Lost in space

  It was only our second meeting but things had already taken a turn toward the weird.

“Here’s the gig,” the crusty character whispered, eyes widening and hand moving to scratch his shaggy beard. “Steven Spielberg is actually on government payroll. Nobody knows it, but the dude has top-level security clearance. His job is to set the American public at ease.”

I glanced back at the man named Renee, but widely known as “D4NO” (his last name, “Deforneux,” spelled according to the periodic table. “Hmmmm, government payroll, eh?” I muttered, setting down my beer. “So, just how is Mr. Schindler’s List setting our minds at ease?”

D4NO glanced over both shoulders and dropped back into whisper. “‘Schindler’s List’ was a side project, nothing more. Maybe you remember a little picture called ‘E.T.?’” he said discreetly. “How ’bout that little movie, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind?’ Stevie is actually out there paving the way for First Contact. He’s preparing the American public for the opening of Area 54. The dude is practically alien himself.”

By D4NO’s reasoning, the Earth had never been the center of the universe. Little green men had always moved freely about all corners of the Milky Way, regularly making scenic stopovers in Western Colorado. D4NO also knew – thanks to a father with an illustrious career in the Central Intelligence Agency – that the shock of alien revelation would be too much for Joe American. That’s where Spielberg came into the picture, bearing extraterrestrial tidings and slowly waking us, 90 minutes of celluloid at a time.

“They’re going to revolutionize our entire society,” D4NO assured me while buying a second round (these things apparently come in twos). “We’re just not quite ready for them to reveal themselves.”

On the contrary, many of my fellow Coloradoans have shown they’re more than ready for the unveiling. A few years ago, a new hairdresser showed that she too was a member of the tribe, sharing her story between snaps of chewing gum.

“They’re already among us, I’m sure you know that,” she said in Donna Reed tones as she casually cut into my locks. “Yes, they’ve been visiting the Rocky Mountains for thousands of years. The peaks are their sentinels, markers of sorts. They provide the reference points, drawing the ships in.”

After a couple more snips and a suggestion that something “new wave” might suit my head shape, she elaborated, discussing the different species of alien she’s spotted in the greater Four Corners area.

First, there’s a benevolent race that visits the region in high-tech, saucer-like craft and has human betterment in mind, she explained. But there’s also a darker militant race of outworlders, bent on taking the region’s resources and breeding Durangoans into enslavement, she added.

Once, the story got so rich I barely noticed the lousy haircut. As the clippers and the No. 2 comb (like I said, twos) fired to life, she related a trip many years ago to Blue Mesa Reservoir. There, in broad daylight, a fleet of ships resembling giant, charred knockwursts flew in formation directly over her pop-up camper. She briefly stopped chewing her Doublemint, saw a flash and woke up inside the dismal craft. Things got pretty blurry at that point, but by the next morning her unborn child was missing, replaced by a star-shaped scar.

“Since that abduction, I’ve been able to see and hear things,” she boasted, mentioning nothing of the missing child. “I can tell you with certainty that they’re almost ready to reveal themselves. They’re just waiting for us to be ready.”

Carol, a middle-aged artist and horse fanatic, also readily shared her stories of alien contact, first with my wife Rachael and then with me. In bursts of frenzied movement and hyper speech, she proclaimed, “They’re called Arkadians,” and walked Rachael and me out into a pasture.

“They’re not little green men, of course,” she said quickly and confidently. “Arkadians are more like humans, but with grayer, hairless skin and slits for eyes. This field is actually one of their landing spots. It’s all pretty amazing stuff.”

We rounded the corner and came upon a large circle of perfectly black, roughly saucer-shaped, loamy soil. “Nothing to worry about,” she assured us. “They’re totally peaceful. Just getting the lay of the land. Go ahead and touch the dirt. It’s heavily charged with negative ions.” I politely declined the offer and instead asked how she knew about the visitors. “Shane told me,” she smiled. “He’s had dozens of encounters”

Carol had rescued Shane off the race track nearly 15 years earlier. The two had developed an undeniably strong bond, but Shane was and will always be a horse.

And while that horse never let me in on his secrets, I’ve been keeping more than a casual eye on the heavens. I have witnessed a couple unusual flashes and peculiar shifts in cloud movement, but apparently I’m still not quite ready.

The truth is that my favorite species of alien still drives a car with green and white plates and is always just down the street, bellied up at the bar, twirling around my barber chair or out at pasture. For me, these characters have always made up the real fabric of the Four Corners. And as time goes on in this “colorful” state of ours, I’ll take all the stories of horse-whispering, knockwurst-riding Arkadians I can handle. I’m sure Mr. Spielberg will wrap up his work someday, but in the meantime, I’ll drain a couple pints with these friends and neighbors and blissfully go out and get all over again.

– Will Sands