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It's definitely not the Meteor by John Wyndham, but was based on a similar idea. Premise is humanity waits for a giant alien spaceship to land - all the US government is there etc. etc. When the ship finally lands nobody can see it and it ends with something along the lines of "you'd need a microscope to see the ship".

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    I'm aware this is not the story but the description brought to mind the sequence from one of the HGTTG books where an entire invasion fleet is swallowed by a small dog. Nov 8, 2022 at 16:33
  • @Crash Gordon "HGTTG"? Nov 8, 2022 at 17:30
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    @CrashGordon "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" book series.
    – NJohnny
    Nov 8, 2022 at 17:50
  • @CrashGordon Unless you remember to "GIVE SANDWICH TO DOG" of course :) Nov 9, 2022 at 23:11

1 Answer 1

25

"Pictures Don't Lie" by Katherine MacLean

Originally published in Galaxy, August 1951. Project Gutenberg has the text.

Here's the ending:

"Where are you?" called the alien spaceship. "Hurry, please! We're sinking!"

The decoder slowed his tumbled, frightened words and looked up into the Times' face for understanding. "We'll rescue them," he said quietly. "You were right about the time factor, right about them moving at a different speed. I misunderstood. This business about squawk coding, speeding for better transmission to counteract beam waver—I was wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"They don't speed up their broadcasts."

"They don't—?"

Suddenly, in his mind's eye, the Times began to see again the play he had just seen—but the actors were moving at blurring speed, the words jerking out in a fluting, dizzying stream, thoughts and decisions passing with unfollowable rapidity, rippling faces in a twisting blur of expressions, doors slamming wildly, shatteringly, as the actors leaped in and out of rooms.

No—faster, faster—he wasn't visualizing it as rapidly as it was, an hour of talk and action in one almost instantaneous "squawk," a narrow peak of "noise" interfering with a single word in an Earth broadcast! Faster—faster—it was impossible. Matter could not stand such stress—inertia—momentum—abrupt weight.

It was insane. "Why?" he asked. "How?"

Nathen laughed again harshly, reaching for the mike. "Get them out? There isn't a lake or river within hundreds of miles from here!"

A shiver of unreality went down the Times' spine. Automatically and inanely, he found himself delving in his pocket for a cigarette while he tried to grasp what had happened. "Where are they, then? Why can't we see their spaceship?"

Nathen switched the microphone on in a gesture that showed the bitterness of his disappointment.

"We'll need a magnifying glass for that."

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