May 29, 2048
Dale and Sarah Berkner flipped through the channels. Neither one could sleep, but both were too tired to do anything but channel-surf. One would burn through maybe a hundred channels on the satellite before letting the other take a turn.
Sarah hit a string of religious public-access channels. Usually, everyone shot past those all at once, but Sarah felt damnably curious about what they were talking about tonight.
She hit one channel and rested on it. A woman, clothed in gilt-edged white robes, droned monotonically at a podium. Behind her were wildly colored banners, festooned with a now-familiar pattern.
“Oh my God!” Sarah pointed at the television. “They are totally nuts about the aliens! Look at them!” Dale paid attention to what they were talking about.
“—advent of the visitorrrs from the realm of the celestial—“
Dale rolled his eyes. “I hate it when people say see-lestial. It's suh-lestial.” Sarah shushed him.
The woman on the teevee continued. “—prophets. And now wee see theirrr siiign. Beeehold how they speak to usss allll. Wee see how the siiign is forrrmed by the—“
“Sarah, switch the channel. She's talking like a Martian robot.”
“Hush, Dale, this is wild.”
“She's a nut. See if The Honeymooners are on anywhere.”
“No. I wanna watch this.” Sarah hid the remote in the junk on her side of the bed.
“Dagnabbit! I got a million channels on that satellite and there has to be at least one of them showing The Honeymooners.”
“Dale, that show is literally a hundred years old.”
“And it's hilarious. Now gimmee that remote!”
“Let me watch just a little more of this, please? I'll find your show after this, OK?”
Dale looked at the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish. He thought of how the marriage vows they wrote didn't mention a damn thing about letting her get to use the remote control. “All right. But I get the remote when you're done with this nutcase.”
“Fine. Now hush.” They paid attention to the woman again.
“—through the uuuniverse in their chariots of light and glory. The cirrrcle here representsss—“
Dale cut in. “You know, how they've decided certain parts of that symbol mean something when nobody on this planet ever saw anything like it until a month ago is beyond me.”
“I know. Isn't it wild?” Sarah scooted closer to Dale.
“—foretollld by the great prophet Nooostradammmusss. Wee reeeead—“
“Aw hell no!” Dale sat up and laughed. “They always gotta drag Nostradamus in on these things! That's how you know they're nuts.” Dale hollered at the television. “He was a political commentator who wrote satirical allegories, you moron! He didn't see any aliens! Nobody saw them!”
The television woman kept going. “—heavens. Frrrom thisss, wee concluuude the obviousss concluuusionnn: The time has commme to returrrn to God. I callll upon you allll to make yourrr way to the gatherrrring place and preeeparrre to reeecieve yourrr masssterrr.”
“Whoa.” Dale and Sarah looked at each other. The television cut over to a commercial-like message explaining where to send donations. Sarah squinted at the screen. “Telos, Montana? Where's that?”
Dale reached for the keyboard at the foot of the bed and started a little research. A few keystrokes later, he had a map of Montana on the screen, Telos front and center.
“There it is. Just north of Wyoming. Beautiful country there, I hear.”
“Looka there, Dale.”
“Get a load of the name of the mountain range they're in.”
“Oh, man! The Crazy Mountains! Too much!”
“Who are these people?”
“The address went to Tree of Green Life Ministries.”
Dale set the keyboard down. “Whatever.”
Sarah switched back to the show. The woman was getting her second half underway. “By applying the prrrinciplesss of the Kabballllaaa…” She wove a tangled net of mysticism, touching on Hebrew, Arab, and European sources. All of her points touched on the relevance of the ancient texts to the sign the aliens made on the moon.
Dale talked to Sarah, since the woman on the television wasn't minding him at all. “There are just so many of these nuts, it makes me sick. I mean, can't we do anything better with this event than run to the hills?”
“Well, it's a big deal. Can't fault them for trying to find some religious significance in it.”
“Yeah, but not like this. We're not alone, sure, but do we have to be so geocentric and selfish to define everything in terms of earth and humanity? What if they came here purely by chance?”
“If they came here by chance, why would they make that pattern on the moon for us to see? I think they're trying to contact us. They picked up on our radio signals or whatever and dropped by to say hi.”
Dale propped himself up on a pillow. “That's standard sci-fi formula. Alla time, aliens show up and say hi. They look like us and soon learn the King's English. Except they have trouble with contractions and slang. They're always an extension of humanity, ultimately.”
“Not always. Lots of alien stories are out there about things that don't look human.”
“But, deep down, they are human and can be explained in human terms. I'm telling you, these guys don't speak English, and there's no reason for them to learn.”
Sarah muted the television as the woman launched into a dissertation of how the ancient Avestan writings of Zoroaster had something to do with the aliens. “So they're contacting us with mathematics. The universal language.”
“Not if you use Roman numerals. Heck, those numerologists can get any meaning out of any word if you give them enough time. Aleister Crowley said you could add up the numerical values of anyone's name to prove they were the Beast of Revelations.”
“But these aliens wouldn't do that. They'd use normal mathematics.”
“How do we know that?” Sarah didn't answer in Dale's pause. “I mean, how do we know these aliens aren't as nutty as we are?”
“We'd be in awful trouble if they were as nutty as the lady on teevee.”
Dale laughed. “Or as nutty as your family.”
Sarah hit him with a pillow. “Hush!”
“Seriously, seriously… all those rocks they moved around on the moon to make that pattern are a flat-out mystery to us, and we don't like it. We want to figure it out, but this is where science fails us. They've got intelligence and are doing things we can't necessarily repeat in a lab setting. All I know is, they're not human.”
“Yeah, but they made that pattern on the moon in four different places. I still say they're trying to contact us.”
“And I say it's time for you to switch channels.”
Sarah fumbled for the remote and handed it to Dale. Within a few seconds, he had found his episode of The Honeymooners on a station somewhere in Asia, from the look of the subtitles.
Ralph Kramden strode on the screen in his outlandish Space Robot costume. Dale and Sarah howled at the coincidence. Dale cuddled up with Sarah and said, “Baby, you're the greatest.”
“To the moon, Dale, to the moon!”