Voyeur

Earth's residents were shocked to discover a doomsday meteor hurtling toward them. Then the meteor decelerated and fell into a leisurely orbit around the Earth, which everyone thought was a pretty nice surprise.

The general consensus of Earth's scientific community was that, unless the laws of physics had another change of heart, it was once again safe to make long term financial investments. World leader announced, one way or another, that this global near-death experience was just one of those things. The cosmos feigned a punch and humankind flinched.

There was a slight but measurable increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as terrestrial populace simultaneously sighed in profound relief. The optimists crawled out from their bunkers, the pessimists finally changed their eating habits, and world governments broke their desperate alliances without so much as a handshake.

The second space race had begun. This consisted of the wealthiest countries of Earth clawing and shoving for a better look at the new neighbor.

The first astronauts to reach the orbiting mystery object reported back: the doomsday meteor was actually a construct of alien design. It was one of those rare moments in human history when the most outrageous explanation turned out to be correct.

A lot of wagered cash changed hands.

Despite the astronauts' best attempts at communication, the alien machine was unresponsive and its hull was totally impregnable.

Everyone waited in awe for the object's next move.

For forty-nine years of declining awe, the alien craft did the very thing everyone really expected but least wanted. It remained silent. The human race, having been such a good sport about everything, was exasperated. They called the craft “Voyeur.” Bitter jokes were told about Voyeur on human television networks for years, until every possible joke had been told and there was nothing left to say.

On December 5th, after the “Close Call” generation began dying off – insulted but still secretly craving some sign of acknowledgement – a radio signal was finally received. Following forty-nine years of ultimately disappointing hoaxes and a brief period of official denial, this new signal was finally confirmed to be a genuine broadcast originating from the alien craft.

The signal was looped twelve times before it ceased, each iteration containing a message repeated in every modern language. To the starry-eyed children, lonely astronomers, and doubt-filled religionists of Earth, it sounded like a love poem.

“You are not alone.”

The world erupted in screaming, weeping, singing, prayer, andancing in the streets, and a lot of property damage. Most believed this was the beginning of a brand new volume in human history. Parades were held, parties were thrown, debts were forgotten, collectible coins were minted, and memorials were erected. Perhaps more honestly than any generation before, these humans believed it was the best time to be alive.

On December 8th, the probe shot off in the same direction from whence it came. Ever since, people have asked each other: why did Voyeur leave? Was it shy? Is it ever coming back?

Was it something we said?

The End

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