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The Humming started right after the aliens built the tower. One day their ship touched down on the outskirts of our settlement and disgorged a host of builder bots. These crab sized machines proceeded to ingest sand, soil and water and excrete a material similar to concrete but much tougher. Around and around the little bots scurried and higher and higher the tower grew. The little builders worked without rest and the tower grew apace. The tower was as big around at its base as our small dwelling including the garden plot.
The structure grew six feet a day and after a week it towered over the settlement. Round and seamless the tower offered no access and no purchase for human hands. After Zeke got shocked by one of the builders, we stayed away from them and let them do their work. Around and around the workers went. It was like watching a 3D printer I’d see once back on Sidon before we left to settle this world.
Ours was a young colony, a farming community without much in the way of defenses. A few rifles for hunting was pretty much it. In the beginning, when the alien ship first landed, a few of us kids took some pot shots at the bots but our bullets didn’t seem to phase them. After a while we grew bored of that and the elders warned us against provoking the aliens.
So, mostly we left the aliens alone and watched the tower grow. Of course there was no end to speculation and jokes about what the aliens were up to. One theory was that the tower was a cell phone tower like those on Sidon or a relay tower that the aliens could communicate with their home world. Some thought they were building a light house or a beacon for some interstellar highway. The truth, of course, was that no one had the slightest idea what the thing was for. It didn’t look like the aliens were about to explain themselves either. All attempts at communication with them ended in failure. You’d have thought that they would want to talk with us. Not very friendly was the general consensus. I remember one time picnicking around the base of the tower with a few other families in an effort to show them we meant them no harm or some such misguided attempt at friendliness. No response. It was like they wanted nothing to do with us.
One day, after about a month, the tower building stopped. The bots marched back to their ship and a second type of robot ascended the tower. We watched through telescopes as these new builders assembled some kind of electronic device at the top. It looked strange to us and no one had any idea of its purpose. After a couple of days the “electricians”, that is what we called them, climbed down the tower and boarded the ship. Then the ship took off. That is when the humming began.
It is hard to describe the humming. It wasn’t a sound so much as a feeling in the brain. Of course we tried to block it out by stuffing our ears with wax and wool, but that did nothing to quiet it. The humming disturbed our sleep and made us irritable. There were more fights, more crime, more domestic disputes and more suicides. We were only a few hundred colonists. A tiny, fragile outpost of our species on a remote planet so far from our home world that no one even remembered Earth.
We were farmers. We’d come to this distant world for the promise of free land and a chance to make a society according to our vision. This world had been inhabited before as the scattered ruins and artifacts could attest. But we never thought that we were trespassing or claiming a planet that wasn’t ours. The ruins looked old but we had no way of knowing how old. It was exciting to find evidence of other intelligent life although we’d known for a century or more that we weren’t alone.
The alien ship’s landing, however, was the first actual sighting of another intelligence. I use the word sighting loosely. We were afraid at first but when they failed to show themselves we grew used to their presence. Eventually our fear turned to acceptance and then to mockery. Why didn’t they want to talk to us? Were we so uninteresting? What made them so superior? I think we felt insulted. That was before the humming drove us to distraction. We called back to Sidon for evacuation and eventually we were rescued, those of us that survived with our sanity intact.
It took us a long time to understand what happened, what the aliens were doing and how enlightened and gentle they were. They could have threatened us, even killed us, but they didn’t. They erected the tower and drove us away. We must have been trespassing. We were not wanted there. Maybe it wasn’t the way we would have handled the situation and their reasons remain obscure but what can you expect from aliens, a human response?
Someday we may meet this gentle race and we can ask them about their motives. I wonder if we will thank them or punch them in the nose.
micheledutcher - Sounds like a viable way to drive away an intruder. In Louisville there are speakers in trees that drive away pigeons by sending out calls recorded from hawks. Good strategy. This interaction between species who are alien to one another was a peaceful expulsion. Nice touch!
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