Like the Prose: Challenge #13 – Write an epistolary story.
Dear Alien Spacefarer,
My teacher is making me put this postcard in a box that’s going on the space shuttle, but I have no idea what to write. Everything seems lame. Hello from Earth. Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.
* * *
The postcard was vintage “Greetings from Vail!” and had a happy 1950’s couple skiing on the front. It was June, but whatever. I flipped it over.
We were most pleased to receive your missive. We, too, wish we were there. Tell us more about this ‘Earth?'” Does your spaceforce remain undefeated?
Rolling my eyes, I took out one of my postcards from the Baby Animals Postcard Book my grandparents had given me as an incentive to get me to communicate with them more. I was pretty sure this card was a joke but responding to it meant delaying cleaning my room for at least five more minutes.
And it had a return address in… Iowa.
Didn’t Jeff Neuhalfen have relatives in Iowa?
Your postcard came as quite a surprise. As far as I know we don’t actually have a spaceforce. As least, my country doesn’t. Our president has talked about building one, but since he thinks there’s a prince in the UK who oversees whales, I wouldn’t hold my breath. And Earth is… Earth. You know. Little blue-green planet. Third rock from the sun, and all that.
Write back if you want.
* * *
The next postcard arrived just after the 4th of July and had a picture of a happy 1950’s couple water-skiing. Apparently vintage outdoor sports were a thing. This one read “Come to the Catskills!” “Um, no,” I told it. Then I flipped it over to read it.
Would you mind being more specific? There are many sun-stars in the galaxy. Are we correct in interpreting that your Earth is the third planet out from your sun, counting by the diameter of the orbit? When you refer to it as blue and green, do you mean it is a world with an oxygen-based atmosphere that plays home to carbon-based lifeforms? Does your Earth also boast liquid water?
We look forward to your next missive.
With respect, Xplo!kka’t
Carbon-based lifeforms? Really? This had to be a prank from Jeff. He’d been trying to get her attention during math class for the last year, after all. And she was certain he had relatives in Iowa. Besides, alien stuff always had to do with Iowa. Or maybe that was Kentucky. Well, the summer was boring enough. This was relieving the status quo at least.
I’m pretty sure you know this already, but Earth is like 70% ocean. Saltwater, full of sharks, but, whatever. I’m guessing from all your questions that you’re not from around here. So, tell me, Xplo!kka’t, what’s life like where you come from?
I wondered what crazy reply Jeff would come up with for that.
* * *
It was two weeks later that the next card came. Faster than the last. Interesting. This time the vintage image was of a waterfront and read, “Monaco Memories!” I flipped it over.
We are pleased that you are curious about us. In truth, most of my peer group has never seen our homeworld. We were born on a worldship, and we travel the stars searching for a new home. Those who came before us destroyed our world’s resources, until we could not breathe our air, drink our water, or grow things in our soil. Do the people of Earth know pollution?
I shivered reading the latest words. These didn’t sound like Jeff. Maybe it was my teacher trying to teach us a lesson. We were supposed to have advanced biology when school resumed after the summer.
I went onto my computer and texted a friend.
– From megtastic to sciencechick: Hey, Sierra, you know that postcard project Mrs. Lieberman made us do in May?
– From sciencechick to megtastic: Yeah? What about it?
– From megtastic to sciencechick: You haven’t… you haven’t, um… gotten any responses or anything have you?
– From sciencechick to megtastic: Meg-a-licious, you know those postcards went on the space shuttle. No one could be responding.
– From megtastic to sciencechick: You busy tonight? You up for a sleepover?
– From sciencechick to megtastic: I’ll be right over.
My best friend Sierra came over the other night so I could talk to her about your postcards. She’s a science geek, but I like art and music and literature more than science. Maybe you should be writing to her. Anyway, yes, the people of Earth do know pollution. Our fish and ocean mammals are dying because they’re ingesting the plastic we toss into the seas, and our carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have just reached 400 parts per million. (They say 350 is the upper safe limit for life here). Sierra says you’re asking these questions because you plan to invade the Earth and kill us all. I hope that’s not true. But I have to tell you, we’ve already poisoned our planet. You don’t want it.
* * *
Xplo!kka’t approached his division commander. She was a dominant female, with dazzling purple antennae that always made him hyperventilate a little, but he forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand.
“Commander, I have news of Planet 7439.3”
He handed over copies of the postcards. “I have been corresponding with a young female from the planet. It began with one of the message cards in the box on that vessel we intercepted. The exploded – ”
“I believe they call it a ‘shuttle’ yes. They’ve had more than one explode, but this is the first such ship that was unstaffed and sent deep enough into space that we could salvage any of the technology. Such as it was.”
“Yes, ma’am. In any case, the young female, Megan, and I have been exchanging ‘postcards’ and I have learned that 7439.3 is not the garden spot we hoped. The sentients there – they refer to themselves as ‘humans’ have already sent their world down the same irrevocable path as our own homeworld.”
“There are skirmishes, yes, though so far nuclear power and weaponry have only destroyed limited segments of the planet. No, ma’am, the larger issue is pollution. Their oceans are being choked with a petroleum-based product called ‘plastic’ and the level of carbon dioxide in their atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million.”
“That is a correctible number, Xplo!kka’t,” the commander said. “If we were to help them fix it, they would be grateful. We could stage a bloodless invasion.”
“We could, ma’am, if we were close enough, but even if we were to increase our speed tenfold it would take another fifty years to get there, and I fear by then the damage would be irreversible.”
“You have a point, youngster. A valid point. Very well. We will remove 7439.3 off the potential list.”
“Commander, I request a favor…”
“I wish to… continue my correspondence with the young female.”
“You have grown fond of her.”
“I… she… yes.”
“I do not see the harm. In fact, I will offer a gift. We will give her world protected status. If the sentients there manage to correct their own errors, by the time we are close enough, we will invite them to become allies.”
“I believe they have potential, ma’am.”
“I hope you are correct, Xplo!kka’t. Dismissed.”
He returned to his duty station.
* * *
I stared at the postcard rack in front of me, and grinned. It was suitably cheesy, and I hoped my pen pal of six years would appreciate it. The front was an iceberg and across it was GREETINGS FROM FAIRBANKS!
Well, I’ve done it! I’ve finished my university studies, done the graduation thing, and made it to Alaska. I’ll be here in Fairbanks for a few days for orientation and then I’ll be heading to a boat to spend the next three months at sea working as a journalist on an oceanic research vessel. The science types will be studying coastal erosion, ice melt, water temperatures, and other things that have to do with climate change and pollution. I’ll just be writing about it. I guess all these years of writing postcards to you gave me a lot of practice and really increased my interest in ecology. Thank you for that, my friend from the stars.
Oh… and Jeff Neuhalfen got the research grant, so he’s here too. I’m not sure if we’ll stay together, but three months at sea feels like a really good test of a relationship. I guess the other test will be telling him about my pen pal.
Looking forward to your next postcard.