Please forgive me for addressing you as “universeling.” I first wrote this letter with the salutation “Dear Alien” but on further thought thought it no longer appropriate. Before what will be happening around midnight tonight, it would have been appropriate. We, before midnight, would be Earthlings, and you, from our perspective, would be the aliens. By the time you read this, however, since the earth is coming to an end according to the Mayan calendar at midnight tonight, we will be toast. So you are now, without us, a universeling, and, I am sure, proud of it. After all, there but for the grace of God go you. So you still survive.
The reason I am writing this is because I would like you to know that in this place, at one time, in between the second and fourth planet circling the sun, there was the Earth, visible to you as a green-and-blue spinning ball with puffs of white clouds around it.
It was a grand place. There were all sorts of creatures, great and small. There were fish in the ocean (there were oceans, five in all), and there were snakes and birds and buffalo and penguins and other things, including human beings, who all walked or wiggled or swam or flew over this place and enjoyed it all immensely.
We human beings took charge of it for about the last 1,000 years. We had language, we could write things (this is an example), we could flip switches and have the lights turn on or off, we could have chicken cacciatore, we could drink beer or wine and we could go places in automobiles, this and all of the above largely made possible by our treasured big brains and opposable thumbs. Perhaps you had noticed this before. Indeed, we think you did. Does the year 1955 and Lubbock, Texas mean anything to you? “Flying Saucers?” Maybe not.
In any case, toward the end, we began to burn oil and coal into black fumes that crowded the atmosphere so much, they blocked out the sun and caused the planet’s temperature to go up. Things were going haywire, but, mostly, we did nothing about that. We expected, I think, that some solution to this problem would appear when it got real bad and we’d be all right then, but the truth is we never got that far to find out.
Tonight, at midnight, December 21, 2012, everything goes poof. Just what this “poof” is I do not know. If I could, I would. But I can’t, so I won’t.
Why am I writing this? It’s something in our nature, our human nature, that wants to inform others. None of the other creatures here care one way or another about informing outsiders. To them it is live for the day. It’s here today, gone tomorrow and let bygones be bygones. They don’t give a hoot.
But we humans, we want to leave a record, a mark that at one time we were here. It’s like when they changed the name of Idlewild Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport so we’d remember the mark he made on our experience here on Earth, which, I can tell you, was considerable. But I won’t bore you with it.
This newspaper will have been printed the day before the end. It will have been distributed. If the world ends by explosion or fire, I know there is little possibility that anyone in the great vacuum of the universe is going to pick up even a small fragment of this newspaper to read my words here.
But I do think there is another way. We now know there are radio waves that emanate from this planet, that we have, in recent years, harnessed and organized to serve us as radio or TV programs, as telephone communications services and Internet networks. We use these radio waves to send information off to robots we created who have traveled to other planets to do our bidding. So yes, this is there, retained and suspended invisibly in the air forever, to be retrieved by whoever wants to take the time to wade through the tons of words and dates to come across it.
We Tweet, we message, we email. It’s up there. And we CANNOT erase it even if we want to. If we press DELETE, it goes into some unused section of the Internet and stays there in a big junk pile. It never goes away. Even if we lose all Wi-Fi in this explosion, which I am sure we will, it is still up there. All Wi-Fi does, really, is allow us to retrieve. We of course will no longer be here to do that retrieving. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.
And so, universelings, please feel totally free to sift through all this. And thus, you will someday come upon this missive.
Be it known that Earth was here. It was quite something. We living on it, those of us who were self-aware, were very proud of it. We felt awe, inspiration, specialness. That may have led to hubris, which is a bad thing, but I’m sure you can forgive us that.
Please give our regards to the Creator, he who made us all, you included. We are, or were, all brothers and sisters, now maybe in Wi-Fi form again, waiting to be downloaded by you so we might spring forth.
It is 10 minutes to midnight. I am pressing SEND now.
God bless you and good luck. I am Dan Rattiner, earthling.