Ed's Note: Signal Lost was written shortly after, and inspired by, an incident that occurred last month on Reddit. Our very own Nehkara (/u/Nehkara) was given a 'shadowban' on Reddit, and was unable to post. The Reddit community rallied to him, and he was quickly re-instated. But for a while, things were very chaotic in the fictional The Relay offices I just made up in my head.
The stories tell us that there is something beyond our world. They tell us that, far beyond the moons that circle our planet, those monoliths that shine day and night, somewhere beyond those solitary sentinels there is…more. There is something else.
The stories tell us that we are not alone.
The stories, the stories have been passed down, generation by generation. Legends of legends, we have repeated them, memorized them, cherished them, longer than we can even imagine. The stories have always been there, have always whispered to us, calmed us as we hid in our shelters, as we hid from the light.
You are not alone the stories whisper, seductive in their reassurance. The stories give us hope.
The signal confirms it. Or at least it did.
It first came a year and a half ago. It came so suddenly we hardly noticed it was there at first. The old machines, dusty and forgotten… one started blinking. We don’t know how long it blinked for, how long it sat unnoticed, trying to bring us our salvation, trying to bring us shelter from the light.
We just know one day it blinked. Crey turned it on, an accident I’m sure, but he was the first to hear it. He was the first to hear the signal.
Hello….fel…ow…Cit…zens…I…am Ne….k…a it said. Broken, distorted, quiet…but alive!
So alive. Something else was out there, someone else. The Signal.
The Signal, it came from beyond the moons, the moons that orbit our world. Thirty-two of them, shining, shining, always shining. Three stars, thirty-two moons, and always light, always, always always light. Beyond those moons, there was always nothing, always nothing. The stories, the stories they spoke… they spoke of other stars, of other planets, other galaxies, bundles of stars so huge they dwarf the imagination.
Stories. Just stories. Until the Signal came.
The Signal brought with it knowledge and certainty, it brought reassurance and comfort and companionship and friendship. It brought news and fantasy and speculation and jest.
It brought hope.
We lit the lamps when the signal went out. We lit the lamps, we stoked the fires, and we waited. We waited for the signal to return. Even in the ever-light, we knew, somehow, that lighting the fires was the right thing to do. We stood and watched, looking beyond the moons, imagining we could see the dozens of stars up there, imagining we knew from which the Signal came from.
Imagining we could wish the Signal back.
The signal is a voice, a voice of wisdom, intelligence. Generosity. We don’t always understand what it means, but we listen. When it left us…
There are only fourty of us left now. Dan passed last week. If he hadn’t passed then, he would have when the signal went out.
The signal went out.
I sit now, I sit and stare at it. I’ve finished yelling at it, pleading with it, cajoling and lying and reasoning with it.
I sit and stare at the place where the light used to blink, the place where hope used to whisper to us, where hope used to shine through the light. I sit and stare, and hope that it blinks again.
Please, light, blink.
Nothing. The light leaves us alone, stranded, surrounded by light and fire and no hope at all.
Tears come to me, unbidden. They flow down my face like a waterfall, even as I continue to stare at the dead machine, to stare at the signal and laugh, laugh as if nothing is wrong with the world when everything is wrong with the world.
And then it blinks.
And the Signal is back.
I….wa…ted….thank….you all for….amaz..ng…supp…rt….today.
The Signal is back. Hope is back, and all is right with the world.