Have you had, with or without the assistance of drugs, any extraterrestrial encounters or unexplained experiences?
Every year that I go home for the holidays—which is not every year—my father and I dive back into the same endless debate.
“Goddamn it! How can you be so stupid that you don’t get this?!? MACHU PICCHU IS PROOF THAT ALIENS HAVE BEEN HERE!!”
And every time I know that I shouldn’t engage, again. I know I shouldn’t attempt to explain how even the great Carl Sagan, who wanted so badly to believe in extraterrestrial life that he often speculated on its probability using the Drake Equation, even he, with more understanding of astrophysics than I could ever hope to achieve, said that we must remain skeptical because there has never been any empirical proof of aliens reaching our planet, and, in fact, he couldn’t help but to add why it is so very unlikely that they ever will. Billions and billions and billions…
Whole Christmases and Thanksgivings ended abruptly with the sound of my father’s blood pressure rising. Slammed doors and red faces.
And the truth is I did experience something, once.
I was thirteen years old and walking door to door with my best friend, collecting canned goods for our school food drive. We were on our way back to my house, just about a block away, with a cardboard box so heavy that we had to carry it together. And all of a sudden we saw what looked like a colorful shooting star fly from one side of the night sky to the other in less than a millisecond, and then, we swore on our lives that that very same triangle of flashing red, blue, and green lights swooped over our heads so close that the wind lifted our hair off of our necks and caused us to drop the box and trip over it onto the sidewalk.
But the way human memory works, I am only recalling the story that we repeated, over and over again, rather than any reminiscence of sensory recollection. Because every time we retrieve a memory, our brain actually distorts it. Meaning the more you think about something, the further it becomes from the actual experience.
But we definitely said that it made us fall. Why else would the box be broken and cans rolling down the road? Cement scrapes on our palms and knees? We ran like panicked goats into my house, howling about a UFO.
And of course my father believed us. He ran outside and looked up. Made us tell him every detail. Called the radio station that said there was at least three other callers saying the same thing that night.
I imagine he must have been so proud. As a psychedelic hippie, this was the closest thing to his religion, after all. The only thing he could pass onto me besides homegrown doobies and family cheesecake recipes.
And sometimes I do want to pretend for him. Because why not? Why shouldn’t I make him happy? Keep his blood pressure down?
But faking a belief is something I have never been capable of. The best I can manage is silence and a subject change.
The last time I was there, we only barely got into it, and ended the night sharing a joint on his front porch, under an ever-expanding vacuum of dark matter and light.
We sat in peace and patience, allowing our brains to exist together, differently.
Because the duality of truth is more mysterious than any ancient ruin.Kona Morris
I’m waiting on the street when a man comes up behind me. He tells me he collects lights, keeps them in a basement. He used to work at an antiques market, a place that sold furniture, lamps, things like that—all displayed on the sidewalk. The market also had replicas of Greek columns in a gravel lot, white pillars standing there like giant teeth.
The man tells me he has lights, like Christmas or holiday lights, some white, some in bright colors, filling his basement.
He tells me he has the lights on strings, electrical wires really, and when he plugs them in, the basement looks like the cosmos. It’s filled with millions of stars, countless stars, stars waiting to be identified and named. He wants to bring in more stars, pack them into his universe, maybe count them someday, and give names to the brightest ones. He’s already named one for himself, he’ll name one for me, and he’ll name the rest for other people in the city. All I have to do is tell him my name, and I can have my own star.
“I want my star to be on the rise,” I say.
“It won’t ever set,” he says, “as long as the electricity is on.”Thaddeus Rutkowski
You remember those old commercials with that woman who would always ask at the beginning DO YOU WANNA MAKE MORE MONEY? before flashing a long list of accreditations that could be easily earned online leading to a life-changing career? Welp, when I was younger me and my buddy Jeremy were sitting there drawing and that commercial came on except there was a glitch and the DO YOU WANNA MAKE MORE MONEY part came out in demonese, all guttural and fang-toothed. We both whipped our heads around to each other to verify we weren’t having a psychotic break, and then we turned toward the TV but the commercial was already back to normal again. That glitch never occurred again. I can only assume that was aliens fucking with us, beaming transmissions through time and space but not with any inherent message—more like an interdimensional version of PUNK’D or Galaxy’s Funniest Home Videos or something. So I’m pretty sure there’s an alien version of Bob Saget laughing along with an audience through their eye-nipples somewhere as we have heart attacks in our human buttholes. (Yes: I’m sure eye-nipples are a thing in some dimension.)Matthew Burnside
It was September 1996 in Denver, and I was driving my first car, a black Toyota Celica, on a warm fall night. I had looked carefully for oncoming traffic before I turned right onto 13th Avenue to head a few miles to my brother’s apartment. As I straightened out, bright headlights beamed into my rear view. The car had come from many blocks away. Then, the patrol car flicked on their blue and red lights and I pulled over.
Having my license for less than a month, I was so nervous as I turned the radio volume all the way down as the vehicle pulled up beside me that I had a burst of farts bip-bip-bip-bip.
“Is that marijuana that I smell in there?” the officer closer to me asked.
No, it’s flatulence, is what I thought in my head. What I said aloud was, “No, sir.”
They proceeded to inquire if I was driving a stolen vehicle and have me do balance/sobriety tests on the sidewalk for the next 20 minutes.
Twenty years later, pot is legal in Denver but this first encounter of Driving While Brown still rides with me.Chad Jones
More than twenty years ago I walked into a basement bar in the old part of Kingston, Ontario. In the sweaty heat of the limestone-walled room I saw a red coat—a 19th century British soldier, in a smartly pressed uniform. He stood legless on two stumpy thighs next to a small set of stairs. I looked away, and he was still there when I looked back. I turned away for a while, and when I turned back he was gone.Ken Murray
No drugs. Just a seven-year-old me seeing shadow people. A friend was over at my house for a sleepover. As I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I left the door open (as most people do). There, on the wall across from me, were three figures dressed in old-timey fashion, think top hats and drab clothing. Their mouths moved but nothing came out. They held leashes, which held snarling pit bulls. I fled back to bed in the hopes that it was all a dream. In the morning my friend woke and asked me if I had seen the people on the wall too.Julia Yeager-Archer
From the ages of about 4-7 I would wake up many nights to a clown family in various sizes from kid to adult to giant all made up in different color makeup and masks all standing at the end of my bed. I could only move my head to look up, but from the neck down I was paralyzed, and couldn’t speak or scream. They didn’t say anything either so we just stared at each other, until I became so exhausted from fear and horror that I would finally collapse and pass out.Meg Tuite
Maybe it was “Trout Mask Replica” on repeat combined with the weed and the Prosecco but yeah an extraterrestrial seduced me in my barrio apartment in San Antonio. The full moon was in Taurus and the Virgin Mary and Jesus candles were glowing on my bookcase altar. I was 42 years old and feeling luscious as hell even though the first guy from Match.com shamed me for not being able to guess what he did for a living and told me he didn’t feel a connection. The second guy from Match.com fucked me in my ass without lube. The married men from Ashley Madison were pathetic. They didn’t know what the hell they wanted. It didn’t matter. I was convinced I had never been more sexually appealing. My purple elephant vibrator buzzing against my clit was the only affirmation I needed. But that night to my dismay I discovered I was out of AA batteries. I was too drunk and stoned to drive so I got in bed and conjured up the old stand-by fantasy. I was in Progreso with the Latino vice cop watching a Latina stripper writhe all over his lap. Hot. But my fingers were no match for the manic purple elephant. Then I saw the smallish blue orb pulsing on my ceiling. Que? Sweat pebbled my skin. My heart was a disco. The blue orb zoomed around in mindfuck zigzags then landed on my left tit. It was ice at first but as it increased in size it became fire. The burning was delicious, though. The nerve endings in my nipple went spastic. I was being milked by electricity. “God, baby. You’re so yummy.” The voice belonged to my ex, the plumber. But the voice didn’t belong to him at all because he was three miles down the road in his trailer and he never called me baby. It was always babe with him, my least favorite term of endearment. Such an unimaginative, do-nothing syllable. “I’m appropriating your ex’s voice to maximize your pleasure.” Oh. Cool. I didn’t know what the hell was sucking on my tit. My first guess was that the blue orb was the ghost of the first man I lived with. He died of a heart attack in San Antonio three months before I came to town. I found his obituary that Halloween during one of my random, bored-out-of-my-skull Google searches. “That guy was an idiot. He never made you cum.” Fuck. This was a new experience on many levels. Fucking had never been so mentally and psychologically satisfying with any of the men I’d chosen to grace with my ravenous clitoris. “Your delectable clitoris. Mmm. Baby. The reason I traveled here from vast galaxies away.” I turned off my brain at that point. Googolplex orgasms. And I never caught the fucker’s name.Misti Rainwater-Lites
On 23 June 1985, a bomb destroyed Air India Flight 182 en route from Montreal to London. The Boeing 747 plunged through Irish airspace from an altitude of 31,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. A total of 329 people died in the crash.
Christmas Eve 1985. I’m a guest on a remote Cork farm. No electricity, so we illuminate dozens of glow sticks washed ashore with life jackets and shoes and other wreck of the Air India disaster. Having drunk much poitín I’d gone outdoors to the privy. An oncoming gale was already howling and drove tiny rain spikes into my face. It had blackened the sky to pitch. Coming back, I heard a flapping and glimpsed something, a plasma, a glowing sari, fleeing over the clothes line toward the Atlantic. Recovering from my terror I rationalized it must have been bedclothes on the line. But in the cottage again, my host swore she’d hung no laundry that day. None. Later, in absolute dark, the farm jenny, about to foal, brayed and paced until dawn in the barnyard. I slept little that night, and then only fitfully.Steven Gowin
Months after my sister died, it was Christmas. I was at the piano, my back to the room, warming up a few carols, when I had the feeling someone was standing behind me. My youngest daughter was a toddler at the time and I was sure she had toddled over to listen to me play. I glanced over my shoulder and saw no one. I turned back to the piano and continued playing one of the carols my sister always used to sing with me. Seconds later, an ornament fell off the tree. But this ornament did not merely slide off the branch; it went flying straight up into the air, arced and then fell to the floor. There was no missing it. I got up to retrieve the fallen object and saw it was the cowboy Santa holding his lasso in the shape of the word Howdy, the one my sister had sent me several years before.Katherine DiBella Seluja