Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

I was sixteen when they came.

They touched down in large ships all over earth, silently with no visible means of propulsion. Jagged, asymmetrical leviathans ridged with glowing seams and thousands of softly humming translucent spikes as tall as skyscrapers. Their spindled undercarriages contacted the ground and there they impossibly balanced, footprints with no more square footage than a volkwagen bug. Islands on tiptoe with their furthest spires still in space.

A triangle of light spasmed open in their base and they came out.

They floated silently and ghostly like their ships did. They were made of a dark metal that could be made intangible at will. Red sensors ringed their masses. No two of them were the same size. Their appendages dangled, chunky black tentacles of many different widths, some cables nearly dragging on the ground as the beings floated out of their vessels. The smallest one I saw was as long as a cat and the largest was the length of a bus balanced on its bumper.

The missiles we’d fired at their ships at first contact still hung there in the upper atmosphere, barely moving in some sort of time-retardant field. The bullets and shells that had been fired at them from the ground troops did the same. So we stopped. We didn’t know if our stilled ordnance would go off when the visitors left. Our noisy impotence in the face of their silent superiority became embarrassing.

They scanned everything. They took no interest in us except to regard those that came close to them with a whirring chirp of blindingly quick quadrary math. Scientists and mathematicians figured out their language but the numbers still didn’t make sense.

Small ones for flowers but long ones for gardens, small ones for trees and massive ones for forests. Medium ones for buildings but huge ones for cities. London’s number was bigger than Vancouver. Damascus had a larger number that Paris. Water seemed to make the math go recursive and eat itself.

A temporal theoretician named Davis figured it out after some terminally ill humans approached the aliens in search of a divine cure. They were measured and forgotten by the aliens and left disappointed to succumb to their diseases. Those measurement numbers took on meaning after their deaths.

We don’t know how long they’ll be here but the aliens appear to know how long each of us will live.

People seek them out now. It’s a dare to get yourself measured. New parents bring their children, newlyweds find out how long they’ll have together, and one presidential candidate famously got measured at a press conference but the result was scandalously disappointing.

The aliens seemed to have a sense of time like we have a sense of smell. Common opinion is that the passage of time whorls around them and that they are more sensitive to it. That they smell time in chains and whips, in spills and gusts, in pours and dams. When we speak to them, they seem to only measure our word lengths and move on. Perhaps they’re entropy police cataloguing the known universe. We don’t know if they’re sentient or automated.

We are not intelligent life to them. They speak in measurements and nothing else. How they invented space travel is a mystery to us.

All I know is that I was measured yesterday and I have another forty-three years to live. I plan to make them count.


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