What am I doing on this mission? Ji Song asked herself yet again. That question placed second to: What is this mission? The people with answers had provided nothing more than, “It’s top secret, wait and see,” and she’d given up typing her inquiries.

She browsed her new e-sketchbook, too empty since the government confiscated her favorite one. Out the shuttlecraft window, foreign constellations twinkled near a pulsing nebula of magenta, tangerine, and violet.

Foreign, yet strangely familiar.

People said space was silent. Some crewmembers thought it unsettling. But to her, silence was normal, and Ji found solace thinking the stars expressed themselves without a voice.

The words “Prepare for atmosphere entry” appeared on her cortical display.

Ji double-checked her harness as they approached the unknown planet. Atmosphere, then clouds, swallowed stars, soon replaced by another familiar view.

Pale blue crystal outcroppings, upside-down trees where silver-green leaves reached roots toward foggy skies, a pink flower carpet. Exactly like her recent dreams.

Ji found solace thinking the stars expressed themselves without a voice.

How was that possible?

The ship landed with a jolt. Ji trailed the captain onto extraterrestrial soil. She couldn’t say alien because this, too, matched the paintings in her old sketchbook, including white cliffs and a foam-green sea. Noiseless wind rustled her hair.

Her skin prickled.

Another ship sat nearby, spherical and iridescent like a bubble.

“Am I allowed to know what this is about now?” she typed into her forearm screen, half fearing the answer.

“This,” the captain replied, “is first contact.”

First contact with what? Wait. “You mean aliens?”

He nodded.

Since the quantum drive’s invention five years earlier, ships had been searching the galaxy for life. She’d heard no hint of success.

“How come no one knows?” she typed.

“We didn’t want to cause panic before learning about them.”

A panel opened in the bubble ship. She held her breath.

A figure emerged, with two stumpy legs and four spindly arms. Its elongated head held three sets of eyes, but no visible mouth or ears. Two eyes shone like a nocturnal animal’s. Two compound, insect-like eyes perched on the forehead. And lines of dark pupils crisscrossed two unsettling white eyes.

It was yet another image from her dreams.

The captain spread a hand as if to say, “Now you see why you’re here.”

He handed her a worn e-book. Hers. The top page displayed a painting the Feds had interrogated her about, an exact likeness of the being before them.

She shivered.

The captain’s greeting scrolled across her display, but no reply appeared from the alien.

An image filled Ji’s head of aliens welcoming her human crew to a cliff-top city. Was the being communicating with her? Through telepathy?

A figure emerged. It was yet another image from her dreams.

Amazing.

Or incredibly creepy.

Could the others see? No one else moved, so she took her stylus and sketched herself sleeping under a dream bubble filled with the alien.

Warm yellow flooded her mind. The alien inclined its head. Images flashed through her brain. The beings noticing an Earth spaceship. Hundreds of sleeping humans. The scenes she’d seen and drawn of star positions, this planet, the aliens.

“What’s going on?” asked the captain.

Ji returned to her sketchbook. When she finished, she inched toward the alien, revealing a drawing of her and the being sharing a thought bubble with the scenes she’d dreamed.

Warm yellow again. Comforting. Right. As if the creature were saying yes.

She sketched an alphabet and books.

Dark purple this time. Wrong, like a bruise. She tried a sketch of several aliens sharing thought bubbles. More yellow.

The captain shifted.

“They communicate in pictures,” she typed. “Telepathically. They broadcasted their location to Earth through dreams hoping we’d find them.”

That was why the Feds asked where her ideas originated.

And she’d drawn her dreams, earning attention from officials who must’ve realized the star positions and landscapes she’d painted matched recent explorations. That was why the Feds asked where her ideas originated. And why they’d brought her on this trip.

“Can you ask about their society?” the captain inquired. “Tell them about Earth?”

Purpose overwhelmed her. In this alien, she’d found someone with whom her Deafness wasn’t an obstacle. They were two beings without speech or hearing, using pictures to connect.

She clutched her stylus and began to draw.

Explore more Deep Space flash fiction in the latest issue of Havok Magazine!

Meet the Author

Becky Dean writes science fiction and contemporary novels for young adults. Originally a Southern California girl, she now lives with her husband in Austin, Texas, where she misses the beach but enjoys the BBQ. When she’s not buried in a book, drinking tea, or watching science fiction shows on TV, she loves to travel and enjoys planning trips and adventures for herself and for her characters.
You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, and at beckydeanwrites.com.