AUTHOR’S NOTE. This is a story I’m very fond of that explores some things that always interest me in both the fiction and non-fiction realm. Yes, I’m talking about aliens. I’m talking about UFOs. I blame it mostly on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files from my childhood, not to mention The Twilight Zone. So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to my timid UFO researcher, Danny Draper.
Danny Draper and the Aliens
Danny Draper had always been a quiet, reserved type. He always kept to himself, and didn’t share much with his family or friends. As the years had passed, most of his family had passed on and he fell into his quiet existence. He would wake up alone, eat breakfast alone, and then go to work. He would anxiously put up with his coworkers all day, then return home alone and completely exhausted. He’d read a good book, or review some of his personal research, while consuming dinner and retire early to his room where he’d watch an old science fiction film and pass out. That was a typical day, and every other typical day he’d run 30 minutes on his treadmill before dinner.
He liked it this way.
He didn’t care much for people, and what little interaction he had with folks just fueled his mental pains that he had about them. And that would inevitably send his stomach into pains of regret, worry and angst. Life was much nicer in peace and quiet. And yet, there was one silence that bothered him. Intrigued him.
Danny Draper was convinced that aliens, extraterrestrials, were real. That they were out there, in space, and that the governments of the world were covering it up.
But due to his quiet nature, he was unlike most of the alien searchers he’d met through the years. They were driven by the conspiracies and felt the need to talk, talk and talk about them. They felt the need to tell everyone about what was right in front of them. This only annoyed Danny, and he tried hard to avoid those who pursued the truth and never dared bring it up in a conversation with someone who wouldn’t understand.
Danny was sitting at his desk on a Friday, staring at the clock. He had four minutes left, and then he could take off for a weekend and the following week. He was minutes away from vacation, and a trip he’d been planning and anxiously awaiting for most of his adult life. He was finally going to take a trip to Roswell, New Mexico, the UFO capital of the world. He was eager to get as close to the site where a flying saucer had crashed in 1947, and see if he couldn’t find some more details that he couldn’t yield from the internet or books.
Unable to contain himself, and knowing that staring at a clock slows time, he pulled out an USB flash drive from his pocket and shoved it into his work computer at the small community college where he worked. He clicked through several folders until he found a PDF that contained a copy of the Roswell Daily Record newspaper edition from July 8, 1947. On the top-right of the front page was a headline that read,
RAAF CAPTURES FLYING SAUCHER ON RANCH IN ROSWELL REGION
It was perhaps one of the most exciting things anyone like Danny Draper could look upon. A newspaper article that acknowledged a flying saucer, that reported on it, and published it as the top story. An incident that would be a foundation for future researchers wondering about life outside of Earth. It would also be a thorn in the side for the United States Air Force, and subsequently would result in some of the most ludicrous explanations.
A weather balloon.
The statue of limitations had failed to provide any further insight on the matter, and the Air Force seemed determined to cover it up indefinitely.
Danny closed the document, and opened Internet Explorer. He logged into his email account on Outlook.com and was disappointed to see he had no new messages. He had been waiting on correspondence from a retired Air Force officer, who had been a pain to track down. The man had changed his name in the early 1980s, after controversy surrounding the incident exploded and fallen off the grid. Luckily, an old friend he’d met online in a forum on UFO abductions had provided him not only with his new name, but an email address, phone number and street address. It turned out he was still living in Roswell. For someone who was wanting to get out from underneath the shadow of the Roswell incident, he sure didn’t try very hard. But Danny was determined to speak with the old veteran, and was planning to knock on his door, if he had to. He would make the old man turn him away to his face. Danny prided himself on being able to read faces well, and he was hoping something in the man’s expression might cue him in on what the man knew.
His stomach churned. Anxiety at the thought of the confrontation.
He looked up at the clock, and he was a minute over. He yanked the flash drive out of the computer and shoved it back in his pocket. He logged off the computer, turned his monitor off, and walked off the Babylonian Business College campus at a hurried pace.
The plane touched down at Roswell International Air Center (RIAC), and Danny’s first order of business was to check into the motel and get some dinner. He wouldn’t do anything until the following morning, allowing himself to get comfortable and have a good night’s rest.
Outside of RIAC, he was met by a representative of Express car rental services who brought him a Ford Taurus. He drove him back to Express, where he promptly signed some paperwork and was handed the keys.
Inside the Taurus, he familiarized himself with the layout of the car, and took out his smartphone for the first time. On the lock screen he could see that he had a new email message, and started to get excited, but then figured it was probably spam from Microsoft or something. He found the HERE Drive+ app and set it to navigate him to take him to the motel he had reserved. He put the Lumia 1020 device in a cup holder and drove onward.
He drove slower than usual, proving his tourist status, taking in the scenery around him. He couldn’t believe how much of the tourism was built around the incident so many years ago. It seemed almost every local business on the main district had some reference to aliens, or flying saucers. It was a travesty really, because it undermined the seriousness of what had happened on a ranch near Roswell. In its own way, it only hurt the cause, because it added credence to the notion that the idea of extraterrestrial life was absurd, silly and best represented by little green men with over-sized heads and eyeballs. He was frustrated the more he saw.
The UFO Museum was as ever bit of embarrassing as he had remembered it looking from photographs he’d seen of it. A blatant exploitation of what could possibly be one of the most important scientific discoveries of our time.
By the time he reached Rodeway Inn, he was happy he’d decided to stay in the first night, because he was going to need to cool off and relax after seeing the city. He checked into his room, and found it on the first floor with a view to the in-ground pool. There was a healthy amount of kids and adults hanging around and inside the pool at sunset, and the noise of the laughter aggravated his senses. He closed the blinds and changed into his jogging clothes. He headed off down the hall with his phone, earplugs and a water bottle he’d paid way too much for in a vending machine. He found the exercise room and climbed aboard the treadmill. He set a 30-minute countdown on his phone, and turned up Led Zeppelin. He took to the treadmill at a much quicker pace than he normally would back home, but he needed to run off the frustration. He closed his eyes and went steady for the full 30 minutes completely unaware that an elderly gentleman was watching him through the window.
Back in his room, he fell on the bed and caught his breath. His phone fell out of his pocket and it lit up with a notification about his battery running low. He saw the little email notification he’d forgotten about. He picked up the phone and held it above his face, as he lay on his back. He swiped down to his email tile and opened up the app. He had a message from an anonymous user with no subject line. He opened the message and it only had one sentence, and it was incomplete at that.
we need to meet
That was it. Someone wanted to meet, didn’t say who they were or how that would happen. He rolled his eyes. Usually the Russian girls put a little more effort than that, at least addressed him as Sir, and were convinced they were made for each other. Fate and all that nonsense.
He dropped the phone on the bed next to him and closed his eyes. He was asleep within seconds.
Danny Draper woke up with the sound of a young girl screaming in the pool. He instantly felt a horrible rush of pain across his legs, as he’d left them draped over the edge of the bed all night, dangling. He hadn’t moved an inch. He rolled over and squinted at the motel alarm clock.
He was so furious at himself for oversleeping and wondered why he hadn’t heard his phone alarm. He found it on the bed next to him, and quickly realized he’d let the battery run out.
He rose from the bed and dug through his lightly packed duffel bag to find the charger. He plugged his phone into the wall and figured he’d take a quick shower and eat a late breakfast or early lunch while he let it charge. He’d need the navigation and GPS to get him to his desired destination.
The crash site.
After his quick, and cold shower, he slipped into some grey pajama pants and a white shirt, this was his way of reminding himself he was on vacation and he needed to relax. No need to care for social norms. He was on his own time, doing his own thing, and he’d dress the way he liked. He slipped his sandals out of the bag and tossed them on the floor, quickly slipping into them. It was going to be easy going from here on out.
He found his room key, wallet and rental car key and headed out the door. Thankfully pajama pants now came with pockets for people just like him.
He found himself in the complimentary breakfast room and it was packed full of people he didn’t want to meet or mingle with. Quickly his stomach began to tighten in knots. He ignored and stepped up to the bar. There were people all around making bowls of cereal, oatmeal and waffles. The women and youthful girls were grabbing up all of the yogurt from a cooler. He could feel himself starting to sweat, and wasn’t sure he could make it through without panicking. He kept apologizing to everyone who crossed his path, as if he was in everyone’s way, when in fact there appeared to be no etiquette to the ritual at all. Then, he saw an opening with the waffles. He grabbed a cup of potentially food poisoning waffle batter and poured it into the waffle maker. He followed the instructions; of closing it, flipping it for 3 minutes, turning it back, and then pulling it out. The waffle came out a golden brown, and looked edible, which was the goal after all. He pried it out with a plastic fork and dropped it on a paper plate, and then drowned it in butter and syrup. He quickly butted past some teenage girls and grabbed an orange juice from the cooler, apologizing as he did so. He snatched some napkins, and then looked for a table alone, but couldn’t see one and then decided to try his luck outside. He stepped outside and saw there was seating around the in-ground pool, which was fenced in by a large and white, metal fence. But there were so many kids in and around the pool, that he began to feel that tightening in his stomach again. Then, he noticed a picnic table alone in the grass between the motel and the pool. No one was there, and he crossed into the grass and claimed his spot.
He stuffed the napkins in his pocket, not trusting the western wind. And he sighed of relief, finally. Too many people, too many faces he didn’t know. It was too much to take in all at once. And all those obnoxious little girls in shorts with words on the butt, fighting over which fruit of yogurt they wanted as they argued over which fruit of boy they wanted. It reminded him of how much he hated high school, and really, school period. Adulthood did have its advantages after all. No more being crammed in a building with a bunch of obnoxious teenagers for eight hours a day. But then, that sounded a lot like work, too, which reminded him he only had a week away. The thought of work started running faces and scenarios through his consciousness, and his stomach began to churn. He hadn’t even eaten yet, this wasn’t good. He began to talk himself down from the oncoming annoyance of eating your food and quickly depositing it through diarrhea because your stomach is so upset it can’t handle it.
He closed his eyes, reminding himself he’s in a good place, the place he wants to be, that this was his time and he should be soaking that in. He worked to reduce the noise of the pool and focused on the warm, summer breeze that was blowing across his back.
Roswell. This. Is. Roswell. Over 50 years ago, the world may have had its first, real encounter with extraterrestrial life and it was in Roswell. A small town of no noteworthy value before an incident, that may or may not have been a weather balloon. An incident that may have been the most important scientific discovery of all time. And it was right here. In Roswell.
A radio began to play Tea for Two on a piano, and he opened his eyes. Someone had started a radio near the pool. He could see the kids splashing and having a grand, old time. A boy with curves went diving off the board and launched into a cannon ball. The kids in the pool, and parents around all reacted. He watched it transpire in slow motion with rhythm to the music. He couldn’t hear the voices. Just the piano.
Here is where it happened, he reminded himself. This was the place. History could have changed right here. But instead facts were strangled, truths were bent and history only views this place as a punch line.
“Excuse me, mister.” A female voice interrupted everything, and suddenly he could hear the chaos of the people along with the radio. He turned and saw an attractive woman roughly his age standing with a plate of food in front of him. “Excuse me, can I have a seat here?”
He had gone so far he could barely make words, much less kind ones, “I like being alone,” he said.
“Me too,” she said and quickly sat down across from him. “I’m sweating, can you see I’m sweating?”
“No.” He said without looking.
“Good.” She took a quick look around at the pool, “People. What idiots.” She looked back at the breakfast bar, “I thought I was gonna die in there.” Then back to him, “How about you? How’d you fair?”
“I don’t like talking about it.”
“Sorry,” she apologized, “Sometimes I get so anxious I can’t shut up. I’ll shut up and eat.” She wrestled with her waffle, trying to cut a bite with the flexible plastic fork in her hand. When she finally got a bite forked, she exclaimed “there!” to no one and took the bite proudly.
They both ate their waffles and drank their orange juice, ignoring each other in their own way. Danny ate silently, while she argued with and proclaimed victory over her meal.
When Danny finished his meal, he stood up and she reached out her hand to shake his hand. “Thanks so much! What’s your name?” She asked.
He hesitantly shook the hand and replied, “Danny.”
“Cool. I’m Ethel, which is stupid. Call me Anne, it’s my middle name.” She looked around ominously, “Are you here all week?”
“Perfect!” She shouted, “Let’s make a deal: whoever gets here first in the morning, claims the picnic table. Sound good?”
He had just realized that he was no longer anxious, that all of his pains had subsided during their meal. This meant he could sit here all week for breakfast and they’d politely ignore each other, which in turn meant no anxiety. He quickly agreed to her deal and made his way back to his room.