OUT THERE
by David Philips

Somewhere on planet Earth, June 1971

“The interdimensional spacecraft glided in geostationary orbit two thousand miles above the surface of the earth. By human standards, it was immense, and would have covered an area the size of Australia. It was invisible and would not show up on any man-made detection apparatus. The vessel had been in this trajectory for thousands of millennia, and without it, all human life on the planet it monitored would not exist. Not only were the beings who once controlled this extra-terrestrial ship the originators of the human species, but their successors, the Sophanors, were responsible for the present day-to-day acts, thoughts and even the emotions of everyone on this tiny orbiting sphere. The Sophanors permitted humanity a certain degree of what they believed was free-will, but in reality, it was they who governed the destiny of the human race as surely as that society controls the lives of their domestic pets.

“All life, no matter how robust, how strong, how determined to survive, must eventually come to an end, and so it was with these alien beings. Seeing that even their highly advanced technology could not halt their eventual decline and ultimate demise, they built the Sophanors, a sophisticated hybrid part-physical, part artificial automaton, to continue their dominance over the human race. Although only half-visceral, they had imbued their machines with a nascent set of emotions, not too dissimilar to those they had implanted in the human psyche. The only sensation they did not include was fear, for what were these cybernetic machines to be afraid of?

“One day, in the far distant future, when humanity was ready, they would make themselves known, but not now. The time was not yet ripe.”

Calum was happy with what he had written. It all looked good, and he would continue his story in the morning. He would write about a time when these alien-made devices would finally reveal themselves and declare themselves the true gods of humankind, and what their arrival and revelation would mean for the future of the species. It was all coming together nicely. But it was late and he was getting tired. Tomorrow was another day… 


Calum padded into his study, still clad in his nightclothes. He wanted to make an early start, while all his creative forces from the night before were still jostling for prominence inside his head. He sat at his typewriter, preparing to take up where he stopped the previous evening. Now where were his pages? They weren’t on his desk where they should have been. He was sure, no, he was positive, that was where he’d left them. He looked on the floor, in case he had accidentally dropped them, but, no, they weren’t there either. Where the hell were they? Bloody Alice. Why couldn’t she leave his things alone? Always had to be tidying up after him, even when nothing needed tidying. She must have moved them, but with her track record, she could have put them anywhere. He only hoped she had not dumped them in the garbage, thinking they were of no importance. Well, he’d soon explain to her in no uncertain terms that she should keep out of his sanctum. She had no business snooping about his private affairs, and, boy, would he let her know it.

But when he confronted his wife, she had no idea what he was talking about. She assured him she had been nowhere near his room in days. He only half believed her, but then a grudging acceptance slowly crept in. Why would she lie? Alice might have her faults, God knows, but a liar she was not. In their six years of domestic bliss he had never caught her out telling an untruth; not once—so why start now?

Surely it couldn’t have been his three-year-old daughter, Jennifer, the apple, hell, the whole orchard, of her daddy’s eye, could it? Might she have sneaked in, despite constantly being told that this was her daddy’s room and she could only go in when he told her she could, which was very rarely. Maybe she had taken the pages so she could use the crayons they had bought her to draw nice pictures for her mummy and daddy. That would be OK. He could still salvage what he needed, he was sure, and resume where he had left off. No harm done. But when he gently queried her, she only looked up at him with her gentle, naïve and innocent wide blue eyes, and shook her head. And he believed her. She was his little girl. End of story.

So where the hell were they? Was he going prematurely senile? Was dementia slowly creeping in? How could pages he had typed only the night before suddenly vanish? They had to be somewhere, but where? After another wasted half-hour, he finally gave up. His pages had vanished into thin air. He would need to start again from the beginning, remembering as best he could what he had typed the evening before.

After a couple of hours, he read what he had written. It was satisfactory, he supposed, but he was sure it wasn’t as good as his earlier effort. It was… lacking something… he tried and tried and tried to recall what he had put down, typing a few lines then discarding them. It was no use. He could not reconstruct his narrative exactly as he had written it the night before. And, he sadly realized, he would never be able to recover everything he had typed from memory. For a second, he had the preposterous thought of going to a professional hypnotist to get him to recollect in a dream state his original words. But such a venture would prove costly, and Alice would blow her stack like an exploding boiler if she discovered how he had spent their limited supply of cash.

Eventually, he became so frustrated by his inability to recapture the originality of his half-completed manuscript that he decided to stop altogether. If he could not rewrite it to its previous standard, better to forget it once and for all. Perhaps one day it would all come back to him, but in the meantime, he would think of a new project.

In the days and weeks that followed, all thoughts of his ‘magnum opus’ slowly receded into the dark cavity of his memory, until there was nothing left but a distant, vague and unfamiliar suggestion of what might have been.

And two thousand miles above the earth, equilibrium had been restored. This one earth being had somehow intuitively broken free of his extra-terrestrially-imposed limitations, had transcended his human plane of existence and glimpsed the real nature of humanity’s origins, including the presence of his true creators. These sentient semi-alive beings had not been imbued with a sense of fear, but all their algorithms told them that, had he been permitted to disclose his thoughts, what this male earthling had divined could alter the very fabric of human civilization.

One day, in the far distant future, when humanity was ready, they would make themselves known, but not now. The time was not yet ripe.

 



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