Robert Sproule

The Letter

7 posts in this topic

"Ladies and gentlemen: The President of The United States."

The President stepped up to the podium and looked out over a sea of reporters

from every country on earth. His message would be broadcast via radio and

television around the world. While the content of the President's speech had not

been leaked, its importance had. Reporters with contacts in very high places had

heard comments like “You won't believe it,” “I don't understand it,” “It's not

possible,” “It shouldn’t be made public.”

The President raised his hands in a motion that asked for silence.

He began, "Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to bring you a message of

crucial importance to the future of our civilization. But first, a few facts. As you

are all aware, a few years ago we launched a series of NEATs – Near Earth

Asteroids Telescopes.”

“Oh, my God!” was the horrified reaction from the crowd.

The President held up his hands:

"No, we have not discovered any life threatening asteroids on a collision course

with earth." He paused, and hesitated slightly as if his next sentence was not part of

his prepared text. “What we have discovered is a warning of a danger greater than

almost any asteroid could threaten. Let me continue. Two years ago we discovered

what was first thought to be a very small asteroid. Further investigation determined

that it was, in fact, an artificial satellite. We checked all records and databases around

the world in an effort to determine its origin. We found no such record. Exhaustive

efforts turned up nothing. Either the record of its launch had been lost, or the satellite

was of alien origin.

“Six months ago I authorized a mission to retrieve the satellite.

“For the past three months we have been studying its contents. We have

discovered, ladies and gentlemen, that this satellite was launched almost one million

years ago. We know its launch date and its exact place of origin. We know that the

civilization that launched it was a little more advanced, technologically speaking, than

our own. But there is little to be learned from this satellite in the way of technological

advancements. The elements used in its construction are the same. There are a few

alloys that appear to be stronger and lighter than what we currently produce, but

nothing beyond our capability.

“The crucial importance of this satellite is in a letter and a map placed inside the

satellite. The letter is in another language, but its author, anticipating that its reader

would not speak his language, provided a legend for easy translation. The letter has

been translated into twenty-nine different languages and will now be broadcast

simultaneously around the world. On the large screen behind me, you will see its

English translation appear as I read it aloud for our radio audience."

The letter rose from the bottom of the giant screen as the President read:

"Greetings from another civilization:

“Since you have recovered this deep space probe, you are obviously an advanced

technological society. You must have discovered certain principles – principles that

any rational being, anywhere in the universe, must discover in order to become a

technological society. You must have discovered that reality is an absolute, that it

exists, that it exists without contradiction, and that it exists independent of the mind.

You must have discovered that the survival of a rational being depends on the non-

contradictory identification of the facts of reality – that survival depends on reason!

You must have had an age of reason, and enlightenment. And you discovered

how to reshape your world for your own comfort and pleasure – you had an

Industrial Revolution!

“My world too made these discoveries and rose to these achievements. But

my world is doomed.

“In my world there are no principles. The first principle we abandoned was the

concept of an objective reality – that reality exists independent of the mind. We

are taught that reality is subjective – no, very subjective – that it’s a product of our

imagination, and everyone's contradictory view of reality is just as valid as any

other – forgetting the fact that imagination requires a thing to imagine. We ignore

reality – and reality will wipe us out. We have abandoned reason. Reason is the

non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality. But since we have abandoned

the concept of an objective reality, reason is not possible. Without reason,

understanding, purpose, or any meaning in their lives, the vast majority of our

species has turned to faith – a belief, without a single fact of reality to support it.

Well, God help us! There is, now, an open attack on the Industrial Revolution:

we are taught that we must consume less – not that we should create more; we are

taught that our ancestral savages had an idyllic life; we are taught that every life form

on our planet has a right to exist – except our own.

“Our culture is doomed to return to savagery, where reality is feared instead of

understood – because we have given up our means of understanding – reason. I'm

not sure I fully understand the reason for being unreasonable. Perhaps, it's that no

one with enough influence has risen to say – ‘You can't get away with it!'

“I am the chief engineer of this deep space probe and, as such, have had little

influence on the direction of my culture. Perhaps, if this letter is made known, I will

have some influence on yours."

As the last piece of text rose from the bottom of the screen, one could see what

appeared to be the beginnings of a map.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the President said, "as I have said, we know this

satellite's launch date and its exact place of origin. This satellite takes two hundred

and forty-seven years to orbit our sun and, according to the orbital counter on

board, has made four thousand and nine orbits. And, as you can now see on the

map behind me, was launched from the east coast of Africa.”

All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Ladies and gentlemen: The President of The United States." ...

Reminds me of one of those startling short stories in a 1950s science fiction magazine, or the base for a Twilight Zone episode. Very enjoyable. Thanks, Robert, and welcome to THE FORUM.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Ladies and gentlemen: The President of The United States."
Excellent! Thanks very much for that!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It reminded me of a Twilight Zone episode, also. I figured the satellite was launched from earth, but the President and the people who captured it were going to be the alien civilization.

But the premise seems to be that we had an earlier civilization here on earth, roughly a million years ago, that destroyed itself after abandoning reason, one center of which was based in Eastern Africa----where we now understand home sapiens to have first arisen.

I like it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Robert Spoule:

When I finish reading this story it leaves me with a feeling of hope. The hope is found in the idea that a President would have the wisdom and courage to reveal the letter and its theme. I too have wondered if in our primordial past, a race of men surpassed us in achievement--and then lost their paradise to some dark ages.

It is pleasing that the continent today that is the leitmotif of poverty and despair, was in you past time, the center of an industrial-technological age; neat.

There is not dramatic conflict but, then again, it is a short-short story. I can't fina a plot in yours. There are many short stories that have no plot but do have a beautiful final effect: this is one of them. Poe's THE OVAL PORTRAIT comes to mind.

The final effect, which is very interesting and successful, the twist, seems to be a conflict that man the species faces--and not the conflict and resolution of an individual character.

Overall it was a pleasing piece and made my walk to the dry cleaners in Little Portugal that much more enjoyable.

Jose Gainza.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I finish reading this story it leaves me with a feeling of hope. The hope is found in the idea that a President would have the wisdom and courage to reveal the letter and its theme.

Thank you for your reply.

I don't think any of our leaders of today "would have the wisdom and courage to reveal the letter

and its theme." And it's probably too early to hope for a George Washington, but, hopefully, not

too late to hope for a Churchill.

Best Wishes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites