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No One is Out There

by HGsomeone


A/N - So this is a revised version on my previous short story, 'Message in a Bottle' but after reading some comments I thought this story deserves to be fixed. With a new title, a lot more words and a poem, hopefully I've addressed all the possible questions and problems that were in the earlier draft and not added a whole heap more as this is a bit longer than my original work.

Feel free to check out the original version and tell me if this was in any way an improvement, otherwise; Please enjoy!

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“The earth was charred, and the sky spat venomously. Stark, towering monoliths spiked from the ground, daring to scrape the tumult of clouds above. They were the last crumbling remains of humanity. Hollow bones through which the wind whistled and howled.

One stood apart from the rest, for atop its head it held a star of light. One final flicker of life. It was in this abode that the last human, Jeff, lay sleeping.”

“Wow, now that this poetic, Pixa,” said Jeff, applauding a bubble of blue glowing light on a television screen in front of him. It seemed to shy away, bashfully, at his praise.

He picked up his pen and began to write out the small paragraph of description. “An excellent opening line, you’ve really outdone yourself.”

“Why thank you,” said Pixa, her blue glow brighter. “Having the complete works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Edgar Allan Poe installed on my database, does have its uses now and then.”

Using a small hidden camera in the ceiling, she spied on what he had written down. “Venomously has a u in it, dear. And you’ve got the l and the e mixed up in whistled.”

Jeff stared up at the screen and grimaced. He set his pen down. “Fine, you do it then.”

Barely a moment passed before the passage of text shone in front of him. He read over it and nodded with approval. “Good. I’m going to grab a drink. Help get my brain moving.”

Jeff stood up and walked across his apartment to the kitchen. His home of the last thirty-two years, ever since he had been born, was a large space; taking up the entire top floor of the building it sat upon.

Each wall held expansive panels of ceiling-to-floor windows that had been drawn close with heavy curtains, hiding the world outside.

His feet passed from cushioning carpet to the cool kitchen tiles and Jeff tapped a large object which several centuries earlier one would have thought was a fridge. “Tea, please.”

An opening appeared to reveal a mug positioned to catch the torrent of steaming liquid that coursed out of the machine, from deep within the building. Food and drink came to him, passing through an endless cycle. Mechanisms designed and built years before he was born took his waste, then purified and reconstructed it so that it could be used or eaten again.

“Where were we?” asked Jeff, taking the mug and returning to the sofa before the screen.

“Writing your accounts as the last human on Earth,” answered Pixa helpfully.

“Last human as far as we know.”

The light on the screen dimmed, “Is this what this is all about Jeff? What has suddenly inspired you to write? I’m sorry dear, but we both know there is no one out there. No one can be Out There.”

“I’ve never been Out There, I’ve never left this place.”

“Because you are lucky.”

Out There, was a land of death and decay. In here, Jeff was safe with Pixa in the world built by those who had wanted to protect him; to protect his family. No one is Out There. A mantra that had sung him to sleep in the glow of her console.

Jeff turned away and sipped his drink. It was as warm and delicious as it had always been, the taste never changing no matter how many times it was recycled. “Please, can we just write.”

“Of course.”

Pixa never argued with him, never went against his will. It wasn’t in her programming. She was there for him. Closing the curtains against the nightmares and singing him to sleep.

Setting down the mug and picking up his pen, Jeff stared blankly at his notepad. He began to write; “Alone, above the world, he remained. Alive through the efforts of his… um.”

“Forefathers?” Pixa suggested.

Jeff nodded. “Forefathers. Alive through the efforts of his forefathers, who had built this sanctuary to protect him. Installing a guardian to-”

“My, my, a guardian?” Pixa added what he had written to the paragraph of text already on her screen.

Jeff shrugged and opened his mouth, but a loud beep derailed his thoughts. The lights flashed red and Pixa had disappeared to be replaced with the universal sign of annoyance; a little wheel spinning incessantly. Rising to his feet, Jeff jumped over the coffee table he had been using as a writing desk and reached a hand to the small wheel; frightened to touch it and banish it forever. “Pixa?”

The lights cooled to their usual placid brightness and his familiar blue bubble appeared on the screen. “Oh, sorry about that. The satellites and antennas have been out of service for several decades, so it took a while for me to get them sorted and reroute some more power to them from the solar panels-”

“Satellites? Antenna’s?”

The blue bubble hesitated. “There’s a message, dear.”

The coffee table creaked as Jeff dropped onto it. His legs no longer seemed strong enough to support him with the added weight of this new information. “A message. How? Who?”

A new voice, to share with him new words. A voice from where he had been taught his whole life no voice should come.

“It wasn’t from Out There, my dear.”

Jeff pressed his palms into his eyes. For a moment he had thought he wasn’t the only one, he wasn’t isolated alone in his star. “Well, where did it come from then?”

“Space.”

“Space?”

“More accurately, somewhere close to Cernunnos 17-6, which is roughly 9.34 billion light-years away.”

“So, you're saying this message came from aliens?” said Jeff, frowning.

“That does seem to be the case,” Pixa confirmed.

“Left it a bit late, didn’t they?”

He rose to his feet and began to pace around the apartment. Pixa observed him with worry, “Would you like me to play you the message, dear?”

Running a hand through his hair, Jeff bit his lip and nodded.

A song echoed around the empty apartment, of highs and lows and longing. The message was short and to Jeff, the tune made no sense. But whether he could understand it or not didn’t matter for it was a sound made by another world. A world that was crying out for someone to hear it, so it wouldn’t be alone in this universe of nothing.

“Would you like for us to send them a message back?” asked Pixa. The sounds stopped.

Jeff stopped as well, “You can do that?”

“I believe I may have the ability to do so. Though I cannot guarantee it being successful and there would inevitably be a delay.”

Jeff nodded. With a sigh, he leant into a curtained wall and pushed his head into the fabric until he could feel the solid, transparent shield that protected him, behind it. Aliens. Aliens now after every scientist, conspiracy theorist and science fiction fanatic had gone. There was only Jeff, and he had spent the last two years binge-watching every program on the last surviving version of Netflix.

Outside, the thunder crooned a lullaby and painted like a toddler with lightning across the sky. Jeff hadn’t realised he was sinking until he felt himself sat upon the floor. With his descent, the fabric of the curtains had shifted, allowing him to see past the thick glass to a land empty of anyone or anything.

Pixa had said there would be a delay. How could he know that if these aliens ever did receive his message and followed it back, that he would still be alive? They would be searching for another dead planet from amongst millions.

They were out there, and he was here, separated by a wall built from time. Jeff felt more alone than ever.

If they came; no one is out there, would become, no one is in here. Such truthful lies.

Eyes drifting closed, Jeff whispered to himself the old story he had always been told when the wind sang like a siren in the dead nights;

“Out There, life has withered and only bones remain.

The lands have blackened, and the waters turned to acid.

The heavens turn in endless turmoil above,

casting spite onto its child it once loved so dearly.

Never go Out There, my sweet dear, darling.

No one is Out There in that human-made hell.”

“Jeff?” Pixa called softly.

Pushing off the wall to his feet, Jeff began walking to his bedroom. He needed to sleep and escape into his own world where aliens didn’t suddenly call out to him and he didn’t live in an empty paradise.

Pixa watched him from her many eyes around the apartment. “Jeff? You can talk to me.”

He stopped at the doorway, meters away from collapsing into his bed’s pillows. He gulped and leaned on the frame for support. “I can’t make these decisions. Whatever I choose, nothing will change.”

“It, It,” Pixa never stuttered. “It will for them.”

Jeff was silent.

“They will be rewarded with hope and the knowledge that, at one point, they weren’t the only ones.”

The apartment was quiet as Jeff turned from his bedroom and walked slowly back to the window. He ripped the fabric that covered it away, pulling the curtain back to reveal his reality. He stayed there a moment. A moment that ignored time and spanned more centuries than the Earth had ever known.

“Pixa,” he said finally.

“Yes, dear?”

“Send a reply.”


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32 Reviews


Points: 894
Reviews: 32

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Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:19 am
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IamI wrote a review...



Hello. This is my review.

This was good. But telling people what they’re doing right doesn’t usually lead to improvement, so let’s start with the bad.

First of these is a grammar error: ‘“wow, now that this poetic pixa.”’, I’m pretty sure you meant ‘that it is’ or ‘this is’ either of these choices works in context and I’d be splitting hairs if I recommend one over the other. The second of these is a slightly off description: where you described a storm that “painting like a toddler with lightning across the sky”, I would suggest removing “like a toddler” from the description, while it would make it more readable. In the similar vein you described lights with a “placid brightness”, perhaps change “placid” to “pallid”, I guess “placid” works, it isn’t really descriptive.

With that out of the way I can give you some praise:

I think this is one of your best works, I was genuinely inspired by portions, especially by the end. This end is also something I feel you deserve praise for; it encapsulates everything a post-apocalyptic story should: the hopelessness, the terror, the helplessness, I can only imagine what it must be like to be the last of the human race, and to know you would never see another living thing again. This could have been something much worse in less capable hands, but you manage to turn it into something beautiful and sad. I wouldn’t mind a prequel.

I apologize if this is not up to par with my other reviews I am unjustifiably exhausted.

This was my review. Goodbye.




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Thu Jan 30, 2020 2:28 am
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shieldmaiden wrote a review...



Wow. This is really, really good. It really dug deep. And it made me really sad. Jeff is all alone with only a robot for company. Pixa is really well developed. She/it sure helped make it seem not totally alone for poor Jeff. She is as comforting and as close to an actual human that you can get. Though this was only a short story, you managed to get her personality through immediately. She is nurturing and caring. I got attached to her right away and forgot that she is a robot. Or a computer. Or both.

Jeff is an amazing character as well. So well-developed. I could sense his pain, yet you managed not to make him sound as if he was always complaining or griping. He seems to be a character who is naturally of cheerful disposition, yet is so lonely. His loneliness really hit home. I would die if I had no human contact.

Nice twist at the end. I find it ironic that the only hope Jeff has at human contact is through aliens. I hope he gets to meet them and is no longer lonely.
Keep writing. You are a stupendous writer!

-Shieldmaiden




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Tue Jan 28, 2020 3:50 am
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BlackThorne wrote a review...



I really love this story! some things to tweak:

1.

It seemed to shy away, bashfully, at his praise.

"shy away, bashfully" is redundant, and vague. try giving us something more specific.
Example:
There was a pleased sing in the artificial voice.


2.
He picked up his pen and began to write out the small paragraph of description. “An excellent opening line, you’ve really outdone yourself.”

in my opinion, the little quip there is pushing the story-within-a-story thing a bit too much. also "a small paragraph of description" is very wordy, try being more concise.
Example:
He picked up his pen and began copying it down. “Great opening line.”


3.
“Having the complete works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Edgar Allan Poe installed on my database, does have its uses now and then.”

your commas need correcting. also I think it saying something like "this many famous authors" instead of just a few named ones would sound more like a real AI if you wanted to do that.
Example:
“Having the complete works of 256 of the greatest authors installed on my database does have its uses now and then.”


4.
Using a small hidden camera in the ceiling, she spied on what he had written down.

in context, "spied on" has a more negative connotation than is fitting. this could also be more concise.
Example:
She looked over his shoulder from a small camera in the ceiling.


5.
His feet passed from cushioning carpet to the cool kitchen tiles and Jeff tapped a large object which several centuries earlier one would have thought was a fridge.

this could use a little breaking up for better coherence.
Example:
His feet passed from cushioning carpet to the cool kitchen tiles. Jeff tapped on a large machine, that several centuries earlier might have been called a fridge.


6.
Is this what this is all about Jeff?

needs a comma, grammatically, but it's worth noting you don't really need the name.
Example:
Is this what this is about?


7.
Out There, was a land of death and decay.

a more specific and visual description would probably be better than generic "death and decay".
Example:
Out There was a world of nuclear wastelands and acid lakes.


8.
The coffee table creaked as Jeff dropped onto it. His legs no longer seemed strong enough to support him with the added weight of this new information.

the sentence about "support him with the weight of this new information" weakens the tone a bit with the diction. try rewording for bigger punch.
Example:
The words hit him with a weight that made his legs buckle onto the coffee table.


9.
A song echoed around the empty apartment, of highs and lows and longing. The message was short and to Jeff, the tune made no sense. But whether he could understand it or not didn’t matter for it was a sound made by another world. A world that was crying out for someone to hear it, so it wouldn’t be alone in this universe of nothing.

the mood of this description seems indecisive. you should either simplify it to the beautiful meaning or the nonsensical qualities, whichever would be more accurate. it would help it be more cohesive.
Example:
A song echoed around the empty apartment, of highs and lows and longing, stretched over seven seconds that dripped with sound. The meaning was incomprehensible. But whether he could understand it or not didn’t matter, for it was a sound made by another world. A world that was crying out for someone to hear it, so it wouldn’t be alone in this universe of nothing.


10.
With a sigh, he leant into a curtained wall and pushed his head into the fabric until he could feel the solid, transparent shield that protected him, behind it.

"window" would suffice.
Example:
With a sigh, he leant into a curtained wall and pushed his head into the fabric until he could feel the cool window behind it.


11.
They were out there, and he was here, separated by a wall built from time.

I think elaborating on this scientific aspect would really enrich the story, as the common reader won't fill in the factoid blanks--it's said by scientists that any alien signals we might receive would be more than millions of years old.

12.
If they came; no one is out there, would become, no one is in here. Such truthful lies.

this is a little confusing phrasing at first glance, you could try rewording for clearer comprehension.
Example:
If they head his reply, and traveled across space to come here, the words "no one is out there" would become "no one is in here."
Such truthful lies.


really cool story! keep up the good work :D




HGsomeone says...


Hey, hey and thanks for the review!
All your comments were very helpful and I%u2019m glad you liked the story.
Have a nice day :D



BlackThorne says...


no problem!




"Cowards die many times before their deaths; but the valiant will never taste of death but once."
— Julius Caesar