The day that the end of the world began started like any other day; alarm clocks buzzed, the sun came up in the east, and men and women drank cups of coffee as they made their way to work. It was over before most of us had clocked in for the day; it was over before we even realized what had happened.
This isn’t to say that no one had anticipated the events of that morning. The members of the lunatic fringe, those of the tinfoil hat brigade had been watching the skies for decades for just this sort of thing. That guy on the History Channel, the one with the hair and the Greek name, said, “I told you it was aliens.” But by then it didn’t really matter.
At 6:45 that morning officials at NASA called for an emergency press conference to announce the arrival of several large spacecraft, alien spacecraft, approaching the Earth. With long-range radar sweeps and satellite photographs they presented overwhelming evidence that, indeed, we were about to be visited by intelligences of unknown origin. When asked, at the end of the press conference, why this information was being shared with the general public, instead of being kept secret and classified, the NASA spokeswoman said, “there’d be no point. The aliens will be visible to the general public – to anyone in the northern hemisphere with a telescope, even a cheap one, would be able to see them in a matter of hours.”
That day was spent in arguments over cubicle walls and lunch tables, on the airwaves and around government agency conference tables. How would we respond to these visitors? Did they come in peace or intend upon the destruction of the human race. Some said that we should be prepared to welcome these guests from beyond our solar system. Others argued that we need to begin readying our missile defense systems and mobilizing our military forces – immediately – before the invasion began. Plans were drafted. Resources were mobilized. But none of it mattered. The aliens didn’t stay long enough for us to put any of our plans into effect.
Their space craft entered the atmosphere just after 9:30 AM Central Standard Time. They hovered over the Atlantic Ocean for about 20 minutes – long enough to dump something into the atmosphere. And then they left. There was no communication from them at all during that time. Nothing. They made not radio broadcast and did not respond to our frantic transmissions.
They stayed just long enough to jettison a toxin, or poison of some sort into the air and then they were gone, leaving the Earth along the same trajectory that brought them here. They didn’t stick around to see the result of their arrival. They didn’t stick around to enslave or consume the human population, or to count the dead.
The question of motive – Why? Why did they come? – remains. Was the poison they released into the jetstream a weapon? Or were they merely emptying the trash before they made the next leg of their intergalactic journey? Did they know that it would have a fatal effect on the human population (and on many animal species as well)? Did they care?
But that question remains unanswered. They’re gone, and do not seem to be returning any time soon. And if the death they dropped into the skies continues to kill at its present rate, there will be few, if any, who will be around to ask them should they return. Nothing much matters after the end.