Frankly, they were as surprised as we were.
When a Terran colony ship first detected the telltale signs of civilization, the news was broadcasted to every corner of our fledgling Interstellar civilization. The parties were wild, the parades shook every street in every city on every planet and moon across two dozen stars. Finally, after centuries of searching we had found alien life.
The new civilization was in the early space age and resided on the moon of a gas giant, with just a single extraplanetary colony on a secondary habitable moon within the giant’s system. First contact materials were prepared, handshake signals were sent and the information exchange began, both of our societies having prepared for such scenarios upon beginning to reach into the stars.
When we received and decoded their first transmission, their digital golden disk, those who laid eyes on the images were horrified. Rapid communications back and forth confirmed that the surprise was mutual.
They were human too.
The first face-to-face diplomatic meeting confirmed that fact beyond any doubt. The diplomats were both undeniably of the same species, and out of some cosmic irony appeared even to be the same race. Genetic testing found no discernible differences between them and us.
A million theories arose to explain the phenomenon, millions of man-hours in universities across both our societies were sunk into finding some theory or explanation, but it was entirely inexplicable.
All we could tell for certain is that it was not due to transplantation. Both Terra and Gronuk (their homeworld) held extensive fossil records of the evolution of humanity on both worlds- but not JUST humanity. Almost all life found on the new world was identical to that found on Earth. Animals, plants, fungi, even most bacteria were the same. Those animals that could not be found on Earth were merely extinct creatures that used to exist, and those that could not be identified had died off in the recent past.
The two worlds were a cosmically unlikely coincidence. The chances of two species developing into identical forms on two different worlds is so infinitesimally small that it shouldn’t happen across every inhabited world in the entire universe. That entire biospheres could develop into mirror images of each other on two worlds within three hundred lightyears of each other is entirely and completely impossible. And yet, there they were.
And it happened again.
Fifty years later we found another world at an early steam age level of development. The human population had even adopted a victorian-era fashion sense. Two years after that, on the other side of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way, human exploration ships stumbled upon one of our colonies. Ten years later, a stone age world.
Every time we found a world with sapient life, it was always the same. The world would be populated by life identical to that found on Earth, Human population included.
But then we started finding outliers. We stumbled upon worlds in earlier phases of life development. Worlds populated by dinosaurs or wooly mammoths. One was a primordial world inhabited by our colonists for three hundred years before someone realized the life in the oceans was all pre-Cambrian. Some worlds, though, seemed to be from Earth’s future.
On one world life was unlike anything we found on Earth. Some animals were recognizable, such as sharks and alligators, but every other creature was twisted beyond recognition. In the dense jungles we found the ruins of an extremely advanced civilization of humans who, according to their records, spread across the stars and found them populated by others just as themselves. Their civilization persisted for forty millennia before a plague drove them to extinction.
The Galactic community arose among the thousands of human civilizations populating millions of star systems, a combined unification of the only sapient race known to exist, and billions of the greatest minds were put to the task of answering the greatest question in the universe; why us?
Ruins were plundered. Homeworlds were sacrificed to strip-mine for fossils and artifacts. The Galaxy was scoured for any sign of an answer, and after many millennia of searching the answer was found not in the stars but within our very DNA. Every independent homeworld of mankind was nearly identical, and every convergent branch genetically matching, but within every single variety of life there was a tiny, nearly imperceivable mark. A few lines of genetic code that all life on a world shares, and that thousands of generations of geneticists had categorized as junk DNA. That scrap of code had the same start and end, but the middle is unique.
The genetic database was scoured for every trace of life located within the Milky Way and beyond. On dead worlds fossils were ground into base elements and analyzed for every scrap of genetic data. The many multitudes of Man donated their flesh to find every last trace of what we now understood to be a message.
When the billions of lines of scattered code were compiled they told the true story of mankind.
We awoke in this universe at the very beginning, just a handful of billions of years after the big bang. We expanded into the universe hoping to find life, and found none. We awoke to an empty universe. There was no life beyond our homeworld. Not even single cellular or pre-cellular fragments. We found millions of worlds in a state of primordial formation perfect for abiogenesis and yet not a single one formed life. We were an accident, life was a unique coincidence that would never be repeated again. We were truly alone.
Our ancestors could not accept this. They could not stand to see an empty universe of naught but rock and ice and gas. They were presented with a blank canvas and they painted the stars with themselves.
On countless worlds across every Galaxy in all creation they planted the seeds of life. Microorganisms that would change their environments to adapt to their will, life that would grow and flourish and rebuild life anew in their wake. Humanity would not be alone, but would grow side by side with itself, a neverending sea of life and humanity.
There may not be true alien life in the universe, but mankind will never be alone again.
Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/IAmTheHypeTFS. Image created with Stable Diffusion.