The First Encounter
It all started one summer afternoon in a small, quiet town on the beach where my grandma and I go on holiday almost every year. We always stay in a little wooden house, with several pine trees and many shrubs in the backyard and a front yard full of flowers.
The house was on the outskirts of town, near the ocean, on a path that led towards the beach. My grandma likes to take her vacation at the end of summer when there aren’t so many people. She says it’s quieter and cheaper then.
It was beginning to get dark. I was alone, standing on some high rocks near the isolated beach, just watching the ocean. Suddenly, I saw a red light in the sky above me.
It came down, changing colors and giving off sparks. I thought that it was a giant sparkler or some kind of firework but as it descended and grew larger, I could see it wasn’t, for it began to look like a small airplane, or something even bigger... Without making a sound, it fell into the ocean about 150 feet from the beach, right in front of me.
In spite of how odd it all was, I thought that I’d witnessed an air disaster and looked up at the sky to see if anyone had parachuted out of the plane. No one had.
Nothing disturbed the silence and tranquility of the beach. I waited a little longer to see if I could make out anything more but I couldn’t. Then I thought it must have been a meteorite; whatever it was, there seemed to be a strange sensation in the air.
As I started to leave, something white moved, floating in the ocean at the point where the object had fallen. Someone was swimming towards the rocks, which convinced me that it must have been a plane crash. I was really nervous.
A survivor of the disaster was coming closer and I didn’t know what to do. I looked to see if there was anyone else around but there wasn’t. I didn’t know whether to stay there, or to try to climb down the rocks to the water to help whoever it was. But the rocks were too high, it would take me ages to get down and in the meantime, that person seemed to be perfectly all right because he was swimming so fast and so well.
As he approached, I realized that in spite of his white hair, he was a young boy. He swam to the rocks and before climbing out of the water, he looked at me with a friendly smile. I thought that he must be relieved that he had hadn’t drowned.
He certainly didn’t seem to be upset about the situation and this calmed me down a little. When he had climbed to the top of the rocks in front of me, he shook the water out of his hair and gave me a happy wink, as if we shared a secret. Then I definitely felt better.
After coming over to sit down near me on a protruding rock, he just sighed and started gazing at the stars that were just beginning to appear in the sky, as though nothing special had happened.
He was younger, and shorter, than I was. I thought he was disguised because apart from the color of his hair, he wore a white suit like one for diving, which fitted close to his body, made of some waterproof material because now it wasn’t even wet. It ended in a pair of white boots with thick soles.
I should have realized that it’s impossible to swim so well wearing boots like those, but I didn’t. On his chest was a gold-colored emblem of a heart with wings.
It occurred to me that maybe this wasn’t a diving suit but the uniform of a sports club for young people interested in airplanes. Some instruments that looked like portable radios or mobile phones hung from each side of his belt, which was the same gold color.
In the center of the belt was a very striking, large, shiny buckle. It occurred to me that I’d like to have a belt as ornate as that one, but I wasn’t sure if I would dare to wear it on the street. It would be great for a fancy dress party, though, or a carnival, or for belonging to a club like his.
We spent a few moments in silence, sitting next to each other. Since he wasn’t saying anything, I asked him what had happened.
“Forced landing,” he answered, smiling. He was nice. He had a strange accent and big, friendly eyes. Since he was only a boy, I thought that the pilot must have been a grown-up.
“What about the pilot?” I asked him, looking at the sea. “Here he is, sitting next to you.”
“WOW!” That surprised me. This kid was something! much younger than my me, he was already flying airplanes! But then I thought to myself that given the accident, he hadn’t done so well. As he seemed not to be worried about it, I imagined that his parents must be very rich. “Somebody else travelling with you?”
He smiled and said nothing. Night was falling and I was getting cold. He noticed this because he asked, “Are you cold?”
“Yes, a little.” I answer.
“The temperature is just right,” he told me, smiling.
Strangely enough, soon I felt that I wasn’t cold at all, and I didn’t have a clue how that had happened. After a little while, I asked him what he was going to do.
“Fulfill the mission,” he replied, without taking his eyes off the sky. I thought that he must be an important kid, not just an ordinary schoolboy on holiday, like me. He had an airplane, a uniform and a mission, maybe a secret one...
On the other hand, he was just a kid. Yet I didn’t dare ask him about his club or mission; he made me feel something like respect or fear, in spite how small he was. He was different, too, silent. I wondered if he was groggy because of the accident.
“What’s going to happen now that the plane is wrecked?”
“What? But it’s not wrecked!” he replied merrily, leaving me even more confused. “Wasn’t it lost? Wasn’t it completely destroyed?”
“Is it possible to take it out of the water?” I asked.
“Oh, yes, of course it can be taken out of the water.” He was observing me affectionately and added, “What’s your name?”
“Peter,” I said, but something was beginning to bother me. Besides having his head in the clouds, he didn’t answer my questions directly, and he kept changing the subject. He was acting all mysterious, making out he was older than me, and I didn’t like that much. He noticed this was bothering me and obviously thought it was funny. “Relax, Peter. Calm down. How old are you?”
“Thirteen... well, almost. What about you?” He laughed softly. His laugh reminded me of a baby being tickled. I thought he was going to gloat because he could fly a plane and I couldn’t, which I didn’t like, but actually he was rather nice. I couldn’t get really mad at him.
“I’m older than you think,” he remarked with a smile. Reaching for his belt, he pulled off one of the instruments. It was some kind of calculator. He turned it on and glowing symbols appeared that I had never seen before.
He made some calculations and, seeing the results, he began to laugh even harder and said, “No, no. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me...”
Night had come and a beautiful full moon appeared, illuminating the ocean and the entire beach.
He kept looking the scenery, the sky, the stars and the moon, silently, as if I wasn’t there. Then I started thinking how this kid wasn’t from around here, that he must be from some distant place, who knows where? At the same time, I was feeling more and more unhappy with this strange kid’s silences and riddles.
I examined his face carefully. He couldn’t be more than eleven years old. Yet he had hinted that he was much older, and also that he was an airplane pilot. Could he be a dwarf?
“Some people believe in extraterrestrials,” he remarked almost distractedly.
I thought for a long time before opening my mouth. He was watching me, his eyes full of curiosity and light. The night’s stars seemed to be reflected in his pupils. He looked too joyful to be a normal kid.
I remembered his burning airplane falling into the ocean, and how, according to him, it wasn’t wrecked. There was something very strange about that.
It was weird, too, how he’d appeared right in front of me. His calculator with the funny symbols was strange as well. So were his accent, his hair and his clothing. Besides, to be honest, kids just don’t fly airplanes.
“A… are you an extra… terrestrial?” I asked him, and I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up.
“If I were, would that scare you?”
Right there and then, I knew for sure that he had come from another world. I was a little frightened, although he seemed to be looking at me with kindness.
“Are you … Evil?” I asked timidly. He laughed, amused.
“Maybe you’re more Devilish than I am.” His remark made me feel very surprised. I was a boy who always behaved well, I was a good student, I never got into trouble… “Why do you say that?”
“Because you’re an Earthling.”
I got the message. He was saying that we Earthlings aren’t much good! This bothered me, but I decided to ignore his comment for the moment and proceed cautiously with this “alien” who seemed to think he was superior to us human beings. But could it be true that I was talking to someone from another world? I just couldn’t believe it.
“Are you… really an extraterrestrial?”
“Don’t panic!” He comforted me, smiling and joking and pointed to the stars.
“This Universe is full of life, millions of worlds are inhabited. There are lots of good people up there.”
His words had a strange effect on me. When he said that, I could almost ‘see’ those millions of worlds inhabited by good people.
I wasn’t afraid anymore. I decided not to be surprised by the fact that he was a being from another planet and just to accept it, especially since he seemed friendly and harmless. But all the same, it did bother me that he had offended my species!
“Why do you say that we Earthlings are bad?” I asked. He kept looking overhead.
“How nice the night sky looks from Earth. This atmosphere gives it a brilliance, a color...”
I started feeling annoyed again. Once again, he wasn’t answering my questions; besides, I don’t like people thinking that I’m bad when I’m not. Just the opposite, in fact! I had already decided I was going to be a hunter when I grew up, not hunting animals, the poor things, but hunting down criminals, hunters included! I planned to bury them in a big hole and shovel earth on top of them and that way rid the Earth of evil, becoming a detective or a police officer also crossed my mind.
“There, in the ‘Pleiades’, is a civilization so advanced that... no, you wouldn’t believe me”
“We aren’t all bad here...”
“Look at that star; we are seeing it as it was a million years ago; now it doesn’t exist any more. A civilization from that region colonized the Zeta Reticulis Cordon and now they live in…”
“Like I said before, we aren’t all bad here. Why did you say that we’re all bad? Huh?”
“I didn’t say that,” he answered, still looking at the sky. His eyes were sparkling. “It’s a miracle, life is a miracle.” he remarked.
“Yes, you did say that! to you we are uncivilized.” By raising my voice, I was jolly well going to shake him out of his daydream.
He was acting just like the teenage girl who lived next door, sitting gawping at her favorite pop star on TV. He now looked at me attentively but he didn’t seem mad at me.
“I meant to say that compared with other worlds, in this one there is not much goodness, nor solidarity.”
“You see? You’re saying that we’re muck.”
“That’s not what I meant either, Peter.” He started laughing again and tried to pat me on the head. I liked that even less. I pulled away. It bothers me when people treat me like I’m just a kid, and a stupid one too. After all, I’m one of the best students in my class.
I even won a junior chess tournament and my name appeared in the newspaper, in the section ‘Sport in our Schools’, in the sub- section ‘Chess’, in the semi-finals section between the high level ‘Juniors’. Besides, I was almost thirteen years old! “If this planet is so bad, then what are you doing here?!!”
“Have you noticed how the moon is reflected in the ocean?” He kept ignoring me and changing the subject.
“Did you come here just to tell me to pay attention to the moon’s reflection?”
“Maybe... Have you noticed that we’re floating in the Universe?”
When he said that, I finally snapped with annoyance. I forgot any evidence to the contrary and decided this kid must be crazy.
Of course! He thought he was an extraterrestrial and that was why he was making such absurd statements. Or else he was a rich brat who happened to be nuts, out to trick everyone with his fantastic stories, with that suit he probably paid a fortune for.
Maybe there was no airplane at all, maybe he was in the water all the time and from there he had set off some kind of sparkler which had confused me, or some other tomfoolery.
I wanted to go home. I felt stupid because, for a few minutes, I had been taken in by his fantastic stories or maybe he’d been pulling my leg just to laugh at me! An extraterrestrial indeed! And I had believed him! I felt ashamed, mad at him and at myself. I felt like giving him a good sock on the nose.
“You think my nose is really ugly?”
That stopped me in my tracks. I felt afraid. Was he reading my mind? I looked at him. He seemed to be laughing, even jeering, at me, which I didn’t take kindly to.
I wanted to think it had just been a coincidence between what he said and what I was thinking. But what if it wasn’t chance? Maybe he really was a being from another world after all, an ‘alien’ who could read minds? Or was I standing in front of a madman? I had better try to check it out.
A great idea came into my mind! “Guess what I’m thinking now.” I said, and I began to picture a birthday cake.
“So ... shall I read your mind?” he asked.
“Forget it. I was just joking.” He found my clumsy evasion rather funny.
“Haven’t you had enough proof already?”
I wasn’t going to give an inch. If he didn’t mention the birthday cake, then I would never give him credibility for anything!
“Proof? What proof? Proof of what?”
He stretched his legs and supported his elbows on a rock.
“Look, Peter, there are other realities, there are other beings from more subtle worlds, with more subtle intelligence and subtle ways of communicating."
“And what on Earth does ‘subtle’ mean?” I asked him, playing ignorant and skeptical for wasting my time.
“I'll explain, but first ... How many candles for the cake?!” he asked, with a smirk.
I felt as though someone had hit me in the stomach. It made me want to cry. I felt dull and stupid. When I had recovered, I asked him to forgive me for having doubted him. But evidently it hadn’t bothered him, for he paid no attention to me and began to laugh. I decided not to doubt him again!