swirled in the starry foam of being. Before the Earth existed, there were
creatures that saw through times without end into the far reaches of life
itself. They divined patterns in the mess and set out accordingly. They
infiltrated our solar system and through the clouds, fell onto the land. They
infiltrated our systems of government. They became architects. They planned and
saw, the aliens. They decided many things for us.
One town in
particular fascinated them. The committee-appointed head of the desert land. An
up-side down country who did things backwards. They ordered the food then
picked the venue. Its name was to be Canberra, meaning meeting place in an
ancient tongue and it was decided aeons ago. They set it forth, like a
proclamation, a vision of greatness from a prophet, one single man who in his
mind’s eye could tell you how it would appear two hundred years from now.
Griffin, Burley Griffin. And his wife. He was given the charge. His hand drew
the triangles and circles, the avenues and figures. They made sure to quench
the city’s thirst, a body of water was necessary to the prophecy. To this end
they allowed the drowning of the old bone yard. The white skeletons floated on
to be found forever more in misty dawns by startled rowers.
In the chaos of
the world, long roads were built, circles within circles. Out of the rubble and
scrubby bush came a symmetrical order, beautiful triangles splayed around a
lake. The endless boulevard created to
make those places of importance, where memorials were kept and decisions fought
over, line up perfectly with the tourist’s eye was the pride and joy, the
absolute construction and flaunted across galaxies.
The town grew,
shaped in its roundabout way, dimensions forming in line with the narrow, pale
blue lines drawn onto the flattened mapping paper decades earlier and unfurled
upon the night’s sky millennia before.
looked at one another and nodded slowly. All was coming together nicely.
He had needed a
nothing. One of life’s little freebies. One more tiny match to light up against
the dark. Just another flame to strike on his heart when the black threatened
to consume. Because he was struggling.
So, yeah, he
took the car.
Yes, Pete needed
a win. That’s all Pete was after that evening, just a touch of something
greater than all he was and ever could be.
The street moved
slowly beneath him, like a treadmill but way more gritty. It seemed old and
slow this street. Big, gorgeous trees. The evening air was cool and loud, full
of buzzing and chirping. The night before there had been a great, dark summer
storm, blowy and wild. Something of that lingered in the air. There were lots
of deep shadows. He grinned into them.
streetlamp cast a soft, yellow cone of light with a radius of perhaps two and a
half metres, a height of eight and a volume of sixty-four point nine two.
Take my word for
Pete hit the
He heard a
metallic humming. Thousands of kilometres above him a small plane cut through the
sky. He went screaming round the streets.
The edges of the
clouds glowed silver like the truth of an idiom coming to pass. They streamed
out alongside him. He was going so fast the clouds were not above him but
flanking him, like a guard of honour on his journey and he could outrace them
It was late
afternoon although the aliens didn’t care about that.
All the windows
were down and Pete was freezing. He preferred that to choking in a closed car.
The sky was the same colour as the mountain, dark blue. The thunderous clouds
looked like a reflection of the deep purple mountains, save for a streak of
gold on the horizon, where the last of the sun turned the scene into a
black and gold flag. The air was whizzing over him, into his lungs, refreshing
every atom of his skin. It was so bright.
Chase the gold?
The engine roared.
Chase the gold.
suddenly as a primary school memory came flying out of a concealed turn-off. He
rumbled up a pot-holed road into a grey forest.
He took an odd
route to the oval. The school building was attached to it still but it looked
smaller than ever and it had never been as important as the oval. It felt
familiar and comfortable to him. Once, he’d run across those grounds without
Five years old,
his nose had been smashed by a footy and he’d bled all into the grass.
old, he’d won a blue ribbon at the carnival.
old, gotten drunk for the first time.
And every single
lunchtime in between.
So here he
returned every now and then, sometimes with mates, or a girl, but most often
That was where
Pete was heading. It was such a similar night.
glinting off the horizon was a plane.
thought, seeing as it came closer.
It wasn’t a plane.
It was something else. Not a plane. A ship. A spaceship. It was landing. There,
on the foot of the mountain, in a small children’s space, surrounded by dark
eucalypts, in Canberra.
It looked kind
of like the bottom of a trampoline when you lie on the ground and other kids
bounce above you.
Once the chaos
of the blinding lights and whirr of engines beating back the grass had died
away all was still. Pete emerged from the car, shielding his eyes against this improbable
This young boy
was saved by just one fact. Only tiny miscalculation. The aliens had made a
mistake. In their quest for patterned regularity the aliens left nothing to
chance, and so when, inevitably, chance came in the unexpected presence of a
youth yearning for moment in which to know himself, they were quite unprepared.
In the creation of their masterpiece, the culmination of every pattern they had
read and listened to they had forgotten a fundamental truth. An exception to
every rule. Their geometric city, their measured configuration was far more
than the estimations and arithmetic of blueprints and building blocks. As they
came to carve the circles and half-circles and triangles and rectangles and all
manner of angles into the surface of the meeting place they neglected to
account for spanners in the works.
pete, Pete. Why aren’t you afraid? How do you be so brave?
grey creatures from worlds away?
He looked at
them and they looked at him, and I could say that in that moment the world
broke and was made whole again, stars shattered, swans sang and took flight
against a red sun but really nothing happened except one of the aliens dropped
The aliens felt
something they had never, not in all their time, felt before; surprise.
They had not
contrast, was dimly aware that he should be shocked by this appearance of
beings from another planet but it all seemed to fit somehow. Like he’d always
known and was just remembering. I don’t know why Pete doesn’t see the world
quite how you and I see it but he finds himself often alone.
the extraterrestrials as a homeschooled kid starting up at regular school might
approach new classmates; with a naive eagerness and determined belief that they
will soon become friends.
garbled a few panicked sentences in their own slushy language. One of the more
rash aliens reached for what I can only imagine to be some kind of laser-beam
restrained by a particularly fat, mature looking alien.
‘How do you do?’ This out-dated phrase spilled
forth from the mouth of the large alien, who is possibly the second in command.
‘Um...’ Pete did
not know what this question meant, ‘I’m doing… well?’
slushed at each other again, then the leader gave Pete a sly grin.
‘How do... you do?’ asked Pete.
thank you. You’re arrival has put paid to the old saying, “a glzbrchingle in
time saves nine”, I suppose, haha,’ the fat alien said. All the other aliens
The alien smiled
kindly at Pete, who shrugged tentatively back at him. The alien stretched out a
alien skin shook hands with the pale human hand.
‘I must say,
you’ve given us quite a shock, turning up here,’ it said.
As the alien
spoke it took Pete’s shoulder and swivelled away from the rest who began to fan
out with various instruments.
‘Oh, sorry. Back
at you, though,’ Pete said, trying to unobtrusively wipe the slime off his
‘Oh? Oh, ahaha!
A joke. Yes, we’re... fond of our privacy...’
There was a
moment of silence. Pete looked around and saw the rest of the extraterrestrials
measuring and beeping with their devices. Much of the activity seemed to be
directed towards Black Mountain Tower.
‘What brings you
guys here, then?’ Pete asked.
‘Oh, we’re just
doing a concluding survey, routine stuff, all very technical.’
‘Um, what are
you surve–’ Pete started.
‘Well, it’s truly a pleasure to finally meet a
human in the... flesh, as it were, ahaha. The lads back at base will be rather
chuffed,’ the alien said. Pete nodded.
‘I, uh, wish I
could say the same, but I never really–’ he began to say.
‘Oh, yes of
course, it’s a nasty business, all this secrecy but you understand the need for
‘Oh. Yeah, ‘course. Sorry, I won’t tell,’ Pete
‘My dear boy,
you won’t remember. You can expect to lose ten to fifteen hours of memory when
you wake up, although, haha, why am I telling you this?’
Pete felt a
sudden jab in his side and fainted.
upon it, the grass looked like a great ocean. Vast and rolling on into
eternity. The sun was producing multi-coloured
splotches on Pete’s inner eyelids. He opened them.
sprouted out at the horizon where the green sea met the opaque sky. A willow
wept downwards. An oak towered gently upwards. Sweet, cool shadow played just
beyond them. It was just starting to turn autumn, the air was clear and bright
enough to be poured into a crystal vase.
small panthers creeping towards him through the jungle blades of grass.
The sunbathing clouds
seemed to smile down at him as they wrestled one another into delightfully
compromising positions. Inwardly, he cheered them on.
A soft whisper
of wind and a few kids kicking a ball around contributed to a sense
of familiar peace.
sounds and sights were nothing, but nothing,
compared to the smells. The scent of flowers was heavy and sweet, mixed in
with the freshness of the rain-soaked dirt and the faint leftover whiff from
the dinners inside the houses, long since eaten but still remembered by the
meaty aromas that escaped out of gaps in windows and sealed-off chimneys.
Finally, overlaying everything else, there was that distinct smell of something
uniquely from Canberra, something he’d never smelt in Sydney or Melbourne, with
a bit of a country vibe, like cow shit, but not quite.
It had been his first alien abduction. It was not to
be his last.