Saturday, May 05, 2007

Paradise Lost

On an insignificant part of an insignificant planet in an insignificant part of an insignificant galaxy something remarkable was happening. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the insignificant planet nobody saw it, or if they did they weren't paying attention. In hindsight this was generally regarded as a shame because if they noticed it would have had a dramatic effect on populace's understanding of the universe. For a very brief period of time on an overcast Tuesday evening the pattern of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights spelled the words "Is there anybody out there?" This was swiftly followed by a series of co-ordinates before swirling into yet another pattern.

Life marched onwards in blissful ignorance. Paris Hilton went to jail and made millions on the movie adaptation of the best-selling autobiography. A small boy in Oregon set a small frog on fire using lighter fluid, a move that enraged the frog community and caused a breakdown in human-frog relations for nearly one hundred years and two people were involved in car accidents that could have been avoided entirely if they had slept in just that extra five minutes in the morning.

For the people Beria IV (as it was known only to astronomers on Planet Earth) the search continued. For seven hundred and sixty four years, two months, four days and nineteen hours (by Earth reckoning) they had broadcast a message and the co-ordinates of their planet out in every direction. Using series' of high-energy particle emitters they bombarded the atmospheres of every planet in range in the hope of finding alien life. Using communication patterns honed over hundreds of years they were able to broadcast signals that constantly changed and shifted pattern so that regardless of the symbols of language used by the inhabitants of the receiving planet they would at some stage understand what was written in the sky.

In missing this event the loss to both cultures was a price higher than most could dream. It would be another seven thousand years before the pattern would repeat and by that time humankind had turned planet earth into an uninhabitable waste. There was nobody left alive to return the signal.