Published Aug 02, 2000Nothing particularly captivating has happened in my humdrum little life lately, so I suppose I’m going to be forced to dredge up some ancient anecdote from way back in the last century for your amusement and edification. Did I ever tell you about the time I was abducted by aliens? Why don’t we start with that.
Imagine a time long, long ago, years before The X-Files, before E.T., even before Close Encounters of the Third Kind: an era that predated the widespread dissemination of stories about the abduction of humans by extraterrestrial beings, or vice versa. There were, of course, episodes of The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone that dealt with this kind of phenomena, but they were still of the less sophisticated, ‘50s-style sci-fi ilk, the flying saucers or cigars extrapolated from mother’s kitchen or father’s den, signifying more the threat of a communist invasion of North American values than an intergalactic alien one. Nevertheless, living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, with a night sky thick with stars, it often occurred to me that there must be someone out there looking down at me.
I didn’t exactly come from the most forthcoming of families. I only found out recently, for example, that one of my uncles had been in jail several years for robbing a bank before I was born, and it took me forever to figure out that my grandmother was a clandestine alcoholic. So it wasn’t surprising that once when I was eight or nine, when my eldest sister was hospitalised for some mysterious, undisclosed reason, I was not informed of the precise nature of her illness. I knew there had been several nights of blood-curdling screaming and wailing coming from her room, as if she had been possessed by the devil himself my parents couldn’t keep that from me but that’s all I knew. I mention this because I ended up sleeping in my sister’s bed during her absence (partly because we were very close and it was a way of staying near to her, and partly for the pure novelty of spending the night in someone else’s bed) and that’s when the abduction took place.
Now for those of you who are sceptical of such outlandish claims, let me be the first to psychologise away the experience for you. When I was three or four years old, I had a history of experiencing the worst sort of nightmares imaginable. So severe were they that I once insisted on sleeping with the light on every night for six months. From out of the closets, up from the basement, and down from the attic came every sort of creature a kid could conjure. In the most terrifying one I can remember, a skeleton with racking bones and chattering teeth came careening down the hall toward the bathroom door behind which I sat on the toilet. One by one my family members tried to stop the evil dead from killing me, but each time it threw them down the stairs. Only my mother could save me from the monster, and she was away in town buying the week’s supply of groceries. For months afterward my mother had to stand at the bottom of the stairs when I had to go to the bathroom, the door left ajar for a quick escape. It was only years later, when I was in the third grade, that I begin to understand the Oedipal implications, and by then I was already gay. A shrink I saw once had me convinced that a boy who experienced that much terror at such an early age must have been severely traumatised in some way, perhaps even abused or molested, and that I’d suppressed the memory. I didn’t make a second appointment. And even if it were true, I would have to take the advice that Chris Rock’s mother gave him when he complained about being diddled by a bent uncle: “Walk it off.”
Suffice to say I had a history of intense dreams. So as I lay that night in my sister’s bed, probably somewhat anxious about her unexplained absence, this is what happened: I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of a high-pitched, three-tone sound, which was sustained and uninterrupted. Through the open bedroom door I could see that a very intense source of light had entered the house downstairs. As the light became brighter and the sound more intense, I realised that something was making its way up the stairs. I could feel it rounding the banister and coming down the hall toward the room where I sat frozen on the bed. Then it slowly floated into view, hovering in the doorway: a round, glowing orb about the size of a large beach ball emitting a dazzling yellow light. I don’t remember being particularly frightened, but rather hypnotised by its brilliance. After a while it moved forward towards me until it enveloped me completely.
I don’t know if you’ve ever put your head down on the pillow at night and opened your eyes only a second later to discover that you’ve had a full eight hours sleep, but after the orb enveloped me, I woke up in the morning with that feeling intensified a hundred fold. I felt as if I’d had a chunk of my life cut out that I couldn’t remember. I told my mother about the incident, but she replied that it was just a dream, that if the sound was so loud and the light so bright, why didn’t it wake up the other members of the family? I knew of course she was right. It was only years later that I discovered that the details of my dream were textbook alien abduction material. The only thing that was missing was the unexplained marks and scars left over from the operations the aliens performed on me, the signifiers of abuse.
Years later, when I was 16, I was drinking one weekend night at the home of one of my town friends. I had just obtained my driver’s license after two failed attempts, which had devastated me, so I was in the mood to celebrate. Living on a farm 13 miles away from the small town in which I attended high school, being able to drive meant no more humiliating pick-ups by my parents after movies and dances, no more pretending not to be stoned on the long ride home. The friend whose house I was drinking at was 18, and his parents were out of town for the weekend, so we had unlimited access to alcohol of every stripe. We started drinking right after school on this particular Friday and continued into the evening. My older friend, who was actually my best friend’s best friend, was a mischievous rich kid who was determined to get me as drunk as he could just for the hell of it.
The last thing I remember was looking at the clock in the kitchen. It read 10:10 p.m. When I opened my eyes a second later, I had no idea where I was. I was in an entirely alien environment. I was laying in the front seat of a car being awakened by my father. The car, as it turned out, was parked in front of my grandmother’s house (you remember, the secret alcoholic) which was about a quarter of a mile away from my parents’ house. I was covered in mud and had a bruise on my forehead. My father was laughing gently. Apparently in his day, he and his brother had been two of the most notorious lads in the county, which I did not find out until much later. My mother, when she found out, was less amused.
After a deadly two-day hangover and enough guilt to kill a man twice my size, I found out from my friends at school on Monday what had happened. I had snapped into a blackout, and was fully conscious and coherent for several hours after my last glimpse of the clock. They had driven me back to my car, which I had left parked near the high school, but when they stopped I escaped, running and laughing through the town, yelling comparisons about my car, a Valiant, and my own character. They chased me for a long time, but I proved elusive. After they finally caught up with me, one of them drove me in my car back to my house while the other followed in his car so that he could drive the one driving me back to town. Apparently at one point I told my driver I was going to throw up, so he stopped the car and let me out. I stumbled to the side of the gravel road and tumbled down a 20-foot embankment, almost splitting my head open on a rock. When they got back to my neck of the woods, they weren’t sure which house I lived in, so they took a chance and left me in front of the one they thought it might be, which was my grandmother’s.
It was my first blackout, but by no means my last. It felt just like the time I had been abducted by aliens.