The banging on his cabin door wouldn’t stop, and Cameron Shaw rolled off his bunk and jerked the door open. Tim Morgen, one of his assistants, stood in the passageway. Shaw growled, “What?”
“Lane got a hit.”
Heat flushed through Shaw’s body as he pushed past Tim and raced for the lab. Climbing the ladder two steps at a time to the main deck, he found his team huddled around the sonar screen.
Shaw asked, “Lane, is this for real?”
“Pretty sure it is, Doctor. Images are from one of the drones we deployed.”
Shaw stood behind his sonar expert. “That’s them?”
“It could be, there are hundreds of them.”
Shaw turned to Morgen, “You inform the captain?”
A sleepy voice belonging to Captain Barker answered, “Yes he did. Lane, inform the navigator of the course change, he’s expecting your call.” He motioned to Shaw, who joined him. “When this ship was commissioned in 2057, I never expected three years later we would be involved in the biggest story on Earth. What do you think?”
“No one expected this, and when SETI contacted me, I was stunned, wondering why they needed the services of a marine biologist. I admit I was still confused after they told me the message said we would find ‘them’ in the ocean, but didn’t say where, just to look in shallow water.”
“There are Navy ships along with every research vessel searching. If this isn’t it and there is something out there, someone will find it.”
The sky was turning violet as the ship arrived at the coordinates. In silence, the team geared-up to dive, and on thumbs up from the dive master, Shaw, Morgen and three research divers rolled over the railing, disappearing into the warm Caribbean water.
Shaw found it difficult to breathe normally, his pulse racing as the images seen on the underwater drone came into view. There were hundreds of statues arranged on several platforms, statues not present during the last mapping, some covered in heavy coral, some nearly unblemished.
He swam through the platforms, noticing the statues organized according to century, each group a mixture of young, old, wealthy, and poor. A pregnant woman and a seventeenth-century nobleman, a farmer and a pilot stood silently in the sea. As he noticed names carved in the stone, a voice, soothing and melodic, spoke to them through their coms.
“We meet, after thousands of years of monitoring our handiwork, it is time for you to learn of us. We are the Sorbans, guardians of life.”
A shimmer of golden light appeared, morphing into a slender human figure, dressed in a simple tunic. “I am Vesper and I appear to you from our ship. We are en route to Earth, arriving in forty-seven days. The statues are of Earthlings taken over the centuries for observation. We regret the necessity but needed to study your progression. I assure you no harm came to them, and they enjoyed good lives among us. During ancient times, statues were common to record images. We appreciated the art and continue it through time.”
Shaw, trembling, asked, “Why are you here?”
Vesper smiled, “It is time you learned of the universe and the joys it has to offer you. I realize our appearance is unsettling if not frightening but be assured, we have not nurtured and watched over you to now do you harm.”
Back onboard ship, Shaw gazed skyward, remembering Steven Hawking’s dire warning. Alien contact could be dangerous, and we should not wish for it. He whispered, “I hope Doctor Hawking was wrong.”
Flash fiction written for the Moderated Selected Writing Exercise (#writingprompt) on the Writer’s Discussion Group community on Google+. The prompt for this exercise is a photograph found on Google Maps of the Isla Mujeres Underwater Museum. No commercial use intended.
More about this fascinating location here: http://musaislamujeres.com/