This story was written for the Reedsy contest "A Time for Action".
More specifically in the context of the prompt: "Write a story about activism."
Anates Ex Machina
Forget the Zapruder film that registered the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. Forget the footage of the Boeing 767s that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Those iconic images pale in comparison to the recordings of the Arrival.
Everyone remembers where he was and what he was doing when the first news bulletins of the appearance of the UFOs were aired. The gigantic flying saucers showed up simultaneously in the sky at twelve different locations: Los Angeles, New York, Buenos Aires, Brasilia, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, and Sidney.
Seeing was believing. I saw, but I didn’t believe. I knew better. I was the inventor of the projectors that were used to create these illusions in the troposphere. I had built the technology in my secret lab, not knowing that it would be used to create this world-wide beguilement. My work was funded by a company that called itself “TerrafiX”. They paid me well, but I didn’t trust them, and I was right not to. When I saw the first reports of the UFOs on television, I immediately recognized them for what they were: mirages created by the device I had concocted during my research. I felt ashamed of being an accomplice to this preposterous display of fake news.
I tried to let the world know that it was all a hoax.
“The media have it all wrong,” I wrote on my website. “Don’t be fooled by what you see. Those spaceships aren’t real. They are huge, larger than life holograms, meant to lead humanity into believing that intelligent, extraterrestrial life has finally found its way to our world. I am about to inform the American authorities about the organization that might be behind this whole charade.”
My blogpost remained online for about five minutes. The next moment my website was taken offline. This confirmed my suspicion and fear that the government was involved in the make-believe. I monitored police communications, and to my horror, I heard that I was declared an outlaw. I knew I had to run, so I ran.
Fortunately, I had anticipated this. I chose one of the many false identities I had created over the years in case a situation like this would occur. I went into hiding in a cabin deep in the Big Sur region. The government didn't know I had a hideout in the woods, nor that it had all the high-tech equipment I needed to follow the further course of events.
“We come in peace,” the aliens said. “We are going to make things right with your planet before everything that is currently going wrong becomes irreversible.”
That was a message that sounded like music to the ears of society. Mankind was blinded by the hope that what the aliens said was the truth, and nothing but the truth. Their arrival was considered the solution to every problem humanity was facing.
All weapons were silenced instantly. Wars that had been fought for many years ended abruptly after the aliens succeeded in convincing all parties that every conflict would soon be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The visitors from outer space ended the debate about religion once and for all: they had seen God. He had completely forgotten humanity until the extraterrestrials reminded Him about us. God had told the aliens He was sorry for the many centuries of neglect. It would not happen again.
The aliens also committed themselves to providing the technology that would put an end to hunger and suffering in the world, while at the same time addressing climate and environmental emergencies that threatened our blue planet. Climate change would be stopped; Earth would be changed back into the paradise it once was.
Day after day, new UFOs arrived over the world’s major cities. There were a handful activists in every country warning people that “if something is too good to be true, it probably is”.
It goes without saying that these pockets of resistance didn’t have much success. The announcements and promises that salvation was near were so overwhelming that the masses went completely overboard for the extraterrestrial message. Any dissent against the global acceptance of whatever the aliens claimed was rapidly nipped in the bud, if not by the government and the media, then by the public opinion.
As a result, critical questions were left unanswered. Such as: “Why did the aliens only show themselves to the Presidents of China, Russia, and the United States? Why did they choose these three world leaders as their spokespeople? Why did they limit themselves to words instead of providing some real evidence that they could achieve the wonders they promised?”
The fake news that made the gullible public believe everything the leaders of China, Russia, and the United States said, was far more appealing than the truth. Those who didn’t go along with the global delusion were arrested and portrayed as nutcases who believed in conspiracy theories.
With pain in my hearth, I saw how every network of resistance was cut off the Internet. I resisted the temptation to stick out my own neck in search for potential allies. It was imperative that I stayed out of the government’s hands until a UFO would finally appear near my hideout. I knew that day would come, and I was ready for it.
I examined the spacecraft that appeared above Monterey County through the telescope in my cabin. I took a map and calculated where I would find the machine that created the hologram. If I left in the morning, I could reach it by sundown.
I had no problem finding the device. I took a mobile phone that wasn’t registered with any carrier and I opened the app I had developed for this purpose. I used it to connect to the operating system of the projector from a safe distance. I was lucky enough that the engineers at TerrafiX hadn’t noticed the Easter egg I had hidden in the software. It was a piece of cake to hack into the network that linked all the devices with each other. In no time, I could take over control every UFO-projector in the whole world.
Forget the Zapruder film that registered the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. Forget the footage of the Boeing 767s that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. Forget the recordings of the Arrival. Those iconic images pale in comparison to what mankind witnessed the day the impressive UFOs suddenly turned into giant, mind-boggling, yellow rubber ducks, floating harmlessly in the sky.
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