Echoes Of The Cosmos

Submitted into Contest #210 in response to: Set your story after aliens have officially arrived on Earth.... view prompt

16 comments

Science Fiction Fiction Sad

Donna sat on the couch, legs folded under her. The afghan she was working on covered her lap and fell over the side of the couch. Taylor suppressed a sigh. Mom always worked on the blanket when she worried about something. She loved her mother’s crocheted creations, but when she saw her working on the ever-growing purple afghan, she knew something bad was brewing.


“What’s wrong, Mom?” Taylor asked, sitting down next to her on the couch and pulling the blanket up over her own legs. It had grown as long as the rectangle rug that covered their small living room.


“Hmm? What’s that, dear?” her mom asked, as if she hadn’t heard what Taylor said. 


“Mom,” Taylor said gently, laying her hand on her mother’s quick-moving fingers. “What’s wrong? You and I both know that you only work on the Blanket of Doom when something is really bothering you.” 


Donna dropped her hands, a frown working its way through her whole face. This pained expression that was all-too-familiar to her daughter. She blew out a short breath, squeezing the crochet hook and the blanket, still in her hands. 


“I just miss him, that’s all,” Donna whispered, knuckles turning white with the effort to hold the weight of her grief. 


Taylor leaned in to her mother, laying her head on a shoulder she’d leaned on many times in her life. 


“I miss him too,” Taylor agreed. She felt the familiar pang of sadness and fear that always accompanied thoughts of her father. It tightened around her heart like a vice grip, tonight. “Is this about the news, though? Just because they’ve said–” 


“I know what they said,” her mother interjected, “And I know what it means. They announced ‘non-human biologics’. What else could it be?” 


“I just don’t think we need to freak out. Mushrooms are a ‘non-human biologics,’ Mom. Heck, the people who think they saw this UFO had probably indulged in a few mushrooms, so–”  


“Taylor, I saw the footage. I don’t think mushrooms were driving that craft. It didn’t move like a drone or a plane. I watched the testimonies before congress. They know something. They’ve got something and now they’re saying it. Out loud! To the public! Why would they do that? Unless… unless they–” 


“No, Mom. Don’t go down this rabbit hole again, please...” Taylor begged her mother. 


She didn’t want to see her spiral back down into the hole. She couldn’t take it. The deep, dark depression had nearly swallowed up her mother for eight months after her father’s disappearance. He had gone out to an alleged crash site, after days of scouring the rumors online for UFO sightings. Taylor would never forget those last few moments. 


“This seems promising! I’ll be back by dinner, kiddo. Don’t start without me,” he had said, kissing Taylor on the forehead. He hugged Donna, who was terse because she didn’t want him to go. She turned her head, letting him kiss her on the cheek, before he left. 


“They’re not all your responsibility, Daniel,” she called out after him, when he was halfway down the driveway. He turned his head and smiled at her. They’d had many conversations like this before. Dad was never one to neglect his duty, though. 


“Unity is the constellation of harmony, my love,” he had called back lovingly, a gleam of light twinkled in his eye. 


Taylor knew that her mother still felt guilty about this exchange. She often reminded her mother that this last exchange wasn’t representative of their relationship. Taylor had basked in the warmth of the love that radiated out from her parents. Because of their love for each other, her home was a refuge of support. They were a bastion of hope for their people, despite all the turmoil. 


High school turmoil seemed laughable now. It often does, when you graduate and realize there are much bigger worlds out there. But at the time her father disappeared, Taylor was on the cusp of her high school graduation. It had been her biggest concern.


She avoided the mean girls, who picked up on every unspoken insecurity like it was a competition to see who could spot the most weaknesses in others. She always struggled at first, to blend in, but eventually found a place. She relaxed amongst a few peers in the middle of the weird social hierarchy in her rural high school. She learned. Observed. Blending in was their primary goal, after all. 


Her mother’s gentle hand on her cheek brought her back to the present. 


“I’ve worried you, dear. I’m sorry. I just… I’ve been thinking about it for days now, and it’s the only thing that makes sense. They’ve finally figured it out, and now they’re going to announce to the world that aliens have landed on earth.” Donna’s mouth grimaced and her eyes brimmed over with tears. 


Taylor’s own tears cascaded down her cheeks in response. She couldn't bear to see her mother cry.


“Surely not. If they’ve had him all this time, that means– No. Maybe he just...” She choked on the words.


“My darling, your father would never leave us. He didn’t get in an accident. A single human could never have hurt him. Not with their under-evolved muscles and over-evolved confidence. I went to exactly the spot he had mapped out, to check on the fallen craft. He said it looked like the Zephyr Mariner craft that brought us here 25 years ago. Same flight pattern. Same speed.” 


“Do you think he’s been in a cell for the past year being interrogated? Or in some kind of terrible lab being poked and prodded?” Taylor shuddered at the thought. Bile rose in her throat every time her mind went down this road. 


“I don’t know, sweetheart,” her mother said, her voice becoming gentler. “I pray to Cosmonir every day that he didn’t get caught. That if he got into trouble, he found a way to get to a safe place. Or a way to use the craft to communicate with home and get some reinforcements. We checked everywhere around the reported area that people saw the craft, though, and… nothing. Not even a scrap of metal, just another crop circle. Not the right pattern, so it was probably done by bored teenagers.” Donna’s eyes fell back to her hands as she continued crocheting the Blanket of Doom. 


The grief sank in Taylor’s chest as she sat in the sea of purple. She thought this feeling would get better over time, but it never really did. She always felt the same crushing dread that her father was being tortured somewhere. She sometimes had nice dreams of her home planet but those usually melted into nightmares of being strapped to a gurney and poked with needles. Sometimes it was crowds of people in S.W.A.T. gear busting into their home and dragging them away. 


Though she was born on Earth, Taylor often dreamed of Luminara. A world of light, peace, and untold beauty. Or at least, that’s what her parents told her. Her childhood memories brimmed with stories of their home planet. Tales of rolling oceans made of colorful flowers and vines. Massive ships made of bright silver metals, sailing atop them as they undulated in the breeze. Trees as tall as skyscrapers, always teeming with life. Many millennia of peace amongst her people.


Taylor often dreamed of her father on her home planet, but she wasn’t sure why. She had told her mother about these dreams at first. She assumed her subconscious was working through grief and hiding them inside the beauty of the stories she’d heard her whole life. Perhaps her mind was trying to cover the horrific grief of the loss of her father, with the beauty of a world where he still existed. If only in her mind. Her dreams eventually started upsetting her mother though, so Taylor kept them to herself these days. 


They were silent for several minutes, with the news muted on the living room television. A 24-hour news show was on. A terrible invention, really. Whose idea was it to broadcast the worst of human’s challenges and then speculate about the worst possible ways these things could turn out? Anything for ratings, these days. 


Taylor and Donna sat in silence for a few moments. 


“I am grateful for the time I had with you and dad. And the time you and I have had together, since… you know… since he’s been gone. I’m not glad he’s gone of course,” Taylor stuttered through her sappy speech, her mom nodding along. She understood. “But I want to say that sometimes– it’s just that sometimes I wish we’d never come here. I wish you and dad weren’t given this assignment, and that I’d been born on Luminara. Maybe he’d still be with us then…” 


Donna grasped Taylor's face, leaning in until their foreheads touched. Tears stained the purple yarn an even deeper hue.


“Taylor. Darling. I understand why you feel that way. I think about that all the time! It’s okay to feel how you feel, grief is not linear. You’ll take some steps forward and then sometimes you’ll take some steps backward. You'll never love your father less, just because he's gone. But you will get stronger. It won't always be so consuming..." she trailed off, and then ducked her chin. "Look, I’m sorry, I’m not saying this well. Your dad was the Communication Specialist, not me.” 


Taylor rolled her eyes and chuckled at her mom’s corny joke. Dad’s specialty had been building and using communication equipment, not communicating with words. Although, he did always seem to know the right words to say. She knew her mother was trying to lighten the mood.


“All I’m saying,” Donna continued on, ‘is that we came here with a purpose. We have to watch the humans and report if they are getting close to creating technology that would allow them to travel in space. We’ve seen what they do when they discover something new, so we can’t allow them to have access to Luminara. Not yet. Not until they decide to become a more peaceful species.” 


“I know, I know. Unity is the constellation of harmony,” Taylor said robotically.


Taylor felt the struggle of a war within herself. She wanted to comfort her mother, but also wanted to share her own fears. She wanted to abandon the mission, but it was all she'd ever known. She wanted to go back to before he disappeared. She wished she could time travel back to the days when all she had to worry about was physics homework and mapping out a path to working at NASA.


The war inside of her continued raging. She kept her lips sealed against the onslaught of fear and doubt that wanted to pour out of her.


Donna could feel the shift in Taylor, the stress building. She leaned in to her daughter, tucking her under her arm, and placing Taylor's head back on her shoulder. Even at eighteen years old, Taylor breathed in the comfort of her mother's embrace. She'd never take it for granted. Not when it could be gone in an instant.


“I am worried too, sweetheart. All we can do is wait, though. I’ve been checking the message boards for chatter spikes, every day. I check the safety point once a week to make sure he isn’t there. We haven’t had any activity on the Stellar Transceiver since the night your father… disappeared.” Donna’s breath hitched on the word. 


“Why aren’t they communicating with us, though? Shouldn’t we tell them he’s disappeared and get some help or something?” Taylor asked, hopeful for more connections to her homeworld. Hopeful that they’d have the power to find him and bring him home. 


“It doesn’t work that way, my sweet girl. We send the right signals out, only if the humans seem like their technology is growing to the point of danger. We don’t get signals back, unless they are extracting us. It’s too risky, otherwise. Your father and I knew we were accepting a lifelong mission when we came here. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s had consequences for you as well. But… even so,” her mother said, her voice becoming stronger and more stoic, “We must continue on. We must not be distracted, dragged away, deluded, delayed, or denied from completing the mission at hand. We are…” She looked at Taylor, eyebrows raising expectantly. 


Taylor knew it by heart, as she’d repeated the mantra with her parents every night before bed. 


“We are silent spectators. Invisible inquisitors. Whispering watchers. Vigilantly veiled visitors. Unseen observers. Star dwellers in shadows. Camouflaged and cautious. We are unearthly and unseen. We are the echoes of the cosmos.” 


A notice came across the screen of the TV, and caught both of their attention. The president was going to be holding a press conference and making some sort of announcement, in a few hours. Donna and Taylor exchanged a look that was a mix of heavy emotions. They both had an eagerness for answers, and felt the dread of what those answers would mean for their family, and the families of the many worlds beyond earth.


The aliens had already landed on earth long ago, but have the humans finally figured it out?


They would watch and see. 



August 10, 2023 05:58

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16 comments

VJ Hamilton
00:46 Jun 01, 2024

Wow, you pulled the (purple afghan) wool over my eyes! I loved the twist. Thanks for a great read!

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Anna W
19:06 Jun 03, 2024

Thanks so much VJ, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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04:33 Aug 19, 2023

Great story! "Whose idea was it to broadcast the worst of human’s challenges and then speculate about the worst possible ways these things could turn out?" A great observation I see someone else also pointed out. "BBC/CNN/Fox news, all the worst things in the world today in 10 minutes..." For the critique circle feedback, not much to add here as your prose is pitch perfect, and you have a great twist at the end. Maybe early on, having some type of confrontation/action involving Taylor and Donna might have increased the tension (but not su...

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Anna W
13:42 Aug 19, 2023

Thank you for your feedback Scott!

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19:57 Aug 16, 2023

Your storytelling shines as you expertly capture the complex emotions and connections between Donna and Taylor. The interplay of ordinary activities and the weight of extraordinary circumstances creates a touching and thought-provoking narrative. Your ability to balance these elements makes the story both engaging and emotionally resonant. Thanks for this

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Anna W
14:57 Aug 17, 2023

Wow, thank you so much for this feedback Sudarshan. You're too kind!

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Kandi Zeller
18:37 Aug 14, 2023

"Whose idea was it to broadcast the worst of human’s challenges and then speculate about the worst possible ways these things could turn out?" Loved this description!

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Anna W
03:13 Aug 15, 2023

There’s always some truth in fiction 😂😝 thank you!!

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Aug 11, 2023

That was a neat twist! Initially, I got the sense that a misguided UFO enthusiast got in over his head, and ended up being right or something, but here we learn the truth is much bigger. The aliens do pass seamlessly as humans. They've integrated well and clearly done their homework. That Taylor was even preoccupied with high school at one point attests to that. And her ambitions to work at NASA - that's an interesting thought. Makes sense for a lifelong recon mission. Thanks for sharing!

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Anna W
22:28 Aug 11, 2023

Thank you Michal! I appreciate you reading the story and always appreciate your feedback!

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Mary Bendickson
15:55 Aug 10, 2023

Wonderful depiction of the way it could be. Well written. Thanks for liking my version.

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Anna W
19:31 Aug 10, 2023

Thanks for reading, Mary! I appreciate your kind comment!

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10:00 Aug 10, 2023

This is really cool Anna. The reveal halfway through caught me off guard. I like the way you put it out there casually, not making a big revelation about it. And the whole conversation then changes. Smartly done and well written!

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Anna W
14:07 Aug 10, 2023

Thanks Derrick!! I appreciate your kind words!

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Unknown User
19:01 Aug 15, 2023

<removed by user>

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Anna W
01:00 Aug 16, 2023

Thank you Joe! :)

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