Next week, Perseverance will land on Mars (with my name aboard), but hopefully not on any Martians. It seems appropriate to promote one of my stories where our space program was somewhat negligent of the natives on another heavenly body.
“Quiet!” came from an idea I wanted to explore about encountering a hive-mind organism on a fictitious planet, different enough from us that we might not notice them (or how we were affecting them). The planet turned into our moon when I was thinking about how little we’ve really done with manned space exploration since the Apollo missions wound down with Apollo 17 in 1972. I find it hard to get excited about orbiters like the ISS, but I’d be thrilled for a chance to step on another planet (I’d like to make it to Mars in my lifetime, but I’ll settle for the moon if I have to.) I wrote the story, then researched the Apollo 17 transcripts for a place to connect my fiction to reality.
Here’s the Blurb
It’s been over 40 years since men last visited the moon. Since then it feels like we’ve abandoned manned space exploration. What if that’s not all we abandoned?
I’ve taken some liberties with the Apollo 17 transcripts, but this is fiction, right? Read “Quiet!” and find out for yourself.
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
We arrive at the border between the quiet and the blare. Between life and death. Between ignorance and knowledge. The star lends its voice to the noise, but it is gentle by comparison. We steel ourselves. We cross into the sea of sound.
Agony! Joy! Confusion! Hold! Succeed? Survive!
We are across! It is difficult, but we marshal our wills. We do not let the noise overpower us. We hold together. We will flow along the surface. We will survive!
Where? Forward! Follow! Find! Seek! Contact!
We have found them.
Strange! Alien! Large! Legends! Many! Silent! Noisy! Shiny! Prophecy!
They are being a thing-of-substance. The shape reminds us of the visions of our legendary forbears. The prophets who understood the thoughts coming from the noisy-blue-planet. Their colony holds itself above the surface. Long cylinders of… legs? quadruped? extend up into the… body? Shiny. Gold. More cylinders and markings. The… head? is as large as the body. It rests on top. Gray. We surround them to interpret their essence. No motion. They are unaware of us. Two large, black… eyes? the things our elders say see. They stare straight ahead. They reflect everything. And nothing.
Greeting! Hello! Answer! Question! Where? Why? How? What? Who? Respond!
We give thoughts. We wait. No Response. No thoughts? How? It is not from here. The air hums with something we cannot read. A stream of consciousness?
“WELL GET THE READING WE NEED FOR THE NAV UPDATE DO YOU THINK YOU CAN GIVE US THE HEADING RIGHT NOW”
What? Meaning? Gibberish! Insane! Not! Pattern!
We do not understand the thoughts. They source from the highest round appendage on the head. Centralized thinking? Not natural. We should hear from all of them. Is the rest of their colony dead?
Make! Show! Imitate! Communicate! Visual! Connect!
We will attempt visual connection. We call out to our hive. There is too much mass here for our cluster to create. It will require much more.
Come! Careful! Join! See! Build! Connect!
We wait for our selves in the noise. We come. We begin our construction. We become a second thing-of-substance. The appendages are numerous, but simple. The shiny surfaces are difficult to mimic. We do our best. Soon we are complete. Our construct squats on four legs. We are an excellent facsimile. We see us in the others’ eyes. Still no response. We alter length of legs on one side and tilt. They do not copy us. We shift the multitude of our construct’s appendages. No reciprocation. No acknowledgement.
What? Frustration! Mindless? Blind? Unintelligent? Useless! Ignorant! Mute?
Could it be unintelligent? The waves we read are unintelligible, but not random. There is a pattern, an alien intelligence behind them. There is no intelligence here. This is but a thing. A thing that-
“JUST DRIVE BY THIS BIG ROCK WANT TO LOOK AT IT CANT SEE IT I CANT SEE WHEN THAT OFF ELSEEARU SHINES INTO MY EYES”
Where? There! Away! Find! What? Minds! Intelligence! Follow! Quickly!
That taste. More waves. Not from the thing-of-substance. Not from the star. Not from the noisy-blue-planet. They come from across our gray world. From beyond the thing-of-substance. Intelligence? We abandon our construct quickly. We follow the stream of noise across the surface. We fly fast, excited by the new sound. We fragment. Part of us surge ahead in our eagerness.
“WHERE ARE YOU SHORTY”
Danger! Murder! Explosion! Tearing! Stop! Unsafe! Pain! Agony! Separation!
A flare from the star! We have survived this before on the quiet side. It is already too loud here. The new waves pile onto the already forceful noise. Our outermost cadre evaporates. Half of us are gone before we are able to hold ourselves together in the boiling wind-wave-storm.
Shelter! Where? Here! Together! Hide! Save! Regroup!
Finally, the sound eases. We regain cohesion. We cannot survive another such flare. We draw ourselves in. We follow the waves more slowly. We stay close to the surface.
Motion! There! What? Constructs! Three!
One construct is smaller than the first thing-of-substance. It is also quadruped. Its legs are thick circles on edge that hold it above the surface. We flow under it. It also does not move. It shields us from the noise. The other two constructs have motion. Two biped constructs, with appendages at the top of their bodies. A spherical head on top, which appears to completely consist of a single gold eye. Biped-1 is changing the orientation of the motionless smaller-thing-of-substance’s sections. Biped-2 is beyond the first. It extends an appendage toward the surface.
“WHERE ARE THE REFLECTIONS IVE BEEN FOOLED ONCE THERE IS ORANGE SOIL”
Unintelligible? Communicate! What? Speak! Decipher! Translate!
Their constructs communicate with each other! Intelligent? They must be colonies!
Listen! Hear! Understand! Greeting! Hello! Respond! Answer! Question!
“HOW CAN THERE BE ORANGE SOIL ON THE MOON”
Reply? What? Understand? Alien! What? Elation! Life!
Do they communicate with us? Biped-one rises. It bounces off the surface. It floats toward biped-2. No. Their colonies still communicate only between each.
“JACK THAT IS REALLY ORANGE ITS BEEN OXIDIZED GO AROUND AND GET THE LUNAR SOUNDER OVER HERE”
Biped-1 returns to the motionless-smaller-thing-of-substance. They begin changing the orientation.
Frustration! Speak! Understand! What? Connect! Show! Gather! Build!
We must try visual again. They are intelligent. They will understand when we appear to them. We will construct our own biped by the smaller-thing-of-substance. We will copy the biped changing its orientation. With our numbers depleted, we would not be capable of duplicating the larger-thing-of-substance. Not even the smaller-thing-of-substance. We will not divide enough for many times many. It is good that the biped constructs are smaller. We begin our construct very close to biped-1. Soon they will see us.
“ACTIVATING LUNAR SOUNDER”
No! Loudness! Volume! Tearing! Stop! Pain! Agony! Shatter! Leave! Die!
It is forever torture! We shake apart into the stillness of no thought.
I guess our astronauts should have cleared it with the natives first. “Quiet!” is a science fiction flash story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
It’s included in the collection Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:
“Quiet” is also included in collection The First Three ‘Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND’. (If you purchase the collection on SMASHWORDS with coupon code RAE50 you’ll receive a 50%-off discount – that’s only $2.50 for eighteen stories – such a deal!):
Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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