Flash Friday 04/11/2016: Phone Home
It was a cold Winter’s day when the Intergalactic Phone finally rang.
In the search for alien races, people have tried everything. From scanning the night sky to sending nude outlines of themselves on the Pioneer spacecraft, humans have always been keen to find life that isn’t them.
Unfortunately, either they were being too forward or the aliens just didn’t get it. So, instead of chucking weird cryptic things into space, they spread out a single message using several small crafts all with the same instructions on them. They detailed, in picture form, the concept of radio waves, a specific radio band, and coordinates to Earth.
Should anyone pick it up, they’d be able to send radio waves to Earth and communicate through the Intergalactic Phone, which, despite being set up to accept radio waves, still looked like an old-fashioned red phone with a turn dial (which did nothing, but everyone agreed the novelty was worth it). For months, the people stationed by the phone had nothing to do. That is, until today.
The people within the room exchanged silent looks with one another as the large red phone on the desk continued to ring.
Everyone wanted the phone to be picked up. Nobody wanted to be the one who picked the phone up. What if they were violent? What if they didn’t speak English? What if somebody sneezed and it translated out as a terrible alien swear word? Not a single member of the room wanted this one in a million chance to slip by; they just hoped somebody else would pick it up for them.
A middle aged man with a bushy brown moustache and round spectacles stepped forward. His hand shaking, he placed it on the receiver of the ringing phone, then slowly lifted it off, silencing it. He got the receiver halfway toward his ear before he froze, looking around the room as if for support.
Everyone else simply nodded.
The man slowly raised the receiver to his ear. What was he going to hear? Garbled nonsense? An eloquent, advanced language beyond human comprehension? He didn’t know. All he knew is that he had to say something, else he’d potentially lose this chance forever.
With a weak voice, he said “hello?”
“Ah!” a cheery female voice came from down the line. “Sorry for ringing for so long. Did I interrupt you? Catch you in the bath, perhaps?”
“No, no, but…sorry, but is this a human speaking? You speak perfect English.”
“That’s because a universal translation device is on the line. Takes languages spoken and morphs them into something the receiver’s mind can comprehend.”
“So, sir, can I have your name?”
“Martin,” he said quickly, remembering his manners. “Sorry, I should have–”
“No, no, it’s fine. I’m Qelsh, and it’s a pleasure to speak with you.”
“Right,” Martin said, dabbing his brow. “Right. So…did you find the details of the Intergalactic Phone and called us to deliver us humans a message?”
“That’s right! If you give me some of your time, there’s a matter of vast potential and benefit that we think would benefit you immensely.”
“Well then,” Martin said. “Shoot.”
Silence from the other end. Martin worried that he might had said something bad and put Qelsh off. As he listened, however, he realised there was some background noise. It sounded like…typing?
“We’re just going to need to ask you some questions, Martin, and then we’ll be ready to go. So, first of all; have you or someone in your family suffered an injury in the workplace?”
Martin blinked. “Yes, I–”
“Excellent! Did you know that by using our services, you too can legally claim compensation from your workplace? You could earn large amounts of the currency your native specie uses, with no deposit needed. If you don’t win, you don’t have to pay!”
“…I’m…really not interested in workplace compensation. I would, however, like to know where your kind live, and where we can find your home pla–”
“That’s a shame! Are you sure you don’t want to claim? You could earn a lot!”
“Listen, please, just give us a species name, a galaxy name, anything–”
“Well, it was a pleasure, Martin. See you!”
Then the line went dead.
Martin slowly placed the receiver back onto the base. Just as he opened his mouth to address the concerned and confused look on everyone’s faces, the phone rang again.
Martin picked it up instantly.
“Hello!” came a male voice down the line. “You’ve been randomly selected to partake in a quiz that can net you one million space credits in prize money. In order to win your cash prize, just answer these three questions: what is your credit card number, CVV, and mother’s maiden name?”
Martin hung up. The phone rang the moment he did.
“Hello, and welcome to World-U-Safe Industry’s fine line of products,” the next voice said in a scripted tone. “We sell a fine range of products, from defensive space stations to interplanetary cannons. If you’d like to place an order, please press 1.”
After the third time of hanging up, the rest of the people in the room were now very confused as to why Martin was looking more and more dejected the more the calls went on.
“Say,” Martin said, finally breaking the silence. “Does anyone know how to put our phone on an intergalactic Do Not Call registry?”