Last Contact: A Short Story

(This is a short story that’s free for everyone to read. There is another, longer, short story for Patreon backers only at my Patreon)

I still remember, fifty years on, the day we said goodbye to the aliens.

You kids won’t remember it, of course, or remember what the aliens were like — the way they stank, the way the air around them tasted just wrong, the slime they left on everything — but those of us who were there will always remember them.

I remember my own grandpa telling me about the day they came in the first place, and the way people had celebrated. We were different then, of course, and even though we’d had hundreds of films and TV shows about how the aliens were going to attack us and crush everything, people still had an open mind about them. After all, they thought, these aliens can’t really want to come all this way just to destroy us — they have powers we can’t even dream of, and there’s no reason to think they’ll want to use those powers to crush us — it’d be like a human flying from London to Australia just to step on an ant.

And back then, our parents and grandparents thought they needed the help. I don’t know if you’ve read in your history books about the early twenty-first century, but it was an absolutely magical time — the fashions, the music, everything was perfect. There were worries, of course — they worried about something called “global warming” — but that in itself tells you everything you need to know about that time. Can you imagine a time when the weather getting a bit nicer was the biggest problem facing humanity? If only it were like that now, eh?

But problems always seem big when you’ve got them, I guess, and so when the aliens came with all that technology, everyone thought it was worth giving them a try, to see if there was anything we could do to help them in return for them giving us a few of their toys. After all, they might have been a bit more scientifically advanced than we were — though not that much, after all, we’d already been to the moon and were planning to go to Mars, even before they arrived — but they didn’t have that good old human gumption, or our culture. They didn’t have our pioneer spirit or our entrepreneurialism.

And, for a while, it looked like we might be able to help them with that. Working together with the aliens, we fixed the few problems that Earth still had, with humans taking the lead but with the aliens assisting with some of the technological stuff — although we made most of the necessary technical advances ourselves, of course. The aliens thought they were so much smarter than us, but we soon showed them. We managed to fix everything!

But the aliens started getting pushy. They wanted to live here, to have the same rights as us. And the politicians just let them! A lot of the politicians actually liked the aliens better than the humans. I know, it’s shocking. But that’s the way things were back then. Traitors everywhere. The people of Earth were lions led by donkeys, and some of the politicians had even spent years living on alien planets! They honestly thought that the slimy, stinky, ugly, slug things were as good as us! Can you imagine?!

But the people knew better, of course. Nobody really liked those things, except for the politicians who thought that pretending to would make them more popular. And they were taking more and more of our stuff. They couldn’t make movies or music or anything themselves, so they just took ours. We were holding the entire galaxy up on our shoulders! And for what? No-one could name anything at all the aliens were doing for us that we couldn’t do ourselves. Yes, they made spaceships, for example, but we could have made those ourselves if we’d wanted — but why would we want to, when the only place you could go with them was a planet full of aliens?

So, eventually, we got sick of them, and the people of Earth decided to send them back. I’m proud that I was one of the people who took part in the campaigns and votes to get rid of the monsters. We were part of the great Earth tradition of democracy and politicians being subordinate to the will of the people, and it still took years — decades — before we could force the politicians to listen.

But eventually we did, and the slugs were sent back. There had been all sorts of warnings by traitors before we got rid of them — that without the aliens we’d be useless and worthless, that we couldn’t cope by ourselves — but we knew better. We were Earthmen, and proud of it. Earth had existed for millions of years before these monsters arrived, and we knew we could cope without them.

I was there when they sent the first of the aliens home. They pretended to accept our decision — they even acted like they were happy to go — and in return we pretended we were happy that they’d visited. But we all knew better. The scum were going, and we were jubilant.

But that didn’t last. We hadn’t banked on one thing. The shapeshifters. We hadn’t even known that aliens had the ability to change their shapes, but apparently some of them do, because after we’d sent all the ones we knew about back, everything started to go wrong. Alien saboteurs made their way into positions of power, and destroyed whole industries. There were food riots, led by the aliens, and eventually we had no choice but to start executing anyone who was under the aliens’ influence.

But we got through it. We lost two billion people in the war — although most of those were probably alien shapeshifters anyway — but we got through it, with that famous Earth spirit.

And now it’s the fiftieth anniversary. My generation are about to pass away, but we’ve finally got the first generation ships built, so you can finally take the battle to these monsters. When your grandchildren get to the aliens’ homeworld, you can be as proud of them as I am of you, and they can take pride in the fact that even if they die, they’ll have died secure in the legacy we have left them — the legacy of a free Earth that can stand on its own, without anyone’s help.

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