We had been watching the skies for two days but nothing irregular had occurred. I guess we weren't really serious about it either. Although we had spent several years digesting all the UFO stuff out there: magazines, YouTube, documentaries, you name it. It's just that - it's a fantasy you know, a fantastic scenario you make up in your head to spice up this gruesome, disappointing world a bit. I guess you could say we wanted to believe. We wanted something more than this world was offering us. You know the feeling. Don't you?
Thing is, we got it bad. We got it.
We had taken my dad's car, a Toyota 4Runner, capable of pretty rough off-road driving if you're a little bit careful. Our eyes were set on Lone Mountain, in south east Nevada, and they gleamed with anticipation and good old fun as we took a left turn and deserted the asphalt road into the desert. The peak's not more than say 3000 ft, but it's enough to get clear a view of the night skies. Actually, it's more than enough.
As we got closer to the mountain, we left the desert roads and started off-road. We were joking around in the car, talking about what we'd do if we saw a UFO, or what we'd do if extra terrestrials somehow contacted us. I guess we thought we were ready for it, and both of us said we'd actually love to be, as they say, abducted. In retrospect, that just seems bizarre. Naive little shits who just want out of their miserable little lives, dreaming of something better, something bigger.
We stopped the car and got out. It was already getting dark but it was still warm and the last rays of sun painted the mountain in a promising and blinding yellow and red light. We prepped all our bags and started up the mountain with the sunset at our backs. None of us said a word going up. I don't know why, and I don't know if Ray felt the same way, but there was seriousness to the peak and its surroundings that day. It demanded we show respect.
We settled for a spot that was on a fairly squared plateau perhaps 1200 ft up, and we would have gone higher if it hadn't been for the difficulties walking in the dark. We had flashlights, but it's not easy with all the shadows they cast and a 60 lbs bag on your back stuffed with canned spaghetti bolognese. We set the tent in the middle of the plateau and got a little fire going, like a little reward for the hard work. If you're planning to watch the skies you really should skip all the coziness of a fire because it makes you blind to nuances of the night.
Now, as I said, two days went by without us noticing anything in particular. We didn't talk about it, but we were disappointed, and yet, not surprised. A fantasy is a fantasy and it always hurts when it is confronted with a mundane reality. The only thing that had happened out of the ordinary was both of us feeling sick in the mornings. I had been laying awake for some time, skipping through an issue of UFO Magazine, when I saw Ray's eyes open in fear and him running out of the tent — vomiting for several minutes. I had felt sick myself but nothing quite as bad. The day before we figured it was the bolognese. Disgusting fucking bolognese, what were we thinking. This morning it seemed worse though.
Here's where the weird things started happening, and it gives me chills having to tell you about it.
When I got dressed on that third morning, while Ray was outside recovering from his intense puking, I felt — and I know how this sounds — a ripple in... space? Time? I don't know but it was like someone changed a filter on how we perceive reality. I was confused because the feeling was really distinct and I was about to call out to Ray when I heard him — talking to himself. He was mumbling something and I could only make out some of it.
"...didn't.. want to... didn't want to. Deeper... no never... up... upward... space... no-no-no-no-NO... infinity. SHUT UP!"
I could hear him retching again and I have to tell you, I started getting really worried. The words upward and infinity also started something in me and I too felt dizzy and nauseous again. I stumbled out of the tent and grabbed a bottle of water. It was early. Ray was hunched over away from me and when I came out, only his head turned towards me. His eyes were wide and gave me a terrified look and for 3-4 seconds he just stared at me with dread and something more — he radiated hate and contempt. He looked murderous.
Now, Ray is not a heavy guy, and couldn't weigh more than 120 lbs. Short and skinny with a melon-like head, that is his signature. That's how we know him. I'm a lot bigger than him, and stronger. I could easily take him if he attacked me, but two wide hateful, beaming eyes, is enough to make anyone twitch. I had to say something.
"Hey man, how're you doin'? Everything alright, you don't look yourself? Want me to fix you something?"
My words dispelled something in him, thank god. His body softened, his eyes started blinking and lost their wild expression.
"I don't know. I'm sorry I think I had a nightmare or something. Maybe I have a fever, I seem to dream, or hallucinate. But I think I might feel a little better now. I'll just sit here for a moment. By the way, are we going home?"
He sat down on a rock with his head in his hands and I started getting some breakfast going. The morning was pretty cold and I searched the area for dry branches that could be used to make a fire going. Deeper—Upward—Infinity. Those words. I couldn't stop thinking about them. Had I dreamt to?
When I got back Ray seemed his normal self and that day we just lay in the sun, talking about girls we liked, teachers we hated, schools we wanted to go to, and jobs we wanted to have. Yeah, we wanted a life, we didn't really want to be abducted to another world. Fantasies are made to make us stand the gruesome waiting for life to begin, they're made to give luster to the boring rationality of pursuing a career and a normal life. They're not made to come true. And they sure as hell shouldn't make you drive to the Nevada desert begging the stars to come get you.
That night, darkness crept really close and the stars glowed intensely. The fire was put out and we lay on our backs, staring up at the stars. I don't know if you've done this at a high altitude in the middle of the night, but it's an overwhelming experience. Two infinitesimal conscious beings, each with a cute little name, two loving parents, and a bond of friendship, trying to grasp space with their eyes and hearts. Longing for something — for feeling alive and fulfilled. And space staring back at you, its mystery promising to the empty heart.
That's when we saw it, the most beautiful star ever, coming closer. None of us said anything but we held each other's hands, squeezing harder and harder. It just descended from space, from the stars, from our fantasies. It lit up the whole plateau with a blinding yellow and red light that seemed to make everything shine like it was golden. We started laughing. It was true all this time. They're here and they've heard us, understood us and our boring lives. Tears ran down my face and for a moment I felt happy — fulfilled. Then it just disappeared, out of nowhere. No direction, no nothing.
A moment passed, and then I felt at surge in my stomach and I shot up into the air like a cannon. It was like something just took me by my feet and hurled me up in the sky. The bodily feeling was extremely intense and I instinctively curled up while simultaneously shrieking. The worst part was the spinning and wobbling, turning my stomach inside out. I couldn't see much but I thought I heard Ray screaming and begging for his life.
I don't know if I passed out but suddenly I saw myself from outside. A terrified little boy hurling towards space, shooting holes in the clouds. Then the ripple again and perspectives changed. I was back in my body. We were now in the silence and infinity of space.
We should have been dead but we weren't. We were spinning through darkness, alone and abandoned. I could see Ray wobbling a few feet away with his legs squirming and stretching like he was trying to feel the bottom of a lake. There was nothing. Only him and I stumbling through emptiness at free fall. No earth, no moon, no friendly aliens, no nothing. Distant stars in all directions forward unto infinity. I guess we both screamed but not a sound could be heard, only a weird vibrating of my throat could be felt and blood rushing to my head. There was no point.
Ray started convulsing. He was a black silhouette, wobbling, twitching and turning, and every now and then his widespread eyes met mine — they were absolutely terrified. He was crying. I was crying. I missed mom and dad. I missed our old dog Ben.
Then Ray started melting. I don't know if that's the right word, but I have never seen anything that scary in my whole life. My friend was melting and disappearing. A moment later he was gone, I was alone, tumbling out of control in empty space, unable to make a sound.
These words echoed in my head. They had begun a while back but I noticed them first as I was left alone. I'm an obsessive-compulsive kind of guy, I always get songs or quotes or phrases stuck in my head, unable to get them out, so this wasn't a total surprise.
They had a whispering quality to them and they sounded threatening or angry.
I figured they had to be something else entirely. Something that hated me. Something that wanted me to never set my foot back there again. I had disturbed someone or something. It was the strongest feeling. I had a sensation of someone standing behind my back, staring at me, beaming hate at me, reaching for me.
I cried. I felt unwanted, deserted and hated. A hated child in the vastness of space with no one to care for me. I thought about my mom missing me when I felt the ripple again.
I was back on earth. I was her. I was her heart. In a few seconds I relived a lifetime of sorrow and happiness, of breaking and healing, of hoping and despairing. Words came echoing through time.
— "I'm sorry ma'm, there was nothing that could be done. She died in her sleep. It was peaceful."
Words tearing holes in my being. My little sister, lost to SIDS before her time. How did mom survive? But life sparked again, against all odds and inertia. Hope gathered strength and I was born. Love penetrating this broken heart, stitching it back together, until almost new. Mom's eyes looking through my little being, hoping, wishing, longing. She wanted the very best for me, like all mothers. The ripple again disturbed my vision.
Now in another familiar chest — dad's. Hatred and fear filling me up with sounds of shouting. A man with a bottle in his hands yelling and growling while banging a locked door. It must have been my grandpa who died when dad was nine. From the other side of it, a woman's screaming. He spotted us, leering, grinning, walking towards us in our crib. And then new words, dads words, his promises.
"I will never treat my family like that."
A new ripple and then Ben's familiar smell. Longing, waiting for me to come home. Trusting me to come back and be with him, to look at him, to need him. Every day, the sad good bye and the hope of return. The breaking and healing, the leap of faith and love. Dog life. A final ripple and then the blackness of space yet again.
They loved me, and I loved them. Had I forgotten? It was never about me, it was about us. It was never about wanting more of life, it was about forgetting love and connectedness. It was about the battle between individualism and real love. But there is no love in space, only fantasies that cannot breathe. Hatred and not belonging. I closed my eyes, and prepared to die or drift forever in my tomb.
I opened my eyes. We were lying on our backs next to each other, me and Ray. It was dark but the stars shone with a pale gleaming light. We held hands. He started crying.
"I want to go home, but I can't move," he said, tears streaming down his face. I put on my headlamp and I picked him up on my back. I felt stronger than ever and felt how time and love and hope and sorrow flowed through my veins like fire.
We stood for a moment, panting in the dark with my headlight as our only guide, when another light source made the night turn into day. The star had reappeared and the plateau was now golden and simmering with feelings hate and contempt.
"GO HOME. LEAVE."
This time the words were like the words of God. They boomed with a force that could shatter bone and made the ground tremble. Coarse and stern was the voice and the message.
I ran. Ray cried and clung to me like baby clings to its mother. It gave me even more strength and determination. We heard indeterminable sounds following us. I could see unworldly beings staring at us in the shadows. It looked as if they were laughing, but I couldn't care less. We were leaving and never coming back. Simple as that.
I almost ran into the Toyota waiting for us. The sight of it and all it reminded me of made me laugh hysterically. We drove away nearly wrecking the car before returning to the roads of civilization.
We could hear thunder roaring and shortly after it started raining. A few times the silhouette of Lone Mountain towered in the distance as lightning struck the uninviting hills.
We were going home, and we would love and be loved. There is nothing more to this world.