The First Event
Henry Hopper looked up at the star-like planet as he did most nights through the telescope that could be considered a companion. What he saw on this night was not the usual, but the unbelievable. There was a blink on Venus. That was the best term that the astronomer could come up with for what he had seen. It was like the planet was a giant eye, partially opening up to be seen like it never had before. Then the opening closed. He knew from prior experience when he presented papers on Venus at academic conferences, there would not be much international scientific interest or commentary about what he had just witnessed. He might be one of the few to see it or even think of the sighting as significant. If it had happened on Mars, that planet long-favoured by astronomers and science-fiction writers, it would be an altogether different matter. It would be featured prominently in scientific journals and public media. Elon Musk would be planning a trip to Mars, perhaps taking William Shatner with him, or if the 90-year-old couldn’t make it, possibly Chris Pine, a younger actor who had played Captain James T. Kirk in much later years.
Henry worked at an obscure, but significant observatory in northern Ontario, the only one for many miles. Since he was a child, Venus had been his favourite planet other than earth. He had been intrigued at that stage of his life that he could see it at night even without a telescope. Now, as a man in his forties, he would every week spend a couple of nights just staring at it, sometimes sharing the experience with his younger daughter Dora (named of course after the explorer). He or they would return home when he received the inevitable call from his wife with the basic message of “Come home!” He felt that the planet, like him, was neglected by mainstream astronomy. But maybe neither could be ignored on this occasion. This could begin a distinct change from the usual. It just might provide an opportunity for him to publish in a scientific journal for the first time since he was a graduate student at the university that was part owner of the observatory.
Meanwhile on Venus
Meanwhile on Venus, whose local name would be unpronounceable to the people of Smrˀtldx (known to its English speaking inhabitants as ‘Earth’), the ‘blink’ was considered a very exciting development, a long awaited step into a very different future. The news was communicated through several of the main telepathy channels, and was celebrated by many Venusians, as the people of Smrˀtldx called them (but not to their knowledge).
The Venusian scientists had worked long and hard to break through the surface crust of their planet, not just with the wave technology with which they sensed other planets, but with large sonic digging machines. The act of the breakthrough had a physically dramatic feel to it as it had distinctly disturbed the gravity-like pressure under which they lived in the usually well-protected sub-surface of their planet. The scientists had wisely foreseen this drop in pressure, so they had constructed a gigantic movable arch to cover the open space so that the break-through area could be opened for a short time and then closed most of the time.
This was obviously an exciting time on Venus. It was now possible for the people to actually stand on the surface of their planet, and walk about on it, looking up into the sky, seeing it with their eyes alone, and not through any device. There was an often-expressed feeling that some day they would be able to voyage far beyond their planet. Some of the powerful ships currently confined to motoring under the crust of the surface were being adapted for interplanetary flight, so that time of inter-planetary flight could be soon.
Meanwhile Back on Smrˀtldx
Meanwhile, back on Smrˀtldx, Henry carefully recorded his sightings in the Venus diary that he had kept ever since he was a child of ten. On some clear nights he could see the ‘open eye’ as he called it, on others he the ‘closed eye’, Venus then looking like it had for centuries. Most exciting was watching the opening and the closing. He figured out that this periodic changing was not a natural phenomenon, but was cultural, something done by the people who lived there. The conference paper that he presented on the subject almost a year after his first sighting bombed significantly. Not only was his presentation poorly attended, but he could also hear some slight sounds of snickering among the sparse spectators. When his talk was over, no one applauded or asked any questions. They all just got up quickly and left, muttering to those walking next to them.
Despite this failure, he would not give up on his project. He put all his recordings of sightings, including pictures and explanatory speculations together into a book. When the book, entitled “A Blink on Venus” was eventually published, it had been pooh-poohed by prominent astronomers as more science fiction than science fact, more imagination on a lonely northern night, than solid critical analysis in the light of day. Still, Henry’s book sold rather well, especially after ‘the event’ took place.
The Second Event
One night when the ‘eye’ was open, Henry spotted a bright light leaving the surface of Venus. Not only did he start tracking it, but he also sent a beam of light in the direction of where he thought it would eventually be within a few earth hours. He had secretly worked on that device for almost a year. He reckoned that the Venusians must have sensed somehow the beam that he had sent. For much later that night (he had ignored the ringing of the phone twice), what he believed now to be a Venusian spaceship changed direction. What’s more, to his surprise and delight, it started heading toward the observatory that was home to him and his telescope. By the time that it landed, the observatory was surrounded by a substantial crowd of scientists, journalists, and the just plain curious, including his wife and two daughters.
Years later, Henry’s youngest daughter Dora would be the first human visitor to the planet of Venus to say Smrˀtldx with only a slight trace of an earthly accent.