Message In a Bottle


It’s coming. I can feel it.

Whenever I look up on a clear night

and feel starlight drench my eyes

I know it’s almost here.

The SignalThe Sound – whatever

they’ll call it when they hear

its barely-there-behind-the-static

tone – is advancing towards us, now, today;

no cosmic clarion call, no blaring “Greetings Earthlings!”

fanfare blast but a gently whispered

bee’s wing-wafted ripple pulsing

through the silent space between Their star and ours…

whoever and wherever They are…

A bottle – electromagnetic, not brittle green

glass – tossed into the abyss to fall

just off our solar system’s shore to bob,

for a billion years on the surging celestial surf

before washing up on blue Earth’s beach.


And inside? Our best guesses won’t come close

to good enough, but our hearts will pound

as we pause one final, fearful second

before slicing open that long-awaited first letter

from our anonymous alien pen pal –


– to find… oh no… the disappointment

of a mere polite “howdy”, scrawled in boring binary,

no frills or kisses, just a Hallmark “Hope

you get this, drop us back a line to let us know..”?


Impossible! Surely any race that turns its curious face

towards the stars and shouts in hope of being heard

would never be so mean as to tease us so cruelly?

Ah, they might. We may have to make do with that.


…which would still be glorious, right? Proof

that all we dreamers, optimists and nerds who

insisted to our sneering friends for years on end

that We Are Not Alone weren’t weirdoes;

that the Truth really was Out There and Muldur’s

tatty, tacked-up poster had been right all along –


– and yet… can any of say it would be enough?

Would we be satisfied with just a simple scribbled

greeting stuffed into an envelope and flung

across the gulf of space? Hand on selfish human heart

I cannot say I would; I would want more, much

more from mankind’s First Contact,



I want to hear their music! Listen to

their Beethovens, Bachs and Beatles

greet me from their world so far away;

shake my head in wonder at the sounds

their great composers crafted; hear

with tear-filled eyes their alien voices soar

in harmonies and melodies as different to ours

as ours are to the mournful songs of whales…


I want to see their art! Gaze, open-mouthed

at spot-lit statues and strange sculptures of


nod approvingly at what we convince ourselves

must be busts of great generals and leaders

from that foreign, far-flung world…

Tilt my head left and right as I stare hard at what

looks like a painting of a sunrise, or sunset,

but no-one’s really sure…


I want to live and learn their history! Read, with

thudding heart, epic tales

of all their heroes brave, the triumphs,

tragedies and Truths that gave

their civilisation its colour, depth and shape.

No doubt as grand and garish as the Greeks’,

with bold Achilles, Hercules and Hectors of their own,

wrapped in chains of guilt and lust as strong

as any found in Man’s Bible’s pages…


I want to drool over their maps! Trace with

shaking hands the jagged coastlines of their lands;

plot routes across their continents, visiting

exotically-named cities and towns

along the way, saying their names to myself

over and over, over and over, testing and tasting each letter

until they pronounce themselves and, without

realising it, I am talking Alien…


I want to watch their movies! Gorge myself

on pots of popcorn while alien heroes

and heroines defy invading aliens of their own;

laugh as their Three Stooges poke each other

in the eye; watch their White House shatter

into pieces and their own geeky Goldblum

save the world – and get the girl –

to a rousing orchestral theme.

I want to see their dreams..!



I want to see their photographs, their

happy snaps of holidays and picnics

in the sun; aliens strolling by sparkling

rivers with their equivalents of dogs;

proud fathers dancing with daughters

at weddings; mourning mothers crying

over coffins at funerals on dark and rainy days…


I want to see their Apollo 8 “Earthrise”, of

course it won’t show Earth climb up

from beyond a crater-covered Moon but their world;

viewed for the first time against the black,

a gleaming, fragile bauble of stained glass

bright against the ebony suede cloak of space,

coloured – well, that will depend on chemistry;

terran blue and white if gases like the Earth’s

swirl in its air, greens or reds or shades

of who-knows-what vapours which fill their lungs

each time they take a breath…


Will their world be cratered? Pocked by the shot-

gun blasts of asteroids, comets and rocks?

Will it be ringed, a mini-Saturn, shining icy

bands hoopla’d over its head to settle round

its waist and shimmer like molten silver in the

faerie light of its shining sun..?

Will it own one lone and lonely moon or many?

Could their world be a mere moon itself, circling

obediently and tirelessly, a Titan or Europa

locked in orbit round a star that might have been..?


I want to see. I want to See! I want to SEE!


But if there are – please no! – no pictures for

my eager eyes to feast upon, if there are only

words then let their author be a Sagan or a Sobel,

someone to inspire and fire our souls.

An alien Ackerman who paints Monet-perfect

visions with vowels, verbs and words

and brings to life their extraordinary world.


It’s coming. I can feel it.

Whenever I look up on a clear night

and feel starlight drench my eyes

I know it’s almost here.


Almost here.


© Stuart Atkinson 2006

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