Distant Voices

The signal was weak at first. Our radio telescopes almost missed it.

By the time we had studied and translated the languages, they were broadcasting video as well as audio.

Their world was not unlike ours; a small blue planet orbiting a yellow star halfway across the galaxy. They themselves were much like us; two arms, two legs, standing upright. There were minor differences of course–skin pigmentation, facial features, hair.

They caught our imagination. What were they like? Did they worry about the same things we did? Did they share our hopes, our fears? We soon found out.

Our television networks began to show translations of their programs. They really were just like us.

Then the broadcasts stopped.

We were stunned. What had happened? All our telescopes were pointed at the little yellow star.

The signal was weak. We almost missed it among the background noise of the universe.

“Hello?” it said. “Is anybody out there?”

We wanted to answer. We wanted to reach out, but the distance meant the owner of this voice was already dead. We listened.

“I’m broadcasting from a radio station just outside San Francisco. Please, if anyone is still alive out there, let me know I’m not alone. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have power, but–”

The signal went dead.

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