The Fragility of the Mind
“Should we call the police?”
Hudson and Abe stood looking at the spot where it had hung in the sky. They were still a little buzzed. It being a warm summer night, and short on cash for a cab, they’d been walking home from the pub and were by the outskirts of town when it caught their eye. They’d never seen anything like it—probably no one had.
“Man, what do you expect them to do?”
“I don’t know. Just seems like the thing to do.”
It—a big metallic thing, about the size of a car—had been floating, silent, above the field. Hudson had noticed it first, stopped short, nudged Abe, and pointed upwards, agape. The two stared wordlessly. It remained overhead for almost a full minute as they watched. More silence. The thing seemed to watch back. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it shot off, diagonally upward, headed northeast at incredible speed. In less than a second, it was out of sight. They’d glanced at each other, tense. The evening was supposed to be just a couple old high school buddies catching up over drinks, but this? This wasn’t the sort of thing most people are prepared for.
Hudson took off his hat and tried to steady his breath. Scratching his head, he began again, “But like, shouldn’t the government know?”
Abe snorted. “Dude, I work in the public service now. I’m ‘the government.’” He ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “Believe me, the government’s a bunch of morons. We’re all just as clueless as the next folks—only in a slightly fancier office.”
Hudson considered this for a while. They’d sat down on a wooden fence that ran alongside the empty street and were looking into the now totally empty field. The tall grass swayed in the soft breeze, oblivious to the turn of events. It was a rural area, the houses few and far between, and all the windows along the street were dark as far as Hudson could see. No one else was around; no cars came by. They were the only witnesses. The sun had long since vanished over the hill, and the only light now came from the silver moon and the dim yellow street lights on telephone poles sparsely dotting the road. Their low electric hum mingled with the crickets. Abe pulled out a cigarette and lit it, offering a pittance more light. It was his last one. He puffed quietly. They felt a chill despite the warm night air.
Eventually, Hudson grew uncomfortable with the silence. “But like, we gotta alert the military. They’ll know what to do.” He wiped his palms on his faded jeans.
Abe was shaking his head slowly. “What, you want ‘em to… shoot it? Cause, uh—” he gestured to the empty air. Ash toppled off his cigarette. “There’s nothing there to shoot.” Abe still got smarmy under stress. It was starting to get on his friend’s nerves.
Abe, meanwhile, was reflecting. A UFO. Well, it was certainly unidentifiable. That much was obvious. Even a basic description was a challenge. The brilliant light the thing emitted had distorted its shape, giving it an eerie unfamiliarity. Abe tried, but couldn’t remember what colour it had been. It revolved slowly as it hovered. Its movement was uncanny—it floated loosely in the sky, not like a bird or a drone or even a balloon, but more like a jellyfish, aimless, without intention. It didn’t do anything. It was just there.
And then it wasn’t.
Normally, Abe would have immediately grasped at a plausible explanation for the thing’s appearance, but none came. No question about it: whatever it was, it was unmistakably not-of-this-Earth.
“Well, damn, I dunno, call CSIS, then. The RCMP, the PM. The Queen!” said Hudson.
Abe shook his head more vigorously and took a drag. “I’m telling you, man, I think… I think we gotta drop it. Go ahead, call the newspaper, call the Pope for all I care, no one’s gonna do shit about this. You wanna be just another crazy farmer who saw a UFO?”
“Don’t give me that! This shit could be dangerous—the authorities oughtta know! And you saw it too!”
“Yeah, I did, but man, it’s hopeless! What do you expect? No one’ll buy it. No one’ll do anything. No one would know what to do.” Abe turned his face to the stars and sighed. “People always want to believe that there’s someone running the show, that some asshole’s back there pulling all the strings. Man, I get it, too. Conspiracies are comforting—they are. But truth is, we’re all just making it up as we go. Some just hide it better than others.”
“Oh, shut up,” said Hudson. He was now chewing on a piece of long grass, eyes closed. “That can’t be right. Gotta be somebody, somewhere, has their shit together.”
Abe smirked. “Next you’ll tell me you still believe in Santa Claus.”
“For all we know, that thing coulda been goddamn Santa Claus.”
That got a much-needed chuckle, and the tension lessened. The two sat for a minute with their thoughts, feeling a little less alone. Hudson looked around some more. The night sky was clear and deep, full of powdery stars. Rustling lupins were overgrown in ditches along the road. It almost felt like any other summer night.
“I never believed in Santa,” said Abe.
“I don’t think that’s anything to be proud of.”
“I’m just saying, man. My bullshit detector is top-of-the-line.”
“I bet you never believed in aliens, either.”
“Still don’t. Not really.”
“What? Shut up.”
“You shut up. Who knows what that thing was? Coulda been anything. I’m sure as hell not saying it was an alien.”
Hudson couldn’t believe his ears. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that, Abe? Think you’re so smart ‘cause you don’t believe in shit. You’re not. Makes you just as close-minded as anyone else.” He huffed and hopped off the fence into the field. “I’m heading home. Gonna cut through here. See you around, buddy.”
Hudson had only gone a few metres when Abe, uncomfortable being left on his own, stepped down to follow.
“Hey, man, wait up.”
“I said I’ll see you around.”
“Hang on a minute. Look, I’m sorry. Just a bit shaken up.”
Hudson couldn’t stay mad. “Alright. No hard feelings, buddy. Hey, you wanna come with? Crash at my place tonight?”
Abe was relieved. After what had happened, he hadn’t wanted to spend the night alone. “Sure, man, thanks.”
They started off, the crunch of their footsteps in the grass adding to the ambient noise. It had gotten quite late, and the night was still. Even the chirping of crickets ceased, but neither took notice. They walked for a while before Abe stopped short.
“Wait up.” He was trying to remember something.
Hudson slowed, looking over his shoulder. “What?”
They stood facing each other in the field, knee-deep in the tall grass. Abe rubbed his eyes, looking around. Was he still drunk? “Don’t you… don’t you live the other way?”
Abe stared at Hudson’s moonlit face and was struck with a hazy recollection of having left his friend back at the pub. Of leaving the bar alone after they had laughed and parted ways. Of catching a glimpse of a strange object in the sky out of the corner of his eye on his way home—but no, that was impossible. Something was off. He blinked hard and looked closely at Hudson’s face. A sudden chill gripped his spine.
“Hang on. You’re not… do I know you?”
Hudson’s mouth smiled. “What?” His voice was soft. “Come on, Abe. It’s me. We’ve been friends since…”
He trailed off, still smiling. Abe’s terror rose. He took a step back. Hudson advanced.
“Take it easy, Abe. It’s cool. Trust me. You’ve been through a lot. Come on. I’ll take you home. Come home with me. You’ve been through a lot. Trust me.”
Abe’s throat constricted. He backed away, stumbling, chest pounding, dropped his cigarette. “Get away from me. Stay—”
Behind him, a brilliant light flashed.