First published in Captain Ginger Season Two #4 by Ahoy Comics | July 2020
They usually only met once a year and had been since 1977. This, however, was an emergency, or so they were told by the encrypted notes left on their desks. Instead of meeting at a nice restaurant – last year it was indian, and they still talk about the bread – they gathered in one of NASA’s disused sub-basements and murmured disappointment.
When these men and women called themselves anything, it was “The Great Filter”, and when they passed each other in the lunchroom, they’d glance up to the ceiling as a kind of secret handshake. You could join simply by pledging allegiance to being alone and bringing something suitable for the next broadcast.
Last year, Watanabe brought three bootleg albums from a so-called noise artist with a name of no vowels and a half-dozen sharp consonants. Before he hit play, he warned the room to bite down on something or risk gnawing off their own tongues.
Amundsen came with awful statistics fashioned into neat graphs. Among her favorites were extinction rates, refugee numbers, and wasted food versus child starvation. She always said nothing breaks hearts like a pie chart.
Agarwal revealed that she’d hacked the local emergency department’s waiting room. She had hours and hours of people clutching their wounds while sitting on hard plastic chairs under fluorescent lights.
There’s Zhang who, with an incongruous smile, provided a rousing account of how measles had been almost eradicated – and then, for some perverse reason, allowed to return to kill kids. (Dead kids were always a favorite.)
And Jenkins, who brings footage of mimes every year. Just mimes. Walking into the wind, pawing at an invisible box. It’d become a joke and yet when he played the films, the laughter would die, replaced by a funeral’s silence.
Others came with underground snuff films, paintings by serial killers, and movies about robots that turned into cars. It’d all be scanned, recorded, digitized, and blasted into space on whatever dish they could hijack.
That honor was left to Martinez. She’d earned it. She’d been there when they launched the Golden Record back in ‘77, brimming with hope and hubris. Carried by the Voyager spacecrafts, the Golden Record was meant to contain the best of humanity on two phonograph discs: all its voices and music and discoveries and more. Carl Sagan said this represented “something very hopeful about life on this planet.” Like aliens would find then, play them, and come to enfold us in a warm, cosmic embrace.
“But the Golden Record,” Martinez said, last year, every year, “was a lie!”
Now she hurried into the sub-basement and the gathered crowd wondered what she’d found for broadcast. Quick bets were placed as she snapped her fingers for their attention; the smart money was on something Nazi-related.
“Every year,” said Martinez, the room quieting, “we show the universe the truth about humanity. The 911 call recordings and the crime scene photography and the screaming profanity remixes were meant to keep us safe. Keep alien contact at bay. Who’d want anything to do with us after seeing all this? But last night I realized…”
Martinez spun in place, looking each of her companions in the eye, and she shook her head at their collective stupidity. “What if the aliens like it?”