Whilst the residents of Bridhampton
slept peacefully through the early hours of last Thursday, a UFO landed in the
town. No one reported seeing it arrive or settle to earth, it came so quietly
and unceremoniously. The landing site selected screened it from casual eyes for
several hours after dawn; it landed on the centre spot of the hallowed turf of
Princes Park, home stadium of Bridhampton United, league leaders and last
season's FA Cup winners.
The Park is a miniature Wembley, an emerald green pitch surrounded by high stands which, from the point of view of the aliens, provided a perfect screen during the hours before the ground staff arrived.
I was one of the first people to see the saucer. Ted Springer rang me just after seven. Ted is our head grounds man and he had barely recovered from the shock of seeing it on the pitch when he telephoned me, spluttering and stammering his unbelievable report. You can imagine how I received it, woken suddenly from a deep sleep and then trying to make sense of the garbled, hysterical account of creatures from outer space in the middle of our pitch!
It was a while before I took him seriously but by then I was wide awake and aware that something serious had really upset him. I told him to keep everyone away from the object and let no word of it leak out, especially to the press, until I arrived.
What away to start a day! I'm Maurice Watson, manager of Bridhampton Football Club. With everything else I had on my plate last week the one thing I didn't want was a visitor from outer space dragging every reporter in the country to Princes Park since I was locked in complicated and very secret negotiations with the directors of an incredibly wealthy Italian club, who were desperate to buy Jumbo Small, star of Bridhampton, England and the world cup.
The Italians were talking telephone numbers and for all my desires to keep my winning side together, money like that talks awfully persuasively. But if word leaked to the fans...! and now Ted said aliens had invaded the ground. I drove there as fast as possible, hoping that students were playing a badly timed joke.
Ted was still incoherent when I arrived. He grabbed my arm as soon as I got out of the car and dragged me through the tunnel to the pitch side, still stuttering about spacemen. But then I saw it and my mouth dried up like I'd chewed a roll of blotting paper. I looked from the ship to Ted, speechless.
There was no doubt about it; a Space Ship had landed in our normally sleepy city. It sat passively in the centre of the stadium, a perfect sphere, gleaming, silver in the morning sunshine; not as big as I'd imagined a UFO would be, about eighteen metres in diameter and, I suppose, about ten metres high, but a thing of incredible beauty, difficult to conceive as a machine.
The surface was as smooth as polished glass, reflecting the green of the turf, the roofs of the stands and the clouds in the autumn sky, but I could see no break or line to suggest a means of entry, or more to the point, exit from the craft.
"What do we do with it, Boss?" Ted asked in a whisper.
"Has anyone been near it yet?" I asked.
"You're joking!" he replied.
Well, I thought, here goes, someone has to be first. I walked towards it and had gone no more than ten yards when I seemed to crash into a plate glass window. I mean, I could see the ship clearly but was up against a solid obstruction. I felt around like a mime artist; the ground staff thought I'd gone barmy!
I gave up after that. I called the police -and the club's directors, of course. The Inspector who arrived, full of scepticism needless to say, met the same resistance as I had when he tried to approach it. He called the Home Office.
By eleven o'clock the ground was as full as for any cup-tie. It was impossible to keep the press out, so one of our directors slipped away to the Italian’s hotel and got them out of town. Reporters swarmed everywhere, police blocked off all entrances, ambulances stood by in the car parks with fire engines on each side of the ground, the army surrounded the saucer from the front of the stands with artillery aimed at it, for what good that could have done, and electronic gear sprouted everywhere, a forest of radio masts directed at our visitors.
"They've established some kind of magnetic screen around the ship which is what prevented you from approaching it," one of the boffins said, as I watched him adjusting a complicated looking aerial towards the saucer. " We are trying to make contact."
He twiddled more knobs; lights glowed, needles bounced around dials and a mass of static screamed from loud speakers.
"I've got something," the man said to a technician. "Feed this into the computer and try and unscramble it."
I left them to it. The police had allowed the players through the cordon and they sat in the director's box watching the scene on the pitch which, after the first flourish of activity, had settled to being as dull as a nil - nil draw at Aldershot, so I got them into the gym for a work-out before going up to the emergency board meeting to discuss the situation and decide our next step in the negotiation of Jumbo's transfer.
Needless to say, we talked for over two hours and achieved nothing. The police superintendent sat in at one stage and gave us some useless advice about changing the venue if the ship was still there on Saturday; a great help! The Home Office man told us that they had mobilised every major computer in the country to work on the signals emitting from the saucer, aiming to establish a means of communicating with it. Even NASA had been involved!
By mid afternoon everyone was becoming thoroughly bored, if not a little blasé about the whole affair, hanging around the terraces, waiting for something to happen. I met Jumbo privately to give him the latest information on the negotiations and, afterwards, we walked down to the pitch where I showed him the magnetic field surrounding the saucer, walking out to it and stretching out my arms.
"I don't believe you, Guv," he said with a grin and followed me out, tentatively reaching to touch it in imitation of me. "It was as though he switched on a great light! The minute he touched the invisible screen, a beam shone out from the ship straight onto him. Even in broad daylight it clearly cut across the pitch and immersed him. He stood in its full glare, unmoving, like a zombie. I yelled his name but he didn't look round. I tried to reach out to him but found that the screen now surrounded him too. Then, slowly he started walking towards the ship, while I became conscious of all hell breaking out around the stadium. I tried to rush after him but bounced violently off the shield. He just went, passively, as though in a trance."
What happened next had to be seen to be believed. The side of the saucer seemed to melt into light. No... how can I describe it? The light penetrated the silver skin and shone through to the interior. No door moved or opened, the beam simply continued through the side, and Jumbo walked along it into the ship. The moment he was inside the light went out and the sphere was once more as impregnable as at our first sighting. Seconds later, we heard a high-pitched whine and the ship shot into the sky, over the rim of the stadium and disappeared, Jumbo with it.
I stood in horror, my only thought, God help me, was that ten million pounds had just flown away. I felt a tug on my sleeve and found the Home Office scientist there, very excited.
"We made contact, right at the end," he yelled. "A very garbled message but we made contact."
"What did they say," I asked, desperately.
He grinned like a fool at their achievement.
"This is an incredible event. We've actually communicated with extra-terrestrials! Wonderful, wonderful!" he cried joyfully.
"Look!" I yelled. "You may think this is a momentous occasion but they've just stolen the best fullback in the world. No amount of communication will change that."
My outburst calmed me down a little: "I'm sorry," I said, "It is amazing. What did they say?"
"Well, it doesn't make much sense to me but as far as we can tell, they said, 'Here we go, here we go, here we go," he replied. "What could it mean?"
I looked at him in despair. You'll understand now, why the board asked for my resignation and I have become one more football statistic.