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It was simultaneously Earth’s greatest and smallest solstice. For more than a week, the sun was absent, but the entire planet had been in a state of perpetual daytime, usually quite warm and clear to boot. In this time, a small number of people experienced sudden and inexplicable deformities of the senses. Each had in common eyes that had shrunken and grown over with skin. Some seemed to experience heightening of the other senses as if to compensate, such as larger and more sensitive ears, noses, or fingers, but these additional deformities came at the cost of clarity of mind. Rare feral people were a new pest problem. Squatting or digging holes to live in wherever, shitting wherever, and leaving half-eaten small animals wherever.

We turned skyward for answers. The moon was still there, but without the light of the sun it couldn’t be seen normally. Telescopes could see stars, but they were not the stars we knew. They were far sparser, all unseen before, and most apparently quite old.

Above all else was a fiery comet orbiting a black space. An invisible planet, about the size of Earth, and about as far away from Earth as Mars used to be. The planet nor the stars did not move, only the comet. Earth and its new sister were not orbiting anything.

A rover, equipped with non-optical imaging, microphones, and touch sensors, was launched with a hope and a prayer, as the surface of the planet was difficult to observe. After thankfully touching down, an excited cacophony of bird-like chirps was heard, followed by an excited cacophony of gropes. According to thermal imaging there were many warm bodies, or at least warmer than the land around them, which was apparently a very cold desert. Other imaging showed them to have a had remarkably similar exoskeletons to the arthropods of Earth, but with a build remarkably similar to apes. They moved like chimpanzees. However, their “head” was devoid of recognizable features, and their very large and crab-like “mouths”, or what they appeared to vocalize with, was in their “chest”. They each had four arms with six radial fingers, each very long and ending with large pad-like tip.

After about twenty minutes that was surely very exciting for both races, a very, very loud roar was heard above the chirps that came from about twenty miles away from the rover was heard. Every one of the aliens fell silent and backed away from the rover. In the wake of the roar were two developments that were unnoticed for a bit by those watching the rover’s feed. First was another wave of mutations. In short time, almost 2% of Earth’s population was blinded, and of those, over 50% were feral. Second, all clocks on Earth that didn’t produce an audible sound inexplicably stopped working. Digital clocks could still have an alarm programmed, but the current time was always either incorrect, appeared as garbled or glitched characters, or simply didn’t display at all.

In the time that people took to adjust, the rover milled around. The aliens appeared to follow and observe it, while Earth carefully watched back. Anything that might have been interesting, the creatures must have been doing off-camera. It was just a stare-off. Until one sat in front of the rover. This blind animal began drawing in the ground like child at the beach. It placed a radial hand down and shifted it to make a circle. It paused for a moment, then it began to trace around the inside of the circle with one finger, until the circle was filled.

Credited to Erickson Warne-Coles

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