The UID that Landed in
On a hot summer afternoon twenty-five years ago, I was helping my grandpa fix the fence surrounding his upstate New York farm when I saw a silver disc descending from the sky. For a moment, I thought that it was my imagination. However, when I closed my eyes and opened them again, it was still there.
Truth be told, it was the most exciting thing that had happened since my parents left me to stay with my grandparents while they went on a Caribbean cruise. Not that my grandparents were terrible people, mind you, but let's just say they had idiosyncrasies that were difficult to adjust to.
As soon as I arrived, my grandpa put me to work like a migrant laborer. Apparently he wanted to teach me the virtue of what he called "fecal responsibility" and the value of a dollar by having me do all sorts of backbreaking chores.
As for my grandma, she was a sweet soul. But her cooking could charitably be called awful and it made us all as gassy as a hydrogen plant.
After one week out of my two week stay, I had wanted to go back home in the worst way. At least until the disc showed up anyway.
The mysterious object looked like it was going to land in the woods a few hundred feet from where we were standing. My heart raced at the sight and I didn't know whether to scream or laugh. All I could do, though, was stare at the thing.
"Grandpa, look!" I said, pointing.
He stopped hammering a nail into a fencepost and looked up; his jaw dropped so wide that his dentures fell out of his mouth and landed in a pile of mud. Still staring, he leaned down, picked up his teeth, brushed them off on his navy blue pants and stuck them back in his mouth.
"Jenny, come take a look at this!" Grandpa said towards the house.
"What?" my grandma said.
She emerged from the house with their Labrador retriever and weimaraner, Dory and Jasper. They were yelping something awful. When my grandmother saw the disc, she froze. The dogs charged forward a few hundred feet, then whined, turned and darted under the porch.
Keeping her eyes on the disc, she walked across the wide back lawn to our spot at the fence.
"My goodness," she said. "What do you suppose that is?"
"I think it's one of them IUDs," Grandpa said.
"What's an IUD?" I said.
"Uh, I think it's an Inidentified Universe Doohickey."
"Do you think aliens are invading?" Grandma said.
"I don't know, hon," Grandpa said. "If they are, they better watch out."
"Do you think we should call Sheriff Hettner?"
"I'm not going to wait for old Heifer to come over here. That boy's so thick he'd tie his gum and chew his shoes. Now get the scattergun quickly."
He swatted grandma on the fanny and she walked off.
"I'm scared, Grandpa," I said.
"Don't worry, sonny. I'm not scared of no IUDs. Just stay by me and you'll be fine." He smiled at me, revealing brown teeth with bits of grass stuck on them.
The disc disappeared beneath the tree line and grandma returned a moment later with his shotgun. My grandpa snatched it from her, put his finger on the trigger and checked the chamber. At that moment I'm not sure what scared me more: invading aliens or my grandpa with a firearm.
"I called Sheriff Hettner and he said to stay inside the house and wait for him to arrive with backup."
"Sure he would, that bonehead." Grandpa pointed the gun at me with his finger still on the trigger and said, "You get back in the house with your grandma and stay put. I'm checking it out."
Grandma pushed the gun barrel in a safe direction as I said, "Can I come with you, Grandpa, please?"
"No, sonny. It could be dangerous."
My grandparents looked at me for a moment, then Grandpa said, "All right, you can come look, but anything goes wrong, you run to the shelter and hide. Understand?"
"Are you sure about this?" Grandma said.
"The boy's got to grow up sometime," Grandpa said. "Like my daddy always said, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him pee in it.'"
Who could argue with that?
Together we crept into the woods like three scared mice. My grandma kept me behind my grandpa in case he went wild with the shotgun. Typically his policy with firearms was to shoot something, then shoot it again and never mind the questions.
As we entered the forest, a terrible buzzing noise filled the air. It sounded like fifty chainsaws running at once in a mine tunnel.
We walked around several oak trees and a large breeze whipped dirt, stones and pine needles around in a frenzy. My grandparents and I covered our faces and moved closer.
The silver disc hovered in a clearing about two hundred feet away from us. We scrambled behind the nearest tree and peeked out.
Up close the alien device looked like a flat, silver pancake around four feet tall and fifteen feet or so in diameter. It looked so small that I figured only midget aliens could live in it.
As we approached, the disc rattled and a line of white flashed to life on its side.
"Get off our planet, you damned IUDs!" Grandpa said.
He raised his shotgun to fire, but my grandma twisted the gun away and it blasted a nearby tree branch. I covered my ears at the deafening noise, then lowered my hands a moment later. My ears rang slightly.
"Damn it, Jenny, you made me miss!"
"What if they came in peace--"
"Look!" I said over the noise.
The underbelly of the alien disc opened. Inside it, white light shone like a flare. A metallic arm with a pincher claw emerged from the hole in the ship. Clasped in the claw was a silver box. The box looked to be around two feet tall.
The arm deposited the box on the forest floor and then withdrew into the disc. Once it was in, the bottom of the ship sealed up and it blasted up into the sky like a bullet. The sudden shockwave from its takeoff knocked us onto our butts and we sat there dazed for a minute or two.
When we got over the initial shock, we stumbled back onto our feet and tiptoed towards the box. It lay on the ground, not moving.
"What do you think it is?" Grandma said.
"It looks like a box," Grandpa said.
"I know that, silly pants. What do you think is in it?"
"It could be a bomb. Or maybe it's a big Lego." Grandpa scratched his forehead and shrugged. "It's a real enema to me."
"Maybe it's their version of a shuttle," I said. "Or some kind of alien probe."
"Well, I'm not letting it go up my butt, so those IUDs can just forget it." Grandpa poked at the box with the shotgun barrel, then started back.
He tapped it with the shotgun barrel again and still it didn't move or twitch.
"Stand back, I'm gonna shoot it," Grandpa said.
"No!" Grandma said, turning the gun away. "You could start a war."
"Well technicality, they landed on my property and I didn't give them permission, so as far as I'm concerned I can shoot them! The twelfth amendment gives me that right as an American!"
"Let's at least try to talk to it before we start shooting again, okay?"
"All right." Grandpa sulked, apparently disappointed that he couldn't use his gun again.
Grandma walked next to the box, leaned down and said, "Hello down there. Hi. Greetings from Earth. My name is Jennifer Whittier and this is my husband Daniel and this is our grandson Danny. How are you?"
The box didn't do anything.
"Maybe they're a bunch of retarded aliens," Grandpa said.
"Oh stop now," Grandma said, and slapped him on the shoulder. She leaned close to the box. "Hello, is anybody home?"
Still no response. My grandma grabbed a nearby stick and tapped the device.
It was hopeless. The box just sat there.
I walked around it, looking for some kind of opening. But there were no cracks or openings to speak of, no writing or symbols. The box's silvery exterior reflected and distorted my face. I started to reach for it, but Grandpa said, "Don't touch it! It could be radio laxative!"
I stepped back and sighed.
Grandma looked up and shrugged. "I don't know." She put her hands on her hips, then lowered them. "Where do you suppose they come from?"
"Maybe deep in outer space," I said.
"Yeah, or one of the nearby planets. What's that one that's closest to us?"
"Well, we have ten planets in our galaxy," Grandpa said, and ticked each one off with his fingers. "Blotto, Milky Way, Mercurial, Juniper, Uterus, Mazda and good old Terra Cotta. It could be from anyone of them."
"I think that's seven," Grandma said.
"No, that's ten." Grandpa dismissed her comment with a wave of his hand.
Disappointed, I turned away, wondering what kind of aliens would drop a box and then take off.
"Well, when Sheriff Hettner gets here, he can take care of it," Grandma said.
Grandpa turned and farted very loudly.
"Excuse me," he said.
The box beeped.
Grandpa let another one go.
The box beeped again.
"Did you hear that?" Grandma said.
"I sure did," I said.
"So these IUDs aren't flatulent in English, but they can talk in farts," Grandpa said. "See, I told you they were a bunch of retards."
"Do it again," I said.
"If I do another one, I might have to change my shorts."
"Don't you dare, Dan Whittier!" Grandma said. "I just did the laundry today."
"Hold on," I said. "I can do it."
I let one rip.
"Come on," Grandma said. "We'll wait inside for the sheriff."
We started to turn away. But as my grandpa moved, an invisible force yanked him back around one hundred and eighty degrees. The shotgun flew out of his hands and over to the box; it came to a stop right above the box and broke down into its component parts. Once it was completely disassembled, the parts fell down to the box top and passed through with a slight ripple. Then the box grew still again.
All of us stared in shock for a few seconds. Then grandpa's face reddened with outrage.
"Give me back my scattergun, you..." Several unprintable words followed.
"Dan, leave it!" Grandma said.
"That was my Granddad's gun and no alien SOB is going to take it!"
The box hummed again and levitated a foot off the ground. My grandpa ran up and kicked the box, then let out a howl and hopped around. Even more unprintable words followed as the box rose to a height of five feet and started floating away from us.
Not one to be deterred, my grandpa limped after the box, jumped and grabbed onto it. My grandma and I gasped as the box rose three feet higher and my grandpa dangled in the air, screaming and kicking his feet. The box took off at a modest speed with my grandpa in tow.
We chased him through the forest for a few hundred feet until he let go and collapsed. A few feet away, the box landed in another spot. We ran over to grandpa and checked him out.
"Are you all right, Grandpa?" I said.
"No! I want my damned scattergun back!"
"Be grateful you're still alive," Grandma said.
"Grateful nothing. I'm going to get my pick axe and break that damn thing open."
The box beeped again.
"I don't think that'll work," Grandma said.
"Hello, is anyone there?" a voice said.
We looked behind us. Sheriff Hettner was closing in on our location.
"Yes, we're here!" Grandma said. "And we found something."
"It's a big box from outer space!" I said.
Grandma and I glanced at it.
The box disappeared. Whether it had turned invisible or teleported, I couldn't say. But it was gone all the same.
"Grandpa, it disappeared!" I said. "Look!"
I pointed and grandpa looked my way.
"God--" And several obscene words followed.
At that moment, Hettner emerged from the trees and looked at us. He was a short, fat man with bushy red hair, freckles and narrow, lazy eyes.
"What's going on out here?" Hettner said.
"An alien ship dropped a box on my property and it stole my scattergun!" Grandpa said. "Broke it apart like a damned tinker toy!"
"Yeah." Hettner clucked his tongue and stuck his thumbs in his belt loops.
"He's telling the truth!" Grandma said. "We all saw it!" She walked over to the spot where the box had been. She didn't crash into it, though, so either it was still invisible and had moved or it had indeed teleported.
"That's right!" I said.
"Then where is it now?" Hettner took his thumbs out of his belt loops and folded his arms.
"That's right," Grandma said. "It just vanished."
Hettner groaned and dropped his arms to his side. "Look, folks, I don't have time for silly little games. I've got real work to do, and I can't be chasing around invisible boxes dropped from alien ships."
"But it's the truth!" Grandma said.
"My mom and I like you a lot, Mrs. Whittier. But without proof, I can't do anything. You understand that?"
"Proof, schmoof!" Grandpa said. "You have three eyewitnesses. What more do you want?"
"This coming from the same man who thought the Abominable Snowman was tearing down his oak trees three years ago."
"I had the pictures!" Grandpa said. "They just didn't develop right! And anyway, three people saw it. So you have to put it in a report and check it out."
"Mr. Whittier, may I be frank with you?"
"I thought your first name was George."
Hettner rolled his eyes. "You, sir, are the dumbest human being on the face of the Earth and I wouldn't trust you on anything if the good Lord Jesus came down from Heaven and told me to do just that. Now if you'll excuse me, I have real calls to take care of. Good day."
Hettner spun on his heel and walked back the way he came.
My grandpa's face exploded with an angry redness that I can only describe as volcanic.
"That's it!" Grandpa said, pointing at Hettner's back. "I'm going to sue you for defecation of character!"
"Yeah, well good luck with that!" Hettner said as he put his hand on top of his hat and ducked under a tree.
A string of colorful and inventive obscenities from my grandpa followed. My grandma tried to calm him down, but it was no good. Once he got his dander up, you had to wait for him to calm back down. To my grandma's credit, she covered my ears and I missed most of the profane language.
When my grandpa finally calmed down, he sagged against a tree.
"Come on, hon," Grandma said. "Let's go back inside."
Looking defeated, my grandpa hesitated for a moment, then trudged over to grandma and took her arm. I followed behind my grandparents and looked back. For a brief second, I thought I saw the box. But when I blinked, it was gone.
My grandpa rearmed himself with another shotgun from the shelter while my grandma got her camera from the bedroom. She wasn't going to let the box get away a second time without snapping a picture of it.
We had burnt ham and cheese sandwiches and overboiled broccoli for lunch and checked the news. No word came across the TV about appearances of boxes anywhere else in the world or any alien invasions. The expression on my grandparents' faces hovered somewhere between relief and disappointment.
Afterwards, my grandpa decided that the fence could wait; we would stay in the house and do some chores until we could be sure that the box was gone. I helped my grandparents vacuum, mop the floors, pick up the trash and dust the furniture. Truth be told, I started to like helping them out since it took my mind off the alien encounter. Every now and then Jasper and Dory would bark and put their noses to the window. I would stop working and look out the nearest window, but there was nothing out there. Still, I think they knew something was wrong. Dogs have a sixth sense when it comes to trouble.
Around dinnertime, grandpa and I took them out to go to the bathroom while grandma made hot dogs, sauerkraut, baked beans and boiled eggs for dinner.
Soon after we went outside, Jasper and Dory turned towards the forest and began barking wildly.
I looked in the direction they were barking. A bright white light shone through the forest, illuminating all the trees.
"Grandpa, I think it's back," I said.
"Hold the dogs for a second! I'll go get my gun!" He pointed at me. "Don't go near it while I'm gone."
He turned and limped back to the house while I held the dogs by their collars. Jasper and Dory whined and strained, making it hard for me to hold onto them. I tried to shush them and pull them back, but they wouldn't listen.
The sound from the woods grew louder and the light grew so bright that I had to shield my eyes. As I raised my hand to do so, the dogs tore free from my grasp and ran towards the woods.
"Wait!" I said and ran after them.
But near the woods, the awful buzzing sound returned. The dogs yelped, scrambled past me and hid under the porch again.
I froze right at the edge of the woods, my heart pounding. I didn't want to go in there. Whatever was there, it had scared them. Yet curiosity got the better of me. I had to see what was causing the light. Had the box returned? And if so, what was in it?
I ran into the woods just as I heard grandpa say, "Wait!"
I slowed up for my grandparents and they joined me. As they reached the edge of the woods, the light died down until it was nearly gone.
"What happened?" Grandpa said, holding his other gun. Grandma had her camera ready.
"The dogs ran towards the light, but they got scared and ran back under the porch," I said.
"Maybe we should call the Sheriff again," Grandma said.
"Are you loony, Jenny? That boy can't do anything. And besides, I'm getting my scattergun back."
My grandpa emphasized his point by pumping his shotgun. Without another word, he strode in the woods.
"Dan, wait!" Grandma said.
We strode after grandpa and tried to get him to stop, but it was no use. His mind was set and that was that.
The box was right back where it had been earlier. Only this time the top was open a crack. Beams of whitish-blue light gushed out from the small space and the box wobbled a bit, as if it were struggling to contain some apocalyptic force within itself.
My grandpa raised his gun and said, "Give me back my gun, you damned IUD!"
"Don't!" Grandma said.
"Please don't!" I said.
But it was too late. Grandma and I covered our ears as grandpa fired. For a second, I thought the box would be hit and we'd all blow up. But instead time seemed to slow down. I could see the buckshot crawl to a stop a few feet from the box. Then the box top rose up a few inches and the buckshot flew inside. The top sealed inside but it continued rumbling.
All three of us could only stare. Even though my body quivered with fear, my curiosity was stronger. I had to see what was inside the box.
I pulled free of my grandparents and ran to the strange object.
What was in it? I thought. Would the gun still be in there? Or did it contain a portal to another world? A destructive wave of power strong enough to wipe out the planet? An alien creature made of light? Energy that would give me superhuman abilities? God? Something else beyond my youthful comprehension?
When I reached the box, I slowly reached out to touch it. Strangely enough, although the light looked hot, the box's metal felt ice cold to the touch. The loud noise disappeared and the box grew still.
I gripped the lid and started to pull it up.
What I saw inside the box was indescribable.
Not because I lack the words to describe it, though, but because my grandparents yanked me away a moment before I could look inside. Even now part of me wished that I could have seen inside the box. Just to know what secrets it contained.
"What's the matter with you?" Grandpa said, slapping me upside the head. "Are you trying to get yourself killed? What would your parents say if you-"
The rest of the words got cut off as Grandma launched an explosive fart.
Her face blushed and she said, "Excuse me."
The box's light faded and it beeped.
Could farts control the box?
Before I could speculate further, I felt a great sucking force come from the device. My grandpa's shotgun flew out of his hand, broke apart instantly and went into the box. So did my eyeglasses. So did my grandmother's camera and her watch and her gold crucifix necklace. So did my grandfather's dentures, his hearing aid and his watch.
We staggered back and grabbed onto the nearest trees as the sucking force pulled us off our feet. Our shoes went next, followed by our socks, our pants, our underwear and undershirts along with my grandpa's truss. Bits of trees and branches and stones whipped past us, some hitting our naked skin.
With that kind of force, I was amazed that it didn't suck us in too. Or maybe it just didn't want to.
For the next several seconds, the vacuum continued. All three of us hung on screaming. I was so afraid of dying that I couldn't even think.
Then the light returned, so bright and powerful that I thought the box really would blow up.
Another explosive shockwave came and knocked us loose from the tree. We flew up into the air and landed in a pile several feet from the trees. Spots danced in my eyes for a few seconds and I looked up.
The box was gone again.
I staggered up and looked at myself. I was butt naked and so were my grandparents.
My grandpa looked so angry that I'm not even sure it registered for a moment that he was naked.
He raised his fist to the sky, shook it and launched an incoherent stream of babbling that would probably have been outrageously profane had he still had his teeth in.
When he finally finished, he looked down at his naked self and turned redder than a communist covered in strawberry jam.
He grabbed the nearest pine tree branch, tore it off and covered his naughty bits. Grandma and I quickly did the same.
Red and blue lights shone through the woods. For the briefest of seconds, I thought the box had returned. But nope, it was Sheriff Hettner.
He emerged from behind one of the trees with one of his deputies. Both men shined their flashlights and aimed their pistols at us. We dropped our branches, threw up our hands and exposed every inch of our birthday suits to the astonished men.
"What in the name of Gehenna is going on here?" Hettner said. "We heard reports of bright lights and a bunch of noise."
"Won duh han there, ya moof!" Grandpa said.
The deputy lowered his gun but Hettner kept it pointed at us.
"I should've known you people were involved in some kind of crazy sex cult."
Before my grandpa could launch another incoherent tirade, my grandma stepped in and said, "I'm sorry, Sheriff. We were going camping tonight when a skunk sprayed our tent and clothes and we had to take them off. We were just on our way back to the house to get cleaned up when you arrived."
"Funny, I don't smell any skunk on you."
My grandma sagged. It was hopeless.
"Sheriff, an alien box came along and took our clothes," I said.
"Aa my matta gun!"
Sheriff Hettner shook his head. "You expect me to believe any of this?"
"No," Grandma said.
The two cops looked at each other.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to place you folks under arrest for public indecency and contributing to the delinquency of a minor," Hettner said.
"Please don't!" Grandma said. "It wasn't our fault!"
Hettner reached down for his handcuffs. As he pulled them from his belt holder, a white light shone overhead. The box swooped in like a meteor and the Sheriff's handcuffs, gun belt, hat and toupee flew up into the box. Hettner screamed and clutched his very bald head. An invisible force pulled him upside down and the box tore all of his clothes off instantly and left him as naked as the three of us.
The deputy tried to reach for his gun, but he never had a chance. His hat, gun belt and clothes were ripped off and the men hung a few feet off the ground in mid-air for a few seconds before the box dropped them.
Maybe the darned thing wasn't so bad after all. Or maybe it just didn't like cops.
The box shot back up into the sky and the men dropped to the ground. I couldn't help but smile as Hettner put both hands on his bald head, then realized that his wang was sticking out, so he had to cover his head with one hand and his dangly bits with the other, leaving no room to hide his big old butt. The deputy grabbed a pine branch from a nearby tree and Hettner snatched it from him and covered up.
Grandpa, grandma and I laughed as the sheriff and his deputy backed against a nearby pine tree.
"Maybe we should go inside your house and discuss this," Hettner said, blushing.
"Aker you," Grandpa said, and gestured towards the forest.
Hettner and his deputy tripped and stumbled their way back to my grandparents' house while we took up the rear.
We agreed not to speak of the "incident" and Hettner would report that nothing suspicious had happened. As for the pair's missing clothes and his rug, Hettner assured us that he could give his superiors a legitimate excuse for their disappearance.
It pleased my grandpa to no end to see that his clothes didn't fit Hettner, so he had to go in the bathroom and put on my grandma's pink bathrobe, blue shower cap and yellow flip-flops.
My grandpa put his spare dentures in and said, "Hurry up in there, Heifer. I wouldn't want you to overexcrete yourself."
Hettner burst out of the bathroom, his face flush with embarrassment. He gave us a "Good night, folks," and beat a hasty retreat to his car with his deputy.
The pair took off like two maniacs and my grandpa waved at them and said, "Come back anytime." When they were out of sight, he added two more words that wouldn't be appropriate for sensitive readers.
"Come on, Dan," Grandma said. "He's not that bad."
"You're right. He's worse. I wish those damn IUDs had taken him up in their spaceship too. Would've done the world a big favor."
"Anyway, they're gone and we're still in one piece. All things being equal, I'd say we're pretty lucky."
"Lucky, schmucky, they took my guns, my clothes, my store teeth and all your stuff too."
"Yeah, Grandpa, but you still got us," I said.
Grandpa smiled and said, "Yeah, I suppose I got to keep the best part."
He wrapped his arms around grandma and me and kissed me on top of the head.
With everything that had happened that day, the next week didn't look so bad after all.