By now you’ve probably heard of my “famous” uncle, Jason Meyers. It was a huge sensation when it happened. First the newspapers, then the investigation, then the book deal, the movie deal, the scandal, the hoax claims, and finally the well-deserved disappearance from the public eye. Every once in a while his story still appears on documentaries and tabloids. He hasn’t spoken publicly about the incident in years.
In case you’re the kind of person who, much like me, has little interest in the subject and thereby missed all the hoopla the first time around, I’ll give you the short version. But first, let me say this: I never believed a single word of it. I’m no crackpot.
I was seven when it happened and I was observant enough to know that Jason Meyers was a good for nothing, flaky, perpetually unemployed, alcoholic low life. If there’s anyone I know who would make up a bullshit story like this for personal gain, it would be him. There’s only one problem: My dad, who I trust to be an honest, practical, pragmatic, down to Earth perfect opposite of Jason, has always supported his claim. He was there, at least for the first part.
Ten years ago, my father, my uncle, and my father’s friends Derek Holly and Edgar Summers, embarked on what would prove to be their final fishing trip to Silent Lake. There they would spend four days fishing, drinking, farting, and doing whatever the hell else it is that men do on such excursions. I wouldn’t know. As his only daughter, I was never invited.
On the fourth and final night Jason and my father decided to take the Jon boat out for one last fishing expedition. According to my father’s highly polished and frequently retold account of the event, it was a singularly beautiful night. The night sky was awash in billions of blazing stars, all reflected in the glassy surface of the water. They were the only boat on the lake and in that perfect silence they pondered the mysteries of the universe. I’m sure the cooler of cold Budweiser resting between them aided in their introspective mood.
When it happened, my father was distracted by his first bite of the night. It was, he claims, a largemouth bass so large it would be a crime to leave it unmounted on the wall of his den. He never had a chance to haul it gasping into the boat. No sooner had it crested the water did Jason begin to raise his commotion, shouting and tugging at my father’s shoulder. The bass snapped the line and fled, perhaps with a strange tale of its own to tell the other bass.
Irritated by the distraction my father began to ask Jason just what in the Sam Hell had gotten into him, but the words died in his mouth. He said he looked up to where Jason was pointing and babbling, and saw what he could only describe as a U.F.O.
It was a triangular craft roughly one hundred feet long to a side, perfectly silhouetted against the night sky. At each corner was a globe of light, alternating in color between a vivid green, a bold blue, and a deep red. In the center was a larger globe of light, which radiated a pale yellow. It gave off a deep, bassy hum, but showed no clear source of propulsion. It hovered perhaps one hundred and fifty feet above their heads, completely motionless.
Having gotten my father’s attention, Jason fell into an awed hush. My father’s reaction was much the same. He claims to have no idea of how long he stood there in the Jon boat staring up at the craft, but eventually gained enough of his senses to tell Jason to fire up the motor and head back for shore. Jason did nothing, just stared up at the ship, mouth agape.
Before my father could repeat himself, the lights on the ship flared up, blinding bright. The hum grew to a deafening level, so loud my father could not hear his own cries of terror. The next thing he knew, the U.F.O. flew away so fast he could not even track its departure. There the story should have ended, a cute tale to tell around the campfire and believed by none.
Except, as his eyes finally adjusted to the return of the darkness, my father saw something else, something that terrified him yet more than the strange craft and its strange departure. Jason left with it. My father was alone in the boat.
Among the kit on the boat was a spotlight, and with it my father scanned the water, searching for any sign of his brother. Jason was, for all of his faults, adamant about wearing a life jacket whenever he was in the boat, and that night was no exception. If he had fallen overboard, there was no chance he might have drowned in the still waters.
Little as he wanted to admit it, after more than an hour of searching the lake, my father could come up with only a single explanation: Jason had been taken aboard the craft. Whatever strange creatures manned the U.F.O. had, for whatever strange reason, abducted my uncle.
When he returned to shore alone, he was met by Derek and Edgar. Both were in a state of panic, having seen the lights, heard the bizarre hum, and witnessed my father’s desperate search. They found themselves in an impossible situation: The truth was unbelievable, to tell it would only invite ridicule. If they lied, how would they possibly explain Jason’s absence?
Finally they resolved to tell a version of the story that skirted the truth while supplying the most relevant piece of information: That Jason was gone, and they had no idea where he had gone to. The three of them drew straws to see who would stay and wait for his return. My father drew the short straw and the others left to find help.
I won’t get into the circus that resulted, but to summarize: The entire sheriff’s department came out and searched the lake for any sign of Jason until well into the daylight hours. They found nothing. They dredged the lake, intending to find his waterlogged corpse. No luck. A manhunt of the surrounding areas provided no further leads. It was strongly suspected that my father and his friends had, for one reason or another, killed Jason and buried his body.
Finally one of them, and no one would admit to having done it, leaked the U.F.O. story, perhaps hoping to cast doubt on the suspicions of murder. With that unwelcome cat out of the bag, my father and his friends had no choice but to corroborate the story and stand by it. If anything, I admire their conviction.
The following days were utter chaos. The book, entitled The Jason Meyers Experience; Abduction at Silent Lake and the feature length film dramatization Lights in the Sky cover this part of the story in depth and with a fair amount of accuracy, so I won’t get into it here. At any rate, I don’t remember much of it. As I said, I was seven at the time. All I could remember was the phone ringing constantly, plenty of arguments between my parents, and getting pulled out of school.
The tall and the short of it was this: The U.F.O. story made for compelling news, but everyone outside the tinfoil hat brigade was calling my father and his friends murderers. The idea frightened me much more than the prospect of little green men from mars.
One day I was beaten up in the playground by a mob of other children. I was playing with my Barbies under the slide when another child, a boy I had known my entire life named Jacob Stanley, asked me where my uncle was buried. I didn’t know what to say, the whole thing was very confusing to me.
Another boy named Bradley Gifford said the martians took him away and the next thing I knew, I was surrounded. I told them to leave me alone, but someone started chanting “Janie’s daddy’s a murderer!” Pretty soon they were all chanting it.
I started bawling. I’m not sure where my mother was for all of this. Someone shoved me, I don’t know who. I fell into a girl named Ashley Simon. She cried out “don’t touch me, freak!” and the next thing I knew, they fell upon me. I was punched, kicked, thrown to the ground and dogpiled.
Eventually my cries reached the ears of my mother, who dragged the other kids off me screaming admonishment. As far as I was concerned, it was too little too late. I was bruised, bloodied, and fully terrorized. All because of my uncle and his disappearing act. I didn’t the capacity at the time to wish he really was dead, but the seed was there. I didn’t leave the house after that.
More than a week had passed since the night Uncle Jason disappeared. By then the search effort was more or less exhausted and the law was pressing on my father and his friends pretty hard. Through it all they stuck with their story. There was even talk of the three of them submitting to a lie detector test, the results of which would not necessarily exonerate them, but would do much to clear their good names. They quickly agreed.
It turns out, the test never happened, because something else happened first. No one dared hope it would happen by that point, it had been ten days exactly that Jason was missing, but it did. Jason came back.
The call came in at the wee hours of the morning, and my parents raised such a ruckus that it woke me from a deep sleep. I crept down the stairs to see what was the matter.
It seems the county sheriff had a man in custody claiming to be Jason Meyers. He was naked, soaking wet, and terrified to the point of near incomprehensibility. But he was alive.
Somehow, miraculously, these outer space aliens decided to return my uncle to the planet Earth, buck naked and some twenty miles from the site of his supposed abduction. Equally miraculous, my uncle returned to Earth just in time to exonerate my father and his cronies from any suspicion of foul play. Somehow, they never had to take a lie detector test. Right.
The meat of the book detailed all of this, you can find it online I’m sure and you can get all the details. If you’re reading this because you really and truly believe in martians and alien abductions and crop circles and all of that happy horseshit, I’m sure my uncle’s book will seem an ironclad testimony and irrefutable proof that THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.
He (with the help of an uncredited ghost writer named Ruth Mailer) spun a very rich yarn of his time aboard the star ship and the numerous traumatic experiments the aliens performed upon his person. The movie was a very entertaining piece of science fiction and none other than Nicolas Cage played the part of Jason Meyers. My dad was played by Gary “Lieutenant Dan” Sinise. I forget the name of the little girl who played me in the film, but she had only one speaking line.
It was, “I believe you, Uncle Jason.”
Which, of course, I never said. I never did.
Maybe you’re wondering how a seven year old girl could have so little trust in her uncle or so little a sense of wonder that she could not believe the fairy tale of visitors from the stars. So let me tell you a little bit of my earliest memories of the man.
When I was five years old Jason Meyers came to live with us in our house. I didn’t have the details then, it wasn’t the sort of thing you told a five year old. I later gathered from overheard conversations that he had lost his job and his apartment because of his drinking and had nowhere to go. Because he was a worthless piece of human refuse, he leeched off my father’s generosity and my mother’s good nature for weeks, for months. I thought he would stay with us forever.
He spent his days, not looking for work or even pitching in around the house, but laying around on the couch watching daytime television and drinking. More than a few times I smelled the pungent, acrid aroma I later learned to be marijuana smoke. I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me. We gave one another space.
His time with us ended catastrophically one stormy July night. My father’s other brother had come to visit. Conrad was the oldest brother and by all accounts, he was Jason’s opposite. He was a pillar of the community, a successful business owner, and a family man. He rarely indulged in alcohol and by all accounts he had little contact with Jason.
That night he made an exception of both points and it very nearly cost him his life. What I remember of that night was very little. As I said, I was five. Over the years I cajoled my mother into telling me exactly what went down as the evening progressed into night and revelry progressed into drunkenness.
It seems my uncles came to a disagreement. No, that’s not quite right. Jason made Conrad furious by alleging that Conrad’s wife Cynthia was, quote, “major boner material.” I really had to ply that one out of mom. It was the only time I had ever heard her say the word boner, before or afterward.
Since by then the night had progressed far beyond rational discourse, they instead began a brawl which stretched from my father’s garage to a bridge at the end of the block. It was here that Jason attempted to crush Conrad’s head with a rock, though thankfully he was too drunk to summon the needed dexterity before the police arrived. They both went to jail that night and to my knowledge never again spoke a civil word to one another.
The intervening years between that incident and the alleged abduction did not see a dramatic turnaround in my uncle’s life. Though my father made peace with him and his attempted murder, he never again sought long term gainful employment or any meaningful bout of sobriety. When my uncle was abducted he was so deeply in debt that it would take nothing less than a miracle to hoist him out of that pit.
And then, one night, outside of the prying eyes of impartial witnesses, my uncle was abducted by aliens and returned with an entertaining and profitable story to tell.
Have you ever noticed that the people who come forward with these accounts of alien encounters are usually, not always, but usually the same sort of backwoods rednecks? The sort of person who has no dignity to lose from making such outrageous claims, but everything to gain from selling their cockamamie stories to the tabloids? Jason’s was a textbook case.
With the proceeds from the book and the movie rights and all the interviews and whatnot, my uncle was miraculously able to pay off his debts and coast along for another decade.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
How hard would it be to fake all of this? Suppose instead of getting beamed away in the U.F.O. my dad drove my uncle to some old hunting shack or something like that to cool out for a couple of weeks. Someone “leaks” the aliens story and gets everyone riled up. Then, just at the right moment when the police are ready to start making arrests, Jason just shows up somewhere, oh so conveniently.
Jason’s “terrifying account of his experiences on board an alien space ship and encounters with the mysterious beings therein” could have easily been cobbled together from dozens of pre-existing abduction accounts. As a matter of fact, there is a very similar case of an alleged abduction which took place in 1973 near Pascagoula, Mississippi where not one but two men were abducted from their fishing boat and later returned. That one was also largely suspected to be a hoax, of course.
All of this and more has been discussed in another book published not long after my uncle’s account, this one entitled “Light’s Out: The Silent Lake Abduction Hoax” written by famed skeptic and professional debunker Merwin R. Gaskill. He paints an admittedly accurate picture of my uncle as a shiftless loser, professional scam artist, and consummate liar.
However, despite his in-depth investigation into the case, character assassination and baseless speculation are all he managed to produce. There was no smoking gun, so to speak. For all his credentials and boasts, he could not account for my uncle’s absence those ten strange days.
That’s how it works, of course. Wherever the burden of proof may actually lay, if my uncle’s story could not be concretely disproved, its place in the annals of paranormal encounters was left intact. He could go to the bar any night of the week and negotiate free drinks, and every once in a while he received a residual check in the mail. Eventually the general public will forget about the brief hysteria and everyone’s life more or less returns to normal.
People eventually stopped connecting me and my family to the story and I spent most of the last ten years avoiding the man I generally thought of as “my crazy Uncle Jason.” I saw him every once in a great while at family gatherings and such. I didn’t talk to him, he didn’t talk to me. He hasn’t been as wild in the recent years as he once was, probably just maturing with age.
Honestly, I have to admit he was sort of turning his life around by that point. He had a steady job, a roof over his head that was leased in his name, and if he didn’t stop drinking entirely, at least he had dialed back on the drinking quite a bit. Maybe I let my guard down a little because of all of that. Maybe that’s why I said what I said about the dreams.
So in a way, maybe it was my fault when Jason Meyers kidnapped me.
Uncle Conrad was throwing a new years party. Friends, family, co-workers, anyone who could claim even a tenuous link to my uncle got the invite. It was a real big to-do. This year the new year would be accompanied by what the news programs promised to be a dazzling meteor shower.
Uncle Conrad’s house was far enough out into the country to be a prime viewing location, and the peak viewing window was to begin somewhere around 12:30 that night. As a result, the party was still roaring long after the ball dropped.
I might have been bored senseless to be stuck at my uncle’s party all night long, but fortunately the half of the town Conrad had invited also dragged their kids along. There were plenty of other people at the party around my age, including Skyler Tomlinson.
Skyler was popular, athletic, recently single, and owner of the most beautiful face I had ever witnessed. I spent the entire evening trying to get him to notice me without being too obvious about it. I literally remember nothing else about the party. The music, the crowds, the food, the drink, the countdown, it was all a blur to me. Standing in the middle of that blur in perfect focus at all times, Skyler.
The night was unseasonably warm, I remember that. My uncle had set up numerous fire pits around the yard for people to gather around, but they were hardly needed. We were gathered around one of the outlying pits in chaise lounges, watching the sky and talking amongst ourselves. Along with Skyler and myself were three or four others.
My best friend Bethany Wilkins was there performing beautifully as my winglady, doing her best to make me seem funny and cool. Ashley Simon, who as you may remember as the girl who called me a freak on the playground was there as well. She was still a stuck-up skank and I hated her like poison, but she was there with Caleb Tomlinson, Skyler’s brother. I pretended to be nice to her while secretly hoping one of the meteors would fall out of the sky and hit her squarely in her too-large forehead. Colby Wilkins was there too, sort of, but he was only ten and he didn’t really count. He just wanted to tag along with his sister.
Somewhere around one in the morning we were still watching the meteor shower, passing around a flask of rum Caleb had smuggled from his dad’s liquor cabinet. I didn’t drink much, just took a few tiny sips so no one would think I was a nerd. I sat between Bethany and Skyler, feeling good and watching the stars fall. I touched Skyler’s hands a few times accidentally-on-purpose, and he looked at me and smiled.
Three meteors fell in a row, one right after another, and it sparked a memory. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have said anything, but I suppose I might have had a bit more rum than I thought and it loosened my lips.
I said, “I think I had a dream about this last night.”
“Yeah?” Skyler asked. He looked genuinely interested, which sparked me on.
“Totally. Except I didn’t know about the fire pits or whatever, you know. So in the dream I was watching the meteor shower from my bedroom. I remember in the dream there were three meteors in a row, just like that a minute ago.”
“So what happened?” Bethany asked, leaning forward. Such a good winglady, she always tried to make my lame stories seem better than they were.
“Well,” I told them, remembering the dream more and more as I retold it, “A little while after the third meteor fell there was another one, and this one was so bright it lit up the sky like the middle of the day. Like, it was dazzling, you know? It was so bright it lit up my room, even. And that’s…”
I stopped, suddenly remembering I didn’t like this dream.
“What happened then, you wet the bed?” Ashley. Skank. Caleb cackled, took a long swig of the rum, and squeezed Ashley’s thigh. I scowled at them.
“No, Ashley, shut up.” I told her, and fell silent.
The moment was lost, and we stared up at the sky as if for waiting for some kind of cue.
“What did you see?” Skyler asked quietly. He held my hand and my heart leaped in my chest. I forgot all about Ashley just then.
“Well,” I answered, just above a whisper, “when the room lit up, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other people in there, standing beside my bed. I could only see them from the corner of my eyes, but they frightened me so badly that I woke up.”
I heard a sound close by and turned. There at the next fire pit over, I saw my Uncle Jason. He had turned to look at me, and he had a strange look in his eyes. Then Skyler said something to me and I turned back to ask him to repeat himself.
“That’s pretty freaky,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
Then someone, I think it was Caleb, changed the subject. I didn’t think any more about the dream and I forgot all about Uncle Jason and his weird look. The night wore on and I eventually passed out in one of Uncle Conrad’s guest bedrooms.
I woke up in the back of Uncle Jason’s van.
Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. My rise to consciousness was slow, and awareness came bit by bit, like one of those old televisions that had to warm up before they’d show you the picture. My grandpa still had one, and I used to marvel at it’s primitive bulk, like a relic from a nearly forgotten civilization. My head TV was still buzzing and there was no picture yet.
There was no picture because there was something tied around my face. A blindfold! I shifted around and realized all my limbs were still asleep, television static. No, not just that. I was tied up! I moaned something softly, my speakers unwilling to give anything but feedback. Something was wrong, something was very wrong.
I could hear a sound like a low roar, more a vibration than a noise. Above that I heard music. Classic rock. Lynyrd Skynard? No, it was Creedence Clearwater Revival. Someday Never Comes. The strange menacing tune fed my unease and I shifted more, trying to understand my surroundings. I didn’t dare speak, I was too frightened.
Through whatever thin padding I lay upon I could feel hard metal and that constant vibration. I was in a vehicle? My brain, unnaturally sluggish, finally put it together: I was being kidnapped! I cried out, I couldn’t help it.
“Shh, girl, shh.” Came a voice from nearby, trying and failing to be soothing. “Go back to sleep, now. We’re almost there.”
“Uncle Jason?” I cried, “What’s going on?”
Stupid question. What else could be happening? This would be one hell of a way to set up a surprise party for me. It was not even my birthday.
“You’re gonna have to trust me, Janie. I’ll explain everything when we get there. I promise I’m not gonna hurt you, I’d never hurt you. You’re family.”
I was positive he was going to hurt me. I don’t know why, but I thought maybe I could talk him out of it.
“You don’t have to do this, Uncle Jason, you can take me back home. I won’t tell anyone, I promise! It’ll be like nothing ever happened.”
Silence. Someday Never Comes ended, and it was replaced by The Doors. Peace Frog. Blood on the Streets. Finally he spoke, sounding strange and forlorn.
“I can’t. I gotta try to help you. I gotta try. Hush up, now. We’ll be there soon, I’ll get you out of them fetters.”
“But Uncle Jason!” I insisted.
“Hush now!” He cried, his voice quavering with an energy I took to be the edge of panic. “I mean it, girl, I’m too keyed up as it is. Listen to the music and chill out. If I get pulled over for driving strange or lookin’ like I’m talking to nobody both of us are gonna be in a world of hurt.”
I took his advice, too afraid to do otherwise. There was a great deal of threat hidden in his message. Peace Frog gave way to Gimme Shelter, The Stones. Why did these old rock songs seem so strange and threatening? Maybe it was just the situation that made it seem that way.
Eventually, I could feel Jason’s van slow and turn down a side road. It was a country road by the feel of it, maybe gravel. The hum of the highway gave way to the grind and the jostling that spoke of an end to the pavement. Another turn, another rough road. Another turn and a rougher road still. This one must have been nothing more than a dirt track.
Time passed, marked only by the steady stream of classic rock tunes. Steppenwolf, Led Zeppelin, many and more, some I couldn’t name. Can you blame me? I was seventeen, it was only thanks to my dad that I knew as much as I did.
My dad. Surely by now he knows I’m missing, but would he know Jason was the culprit? As many people as were at the party last night, it could have been anyone. Still, surely the crazy and unaccounted-for uncle would be the top suspect, right?
The police were probably looking for us now, and they’d find us any minute. Surely they would. Unless they didn’t know what to look for. As far as I knew, Uncle Jason drove an old Ford single cab truck. This had to be a van, and where he would have gotten such a thing, I had no idea. A rental?
That meant he had been planning this for a while. Or so I thought. And if he rented a van, there would be a record. His name would be on a form somewhere and they could follow that as easily as his own truck.
Wishful thinking. I could feel by the jolts and jumps that we were well off the beaten path. If the police were going to find us and stop Jason, they probably would have by now. With everyone sleeping off their monster new year hangover, he could have gotten one hell of a head start. I didn’t even know how long we had been on the road.
I struggled and pulled at my bonds, but all I managed to accomplish was hurting my wrists and ankles. Stupid. What would I have done if I got loose? Crack Jason over the head with a blunt object while he was driving? I didn’t have a big urge to fly through the windshield and splatter myself into a tree. So what was I supposed to do?
I started crying. I didn’t mean to, it just started happening. Nobody was going to save me, God knows what Jason had planned. Was he going to hurt me? Rape me? Fuck! What did I do to deserve this? A ragged sob escaped me.
Jason heard, and he said, “Oh. Oh honey, please don’t cry like that. I know you’re scared right now. Hell, I’m scared too. But look, I think if you do just what I say we’re gonna be okay, all right sweetie? I’ve done a lot of figuring on this, in case something like this were to happen.”
A heavier song came on the radio. Sinister, sludgy riffs and Ozzy Osbourne’s unmistakable vocals. N.I.B.
“We’re coming up on the place now,” he continued. “As I said, I’m gonna let you loose of those bonds when we get there. Ain’t no worry of you running off or getting into trouble. We’re miles and miles from civilization now, ain’t nowhere to go.”
If he was trying to comfort me, he was doing a piss-poor job of it. I felt like I was maybe going to throw up. We drove on for some time longer, I have no idea how much time. I only know that Ozzy gave way to another tune, one I didn’t recognize. Then a couple I did. Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac and Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix. Then a few more, but I spaced out for a bit, unable to concentrate on the music for all my terror and panic.
Finally, some interminable space of time later, the van slowed, slalomed through some unknown obstacles, and settled to a stop. Jason shut off the engine, threw open the door and stepped out. I could hear him stretch and groan and shake out the miles. He was going to touch me soon. I started to shiver.
The door slid open and he saw me there shaking. He said, “Don’t carry on so, girl. I told you I wasn’t gonna let you come to harm, and I damn well mean to keep my promises. Now you hold real still, Janie-girl, I’m fixing to cut you loose.”
He took me by the legs and I tried not to cringe too much from his loathsome touch. I realized he was very close to totally unhinged, and his promise would prove very breakable if I provoked him. He pulled my feet out the door so they were hanging in the air and guided me into a sitting position. His touch, little as I cared to admit it for all my fear, was remarkably gentle.
“I’m gonna pull off your blindfold first, Janie-girl.” He told me, close enough that I could smell his sour breath. It stank of a long night and a bad morning. “I want you to look me straight in the eye so I know you hear what I have to tell you. Okay?”
I nodded. I couldn’t trust myself to speak.
He pulled the blindfold off and for the first few moments, I saw nothing save for a dazzling light. I gasped, in shock more than pain. Soon the light faded and shape and color began to define itself. I saw my uncle’s face before me, unshaven and wild-looking. He wore a trucker cap which read “FBI: Federal Breast Inspector,” with a crude drawing of comically large breasts. His hazel eyes were trained on mine.
He said, “Now Janie, look me right in the eyes and hear what I’m saying, okay?”
“Okay,” I squeaked. I tried my best to look into his eyes.
“I’m gonna cut the ropes from your arms and legs, you’re gonna be free to move around such as you wish. I imagine you likely have to go visit the facilities now, and you’re welcome to do so just as soon as you’re free. Okay?”
I nodded. I didn’t realize it until he said something, but I desperately had to pee.
“But maybe you’re reserving thoughts of kicking your poor uncle in the throat just as soon as your legs are free and hauling butt for the treeline.”
I hadn’t thought of that, at least not until he said as much.
“Let me put that thought out of your mind. That out there,” he told me, gesturing to the dense forest surrounding us, “is the very picture of American wilderness. Maybe you don’t think there’s such a thing left in these modern times, but that there is the wild, you get me? There’s bear out there, there’s cougars, bobcats, God knows what-all. More than that, there’s miles and miles of forest the likes of which a city girl like you would get lost in straightaway and fall down a ravine or some such.”
He let this information sink in. It sunk. All I could hear in the world was the cries of birds and beasts, and my own ragged breathing.
He gestured toward a rustic old cabin, gray with age and choked in every corner and eave with dry leaves. Heavy shutters bookended every window.
“That there cabin may not look like much, but it’s a fortress meant to withstand four seasons of abuse from the elements and is the closest thing to a fortress as you’re likely to find out here. It was old when my grandpa was young. Nobody knows about this place that could link it to me, no one’s gonna look for us here. We’re safe from the world, and by-God if we’re safe from them from outside anywhere, it’s here. You stay with me and I’ll do all in my power to make sure you’re safe, Janie-girl. I promise you that. You have my word.”
He stared into my eyes, maybe to show me his sincerity. I tried not to start bawling. I didn’t think there was much hope of ever seeing my family and friends again.
“I won’t do anything,” I whispered.
Jason nodded and untied my arms and legs. It was several minutes more before I had enough feeling in any of my extremities to even think about walking. As soon as I was ambulatory, he led me around to the far side of the cabin and gestured to what I initially took to be a small shed.
“That there’s the facilities. Ain’t much, but it’s clean. If you go number two, sprinkle a scoop full of the lime from the bucket in there. I’ll be in the cabin setting things up.”
I grimaced, but I thought that if the worst thing to happen to me today was having to use a scummy old outhouse then things were going to go a lot better than I expected. He handed me a roll of toilet paper and immediately turned back to set things up at the cabin, whatever that might entail. I assumed it meant chasing out the family of raccoons and rewarding himself with a case of beer.
The inside of the outhouse wasn’t nearly as disgusting as I had expected. It didn’t smell like much of anything except musty old wood. I figured it hadn’t been used for a while. As I went about my business I tried to think of some way I could overpower my uncle, get the keys from him, and make my escape. All I managed to do was whip myself into another crying frenzy. Eventually the frenzy faded to sobs, and not long after that I realized I would eventually have to leave the outhouse and listen to Jason’s undoubtedly delusional reasoning for having kidnapped me.
I dried my eyes with a wad of toilet paper and tried to put on a brave face. I thought that if I played at believing Jason’s story I could delay my inevitable murder long enough for an opportunity to present itself. I wasn’t going to let him rape me though. I’d tear out his throat with my teeth before I would let that happen. I’d rip out his eyes with my fingernails. Just let him try.
Somehow this thought gave me the strength to leave the musty old shithouse and march to the cabin. Jason was just inside, sitting at a table smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t drinking yet. There was something in his posture, in the set of his jaw that almost made me believe he was as scared as I was. Maybe he was. I didn’t know much about crazy people, but I figured after a while they believed in their own stories.
“Do you want a cigarette?” He asked, then winced, “Sorry, I forgot. You’re still just a kid.”
“No,” I said, “Give me one.”
I had never smoked before, but I couldn’t think of a better time to start. He shrugged and passed me the pack and a lighter. I pulled out a cigarette. They smelled kind of pleasant, before they were lit. I put it in mouth and lit it. The smoke burned my throat and made my eyes water, but I managed not to choke on it like you always see on TV. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t put it out either.
Jason stared at me, looking like he had something to say and was searching for the right way to start. He started a new cigarette on the dying ember of the old one, and said, “You never believed me, did you? About the aliens, I mean.”
My mind raced to find an answer that would not upset him. Should I lie? Tell the plain truth? He waved me off, disturbing the smoke that hung in the air.
“No, you don’t have to say. I know you never did, I could see it in your eyes. That’s okay. Hell, I never believed in any of that crap either, thought that Christopher Walken guy in the movie was full of shit. You know the one? Communion. He wrote books about monsters you know. Vampires, werewolves, all that shit. Figured he made all that up about the little gray men, too. Just pretended it was a true story so he could sell more books.”
“But you believe him now?” I suggested.
“Hell no, I don’t!” he scoffed. “Here’s why: All of that new agey bullshit in the end about how the aliens come with a message of peace and harmony for all mankind? It wasn’t like that at all. They don’t give two shits about us. They just want to use us.”
“Use us for what?” I asked. I was trying my best to seem interested. I had been half-listening and avoiding this sort of tirade from him for half of my life. It was just this fiction he had built up for himself, and he had been doing it for so long that he started to believe his own lies.
He stared at me gravely and said, “Nothing good. Think of a cruel boy with an ant colony. Those ants are nothing to him but a source of amusement when there’s nothing good on TV. He might drown them with water or burn them with a magnifying glass but teaching them about love and brotherhood wouldn’t even cross his mind. They’re like that, sort of. Best comparison I can think of. Now think of how smart and developed a human being is compared to an ant. Those bastards are at least that much higher than us. We can sting them, maybe, but we can’t stop them. They’ll come back whenever it pleases them.”
“So what do they want with you?” I asked. His comparison was weak on this point. A cruel boy may harm an ant colony, but what would he have to gain from singling out a particular ant?
He gave me that strange look again, the same from the night before. It was a desperately fearful, pitying look. I knew what he was going to say before he said it.
“They don’t want anything from me, or if they did, they already took it. Janie-girl, they want you.”
This made sense, at least as the sequence of events that lead us here, but I was still perplexed.
“Me?” I asked, “What would they want with me?”
Jason averted his eyes and seemed to study the tip of his cigarette. It was getting short, so maybe he was thinking of lighting another.
Finally he said, “Have you ever heard of hybrids?”
I had. “Yeah, we learned about them in biology. Like you make a mule by crossing a donkey and a horse, right?”
He nodded, “Just like that. Now I can’t say for sure this is the case, but I’ve read a lot of other abduction cases. Most of them are probably bullshit like that Communion guy, but not all of them. They couldn’t be, I know that, because too many of the details from other people’s story match my own, you see?”
I nodded. I could easily see how one person’s delusions could be propped up by other people’s delusions.
“Even after all the hypnosis sessions I went through, I still don’t remember everything that happened when I was up there. Just flashes, really. I was locked up in a strange little cell covered in some slop. I was being sort of wheeled through these corridors by those things, on my back looking up at the ceiling. I was strapped to a table with all of them looking down at me. Other things. Every once in a while another memory, another flash will crop up.”
“And these hybrids?” I asked.
“One woman I had read about, a woman named Bridget M. claimed that the aliens could no longer breed among themselves normally. She claims that she had been taken and impregnated by the aliens many times over the course of her life. She would find herself pregnant, carry the baby for a few months, and lose the child for no reason she could see. It was only under hypnotic regression that she learned of her abductions, how the Grays would inseminate her and then remove the hybrid child later. She claimed to have even met some of her hybrid children.”
“What did they look like?” I asked. In spite of myself, I found myself pulled into the narrative of his insane ravings.
“She said they were strange and beautiful. They were thin and pale and their heads were somewhat larger than that of a normal human child. They had large eyes that were the same blue as her own eyes, and long silvery-blonde hair.”
The mental image that came up in my mind was of Macauley Culkin, and I almost laughed. It seems he could see the disbelief on my face.
“Yeah, I kind of thought the same as you, there was no way that could be true. It’d be like a person and a dog making love and coming out with a dog man. Something like that. Only I remembered something a little better the next time I was in my hypnotherapy. I recalled before that I had seen other humans on board the ship and I kind of concluded they were other abductees, you know. Only this time I could call them up a little clearer and I could see they weren’t true humans. They were hybrids like the lady said. Hearing her story unlocked the memory, you could say.”
Or else you heard her story and blended it into your own, I thought.
“So wait,” I said, “That’s what this is about? You think the aliens want to take me and put an alien baby in me? That’s disgusting! I would never!”
“Darlin’, they wouldn’t give you the choice. They’d do it to you just as often as they felt like doing it, and there wouldn’t be much you could do about it. The other thing is, that woman, Bridget? She went up and disappeared sometime after telling her story. Not a damn person knows what happened to her.”
I felt sick to my stomach. Thank God it was all a fantasy. Bad enough I should worry about being raped by him, but by some disgusting bug-eyed creature? It was nightmarish. Then there was the other thing, the thing I wouldn’t dream of telling him. It was nothing though. Surely nothing.
But I was late. Just a little, but I was late just the same. I didn’t really think too much about it before, because I wasn’t sleeping with anybody. I was a virgin. But I was late. But it happens. My cycle is normally like clockwork, but it happens. I bit my lip.
“Now Janie,” Jason said, leaning forward and looking into my eyes, “Think real hard. That dream you had, about the lights and the strangers in your room. Do you remember anything else.”
I thought as hard as I could, but that was all I remembered. I couldn’t even remember what the strangers looked like, I never looked straight at them. I thought they were just people, and I told him so.
He considered this, and said, “Do you ever remember having a dream like that before? Anything about lights in the sky or people in your room, anything like that?”
I shook my head. I hardly ever remembered my dreams at all.
Do you ever remember seeing an owl out your bedroom window? Anything like that?
“An owl?” I asked. “No, not that I can recall.”
He fell silent for a moment and appeared to be thinking things over. He lit another cigarette, took a few puffs, and said, “Well I guess we can’t know for sure. They have some way of making you forget. Still, I think there’s a good chance that was your first encounter. They probably haven’t done anything yet. I know a way we can tell for sure.”
“They’d have put a tracker on you. It looks like a little piece of metal but it’s not. It’s a beacon of sorts, and it’ll lead them straight to you no matter where you are. They implant it under the skin, and most of the time you wouldn’t know it was there unless you knew to look for it. Mine was in the back of my thigh, I had to use a hand mirror to find it. There’ll be a strange scar or a little mark, something like that. Have you noticed any marks on your body you can’t account for?”
I scanned my arms almost reflexively and said, “No, nothing.”
“You’re positive?” He said, frowning.
How could I be positive about something like that? I didn’t scour every inch of my body every day looking for weird marks. Also, I was seventeen and weird marks showed up on my skin on a fairly regular basis. They’re called pimples.
So I was a little uncertain when I told him, “Yes, I’m certain.”
He frowned more deeply, and said, “Shit. I really didn’t want to have to do this, but it’s not good enough to be fifty, seventy-five, or ninety-five percent sure. If you’re not one hundred percent sure there ain’t no mark on you that could be a tracker, we need to find out. Otherwise this is all gonna be for nothing, they’ll come right to us.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded, suddenly terrified.
He stood up, crossed to the window, and peered out. Nodding, he pulled the shutters, and repeated the process on the other window. Next he threw a bar across the door, gave it a solid shake, and nodded again.
“Now you need to know that I am your uncle and I never once harbored a single unclean thought about you. No matter what you might think of me, I would never do anything so heinous as to touch you or look at you with any sort of lustful thoughts. That is the furthest thing from my mind. Do you get me?”
I nodded, tears already running down my face. This was it. This was the moment I knew was coming from the start. My skin crawled all over in dreadful anticipation.
“I mean it, Janie. Just think of this like it’s a doctor’s examination. That’s all it is. If I find something, it won’t be no big deal. It’ll just be like removing a splinter. Now strip down, undies and all. Sooner we get started, sooner it’ll be over.”
“No!” I cried, crossing my arms over my breasts as though they were already exposed and backpedaled. He sidestepped and intercepted me at the door. There was nowhere to go. I noticed something in his hand, shining in the dim light. It was a scalpel. My heart thudded in my chest, and I stumbled back over my chair. He raced over to help me off the ground and I screamed negation at him until he backed away. The scalpel and the power was still in his hand.
“We got to do this, Janie, don’t you get it?” He advanced upon me, not quite brandishing the blade, but neither did he hide it, “If they find us here there’s no telling what will become of us. I’ve got to know if you’ve got a tracker on you, and I’m gonna find out one way or another. Now quit fighting me and let’s get this over with.”
“Don’t touch me!” I cried, though I knew full well the futility of the situation.
“I won’t touch anything you don’t want me to, Janie-girl. You have my word. I won’t touch you at all unless it’s to get the tracker out of you. Now quit fussing and strip down, you mind me. Strip down before I have to do it for you.”
“God damn you,” I whispered.
Sobbing, I began to undress. I could feel his eyes crawling over me, and I felt shame and loathing wage a nauseating war in my guts. Every time I hesitated, he gestured with the knife and told me to “go on.” His expression was even, at least. I could not see any lust in his eyes. Not that it mattered. If he could convince himself of the whole alien narrative, then convincing himself that he wanted me to undress purely to check for trackers was no great leap. He didn’t have to watch me while I did it.
Soon my clothes were lying on the floor around me. I stood there red-faced and weeping, shivering in the chilly cabin trying my best to conceal my nakedness with my arms. I thought of myself only hours ago, happy and safe, surrounded by friends and marveled at how a single careless anecdote brought me to this terrible place.
Jason produced a penlight and told me to stand with my arms straight out and my feet shoulder width apart. I complied quickly, fearing his touch as much as the knife in his hand. He began to examine me and I closed my eyes, praying for this humiliation to come to an end. I couldn’t stand to know when he would be staring at my tits, at my crotch. God!
It seemed to go on for hours. Every once in a while he would find a mole or an old scar and question me about it. Had I noticed it before? How long have I had it? Where did it come from? I tried to have answers ready as quickly as possible, for fear he would decide it was an alien tracker device and cut me open.
“What’s this?” He demanded. He was crouched down at my feet, his penlight trained upon my right calf.
“What?!” I cried, certain I would feel the blade bite into my flesh.
“These bumps on your leg here, what are they?”
I looked down at my calf, fresh waves of shame crawling over me as I was made once again aware of my nakedness. There were three bumps on my calf, all close together.
“It’s just razor bumps. I shaved my legs before the party. I get razor bumps sometimes.” I was almost certain this was the truth.
“Razor bumps?” Jason repeated doubtfully. “All close together like that?”
“Yeah!” I quickly replied. “It tends to happen that way. I don’t usually get them but when I do they come in little clusters like that. I was just in a rush trying to finish. Mom was banging on the bathroom door. That’s how it happened.”
Jason stared at that spot for a long time, and despite the chill in the room, I began to sweat. What is it about anticipating pain that made it so much worse?
Finally he asked, “You’re absolutely sure? You understand how important it is that you are sure, right? This could be life or death.”
I knew that it was a matter of life or death that he believed me, that he would believe the aliens would not find us without him having to cut me open. That was the importance I gave to the situation.
I told him, “Yes, I’m absolutely sure. I’m positive that those bumps are razor bumps.”
A brief, terrible pause, and he said, “Okay. Let me see the bottoms of your feet now.”
I lifted each foot in turn and submitted them for his inspection. He made a small grunt and told me to set my foot down.
“Okay,” He told me, “Go ahead and put your clothes on, Janie-girl. I’m really sorry to have to put you through all that indignity. It won’t happen again. I’ll fix us something to eat, all right?”
I let out a ragged sigh of relief as he turned his back to me, and I quickly gathered my clothes. How I could ever bear to be naked again? He unbarred the door and departed, only to return moments after I finished dressing, his arms loaded with grocery bags. He must have bought them while I was passed out in the van. As he passed he seemed to have trouble meeting my gaze, and proceeded to the kitchen without another word.