The Necessity for Invention

by rthieme on July 11, 2005

[This is “flash fiction,” a new category generated from the fact that smaller texts are more congenial to online reading at the moment. This was published in The Listening Eye in 2005. Come to think of it, this is a riff on a theme often heard in my reflections on anomalous phenomena. I probably should call it “flash non-fiction.”]

The Necessity for Invention

by Richard Thieme

The look on the major’s face sold his story.

We were sitting in the church basement. I was the major’s priest. I had long ago learned that he kept his own counsel and never told tales out of school. When I described weird planes with strange crooked angles landing at the base at night, he never said a word about stealth. He just smiled and looked away.

The Major thought I was a crazy liberal who had to be endured because his wife wanted their kids in a Sunday School away from the base. Nevertheless there were moments when we were just shooting the breeze and everything was natural. That night in the church basement was one. We had stopped to look at damage to the floor from a broken pipe. I think because the Spielberg movie was recent, one of us brought up UFOs. Hynek was either alive or recently dead and I mentioned his book about close encounters.

“Hynek says you guys in your fastest fighters chase these things and can’t catch them.”

Now, this was a guy with the right stuff. He would walk into the church wearing his Stetson and cowboy boots, a stogie smoking under the brim of his hat, and stand there, letting everything settle like he was the natural center. He usually looked confident, even cocky. That night, though, he looked perplexed.

“He’s right,” he said. “We chase the goddamned things and we can’t catch them.”

Years later I was telling this to a friend who worked at the National Security Agency, saying this was the first time someone I knew said UFOs weren’t bogus. I said that over the years others had told similar stories, always in a confessional mode. They often sounded ashamed, reminding me of children who had been abused.

“That comes from years of ridicule,” my intel buddy said. “It’s very effective when you have to hide something in plain sight.”

He told me that he too used his position to query others in intelligence or the military when they had been close to something rumored at White Sands or an air base. He heard comparable stories from people he trusted too.

“So what’s going on?”

“There’s an intrusion of another civilization into our spacetime,” he said, “but people can’t see it. Ants don’t get that dogs exist.”

“How can we talk about it, then, so people don’t think we’re nuts?”

“Fiction,” he said. “Fiction is the only way to tell the truth.”

So … this is fiction.

Space travel is utter bilge, the Royal Astronomer said the year before Sputnik went up. Besides, you can’t get here from there. Everybody knows that. Our understanding of physics wouldn’t let us. So what else could it be?

This is fiction. The Major and my friend from NSA are invented. Neither exists. I’m not a priest.

Nothing is anything. Nobody sees things. Nobody knows.

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