Blue Neighbor
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Log 17 – November 2nd, 2049

Only days ago, I was on a space mission traversing the darkness towards the nearest galaxy, but today I find myself crashed and stranded alone on a surprisingly inhabited planet. This is a planet I studied in passing in my youth. It’s a relatively young planet not too different from our own. From above it seemed to have everything needed for life to thrive – solid land, a robust atmosphere, a hemisphere pointing towards a star, and even water. In fact, this new planet consists largely of water just like our own. But from the moment I exited my damaged ship, I could tell something profound and disturbing was afoot.

My ship had crashed because I got too close to this planet. Originally, I had no intention of landing on it. I just wanted to perform an initial flyover to see if there was sufficient evidence of planetary life to fund a discovery mission. I was trying to get a closer look at the massive structures and settlements I could only vaguely see from above. From my ship’s window, the atmosphere was immensely thick and difficult to see through. At first, I figured what I saw were pits of tar or barren wastelands the planet’s inhabitants once strangled for resources. However, there was volume and depth to it – like high-rise domiciles scraping the cloudy atmosphere. But as I shimmied closer to the planet, my ship was caught in its gravitational pull. The planet’s gravity reached further out from its core than I had calculated by quite a distance. Once my ship was caught, it couldn’t muster the force to wriggle away and after a brief struggle, catapulted to the surface below. A blaze surrounded the ship upon entry into the lower atmosphere. I turned into something of a makeshift asteroid at lightning speeds towards the ground. If I hit any terrain, I would have undoubtedly perished upon impact. Luckily, my ship smacked into a body of water off the coast of the landmass I’d seen from above. My ship was not waterproof to say the least. Short electrical bursts sputtered from the engine as my head smacked square into the dash. Smoke rose from the ship’s outer shell to join the smog constricting the night sky. The aluminum exterior sizzled and crackled. It began to sink with haste into the freezing alien water. I salvaged a spacesuit, a few test tubes, water purifying packets, and a raft, but I couldn’t salvage much more before the ship sank into the murky depths. To my avail, I’d only crashed about a half click from the coast and was able to let the water’s soft current guide me to shore.

Log 18 – November 4th, 2049

Today would have been my birthday back home. I knew the mission would overlap with a birthday or two of mine, but I didn’t account for how lonely it would be. Come to think of it, it would be less lonely to be thrusting through deep space at thousands of miles per hour through than to be the only one of your kind on a robustly populated planet. All I’ve seen so far are some sort of abandoned tough exteriors of aquatic creatures scattered along the shores, and piles of neglected scrap from a seemingly advanced civilization. I’d think it safe to assume the scrap came from a native primitive creature.

I tested the atmosphere and found it was composed of a mixture of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and a variety of other traces of gas. By all chemical measures, the atmosphere was close enough to our native air for me to remove my helmet and safely breathe. Such a discovery prolonged my potential stay significantly – I didn’t have the oxygen supply for multiple days stranded on an alien planet. At its core, the atmosphere wasn’t too dissimilar from what I’m used to, but there was something else mixed in the aerial concoction. Aside from the expected atmospheric contents, I found significant levels of toxic compounds hanging in every sample of the air. It manifested as a sort of haze which split the local star’s rays, trapping the heat to act as an unwelcome insulation. The planet’s diseased brown air made it difficult to discern the time of day. By initial indications the air was habitable, but even still I was worried prolonged exposure to the atmosphere’s subcomponents would have terrible effects on not only myself, but the natives as well if any of us stayed too long.

In the distance I was able to make out those supposed tar pits through the thick haze. I could almost see them better from the comfort of my ship’s window than from the terrestrial level. Indeed, they did consist of greater structures. Some of the structures weren’t more than ten meters high, but some stretched high, appearing destined to reach into space eventually. They looked like ten-meter buildings stacked upon themselves anywhere from two or three to sometimes hundreds of times over. From all indications, there was a great deal of intelligent life in these gray coastal settlements, but from my tests on the atmosphere, they have less than a few years left. I’d perhaps crashed at a very unique period in our blue neighbor’s lifespan – it was still habitable for terrestrial life, but the aliens would soon succumb to a sort of oxygen starvation, suffocating on their own planet’s atmosphere. Such a unique period could be a beautiful time in a planet’s history – due to the clear urgency of the matter, I can only dream about the scientific and technological genius occurring now to ensure the dominant species survival. I cannot wait to contact them.

Log 19 – November 5th, 2049

I’ve ventured quite a distance away from my initial terrestrial point of entry near the body of water to get a closer look at the coastal civilization. On my way I’ve found the remnants of what appears to be a dilapidated forest not a few clicks from the civilization’s edge. Perhaps this location is where they acquired a large amount of resources, or perhaps had a war. There were faded-brown bushels and scraped bark scattered across the ground. It was as if the intelligent life engaged in a bloody conflict with vegetation in which the aggression was rather one-sided. I collected a few samples of the plants around me, or what was left of them. I tried to sift through the charred bits, but it was fruitless. There were long-dead, charred and hacked methodically, chipped through assumedly highly advanced machines. I can conclude with some certainty the planet’s dominating lifeforms had utilized their superior intelligence to pillage the area with unnecessary ease. As I am growing closer to the civilization, and witnessing the destruction in its path, I grow wary of the alien temperament I will encounter.

Log 20 – November 6th, 2049

Today I found the local lifeforms are easily distracted. I stood at the settlement’s edge and waved my arms incessantly, jumping around like a buffoon. This nonsensical excuse for a dance proved enough to attract the aliens no matter what they were doing beforehand. I was beginning to question whether I’d over-estimated their true intelligence. In response to my flailing, they all reacted in a unique manner – so they weren’t as uniform as I’d guessed either. Some extended their arms towards me, some ran away, some ran towards me. One even vomited some sort of brownish-tan goo. I could hardly infer whether they were carnivores or herbivores based on that collection of half-digested filth splattered on its foot. But each of them had the same stricken, exhausted look on their faces. Their skin was bleached and blotted from the force of unencumbered light burning through their weakened atmosphere. The scalding star’s power weighed on their darkened skin and pulled it downwards on even the youngest aliens. Their eyes hung diagonally in desperate fatality by a thread, as if they would soon melt from their sockets. And all of them seemed mentally delayed, perhaps by their brains’ lack of sufficient oxygen. Each of them was facing planetary demise, and their bodies exemplified the planet’s imminent downfall. When I had their attention, I realized how few dared to venture outside.

After their varied reactions, I couldn’t get a sense for their willingness to communicate. To avoid being beaten and strewn across a charred landscape like their planet’s vegetation, I retreated. It was quite clear they were not yet ready to meet me in my true form.

Log 21 – November 26th, 2049

I’ve spent the last several days crafting a zippered suit built with a collage of anything I could find. I tried to replicate the alien’s biology to the best of my ability in order to interact with them more closely. I have only been on this ticking timebomb masquerading as a beautifully blue and habitable planet for twenty-four days now and I can already feel my body breaking down. Every move I make results in constant perspiration, my lungs decay with every inhale of this toxic atmosphere, and even my brain slows slightly more with each passing day. My time here is terminally limited, and so is that of the locals. I figure if I can get close enough to them in my alien suit, I can join in on their escape plan. They must have a plan to leave this failing terrain. Any truly intelligent life should have designed some sort of launchpad to depart and repopulate a more suitable planet, but I haven’t yet seen any departing rocket ships. If only I can find their scientists, I’ll undoubtedly be home in no time at all.

Log 22 – December 19th, 2049

I am approaching my first holiday season alone, which is proving to be even lonelier than my birthday was. The holidays aren’t even here yet and I can already feel my social desperation kicking in. Luckily, I have gained favor with a few members of the local settlements. I dressed up in my alien suit and told them I have nowhere to stay in the coming months and they’ve taken me in with open arms. The aliens may be dying, but it doesn’t appear thus far to have dampened their spirits. This could mean only one thing – their escape plan is already fully crafted and tested. There are enough crafts for them to all safely leave, and they will be leaving shortly. If everything goes according to plan, I can join them wherever they may be off to. I’m not privy to the local language, but from what I can interpret of foreign languages in general, one of the locals extended an offer to me to join them for a meal – or to eat me. I can’t be sure. But in a situation like this, I have no choice but to join them and wish for the desirable outcome.

Log 23 – December 21st, 2049

By almost all measures, my socialization with the intelligent population went off without a hitch. Not a single alien questioned my ill-conceived suit mimicking their likeness. One even performed something akin to a grin and touched my suit, seeming to compliment my appearance.

This social gathering was held entirely indoors, giving me a first glimpse at their structures’ contents. All I’d seen prior to the gathering was the environmental decay, the rotting air and scorched terrain. I’d now become the first from our planet to perform an inter-planetary social interaction with these aliens – a truly incredible feat I’ll never stop talking about when I get home.

Once inside their abode, I finally found the evidence of their technological expertise. As a matter of generalizations, they seemed to be far advanced past us on innovations of communication and comfort. Almost everything inside the structure served as a form of robotic service, communication, or environmental manipulation. The inside air felt much more refined than that of the outside, and notably much cooler. It was clear this air was vastly regulated from the naturally occurring in order to simulate a habitable environment. I was keen to test the inside air as soon as I got a chance and observe the chemical differences from my initial sample. But I began to worry more about their advanced technologies of comforts. If they were planning on leaving this forsaken planet, why were they spending such an inordinate amount of energy optimizing their own comfort and simulating habitable environments? I reassured myself for the time being that these innovations were all tools they planned on utilizing to terraform a new planet, despite whatever conditions they came across.

Eventually the aliens seemed to collectively understand that I didn’t speak the local language. At first, some tried to converse with me in dialects they weren’t quite comfortable with – I could only assume these were “foreign” languages from other sects of their planet, indicating the local life wasn’t even uniform in language. After the creatures had given up conversing with me, I was more or less left to my own devices, free to explore the innards of the alien structure. I walked about the home and observed the different gadgets and innovations they had. Nearly all of the creatures had something wrapped around one ear which I could only assume was for communication or hearing assistance. On top of that, they had spherical devices in nearly every nook and cranny that operated as a simulated assistant, providing informational assistance and even hosting social amusements. I couldn’t understand its responses to them, but the robots clearly engaged seamlessly acting as crutches to their interactions.

Later in the social gathering, some of them began leaving in groups. I found it bizarre to see they were noticeably uncomfortable with their own departures. I couldn’t understand their language, but they were performing some type of slouched, acted-out rituals just for the privilege of going their separate ways. As this ritualistic dispersion began, panic set in. I didn’t know if the aliens would ever invite me to their departure, especially since I couldn’t effectively communicate with them. I needed to find a way off the planet and fast. If not, my lungs would soon collapse and I’d wither away in pain, an early victim to the local exceedingly harsh conditions. I stopped one of the aliens on its way out by tugging on its lanky appendage. It looked startled when it turned around, staring at me with its large buggy and diagonal eyes. This is the closest I’d ever been to one, and for the first time I saw blood vessels bursting through its dying eyes. The planet’s demise reflected like a mirror on its inhabitants. They’d soon die, but I was no longer sure whether they were aware.

I pointed to the outside air and yelled. The creature was frightened. The alien pulled away from me and frantically looked back and forth between me and its planetary relatives. I screamed some more and then said, “Don’t you have a way off this planet? It’s dying! You’ll all die with it – but you must know that – don’t you? Where’s the alarm? Where’s the panic? Where’s the rocket ships ripping off into the sky leaving this hell scape?” But expectedly, they stared at me blankly – I spoke to no one. I began to cry.

The creature’s head swiveled wildly again before it thrashed its appendages at me and scampered off into the unforgiving landscape outside. From the evidence of socializing robots, the drinking of liquids, and the general merriness about the aliens, I reached a suddenly horrifying conclusion: this wasn’t a farewell party to their planet: they had no means of escape. They had constructed an indoor environment that would briefly prolong their existence upon their already-dead planet, but more importantly provide an intellectual cushion for their existential ignorance populating rapidly slowing brains.

In conclusion, I will most certainly die on this planet they call ‘Earth’, and in turn I can confirm no evidence of intelligent life upon the Milky Way’s last habitable rock.

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