The signs of extraterrestrials are quite ubiquitous. That’s the word my mom says when she means ‘everywhere.’ Sometimes we just stumble across things, like the time Damien, Al, Howard, and me walked through the woods to get to Newman’s Hobby Shop. We came across a clearing that was covered in crop circles.
Well, not exactly crops, it was a grassy meadow, and not exactly circles. There were squares and hexagons, too, but who cares? It was plain to see that UFOs had made their marks.
Damien held out his hand and beckoned. “Jimmy. My phone.”
I carried the Strange Phenomena Kit—we rarely went anywhere without it, so I peeled it off my shoulder, dug through the side pocket for his iPhone and handed it to him. He started taking pictures and video.
The sizes and shapes of impressions varied. A few were quite large, especially a square one that must have been caused by a ship as big as a house, but most were small, like car-sized or maybe a small Airstream.
“Wow.” Howard pulled a notepad and pencil out of the pack. “This was quite a fleet.” He scratched notes.
Al wended between the outlines. He hopped a stream that ran through the middle of the clearing down a slight incline. I followed him, and Damien came along.
Al squatted next to a hexagon. “They didn’t compress the grass evenly in one direction. Not even in the circles.”
“You know what that means,” I said.
“That’s more realistic,” said Damien.
“Exactly,” I said. “More natural. Much less likely to be a hoax.”
Al stood up and pointed along the ground outside the impressions. “There are a lot of random scrapes in the ground.”
“Landing gear?” asked Damien.
Howard caught up to them. “Could be.” He waved them back toward the stream. “There’s a circle of ash over here.”
We gathered around it. “Like someone got zapped with a ray gun or something,” I said.
“That’s what I was thinking,” said Howard. “There are a few more on the other side.”
They shivered. The feeling of danger was thick in the air.
We found a less defined trail of depressed grass going into the woods again.
“Could be a runway,” said Al. “Or they might have carried everything into the woods.”
They trudged into the trees, but soon lost the path, so they wandered more, and tried to find the right bearing towards Newman’s. They came upon another clearing bustling with human activity. A community of nature lovers clustered around several dozen tents, some cooking and others lashing together branches for some unknown project. Signs posted all around the camp said: ‘Leave No Trace.’
We’d seen these people before on another as-yet-unsolved case when we fled what we thought was the zombie apocalypse. My dad called them ‘grass eaters.’ A long-haired man I knew as Gerald sat on a stump and stitched the side of a boot. Gerald, if not their leader, was at least a sort of spokesman.
“Whazzup, G?” said Damien. He fist bumped Gerald, who then tied the thread off.
“Living the dream,” said Gerald. “What are you boys up to?”
“Heading over to Newman’s,” I said.
Gerald slipped the boot on his foot. “Oh, I like that place.” That surprised me, considering their lifestyle. I couldn’t exactly visualize an HO train set inside one of these tents.
Al handed Gerald the other boot. “You wouldn’t happen to have seen any aliens, have you?”
He gave them a bemused look. “Not today, I haven’t.”
Howard pointed back the way we came. “Nothing unusual down that way?”
“No.” Gerald took the boots back off and wiggled his toes. “We camped down their for a while, but it was too wet.”
Damien and I looked at each other, then caught the eyes of Howard and Al.
“Ooooh,” I said.
“Yes,” said Al. “Aliens obviously prefer the moisture.”
“Exactly,” said Howard.
With this new intelligence, we said our good-byes and headed for the marshy part of the woods. That’s when it got extremely eerie.
“Do you hear that?” asked Howard.
I didn’t hear a thing at first, but Damien and Al swore they could.
“It kind of sounds like a spaceship engine might,” said Al.
A little farther along, and I started to hear it. A chorus of chirping. A veritable wall of sound that may or may not have sounded like a spaceship engine. “It’s like a flock of birds, but greater and more consistent.”
As it got louder, we watched with wide-eyed anticipation. It sounded like it was straight ahead of us and we should see it, but as we stepped into the muddy area, the sound stopped dead.
A chill went up my spine and into my shoulders, and a jumping frog startled me.
“It’s got some kind of invisibility shield,” I said. “And when they noticed us, they turned the engine off.”
We searched all around, waving our arms in front of us to feel for it, and couldn’t find anything.
“We look like idiots,” Al said.
I had to agree.
Howard spoke to the air. “We know you’re here. We’ll treat you peacefully as long as you do the same for us.”
Nothing happened. Eventually we got bored and moved on.
At Newman’s, I drooled over an HO starter kit, while Damien, Al, and Howard pooled their money for a motorized balsa wood airplane model.
I remained paralyzed by desire, imagining a gigantic replica of the Swiss Alps to build my train around.
On the way back, we searched further for any sign at all of the aliens, but we found bupkis. Resting on a picnic table at the edge of the forest, I pulled out my secret files notebook, and wrote down case number twenty-three. At the bottom I wrote ‘unsolved’ in big, slanted lettering.