A Strange Phone Call
Anthony was calling his wife Priscilla to tell her that he was going to be late coming home from work as something had come up at work that he needed to investigate. He disliked having to do that, but this something was very important to him.
As soon as he turned his device on, he received a strange series of loud unfamiliar sounds, followed by some word that sounded something like ‘lands rate’ to him, said rather quickly and with some kind of weird accent of which he had never heard the like. When he heard that word, he just shut his pone off. He figured that it must be distortion produced by someone not particularly good with a phone from some call centre, someone speaking a language he had never heard before. What was it that his maternal grandmother used to stage whisper to him as a boy when she heard someone speak a language a foreign language? Oh year, ‘Must be from Lower Slobbovia.,’ a place of note in the Li’l Abner comic she used to read in the newspaper when she was quite young.
Priss was not going to be happy about this. It was Friday, and she liked to go to the local pub at about six o’clock for a few quick drinks and a generous serving of fresh fish and hand-cut, never frozen french-fries, before hungry customers cobbled them all down. And it was a 40- minute drive home. But he really had to stay at work a while longer today. It could lead to something very positive happening in his life, and certainly in his career.
He turned his cellphone off, waited for a very impatient minute, and turned it back on again. Much to his dismay, he heard the same sound once more, again followed by word that now sounded this time a lot like ‘ran late’ to him, which made him feel a little guilty as that was what he would be. Again he just shut his phone off, wanting, and not for the first time, to throw it onto the floor and stomp it into little pieces.
Anthony was alone now in his place of work, the others had left about half an hour ago, so he was free to swear at his phone for disappointing him as it did. He had long wished that cell phones and computers had buttons you could press that would tell them to xxxx off.
When his moment of anger was done, he went over to the place where he could investigate the matter that was the reason for him wanting to stay at work, although there was no one to discuss it with when and if he resolved the matter. But he could not focus, literally or figuratively, as long as the phone problem was on his mind. Then he got an idea – “George”. His colleague was forgetful and often left his phone in his desk drawer. So Anthony got up from where he was sitting and rushed over to George’s desk. He slid the top drawer open. ‘There it was!’ He quickly turned it on. But when he did, he heard the same horrible sounds, followed by the words “runs late” in the weird accent. Damn!
Anthony was torn now. What should he do? He could not just drive home now. He had to investigate the matter that was the reason that he had stayed. It was just too important for him not to. So he went over to the observatory’s large telescope and looked up at the darkening sky. There it was as it had been the last time he had looked, about an hour before, a long light streak in the sky that led from afar until sight of it faded and reached down to touch and penetrate the atmosphere of the earth.
It was frustrating that there was no one he could call on the phone, particularly frustrating in that he could not tell Priscilla, who would, as a science teacher in high school, be as fascinated as he was. She would want to know what he might discover.
“Well”, he thought, “I will just have to e-mail her and hope that she is on her computer. He ‘awakened’ his computer from ‘sleeping’. But when he did so, he was greeted by the visual equivalent of the disturbing sounds he had heard on the two cellphones. And there were a series of curvy lines on the bottom of the screen. What could it be?
A thought struck him. Maybe the disturbances he was experiencing on his devices came from what he had seen through the telescope in the sky. The more he thought about it, the more plausible that idea seemed. But what could he do about it?
Then, in a flash, the idea came to him. Why had he not thought of this before? He had heard a strangely pronounced word just before he had turned the cell phones off. Maybe the word was ‘translate,’ and thus would be followed by a message being sent through the streak in the sky by some beings from some alien planet. So he picked up his phone, keeping it relatively far from his ears at first, until definitely could the hear that the word ‘translate’ was spoken.
What followed were words spoken slowly, and rather poorly, but they were repeated
several times so he could eventually figure out what was being said. ‘We have a message for you. We know you have a device for seeing far. Use it to find where the light strikes your planet. It took us many orbits to figure out the language that you speak, even with our best translating devices. But now we think you can understand what we are saying. Go to where the light strikes. We will be there, and we will talk with you. I think that we both will have a lot to say.” Then the words ended.
Anthony knew that he would have to meet with these beings. It was chance that he could not pass up. He knew that his wife Priscilla would be ‘prissed’ at him more than a little, their word for when she was angry. But the news that he would bring would more than make up for it. Just not at first.