Aggressive Goose Season

 

“This is Gamma Ray, your celestial babe, broadcasting from Low Earth Orbit across every spectrum our little gray lumps could dream up. The only show that’s always on the go—how we doing my galactic friends?   

Before our first call rings let’s have all Earth-lings head outside to spy on the sky. Cast your eyes high and if you can spot us through the fog and smog, the raining cats and dogs, I’ve got. a little. puzzle for you.”

It was a clear night in parts of Central Africa. Three groups of listeners saw the flickering lights of the Umi Corporation Habitat as it passed overhead. Each group had a different tech setup, but they all had a receiver for recording data. The lights were bright enough for the naked eye, but to understand them you needed at least one receiver and a decryption program.

Two weeks later they’d submit the plaintext, but only one group would get the prize.

“You know the drill: decode de-lights, win some beans ‘n rice (and lettuce too, it’s green not blue). You can’t win if you’re gazin’ at your shoes, you gotta’ look up. Grab an Umi Twenty-One-Fifty Receiver to stay ahead of the competition, ‘cause only then will you know what you’re missin’.”

The puzzle broadcast during this show was actually carrying two encrypted messages. Only one group would find both.

“Our first call is connecting now, so in the meantime let’s hear a tune from someone called Goblin Dubloon, ‘cause I could make their name rhyme.”

User data showed an average of 49.83% turned the broadcast down for songs, but kept it loud enough to hear Gamma Ray talk again. There was a strict limit of one song per show.

“That, well my oh my, I guess that was music. Hope it didn’t make you sick, ‘cause the clock has ticked and it’s time to chat with someone from outside the Umi Habitat.

Pause rhyme time.”

Listeners heard a fake button clacking, followed by the deep and pleasing sound-effect of a massive generator dying.

“Our caller’s name is Hama, who is actually on-board Lunar Pod seventy-six-niner, also known as the Jermaine West. Hama, how’s Earth looking from the moon tonight?”

“Hey Gamma Ray—”

“Just Ray’s fine.”

“Earth is looking gray and cloudy, Just Ray.”

“My favorite joke by far. I didn’t have a question ready for you, but, because I’m good at my job and don’t let people down, I just thought one up.”

“Heh-heh.”

“Tell me Hama, what’s the weirdest thing you miss about Earth?

“Uhhhh—”

“I can even be more specific for you. I’m not looking for anything about your family. Nothing like that. Gimme’ the real. deep. weeeeird stuff. What’s something you miss about Earth you never thought you would? Never thought you could.”

“Huh. I guess I hadn’t…actually—”

“There we go. Gimme’ that, gimme’ the actually.”

“I used to walk to work.”

“Um, Hama, I gotta’ say—

“No no, it’s way more—um—not deeper, but just hang on.”

“Okay, let’s go there together.”

Data management for Umi Habitat was overseen by someone called Bummer5950, but everyone usually called him Bummy, or Bum. He was watching the call, checking for any breaks in coverage, and watching Gamma Ray’s audio levels too. He was watching everything.

“I still walk to work now. Or you know, I float part of the way.”

“Oh yeah?”

Listeners were allowed to hear exactly 3.64 seconds of silence.

“Back home, when I’d walk, it was different.”

“How?”

“I could see things.”

“I’m sure—“

“Things I wasn’t expecting, I mean.”

“Ahhh.”

“One day, there was this goose.”

“A goose!”

“Yeah. My dad used to call them, uhh, he used to—I guess the closest I can say is ‘aggressive.’”

“I follow.”

“Said it happened to the geese every season.”

“Aggressive Goose Season. I’ve seen it myself.”

“This goose was so freaking mad. It chased me to work. I’m serious! Literally chased me right to the front door.”

“Was it waiting on you? At the door, its little fangs flashing in the sunlight.”

“I got kind of scared it’d be there on the way back, yeah.”

Another spot of silence made its way across the radio waves, the light beams, and the transmissions no one on Earth knew about.

“But it wasn’t?”

“No.”

“So your goose—”

“But one day…”

“—ohhh yeah, what about one day?”

“I went in early. Too early. Can’t even remember why. Got to work when the sun was coming up.”

“Ahhh yeah. Carpooling with Sol, ol’ blondie.”

“It was misty out. The grass was kind of holding onto these little puffs of—of silver kind of, but gray too. It was…I don’t know, comfy I guess.”

Ray actually closed his eyes to pull his own misty morning grass forward. Bummy would’ve immediately made a note of him doing so, but it would have to wait until the studio’s video feed was reviewed.

Bummy’s eyes were closed too.

That morning, I—heh, gosh, I don’t even wanna’—”

“Oh but you do, Hama. You do wanna’.”

A million or so early morning strolls played along the backs of listeners’ eyeballs.

“Makes me sound like a weirdo.”

“Doubtful.” This word seemed to pulse, the consequence of Ray’s non-studio voice crackling in his throat.

“That day, I smelled…I guess maybe it wasn’t, the uh, the—”

“Goose refuse?”

“Heh, right. Yeah. Droppings. Smelled those, so I thought I’d see it.”

“And what happened?”

Eyes still closed, Gamma Ray tilted his head so the lamp nearest him made the edge of his imposed darkness glow.

“Stood on the sidewalk. I’d take a step every once in a while, so I could like, trick myself into thinking I wasn’t just—”

“Waiting on a goose,” Ray said.

“Heh. Right. Had to go in eventually. Barely worked all day. I would sort of, like, stretch my neck up to peek out across the office at the door, just to see if maybe…

…but nothing.”

“Were you mad? Mad you didn’t see it, even though it scared you?”

Hama inhaled.

“Not mad. That day it chased me, hoooooo-oh crap I was mad. Told everybody how I’d kick it in its stupid face. But later I thought back. I figured it wanted to bite me because of babies. Its babies. Little geese somewhere.”

“Those’re called goslings, Hama.”

“Haha, right. Once I realized that, I got excited I’d maybe get to see them. And then it’d probably really chase me, heh. But…yeah.

Never happened.”

“Would you have actually kicked it?”

Everyone’s final shared silence came and went, shorter than the rest, but big enough for an answer to crawl into every listening mind. Ray smiled.

“Probably not.”

“Really? Even if it came at you again?”

“Would’ve felt horrible I bet. Plus, you gotta’ respect that,” Hama said.

“What’s that?”

“The, like, anger. Dedication to doing something crazy. Fighting something huge—something way huger than you. For your, uh, for the goslings.”

“Now that is the truth. Respect the goose fury.”

Hama laughed, Ray smiled one more time.

“Adios Hama, and thanks for calling in.”

“Keep shining, Ray.”

“Listeners, skywatchers, all those out there floating to work, remember: keep your ears perked, your eyes open, and your hope close. It’s only one day, and your life is bigger.”

Outro music played and the broadcast was replaced by weather for the Earth crowd, and orbital stats, including debris updates for the moon groups.

Off-air, Ray immediately asked why the hell a moon call was connected, the show notes obviously said “EARTH” in all caps. He stared at Bum, waiting, and finally got a mumbled response. Bum forgot to filter for Earth calls only.

 

Written by Austin Wilson

Illustration by Luca Vassallo