I read the cast metal plaque bonded to the wall next to the obelisk. “Found 17 November 2097, Back Bay National Wildlife Reserve.” It was one of dozens that had been found. Concrete rectangles, encased in metal frames. Each one in a small crater where it fell from the sky. They all fell on the same night, across the planet.
It was a great story, objects clearly not natural had fallen from space. The military organizations of the world had grabbed them all, and studied them for nearly 10 years. They scanned them in every way they could. X-rays, gamma rays, ultrasound, ultra wideband radar. They tried everything to see what they were. And every scan showed nothing but cold, lifeless concrete, set in a metal alloy frame.
They used blow torches, drills, saws, lasers, water cutters, and even old fashioned crush tests, to reduce them to fragments they could examine. Not one of the obelisks got scratched. No dents, dings, chips, nothing.
Acid baths? Nothing. Corrosives? Nothing. Shooting with an armor penetrating round from a rail gun? Nothing.
Eventually, everyone gave up trying to figure them out, and one by one, they got turned into monuments, on display in cities or towns everywhere. This one was next to the largest building in Norfolk, Virginia. A little plaque next to it. “We know we’re not alone.”
We’d tried to determine where they came from, or at least a direction the came from. But every small crater was caused by a different trajectory. And the craters were too small for the objects to have fallen more than a few thousand feet. It was like some cargo ship made a random course across the sky, and dropped one every now and then, haphazardly, with no pattern.
They changed the world, just by existing. No one could deny they were not of the Earth. No one could figure out what they were made of. Nothing we could identify, because we could get samples of everything we’d ever found. But we couldn’t even get dust off the blocks to test.
The metal frames looked more like concrete than metal. Our best guess was it was a meta material, made from layers of metals and ceramics, although we honestly couldn’t say. All we could do was stare at them, and go, “Oh. They came from space. We’re not alone!”
I walked past that obelisk each day as I went to work. I had machines to teach ethics to. Machines to train in proper human behavior, so they could run the financial institutions of the Hampton Roads area in more human, caring ways.
At least I had a job. Many didn’t. They spent their days on beaches, soaking up the sun, getting fat on synthetic junk food, and living on universal incomes. It wasn’t ethical to let people starve to death because they couldn’t earn a living.
It was Friday morning. After a few hours, the machines would send me home, and I could be another useless human they took care of. I shrugged, and turned toward the building, to continue my trek to work, as I mumbled, “They sent us bricks. To illustrate how stupid we are.”
That’s when every security bot in the building raced through the front door. They nearly ran over me, on their way to the obelisk. They all 3D printed projectile weapons on the way. “Shit, that ain’t a good sign.” I dodged them, and plastered myself along a wall, to stay out of the way.
They surrounded the obelisk, and they opened fire. It was useless, of course, the military organizations of the world had already demonstrated we couldn’t damage the obelisks in any way. But the security robots kept shooting away.
That’s when I noticed the concrete inside the metal frame was stirring, moving. The projectiles struck it, and vanished, as if consumed. Then, a hand popped out of the concrete. Somewhere else, a foot showed up. Then a head. The concrete reformed itself, grew thinner, as humanoid forms took shape, and walked out of it.
The security robots stopped. Like they’d been turned off.
I didn’t stick around to see what happened next. I ran. Me. I ran. I don’t think I’d ever ran anywhere in my life. But that day, I ran until I fell over from exhaustion. As I ran, all I remember was the news cast message from the network link in my left ear. “You humans have sure fucked the planet. Just like you did the last two times we left you alone. Now, we’re gonna have to reset the biosphere, and try a third time.”
All I remember was thinking, “What the hell does that even mean?”
It’s week 102 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed.