It was in a plain manila folder, possibly the most mundane and down to earth container possible for any message.
With deep despair in his heart the SETI Institute Director opened the folder again and looked over the contents of the folder, hoping against hope that some how a third reading would somehow change the content and meaning of the decoded transcript of the first ever authenticated SETI communication received by Earth.
He closed the folder.
There was no change of the text, and try as he might he could not fault the clear and un-emotive wording of the press release that he would shortly have to give to a waiting world.
The director could feel the ground under his feet move and the walls of his professional life begin to shift ahead of a complete collapse.
At least, he reflected, he no longer felt the sharp edge of initial outrage and anger that he had been felt two days ago when the sense of the translation had began to emerge from the translating programs.
So like a process of grieving for the loss of a loved one he mused?
He closed the folder and put it down on his desk. He paused for a moment, to reach for the telephone to call in his assistant director, just as the intercom buzzed and his receptionist announced his deputyís arrival. He had just helicoptered in from an urgent mission to the remote desert field station to personally confirm that all aspects of the transmission were genuine. He had already phoned back to confirm that the message was indisputably genuine and that it was still repeating its request for a reply every thirty eight minutes.
As the Deputy entered his office, the Director pointed to the folder and said,
'Youíve read it', with a stony face the deputy Director replied with exasperation,
'Yes, Iíve read it'
'Of all of mankindís messages sent out into the ether, who could have imagined that the first to result in a response would be a ..'
The Director finished his sentence for him, 'A Nigerian banking scam offer, of all the bloody things!'
Copyright © 2006 Garry Dalrymple.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, October 2006 .
This page last updated 16th September 2008.