David Hammond’s story “Suzy’s Friend” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 18 May 2018.
My family and I were staying in a small cabin in Shenandoah National Park. After dinner, despite having hiked most of the afternoon, and despite the fog, I decided I would go on my usual after-dinner walk and listen to my usual podcasts, damn it. I began walking south along the Appalachian Trail and listening to This American Life.
In this particular episode of This American Life, someone was talking about how Fermi’s Paradox — the idea that if the universe abounds with intelligent life, we should have heard from it by now — made him sad. I.e. it made him sad to think that we are alone in the universe. I listened to this as the fog grew denser along the trail, and I felt annoyed. What about all of the life on Earth that we barely understood? What about the 95% of the ocean that remained completely unexplored? I knew it was silly feeling annoyed at someone feeling sad, as I trusted vaguely in the fact that the Appalachian Trail was very well-marked and there was little chance of me getting off the path despite the fog. But really, to say that the lack of extraterrestrial intelligence millions of light-years away (if indeed there were none) meant that we were “alone,” despite the truly glorious variety of strange and interesting creatures here on Earth, bothered me. Vine-covered tree trunks moved in and out of the mist, sunset giving everything a yellowish hue, and I felt the thrill of the realization that I had, perhaps, by this time, gone as far away from our little cabin as I could safely go that evening. I turned around, and as I reeled in the trail I thought about whether and how I could turn my unreasonable annoyance into a story. Something funny, preferably.
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