My Close Encounter

Last night the sky was as clear as I have ever seen it.

The stars danced across the heavens like white hot sparks and though they were billions of miles away, I swear you could hear them crackle through the void of space.

But there was something else.

Toward our south, across the border with Iowa, a long line of eerie red light pulsated from horizon to horizon.

I woke my wife.

“Something is out there,” I whispered.

“What?” she whispered in return.

“Extraterrestrials,” I said then explained what I saw.

She raised her head and looked out the window.

“Windmills,” she said then explained what would happen if I woke her again.

I hate it when she does that.

She is all too willing to crush the miraculous with the mundane and that worries me because I prefer a world where wonders thrive. Not just because such a place is more vibrant and interesting – but because the mundane scares the crap out of me.

Everyone who lives in the country knows the horrors of the mundane. We see it every day in the gore of road-kill and the patrol of vultures. At night our sleep is punctuated by the mad cries of coyotes.

Mother Nature may create beautiful things but she is all too willing to slash them apart and yawn at the terror of innocents.

It is why I yearn for the miraculous and am willing to believe in extraterrestrials – because if they exist then other things exist as well and while there may be more things to fear than we know, it stands to reason there are more things to watch over us than we are willing to admit.

Still my wife had planted the seed of doubt. So later in the day, I cross the road to discuss it with my neighbor Ray, an old and wise sheep farmer.

I found him talking to Fiona.

Normally, these two do not get along. Ray wears his MAGA cap whenever she stops by and she refuses to get out of her Prius in his yard but when they speak of sheep and wool, you would think them the best of friends.

“What’s up?” Ray asks.

I am loathe to change the conversation but there is no other way to explain my presence.

“Did either of you see the strange lights in the sky last night?” I ask.

“Extraterrestrials,” Fiona says.

Ray nods in agreement.

I am stunned that they agree.

“We are all doomed,” Ray tells me, “if we don’t stop them at the border.”

Fiona cut him off. Her adamance is classic Fiona.

“We definite are NOT doomed,” she says.

“How can you be so sure?” I ask.

“History.”

Ray scoffs.

“It is about progress and you,” she says pointing an accusing finger at Ray’s nose, “choose to be on the wrong side of it. Once humans are as advanced as extraterrestrials, we will be as peaceful as they.”

“So we should welcome them?” I ask.

“We should,” she said with absolute confidence.

Ray isn’t too sure.

“I don’t think history has a destination,” he says. “It is more like nature and does whatever it feels like doing and I don’t trust either nature nor history.”

“That’s your problem,” Fiona tells him, “You don’t trust anything.”

“I trust Thucydides,” he says, “2,500 years ago, he wrote ‘The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must’ and you can bank on that.”

There was to be no end to their bickering, so I went home in time to greet my wife as she returned from work.

I told her what Ray and Fiona had told me.

“That is ridiculous,” she said, “what you all saw was the aviation lights on windmills.”

Then she added, “I got no problem with windmills as long as they stay across the border in Iowa.  I wouldn’t trust them around here.  They have a bad history as neighbors.”