by Andrew Gudgel
Authors: Hanna Knudson, City College of London; Zhang Simei, China Academy of Social Sciences; Paolo Villarreal, Arizona State University; Margarethe Kohlmann, Universität Wien
The arrival of the Aydax in July 2039 raised fundamental questions in physics (Lennon, 2041), xenobiology (Tao, 2039) and even philosophy (Magnette, 2042). No field has been as diverse in its response as sociology, with hundreds of journal articles generated in just a few years. Yet to date there has been no meta-analysis of the effects of the Aydax arrival on the societies of Earth. The authors attempt to take first steps towards illuminating themes in the human response to this watershed event.
The first three Aydax ships were detected at 2049 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on July 8, 2039, by the US Space Surveillance Network at a distance of 35,000km. Two minutes later, three more ships were detected. Detections continued until a total of 21 ships were observed approaching the Earth (US DoD, 2039). The first three ships entered the atmosphere less than five minutes later and landed near Orebro, Sweden; Prague, Czechia; and Troyes, France. Landings occurred then across Eurasia, Australia, Antarctica and finally, North and South America.
At 1216 UTC on July 12, 2039—four days after arrival—the ships simultaneously emitted a noise interpreted by local security cordons as “Ay-dax!” Immediately thereafter, the bottoms of the ships lowered to the ground, revealing a conical ramp. The first wave of tightly packed, walking cephalopods were seen coming down at 1220 UTC and upon reaching the ground, immediately began to disperse in all directions (Salton, 2039).
Messages were transmitted at the Aydax using sound, light, and electromagnetic waves up to the microwave band, but attempts to communicate with this (and all subsequent) tranches of disembarking Aydax proved fruitless. Within six hours, five hundred and twelve waves of sixty-four Aydax proceeded from each ship, for an assumed total worldwide population of 668,128 individuals (Salton, 2039)–though this number has decreased due to the freezing to death of the 65,000-plus Aydax on the two ships that landed in Antarctica, predation by wild animals, and losses in subsequent encounters with humans.
Lack of Communication and Interaction
The singular aspect surrounding the arrival of the Aydax has been the lack of successful communication. In addition to attempts using sound and electromagnetic radiation, there have been attempts using neutron beams and alpha particles (Diaz and Burchfield, 2040), pheromones (Wu and Keegan, 2040), and even an informal attempt using capsaicin (Cleary, 2040). None have caused the slightest reaction. Claims of “Whispering Aydax,” telepathic communication, or gestural language have either been disproven (Stahl, 2042) or shown to be hoaxes; similar and more sensational versions of these tropes have appeared in numerous tabloid newspapers and merit no serious consideration.
An examination of the abandoned ships three months after the landing found no evidence of control mechanisms or written language, only alcoves that presumably housed individual Aydax. It’s likely travel occurred in a state of suspended animation, as there were no food preparation areas or hygienic facilities on board (Lutz et al, 2039). We still have no idea of where in space the Aydax may have originated, why they came to Earth, or their goals and aims. It’s unknown if they produced the ships in which they traveled. It has been argued they might not even be sentient at all (Mingus, 2042). If so, this raises the obvious question of who sent the Aydax to Earth and why.
Immediately after their dispersal, fear of a potential invasion sparked panicked humans to kill an unknown number of Aydax individuals worldwide–probably on the order of several thousand. In addition, some have subsequently been killed in remote areas by predators such as brown bears, lions and dingoes. To this day, Aydax are occasionally crushed when they wander onto roads or train tracks, and sporadic killings by humans still occur (Calvino, 2040).
However, the complete lack of any reaction or retaliation by the Aydax did not lead to mass slaughter. Instead, Aydax seem to have become accepted as a quasi-natural phenomenon. Individuals that obstruct or interrupt human activities are more likely than not to simply be ignored and worked around or picked up and moved out of the way (Fox, 2041).
Friend or Foe?
The popular press has painted Aydax as everything from angelic saviors to Machiavellian devils just biding their time before taking over the world (Brooks, 2040). However, there is currently no evidence that the Aydax are concerned with human activity to any degree.
Yet some humans have come to impute behaviors to the Aydax through their mere presence. Farmers in the northwestern districts of Peru have attempted to “herd” Aydax into churches just prior to weddings–having an individual at the ceremony is considered lucky, possibly through retro-association with Pre-Columbian deities (Cruz, 2042). In North America, Aydax that wander into sporting arenas are often “adopted” as mascots, believed to confer luck on the home team. The time spent in an art gallery by an Aydax (and the implied approval of certain artworks) was the basis of a subsequent lawsuit over those artworks’ actual value (Johnson, 2041). Aydax have been used to sell everything from consumer products to political candidates. They have also been accepted as part of Japan’s Kawaii aesthetic (Tadao, 2042), where they form the basis for the InterToy Company’s “Squidoo” series of characters.
The Aydax have been the source of a number of short-lived social phenomena during the 2040-41 time frame: the act of “Aydax Tripping,” and the online memes “AliensInHats,” “¡Hola!,” and “HuggingMyBuddy.” Recent streaming media have used the presence of Aydax in family homes in a number of contrived comedic situations (Yeager, 2043).
However, this does not mean that humans have become blasé to the presence of the Aydax. The low moan of air moving through their breathing throats and their uncanny ability to somehow enter and depart even locked spaces such as bank vaults, prisons, and family homes can be unnerving. This ability has led to Aydax body parts being used in sympathetic magic rituals among burglary gangs in Thailand and West African inmates during attempted prison escapes (Yost, 2043).
In North America and Europe, the rate of self-reported feelings of paranoia and “persecution” has shown a small but marked increase since the arrival of the Aydax (Gerson, 2042). Anecdotal reports of decreases in the number of house pets and small rodents in neighborhoods through which Aydax pass also worry many people. (Though see Hart and Duckworth, 2041, for an analysis which sheds doubt on this phenomena.)
The effect of the arrival of the Aydax on religious belief has varied. Abrahamic religions initially experienced both a questioning of basic tenets and a drop in congregational attendance. However, within a year, attendance at weekly services rebounded to just above pre-arrival levels. A similar effect was seen in both Judaism and Islam (Halston, 2040). In primarily Buddhist regions, Aydax have gradually come to be considered fellow beings in the wheel of Samsara (Pan, 2041).
The effect on world politics was both brief and muted. Once the initial shock of the Aydax landing and early fears of an invasion passed, most governments ended emergency declarations and went back to business as usual. However, in what could be described as the first case of true xenophobia, a populist government in Eastern Europe passed a law mandating the removal of all Aydax from within its borders. These measures proved impossible to enforce and were repealed less than a year later (Duchowski, 2040).
Conclusion: Mirror, Mirror
Human societies appear to be acclimating themselves to the presence of the Aydax. After an initial wave of fear and some temporary turmoil, humanity seems to be embracing the Aydax as a new part of the natural world, and in some cases attaching value to their presence. While the authors acknowledge that unfortunate and sometimes lethal encounters will likely continue in the future, such incidents have already become uncommon.
The authors further believe that barring a resolution to the communication problem and/or some indication of ill will on the part of the Aydax, the trend towards acceptance will continue. Yet the complete inability to communicate with the Aydax, and thus discern their intentions, has made them a blank canvas upon which humanity can project its own hopes, fears, goals and desires. This aspect of the “Aydax Phenomena” is unlikely to change until such time as human nature does.
The authors wish to thank research assistants Donald Previn, Wan Quanhong, Deborah Johnson and Andreas Hartlieb for searching numerous databases for relevant information prior to this article’s creation. They also wish to thank their families for their understanding during the months in which the authors spent too many nights in online meetings and discussions. Finally, Hanna Knudson would like to thank the Aydax individual she saw standing in the yard while searching for the family dog on August 4, 2042, for being the genesis of this article.
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Andrew Gudgel is a freelance writer and translator. His fiction has appeared at Writers of the Future, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, InterGalactic Medicine Show and other publications. He lives in Maryland, USA, in an apartment slowly being consumed by books. You can find him at www.andrewgudgel.com.
This piece was the result of meditations on aliens and first contact tropes. The first question pondered was: What if the
aliens were SO alien, we can’t even communicate with them? From there I extrapolated how humanity might react. Fear and/or curiosity seem to be the default responses in many first-contact stories, but how would humans react longer term with aliens who remained an enigma?