When I was younger, I believed in aliens. I believed in them earnestly, actually, without question, and I was convinced my brother was an abductee. You couldn’t tell; there wasn’t some trait or giveaway you could point to. And I didn’t call him an alien abductee because he annoyed me or because I wanted to goad him. No, it was more serious than that. I had proof.
There was this book in my house—it was a book about close encounters. It was hardcover and it was the size of a telephone book and it identified the three types of alien contact as classified by Dr. J Hyneck in 1972. In order from one to three, these are: sighting, evidence of an encounter, and contact with animate beings.
Now there’s a fourth—abduction—and a couple other ones that some people accept and some people don’t accept, including: death by aliens, alien hybridization, alien babies, &c.
My dad went through this phase (it was sort of in vogue, I think) where he became obsessed with aliens. He bought books and he would watch these documentaries on TV. My parents were good parents but they were really bad about censoring my television intake. If they told me I couldn’t watch something and I protested—even slightly, even half-heartedly—they would relent. And so I would watch all these things that I probably shouldn’t have watched, like all these documentaries with my dad. It just seemed like every night there was some new program on TV and I would watch it with him until I literally couldn’t anymore, until I got so scared I couldn’t breathe, until I got so scared I went upstairs and squeezed myself between my bed and the wall. I thought this was the only place the aliens wouldn’t be able to find me.
The first story in the alien encounter book was about a little boy named Colby.
I was young. I thought my brother Colby was the only Colby, and I thought the reason we had this book was because it was about him. He had this whole past I didn’t know about. He was an abductee and I was already so scared, I was already not sleeping—it made sense no one would tell me.
When I was nine or ten or eleven, my dad bought a basketball hoop. I never really liked sports, but he bought this basketball hoop and he bought me a basketball and he showed me the proper way to shoot a basket and he taught me how to play simple games—pig and horse and around the world.
I remember one night I wanted to play. My dad was doing something; he told me to wait for him outside. It was after dinner and it was dark and cold. I got the basketball from the mudroom and stepped outside onto the concrete steps at the side of the house. I looked up. There was only one star, bright and heavy in the sky.
But it wasn’t a star. It was moving.
I watched it. I thought it must be an airplane. It was bright and white and moving slowly over my head. It was just a big white circle. I watched it because there wasn’t anything to do, because I was waiting for my dad. I watched it moving slowly, lazily, flying quietly, inching along.
I watched it pause, momentarily, and hang—this orb. It hung for just a second, a split-second, and then it switched course and shot off in the opposite direction. It zoomed, it flew, it flashed across the sky and was gone in an instant. I watched the whole thing and I don’t believe in aliens today, not really. Not the kind they show in the movies or on TV. And I don’t believe aliens abducted my brother and the things that keep me up at night are different. They are not little green men anymore.
But still, there was this thing. There was this thing I did not invent. There was this thing I watched in the sky, this thing that couldn’t exist. This impossible circle of light that moved closer and closer and closer and then was suddenly, immediately, gone. Gone, vanished, poof.
In that moment I wasn’t really scared. And I was usually scared. I was a scared child; that emotion was something of a default for me. I’d been terrified of aliens for years but here I was presented with an actual piece of proof, an actual piece of evidence more damning than the book detailing the abduction of a boy who I later realized wasn’t actually my brother. Here was a UFO, right? Here was a bright light in the sky that moved in impossible figurations. It doesn’t matter what I believe now, what I believed then, there was this thing and I watched it and it was real. But I wasn’t scared. It felt almost normal, almost natural. It was like a culmination. It felt like a gift. I’d spent so many years scared of the sky, wary of my window, dodging imaginary tractor beams on my way from the bedroom to the bathroom, and here was finally something real.
You are not entirely crazy, it seemed to say. You are not entirely odd.
Here is something unexplained. Hold onto it forever. Whenever you need to be scared, here: be scared of this. Remember this. This is only yours. Do with it what you will.