by the rear security camera on Centroid Café's back
shimmering sphere glided out of the smudgy sky, sailing like a graceful bird
over the patio’s edge. It landed silently only a few paces from where Alec
stood frozen in disbelief.
The sphere came
instantly to rest as it touched the patio stones. A brilliant field of rings
appeared to unfold from the glowing object. Then, rings of light rapidly
expanded upward. And on top of the cone of light, like some cosmic organ grinder’s
monkey, an alien animal silently appeared. Dancing, sputtering
colors, and counting on its certainly-not-human fingers, the creature seemed
to be looking directly at Alec with a gentle but intense stare.
single, small central eye fixed intently on Alec. There was no malice or
cunning emitted by the eye, and Alec felt emboldened to return the alien’s
gaze with his own, piercing green eyes. Surrounding the alien’s eye,
roughly oval, concentric rings of color shifted and flashed in bewildering
patterns. Mesmerized by the shifting colors, Alec still had the presence of
mind to note that certain color patterns seemed to repeat.
A faint tingling came
over Alec and then passed quickly, leaving a sudden conviction that the
being was trying to introduce itself. It’s gestures were graceful and
gentle, and Alec sensed that it was actually happy to see him…him…Alec
Booner. Alternate waves of excitement and uncertainty flooded into him.
Could this possibly be some kind of really close encounter...really
happening now...to him? But a close encounter with what? No, this was all
crazy—this couldn’t be real, he told himself. This was just heat
exhaustion talking. Just some kind of weird summer mirage, he thought. But
instead of drinking some water or taking a salt tablet, Alec moved his push
broom for the first time in many minutes.
No longer his crutch,
he raised the broom toward the mirage. Slowly, he reached the brush end
toward the arms of the monkey mirage. But just outside the field of light
that sprang from the sphere, the broom came to a squishy stop. He pushed
harder on the broom but with no effect. He slowly walked around the sphere’s
field and determined that the creature moved in three-dimensional space as
it turned to face him. Slowly, Alec concluded that this was no mental projection or perceptual distortion.
This was something real but utterly strange.