“Ms. Montgomery, do you believe in aliens?”
Every year, at least one of my high school students asks the question.
“Of course, I do!” I say as if there could be no other reasonable response.
That confession is generally followed by giggles and a few nods here and there, confirming that I am not the only one who believes we are not alone. I mean, come on, I grew up on the original Star Trek, enthralled by Captain Kirk and his pals, never noticing the cheesy effects and reveling in the idea that fascinating worlds exist “out there.”
Sometimes, I tell my students that if I were to see an interstellar alien craft I would wave my arms and shout, “Take me! Take me!” all the while recalling that long walk Richard Dreyfus took as Ray Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, when he stepped up the ramp and into a strange new future escorted by wee, big- headed creatures.
But, as it turns out, I was all wrong. Because one day I was in just such a situation, and let’s just say I did not react the way I had always envisioned.
Here’s my story.
One sunny afternoon in Phoenix, I returned home from school. I got out of my truck, closed the door, and happened to glance up at the sky. And there it was. The flat black object hovered in the distance. I watched for a few moments, trying to discern what I was seeing. Then my mouth fell open. I turned, looking for other people, but I was alone. I watched the object move silently, looking unlike any conventional flying machine.
Remember now that my city is famous for the Phoenix Lights, the 1997 UFO incident witnessed by thousands of people, perhaps the largest mass sighting of such an event in history, an occurrence that has never had a creditable explanation.
I was unable to move as the object traveled slowly toward me, getting larger as it approached. I half expected fighter jets to appear, but the sky was otherwise empty, save for some puffy white clouds.
Soon, I thought, I would have my moment. I might be offered the opportunity “to go where no man has gone before.” Then I considered the alternative. Perhaps the aeronauts of said craft might just be hungry and grilled, red-headed human might be their favorite repast.
I am appalled to tell the truth here, but as a former reporter I find I must. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and in the immortal words of King Arthur in Monte Python and the Holy Grail my brain screamed, “Run away! Run Away!”
Despite the fact that I was never blessed with running skills — ask anyone who knows me — I was poised to sprint faster than the aptly-named Usain Bolt. Then, the “alien ship” drifted down.
A black plastic bag blowing in the wind.
Later, after analyzing my response to this optical illusion, I was horrified by my cowardice. I wonder if Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock would ever forgive me?
Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group
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As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.