Sunday, March 12, 2006

sweet time

The box of leftover pizza positively dominates the inside of my refrigerator and my thoughts. A vibrantly printed box, growing a little soft on the bottom as it saps moisture from its previously delicious contents. Supreme Meat: salami, pepperoni, ground beef, Italian sausage, and bacon amidst layers upon layers of gooey cheddar cheese on a soft bed of dough slathered in pizza sauce. That was last night. Today, the box contains little more than basic sustenance, a congealing agglomeration of proteins, micro-nutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids; a few wedges of petrified cholesterol stuck to the bottom of a ratty cardboard box. Lunch. Something to get me through this day.

This day, a day, a very normal day for normal people. A few hours ago, the sun rose as it should and most of the citizens of this city woke up, stretched, yawned, and some of them kissed their loved ones good morning. Indeed, cats, dogs, and children were fed. Televisions were switched on and newspapers, read. There was no real cause for alarm. The usual murders and home invasions were reported in the usual neighbourhoods, and everyone tsk tsked and said, "well, at least it's not my neighbourhood." Corporations were still corrupt and politicians were still crooks; government continued to be big business. Everyone glanced at the international headlines and skimmed the articles they found vaguely interesting before settling into the comfort of the sports or entertainment sections. Clocks ticked. Cars were started. Commutes were made and work was performed.

But for those in my field, this is not just a day - this is a very special day. Around a month ago, my colleagues and I switched off our televisions and put down the newspapers because they could tell us nothing that was really important. We began to spend more time with our friends and families, and regretted, a little, that we could not fill them in on the impending situation. We spent more time doing the things we loved, and regretted, a little, that we had only a finite time to enjoy them - an amount of time that we were very familiar with. It was a countdown of sorts. A countdown that was not filled with dread, as our dread had run out long ago. A countdown that was not filled with hope, as we had never had any to begin with. No, this countdown was one filled with little more than sadness, for that was all that was left after all this time. This is a day we - those in my field - have been expecting for nearly seven thousand years. A day which has now come.

They initiated the attack against us all that time ago by launching a fleet of warships towards our home system. Initial transmissions, picked up some six thousand years ago, indicated little more than the vague intent of general hostility, and our continued efforts to contact the fleet have been met with silence. Intelligence confirmed that at least one squadron of four scout ships arrived in the skies over our planet two hundred, fifty-seven years ago. A sighting was made, but an attempt to engage the ships was unsuccessful to say the very least. Forty-four years ago, we sent up a reconnaissance ship, Mediator II, with the intent of intercepting the fleet, gathering information, and potentially making contact. Twenty-three years after launch, our ship arrived and was able to send back stunning images of the alien fleet. Several millennia worth of fears were confirmed, as many weapons were clearly identifiable in the photos. After only six minutes, fifty-one seconds amongst the fleet, all contact with Mediator II was lost.

So, it's like this that I find myself on this day: waiting, but hardly waiting. Day-old pizza bakes in the oven, the rich aroma of garlic filling my house. The sun has been let in, and my cat is stretched out in a warm patch on the hardwood floor. An alien fleet of warships is a mere ninety thousand kilometres away, hungry for our annihilation. Waiting, but hardly waiting. A book lies open in my lap, and my greatest concern at the moment is that I make it to the end. Would I be a wiser man to dread the unstoppable, to fear the unavoidable? Maybe. But after seven thousand years, many layers of emotion have been stripped away until all that is left is sadness. Sadness at our slow rate of maturation. Sadness at our lack of apperception. Sadness at our inability, our refusal, to communicate. With one another.

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