They came not in ships but in beams of light. Creatures of many eyes, their forms wavered insubstantial before us. They did not speak but when one of their eyes, a film of colored photons, a mere hologram projected across the expanse of space, touched us, we saw–landscapes and constellations, caves of crystal and deserts of blue sand, twisted plants and writhing phosphorescence.
They were like Ezekiel’s vision, appalling and fascinating and unearthly.
They must be advanced, to have come so far, to have seen such things. They peered at us patiently and we turned our efforts to teaching them our language, certain we could not comprehend theirs. We began with the alphabet. We showed them A and they touched us–a mountain peak against an orange sky, a violet streak of sunset stretched against calm waters. We spoke the sound, ah, and they stared at us.
We continued with B. The touch came, the shiver of light upon flesh–a single cloud in a green-tinged sky, a creature fat and lazy nursing its young, two rocks stacked one upon another. We spoke the sound, bee, and their many eyes stared unblinkingly.
Through all 26 symbols we continued, our wide smiles and exaggerated gestures veiling our dwindling confidence. We could not help but think these celestial beings were like children on the first day of school who looked uncomprehendingly at the big bold letters that ran the border of the room and at the hieroglyphs of their own name printed and taped onto their desk and understood nothing.
But, no, the aliens were processing our feeble language in their condescension, we told ourselves. Or, at worst, they struggled to imitate a method of verbalization so foreign to their own, like Americans learning the Bushmen’s clicks.
We signed to them to speak in their own tongue, or if they had no tongue (for we had yet to locate their mouths), then in their own way, whether by whistle or gesture or an intricate Morse code of blinks and winks.
They stared at us with hundreds of eyes, and made no sound we could detect, even with our instruments, and no patterns we could determine by man or machine.
In all our striving they answered or asked (we could not tell) image after image–a torn body, a hole in soft sand, a bird (or something like it) upon the water, their people harvesting crystals with crude tools, a sky full of stars, a great mob of aliens like a soup of eyes, the closing of the eyes and the reopening like birth or revelation or morning, our own forms as seen by them, and so on. Perhaps these were their speech, and not merely images of their experiences, but with what meaning, we did not know.
Then, realizing that we must show what our language was, just as they had attempted to show us theirs, we led them to the library. Here were words, millions of words, so that they could not be taken as unique creations but as plentiful and purposeful. We opened book after book before them, pointing out the letters and the words, showing how they repeated, speaking them out in repetition as to infants, hoping to form a Rosetta stone for these advanced beings. We found the word book and pointed to the book. We found man and chair and alien and did the same.
After long hours, when we pointed to the word, all we were shown in return was an image of the letters themselves: b-o-o-k and m-a-n and c-h-a-i-r.
With the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon, the visitors’ forms shifted and shook. The connection (the innate ability?) that brought them weakened.
They were aliens and had seen much. They could insinuate a hundred associations with a powerful remembrance but they could not say one thing definite, which we all understood the same.
And so they faded away, and my brain is full of wonders and vision, but what can I say? I know nothing for sure. I have tried here to record what I saw, to put into language what was merely sight. I am left with dreams but nothing to grasp, with possibilities but not a single fact. They came from the stars in beams of light that shone with brilliancy and cast nothing but shadows.