The readings were of no use, yet again.
Just another cold barren piece of space debris. Chacula drooped despondently over her charts. She’d been honoured when the job had been given to her; first in her field on graduation there’d been no contest. But it had been such a long time now, and still no sign of anywhere in the cosmos to fit her search criteria. The local stuff she’d painstakingly observed were all dead, icy chunks of rock left over from the creation , just space dust orbiting her world. Further out, eons away, there were bright tempting jewels which beckoned to her.
Chacula glowed with irritation. A scorching breeze floated past her, warming her on its way to eddy and swirl within the gravity mix.
All she needed was one find; just one. That would get her name into the history plasma. The weather on her world was changing, cooling rapidly. Her people needed to look elsewhere for a home. Their numbers were dwindling with each pulse of quanta which left the world; each life sapping pulse cooled her world just a little more. Time was running to entropy.
Heat flowed from her eyes and quenched her flames momentarily. By all that was holy, why could she not fulfil the trust and hope placed in her and find a new home for her people?
Snivelling about it would not serve, she decided. Straightening her essence, she determined to work harder.
“Will j’ya look at that?” marvelled Johnny.
He was the newest recruit at the observatory, fresh out of university, he was full of it. He’d scored the highest marks of his year, and it had been an almost automatic appointment.
“We need minds like his,” the chairman had intoned when asked about the boy’s suitability. “If we are ever to dig ourselves out of this mess. He’ll grow up as he gets bedded down here.”
The rest of the staff in Los Alamos doubted that. Johnny was fifteen and still heavily into puberty. Hormones were bursting out of every pore, and practical jokes were his favourite hobby. The last one had been an elaborate hoax on the CETI team, over in the other building. They’d gotten really excited, until they’d decoded the message, and found a often used curse of Johnny’s along with a picture of a bare bottom.
Complaints had been issued, and warnings given. But nobody expected them to stick. Johnny was Teflon-coated when it came to criticism, it just dribbled off him like water off a greased wall. And given the state of his skin, this analogy was very apt.
“I said… Will you look at that” Johnny repeated. He hated being ignored, and since the bottom incident, nobody was keen to get too close.
His office roomie sighed and gave in.
“What?” he asked with resignation.
“The codes coming over this frequency. They’re… funny.”
“That’s it… they’re funny? Can’t you do better that that, jerk? Don’t waste my time.”
Johnny glared at him, then shrugged. No skin off’a his if nobody here wanted to see what was in front of theirs. Let “˜em stew. He went back to watching in fascination the pretty patterns steadily filling his screen. It was a sure-fire thing; somebody out there was trying to get in touch.
Reaching for his keyboard, he started to reply.
Chacula watched in amazement as her plasma filled with regular patterns. Somebody out there was sending a reply. Heavens be praised. Maybe their world would accommodate the remaining ones of her people. They were expiring at an alarming rate now, Chacula herself sometimes tended towards that entropy which ended in non existence. It took all her determination to keep warm enough to work on. She decided to check this one out herself. No time to hand it on to the researchers.
After checking the link thoroughly, she was sure. This was the real thing. Maybe this was their new home. Quivering on the edge of a heat sink, she sent her next message. Then she sat back, exhausted, and waited.
Hot damn, this is fun, thought Johnny exultantly.
It was better than online gaming any goddamn day. Those you only get to talk to terrestrials. This was more, much more; he just knew it. It was early morning, and dawn was just about to peep. He’d been at his screen all night. All the other plebs had gone home yonks ago–left the weirdo to it. Well he’d show them. Just wait “˜til they got here, they’d damn well see what they’d missed. A real live extra; no doubt about it. And he’d hooked it.
His eyes lit up as another burst of characters hit his screen. This was like a realtime message service; but so much cooler. Avidly, he set to decoding. Lost in his own little world, he forgot the dawn. After a short while, with the message opened before his eyes, he typed his last response, and hit the send button.
Intelligent life, Chacula was certain. She’d found a new home for them all; all the continents of her world. It was time to start the exodus. She had access to the control to do this; it would be her honour to so. A new home, with all the temperature they could possibly need; to bathe, to eat, to live. Life-giving heat.
Her world was dying from the inside, time was running to entropy; she pushed the button and her world expanded. They were on their way. Exultant, she knew she’d be immortal in the plasmas, forever.
Johnny looked up as the dawn’s light hit his screen. Man that sun was bright, today.
And it kept getting brighter. And hotter. Then, as the expanding plasma ball seared off the atmosphere of the Earth in seconds, Johnny’s last thought was:
“What goes through a bug’s mind last thing before it hits a windshield?”
(answer: its bum)
Avis Hickman-Gibb lives in Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. She’s had stories in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, PygmyGiant, BackhandStories, Boston Literary Magazine, Short Humour, The Ranfurly Review StaticMovement, Microhorror, Bewildering Stories & The Shine Journal. She’s currently working on a book of short stories and a novel but is addicted to writing flash fiction. If you want to read more of her writing, you can find links at http://www.writewords.org.uk/Hickman-Gibb/ and http://avishickmangibb.blogspot.com/.