When I was 16 we lived in Ramona on Hanson Lane a few miles away from our community’s small downtown. In the countryside surrounding our town, the houses are spaced remotely from one another, usually by fields that hold cattle or horses.

One evening my friend Mike had come over to visit. My mother and my younger brother, Jason, were home as well. Mike and I were sitting at the dining room table talking while my mother was in the kitchen a few feet away preparing dinner.

The sun had just set, but there was still a very faint, distant orange light illuminating from behind Mount Woodson and Iron Mountain to the west. Jason was pouring a glass of milk at the counter and Mike and I had our backs to the window as my mother placed the ketchup glazed meatloaf in the oven and then turned to face us. Her eyes became wide and her jaw clenched in perplexity. She crouched down as she hurriedly approached the table and placed the palms of her hands flat on its top. She bent down farther, looking out the window to see something in the sky through the canopy of trees in our side yard. “Oh, my God,” she croaked. “It’s a UFO.”

Mike and I turned and followed my mother’s gaze. Hovering about 1,000 feet above a house a block away was a dark and vast oval shape looming in the sky. There were a few lights blinking arbitrarily from the oval shape that somehow added to the anonymous doom it seemed to project. We all stared out the window for another five seconds. Our actions were temporarily on hold as our minds reeled from the countless implications the shape in the sky suggested. Were the aliens friends or invaders? Would our race soon learn the mysteries of the universe from diplomatic emissaries from another world, or were we to be forever enslaved by labor starved extraterrestrials?

My mother backed away from the table. She looked frightened but at the same time excited, as if the rapture had just arrived and she was certain she would be one of God’s righteous to ascend to heaven. “Get under the table,” she ordered. “Come on,” she said, clapping her hands together when none of us moved. “Right now, all of you under the table this minute!”

“That’s what you’re supposed to do during an earthquake,” I said. “Or stand in a doorway. I don’t think hiding under tables applies to UFO invasions.”

“I think we should go outside and look at it,” Mike said. He, Jason, and I were all a little worried, but our fears were overshadowed by the intriguing possibility of being vaporized by hostile alien death rays. Jason and I followed Mike out the front door. My mother cowered in the living room. The shape made no sound, but still, slowly, it inched along toward us. My mother cautiously peeked through the screen door and then, momentarily, she joined us outside on the lawn beside the glider swing. We stared silently up into the sky as if we were portraying patient victims from a fifties science-fiction movie.

The sparse and random lights on the UFO began to pulse more rapidly and increase in number. The lights began to take shape and seemed to be trying to relay a message to us.

“It-it looks like hieroglyphics,” My mother stammered. “Maybe they’re trying to tell us something, something in a language our primitive culture will be able to understand.”

“Like what?” I said. “Resistance is futile?”

“Maybe, take me to your leader,” Mike said. We continued to watch the lights in the sky as the message slowly developed. What did they want us to know? Would it be a command? Maybe inspirational words of a grander future would materialize. We collectively held our breath as the aliens’ communication became clear. First a picture began to emerge. It was round—no, a cylindrical shaped object colored brown and red. What was it? Maybe an intergalactic cornucopia filled with immortality and an end to disease and famine. Soon words appeared—in English! “Enjoy,” the message urged, “Coca Cola.”

Just before it reached the field next to our house, the Goodyear Blimp began to steer away. Before it retreated in the direction it had come, we were able to temporarily view its now active starboard wall of flashing advertisements. In addition to drinking Coca Cola, the blimp suggested that we “Drive a Chevrolet, Apply Now for a Low Interest Bank of America Loan,” and, of course, mount only “Goodyear Tires” on all of our automobiles.

As we watched the blimp glide off into the night, I could sense my mother was disappointed that our world wasn’t being overrun with aliens from outer space. Like most of us, I knew she wanted a monumental event to occur in her lifetime, something to comfort her and imply there was something bigger out there and that our thanklessly plodding through life every day wasn’t all for nothing. Visitors from another planet would challenge our sense of structured reality and compel us to explore the new, and no longer abstract, concepts that exist beyond the soothing material confines of our sheltering world. Tangible proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life would also hint that there could truly be an existence beyond the realm of our physical lives: perhaps a heaven, perhaps a hell, or, quite possibly, even something that transcends the boundaries of our imagination—anything besides the stark and absolute inevitability of our failed bodies decomposing in the soil.

Without a genuine sign, only the optimistic promises we made to ourselves, we are all forced to live with the unsettling comprehension that, perhaps, we know nothing at all.

Comments

shizzyfinn May 19, 2009 @ 11:03 a.m.

"Visitors from another planet would challenge our sense of structured reality and compel us to explore the new, and no longer abstract, concepts that exist beyond the soothing material confines of our sheltering world."

Or else they'd be accused of coming here to steal our jobs and take advantage of our social programs.

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