Adam might still be on dial up, but sometimes slow and steady wins the race, especially when you’re dealing with something truly out of this world.
Amber Fernie shows us that she can do funny and Sci Fi, brining her trademark clear prose and conversational dialogue to this story about close encounters.
Want more? Check the Short Story Page.
THE DAY DIAL UP SAVED THE WORLD
A Short Story About Close Encounters
by Amber Fernie
“I can’t believe it’s taken you this long to get high-speed, Adam,” said Holly as she finished setting up her friend’s brand new Internet router.
Adam Grayson shrugged, replying, “Never needed it before now. I don’t do much in the way of gaming and videos and what not. Mostly just use it for email.” In fact, the only reason Adam had relented to Holly’s ongoing pressure to convert was because he had just begun telecommuting, and for that he needed a good, fast connection.
“Well, I bet you will now. Seriously, how could you live with dial-up for that long? 1995 called, they…”
“Want their internet back? Yeah, the aughts called, they want their joke back. I don’t know. It’s come in handy.”
“Come in handy? When? Did you need a horrible, shrill, jarring noise to repel unwanted females?”
“Nah, that’s what I keep you around for,” he said, nudging her with his elbow. “Seriously, sit down. I’ll tell you a story.”
“Ooh, a story,” she said, pulling up a chair and placing her hands comically under her chin, giving him a sarcastically wide-eyed look.
“Okay, so a couple years ago…knock it off, would you? Do you want to hear this or not?”
“Okay, okay. I’ll be serious. Tell your story.”
“Geez. Okay, so a couple years ago, I’m sitting down to watch the game, and I hear this huge rumble out across that field by my house. Well, you know one of my neighbors likes to run his four-wheeler out there, so I didn’t think anything of it at first, until I hear this knock on my door, and I open it to see these two strange guys standing there. Skin kinda had a gray pallor. And they weren’t just strange looking. Their clothes were like something you might see at a Star Trek convention, except they were all torn up. Well, they don’t say anything, they just walk right in and tell me they need to commandeer my communication device…that’s exactly the way they said it, ‘commandeer my communication device’. Well, that’s when I notice the shorter one’s pointing some weird gun thing at me, so I hand him my telephone. They just look at me like I’m nuts, and then the tall one points at my computer and says that’s what he needs. I figure the guy wants to use my email, so I log on for him.”
Adam paused, and got up to pour some coffee. “Want some?” he asked. Heidi smirked at him. Adam was known for his elaborate jokes, and she had the feeling she was on the receiving end of one right now.
“No thanks, I’m good.”
“So anyway,” he said, sitting back down, “The guy starts typing an email, and they didn’t seem to mind me looking over his shoulder, so I read it. It said,
Emergency crash landing. Communicators out. Atmospheric reconditioner damaged, along with suits. Unable to access ship’s computer system for repair specs. Thirty minutes remaining until oxygen poisoning. Require assistance immediately.
So that’s when I notice that aside from looking just weird in general, these two guys are looking a little peaked. I ask the short one what’s going on, and just what the hell is an atmospheric reconditioner, and he looks at the other one and says in so many words that they might as well tell me because it’s not like I can do anything anyway.”
At this, Adam affected a halting, electronic sounding voice as he continued, “‘I am Glox and this is Kliak,’ he says…”
“Hold it, Adam. Glox and Kliak? Zurk?”
“Hey, you think ‘Holly’ is one of the top ten baby names where they’re from? Would you like to tell the rest, Ms. Smarty-pants?”
“Oh, no. By all means, proceed.”
“Okay, so as I was saying…’I am Glox and this is Kliak. We come from a star system which is out of range of your limited knowledge. Our planet was destroyed. We are commandeering your planet and your atmosphere. The device we will use to modify it to our specifications needs repairs. If we do not repair the device and alter the atmosphere, we will soon be poisoned by the toxic oxygen you humans breathe.’
‘Bummer’, I say, and that’s when I hear the little ‘You’ve got mail’ notification, and I look over Kliak’s shoulder again to read the reply.
Unable to assist. Repair specs in attached file. Contact when repairs are completed.’
Adam sat back in his chair and sipped his coffee.
“Well!” Holly demanded after a moment’s pause. “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” he said, continuing to sip his coffee.
“Didn’t need to. That file was twelve megabytes. Do you know how long twelve megabytes takes to download on dial-up? Those guys never had a chance. Next morning, some gentlemen in suits showed up and cleared away the whole mess.” He leaned over and winked, whispering conspiratorially, “I probably shouldn’t be telling you any of this. I might have to kill you.”
Holly chuckled at Adam’s punch line, and then asked, “Well now, wait a minute. What about the ‘mother ship’ or whatever? Wouldn’t they have just sent another crew down to fix their atmosphere thingy?”
“Funny thing about that,” he answered. “Do you remember that huge meteor that came so close to hitting us awhile back?”
“Well…maybe our guys’ knowledge ain’t so limited after all.”
He raised his eyebrows, and rolling her eyes, Holly punched him playfully in the arm, saying, “You are so full of it! You have an answer for everything, don’t you? I gotta go.”
“Hey, thanks for setting up my router,” he said, and she made a mockingly rude gesture as she walked out the door.
Adam watched from the window as Holly drove away, and then he wheeled his desk chair over to a locked drawer, opening it and pulling out a patch of torn cloth with strange markings. He’d found it in the field near his house, and though he didn’t know what the markings meant, had he been able to read the language, he would have recognized the name “Glox”.
“Never had a chance,” he said to himself, grinning.