On the day the last new songs were sung, the world turned like on any other. We went to work, we laughed with our children, we fought with our lovers, we prayed to our gods, we listened to music. We danced, we labored, we died. We celebrated our newborn, and we mourned and buried our dead.
Life went on like it always did. Ignorant to the fact that all the while, the end reached for us in the night.
On the day the last new songs were sung, we looked up at the darkness that crept across the sun, leaving us in shadow. We fled the beaches chased by tides thrown into chaos by a foreign gravity, shivered in the night that enveloped the world.
We looked up in fear and in wonder.
On the day the last new songs were sung, our leaders took to our televisions, our phones. They told us not to panic, that these visitors may come in peace. They begged for our patience and asked we trust their leadership. They promised there was nothing to fear.
They were wrong.
On the day the last new songs were sung, our screens cracked, and the unquiet faces of our presidents, prime ministers and monarchs were replaced by a speakable terror, one all the more frightening because it could be beheld, a face of phalanges and sharp teeth and bleeding eyes.
Its skin rippled, like beneath the gray epidermis, a thousand new creatures struggled to break through to the surface. When it spoke, it spoke to directly to the mind, in the language of the listener, with a voice like a razor, like fire, like death.
"We do not come in peace."
Children clutched their mothers and their fathers, who were too busy plumbing their own terror to comfort.
"We are not here to enlighten or to learn, to offer succor or exchange culture."
People left their cars and wandered the streets, unable to escape the words that followed.
"We are here for one reason. We are always where we are for that reason. We are the ones who purge, who burn. And we will until there is no more life on the universe."
We fell to our knees as a species, begging heaven for benediction that never forthcame.
"Good-bye." The face, the indelible, undeniable horror, melted away from our screens if not our minds. Leaving one last thought melting away with the static.
“You have 12 hours. After that, your kind will sing no more.”
We found out, on that day the last new songs were sung, the many ways humankind confronts oblivion. Some violently, looting and assaulting those who were damned along with themselves. Some passionately, seeking the absolution denied them by God in the flesh of another. Some stoically, sitting prosaic in a forest or at the beach or in the quiet of their homes, waiting for what cannot be avoided. Some denied oblivion the pleasure, going before the burning into the night, scuffing and bloodying as they took to the air and let gravity free them.
Time passed, and so did we, in various ways, until the hour of reckoning. And then, a high-pitched keening. The shadow stretched across the sky, brighter and brighter and hotter and hotter, we raised our hands to block out the sun in orbit, and watched as they melted into fire.
We did not have time enough to scream before flame burned all life away. Forests became ashes, and the oceans steam, and the ground magma and the air ionized even as it burned in our lungs, even as our lungs disintegrated and our forms became naught but shadows reaching, reaching into the hereafter.
And the ship left our orbit, satisfied that one more source of life had been silenced. And our Earth entered the Quiet times.
Where no new songs were sung.
The only chorus came from the wind whistling through hollow structures, tossing up the ashes that were our lives. The only melody the silent hymn of rain pattering in the deep basins, Atlantic and Pacific, filling them with empty water where once it teemed with life.
And there was no music, except the hushing waves of the new ocean.
Life remained. A microscopic bacterium that survived the boiling ocean. A single cell, with no thought but to reproduce. No instinct but to spread itself across a world that was now its own. And it grew, and grew, growing in purpose and complexity.
Until the only sound was the bubbling of primordial ooze in a silent sea.
From the ooze grew algae, which kicked up by the wind and the storms was the first life to return to land. Fungus mixed with the ashes left by life long ago, sinking deep into the Earth, taking root, becoming something more than what they were. Moss, and then plants… and then trees.
Earth returned to Earth.
Forests that stood long before the rule of man found themselves reseeded across the rusty graveyards of our cities, the bones of a world burned away and forgotten. The planet flourished in silence.
Life returned to the ocean.
Born in the silt and in the dark, beasts that knew nothing of light sprouted their way to the surface. Blinded and ignorant to land, they laughed. For their world was vast enough without it.
And the only poetry was the dance of creatures at sea.
The world turned and turned and turned, and in the minds of the beasts of the sea, a kernel of memory remained about the land that burned, and whose creatures died all those years ago. A kernel that burgeoned into curiosity, directing the evolution of some, alleles varying toward the shore.
Until one day, some new thing dragged itself into life on the mud left by the tide. She stood on shaky flipper-legs on the beach and opened her mouth, drawing in cold morning air, laughing as she limped toward the forests’ world.
She laughed, and in her laughter, the first new song was sung.