Rockin’ the Boat
“Approaching”, astronaut Veer Pratab Singh replied to the control center after they asked what he was seeing. He was so nervous and breathing so heavily, it was hard for him to focus. The eyes of millions of people were upon him and his every word.
The governments of the world tried to cover it up, but with so many people involved and such a large object, it was impossible. Riots flared up in France, China, the United States and Mexico. The worst riots were in China as several hundred people were arrested and a woman died, as many secretly Christian groups came out and declared it the coming of the Messiah. The Chinese government dismissed the rioting as a coup and rounded everyone up quickly.
Fear, had also gripped Veer. He knew exactly where he was when he had heard of the asteroid appearing. It wasn’t big enough to damage anything on Earth and was estimated to burn up in the atmosphere. Nothing spectacular about that, quite common even. But when it had stopped in Earths orbit exactly above Antarctica, people began to question its presence. Veer was in the cafeteria of the physics department when the television had announced the presence of the ‘asteroid’. He had a chicken salad with a diet coke. He was wearing mismatched socks and he still had to grade some papers.
The classes emptied and everyone was glued to a screen or phone, looking at the latest development of the asteroid. Things normalized after a few weeks, but it was hard for anyone to focus with the ‘asteroid’ being up there.
Earth looked so beautiful from this perspective, he thought to himself. “What do you see Singh?”, mission control asked.
“It is black and opaque. I can see my own reflection in it. Distance approximately 3 meters. I will go closer.”
“Denied, Singh, stay at a minimum length of 1 meter and conduct survey”, mission control answered. Veer ignored it and got closer. There wasn’t anyone who could stop him up there in space at that exact moment. The tether was being operated by a Canadian astronaut and could be reeled in, but Veer could just detach it of course. Naturally, he jolted when he got within 1 meter, as Richard Price made sure he didn’t go further.
“Can’t let you do that, Singh”, Richard spoke to Veer “We have orders. You don’t know what it will do!” but Veer didn’t answer. He detached himself from the tether and floated closer to the unknown object.
The voices that floated around in his head were drowned out by the tinnitus that lay upon all the sounds like a heavy blanket. He fixed his eyes on the prize in front of him and floated closer, hands outstretched. The eyes of the world were upon him, the voices of many trying to stop him from taking a risk too large. The black asteroid was uneven, slightly oval in appearance but rugged, as if it was built to appear like an asteroid. Closer and closer he got until he bumped into it with his hands. They met resistance, it was rigid as it floated peacefully above Earth. The voices stopped talking. The tinnitus was gone. There was only silence.
“Singh, you disregarded orders. There will be reprimand for that in the future… but since you’ve gone this far, inform us of your status. What did it feel like?”, mission control broke the silence. Veer took a moment and turned towards Earth and stared at it for a few seconds then back to the asteroid. He felt so peaceful up here and wanted to never return to Earth. In that moment, if he could, he would have given it all to stay in space, to stay in that exact moment forever.
“It feels hard. It feels like a hard, smooth rock, from as far as I can tell through these gloves. There also seems to — wait… It’s moving and.. it’s going to Earth!”, Veer shouted, his voice cracked. The asteroid moved slowly, then faster and faster towards Earth. It hurtled itself downwards and then stopped.
“Ok, it has stopped, it went closer to Earth but has stopped moving. It is approximately 200 to 300 meters away from me now and… it’s coming back up!”, Veer was startled. The black object rocketed back upwards and stopped in pretty much the same position it was in prior.
Veer stared at it. Suddenly, little lights appeared on the object. Or what appeared to be little lights, little specks of light minuscule in size, but all the same shape, round. Veer moved his upper body closer and saw that they were windows. Within each little dot of light was the silhouette of what could only be an alien… or insect? Their outlines were rugged, not smooth, and what appeared to be feelers were bouncing above their little heads.
“Mission Control, I have a visual on… the aliens. We have first contact.”