terrestrial atmosphere, gravity, water, and earth-like temperatures, albeit with unpredictable, massive shifts.
What is not known is that the mega-civilization of bipedal humanoids inhabiting Jate were facing a crisis of survival. In desperation, the Jatites launched an interstellar craft to seek out potentially habitable planets beyond their own system by following the origins of earth's METI signals.
Their ark-like vessel now orbits earth. The spacecraft is immense in size, measuring over two miles in diameter. The world is in panic mode, with military defense systems across the globe on full alert. Probes have yielded little information. The spacecraft leaves no footprint in terms of its power source or emissions.
All attempts in communicating with the occupants have failed...until now."
"Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.” --- Stanislaw Lem
Every military observation unit across the globe had eyes on the giant spacecraft. The vessel maintained a low orbit opposite the path of the International Space Station in a frightening game of hide n' seek with the six-person crew aboard the satellite. Fear that its occupants were a prying, alien super-race intensified when a needle-like object dropped from the ship's massive underbelly. Although the initial downward spiral was spotted, the composite material of the craft evaded tracking by conventional radar. The pod utilized gravitational algorithms to chart its course. A honeycombed, friction-compression system enabled a soundless landing on the planet below. Several minutes passed before a portal opened, and an alien emerged to take his first steps on earth in a heavily wooded section of the northeastern region of the United States.
Twilight had descended several hours before. Grateful for the cover of darkness, the lone Jatite gulped water from a woodland stream. The taste of the fluid was sweet, causing rivulets of bitter saliva to seep from the corners of his mouth. He continued to drink until a cast of moonlight caught his reflection. The pale image looking up from the rippled surface was human, but alien to him. Staring at the strange figure in the water, he lifted a hand to his face. On the spacecraft, a laser immersion had removed layers of his normally coarse skin and reshaped the flared angles of his nose to his mouth. Eyelids, once hooded and thick, were now slender bands of flesh, setting off a pair of startling, almond-shaped eyes.
Hearing a noise in the brush, his head twitched to the side. Enriched levels of oxygen in the atmosphere had a dizzying effect when he tried to stand. The rustling sounds in the brush grew louder as a rabbit darted through an opening. It skittered across his feet, then retreated back into hiding. Emitting a whistling trill from the back of his throat, the Jatite leaned against a tree to marvel at the unexpected beauty surrounding him. He sniffed the strong smells of the earth. A sudden breeze in the night air caused him to shiver as he drew the bulky, earth-style clothing closer about his arms and chest. Looking up, he watched the stars and thought of home.
Fatigue soon caused the alien to slump into a sitting position beneath the tree. Gradually, night shadows faded into day. The morning sun of mid-summer was warm and generous. He rose to his feet and began to walk uphill. Considered short for his species, the Jatite stood at six feet, four inches tall with a lean and graceful frame. His movements were measured and slow at first. With each new step, he used the fertile air to feed the energy he needed without looking conspicuous. He found his pace and the inclined hike progressed through a striking sunrise.
An hour passed before he spotted the large, L-shaped ranch house he was sent to find atop the Kittatinny Mountain range of northwestern New Jersey. A flagstone patio rimmed the back of the house -- the ideal perch from which one could view the Wallpack Valley nestled below. The mountains of Pennsylvania formed a narrow swath of blue-gray smudge on the horizon bordering the valley on the western side.
The Jatite had barely reached the patio when the owner of the home, Dr. Hannaford Kelly, emerged from the back door. In his mid-sixties, his tough, sun-weathered features set off a generous thatch of graying hair pulled back into a squat ponytail. In his hands, pointed at the Jatite, was a double-barreled shotgun. A Brittany spaniel followed on his heels. Growling, he positioned himself between his master and the trespasser who calmly held up his hand to show that he posed no threat.
"Good morning," he said. " My name is Ezra. Please forgive this intrusion. I am lost."
Kelly lowered the gun to his side as the dog's growl changed quickly to whimpers of greeting. Known as Hank to his friends, the research biologist taught graduate students at Princeton University before retiring that spring. When fate made him a widower the year before, his dog, Noah, became his constant companion. He and his late wife never had any children. He listened intently as the Jatite explained that he had been hiking and lost his direction. His speech was flat-pitched with oddly enunciated words devoid of any accent, slang or abbreviation.
The spaniel darted toward the stranger, his stumpy tail wagging in friendship. The professor studied him for a few moments more and said, "You must be thirsty and tired. Would you like to come into the house for some iced tea? It's fresh made. And I can give you directions on how to return to the main road."
"Iced tea. Yes. Thank you."
When they entered the house, Hank released the latch hinge of the shotgun and placed it on the waist-high counter separating the kitchen from the living room. He then filled a glass with iced, lemon tea from a pitcher.
Ezra sat on the living room couch -- his posture, ironing-board straight. Noah jumped up alongside him to lay his muzzle on his new friend's lap. The Jatite stroked the dog's silky forehead as he gazed through one of the large picture windows. "Your view. It is beautiful, Doctor."
With a side-long glance, the professor nodded in silence and handed him the tea. The alien gave off a faint wince before placing the cold glass on the coffee table.
Hank seated himself on the edge of a chair opposite the couch; his kind and probing eyes grew serious as he leaned toward the stranger. "I must warn you, Ezra. Everything about you is wrong. And you knew who I was before you ever set foot on my property. So tell me...are you traveling alone or have you brought others with you from your space vessel?"
Earth Time Lapse View From the International Space Station (Hans Zimmer - Inception)
The Link to Chapter 2 ...
Written by Genna Eastman and Mike Friedman. All rights reserved.