A Message from Mars
Where did this idea begin in my life – that Martians would come to earth? It probably came first from reading so much science fiction as a boy. I was particularly drawn to stories about Martians. On the table beside my bed from the day that I received it as a birthday present, until now, there has been a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. I’d read through it several times before I turned 12.
Whenever I had to give a presentation in English class, from elementary, through middle and into high school the basic subject was always the same – the ‘What ifs”. “What if Martians existed? What if Martians came to earth? What if humans travelled to Mars and met up with Martians there? The kids I grew up and shared classes with were very familiar with the ‘What ifs?’ They even sometimes mouthed the words I was about to say.
When I went to university, I took a course in astronomy, and I asked the Teaching Assistant what he thought about life on Mars – no joy there. My major was English, because I entertained dreams of becoming another Ray Bradbury. I write several short stories as an undergraduate, all of them on the subject of Mars and Martians. One such story was published in the school literary magazine.
When I graduated, I became a high school English teacher. For English composition projects one of the options for a prompt was about Martians coming to earth. It was said by some of my students that I overheard once in the hallway was if someone wrote on that theme, that person would have no fear of failing. While I objected to the idea, I can’t remember anyone ever failing a Mars composition.
During the 40 years of my teaching career I put together three collections of short stories on my favourite subject. I only had to self-publish the first one. I even published a novel about Martians living at peace and in harmony with humans, with colonies of the travellers on both planets. Their relationship with Venusians was another matter altogether. The book sold well. There was talk of a movie, but nothing came of it. I did get a television interview in which I got to talk about the ‘what ifs’.
Now I am retired, living on my own. But I am not lonely, as I am a frequent, pretty much a daily visitor at the retirement home, where I get to hang out with peers from my school days. As a joke sometimes, they ask me to ‘tell us about Mars.’ I also have a website with a respectable number of followers of my speculations.
A Preoccupation Becomes a Preminition.
It started when I was sitting in ‘the home away from house’ drinking coffee in the ‘breakfast room’. I began to hear three separate buzzes in my ears, actually feeling more in my brain than in my ears. They reminded me of the Morris code messages I had learned as a cub scout. It surprised me that I could remember that stuff from deep in my childhood. But I couldn’t put together words from the three short buzzes I was hearing other than: … --- …
which I began to say out loud. I got a few shakes of the head from my buddies entering the room, one of the head-shakers joking, ‘You in danger then Frank?’ They others laughed, seems that all knew a little bit about Morris code.
Not long afterwards the buzzing stopped. I thought that maybe the sounds had something to do with wax build up in my ears. I might need to get the home doctor to flush them out, maybe get I will use my hose.
But this wasn’t the end of the repeating sounds. A different trio of three sounds each invaded my hearing. They were kind of like three words or three repeated ¾ bars in a song, like in waltz. I had learned something in high school band class, even though I had to play the default instrument of the clarinet Each part of the ‘message’, as I was thinking of it now, had three of something, each one different in the ‘notes’ or ‘letters’ it contained. I started whistling the three different sequences as I walked to the washroom. Two guys, who had been in band class with me whistled back at me in exact imitation.
So what was going on? Was it some kind of hallucination throwback to the sixties? It clearly wasn’t tinnitus or any other hearing dysfunction I could think of. This continued throughout the day. It made it difficult for me to completely understand a lot of what my buddies were saying when we spoke over coffee. I left earlier than usual.
Walking home, I had an idea that struck me like brick thrown at my head (nothing that I have actually experienced – just a metaphor). What if what I was hearing was a Martian communication in a musically-minded language? What if Martians were trying to say something to me? What if they were communicating with me because I was a relatively well-known believer in their existence?
I sat down at a park bench midway between home and house. As a writer, I always carried a pen and paper with me. I rarely ever began a story on a computer – old-fashioned, I guess. I began to write own several potential message. The one that kept repeated in my mind and on the paper was “We are coming. We are coming.” What if they want me to make this message public? Sure I would be laughed at, mocked, not for the first time, as a Martian conspiracy theorist. Some would think it a cheap publicity stunt. I had been working on a new novel for months now. But maybe the message was important enough that I should not worry.
about what people thought.
The Next Day
The next morning, although they had gone silent over night, I began to hear the same three noted calls again. But in the afternoon they changed. They were followed by the English words – ‘we are coming’. I was standing when the change came, so I had to sit down. I thought at first that it was just my always active imagination, making heard what I wanted to hear. But it kept on repeating, over and over. A dream had come true
So later on, after the calls complete with English translation finally stopped, I summoned up all my courage. First, I posted my beliefs in what on my website. Then I took a bigger step, and posted on Facebook. The doubters struck first, even those who were fans of my novel. Then the ‘believers’ began to respond, although in fewer numbers.
Then came the call. A local television reporter, the one who had interviewed me when my novel came out, asked a simple and logical question, “Is this for real, Frank, or just a publicity stunt for a new novel?” I am writing a new novel, but it is about humans and Martians escaping from a Venusian detention camp. And it is only halfway done.
Slowly I responded. “As far as I can figure out, this is for real.” Then I told him about the sequences of the calls, from buzzes to melodic words, to the addition of an English translation.
Just as hesitantly, he asked me whether I would be available for a live interview at the station at six o’clock. I told him that I would be. I might as well go all the way with this thing.
The Interview and Its Aftermath
The interview went well. I knew what I must say, no matter what the result. Not long afterwards, the whole affair ‘went viral’ in all forms of media. There was obviously a debate on the matter, actually more of a shouting match. Government and university-based scientists condescended with statements of it being ‘theoretically not completely impossible, but still, with no real proof, it was highly fanciful and unlikely.’ Others were more direct, saying that I was a third-rate Bradbury looking for undeserved publicity. Of course that hurt, but it was kind of nice to have my name linked with that of my hero. So-called friends let it be known that I had taken psychedelic drugs in my teenage years, and that this was the result of a kind of ‘flashback’.
That night I ‘looked to the sky’ as we were told to do in movies made in the 1950s. I live a little outside of town, so there was relatively little light pollution in the sky above my backyard and telescope. Sure enough, I saw a thin streak of light race across the path of my vision. I saw it land what appeared to be a few miles from my house. I got into my car and drove fast into the night. Was I having visual hallucinations to go with my aural ones? What if this all was just an old man’s delusional mind? When I arrived at the location, I spotted the Martian ship, not saucer-shaped at all, more tubular. I got out of my car, almost forgetting to shift it into park and turn it off, and ran as fast as my old legs could take me.
I then heard a now familiar sequence of three music-like series of sounds. But after a few repetitions, fourth and fifth sounds were added. At first they were just in Martian, then came the English translations. The fourth and fifth words were ‘old friend.’ Apparently, they had been spying on me for a while, and giving me ideas. They didn’t like Venusians.