Where Were You When You Learned Aliens Were Real?
Edited By Gwendoline Scalzi, Staff Writer, Solar Public Radio
Welcome to another installment of Where Were You When! A series where we ask our readers and listeners to write in to tell us where they were when some significant event happened.
In this issue, we explore what various people were doing when the Gaxotians arrived in our solar system five years ago. In the stories that follow, we hear about people’s immediate thoughts on learning aliens actually exist, what their reactions were following the news, and how this moment in history affected their lives.
Editor’s Warning: Some of the responses contain swearing, references to sex, and drug use.
Where were you when you learned aliens were real?
Dr. Luiz Costa, Microbiologist, South America:
I was at my then-boyfriend’s apartment having sex with said boyfriend. It was Antonio’s birthday, and we were having a wonderful time celebrating it. Both of us had been hitting the books pretty hard the last few months, studying for exams and finishing papers, so we had not seen each other much recently. We also had not had sex in weeks, and neither of us was happy about that. Boy, did we make up time that day.
Early into our morning activities, Antonio’s cellphone began ringing. Too much into what we were doing, we let it ring. It rang again, and again we ignored it. But then it rang a third time, and we paused. Antonio’s grandmother was fighting breast cancer at the time, and I could tell his mind immediately went to that possibility. Just as he was getting up to grab his phone, my cell began ringing in tandem with his. There was definitely something up.
Antonio went out into the living room while I took my call in the bedroom. It was my sister Maria. She was hyperventilating while trying to talk fast, so to this day I still do not know what all she said. Eventually, I pieced together that she was freaking out over some phony news story about aliens being real. I tried telling her it was a hoax, but she kept insisting it was real and that I turn on the news. Needing to check on Antonio anyway, I decided to play along and went into the living room.
Antonio was standing behind the couch, facing the TV, shoulders slumped, and his cellphone hanging limply by his side. Thinking it was his grandmother, I reached out to him, but then I did a double-take at the TV. Turns out the story Maria heard was not a hoax after all. The headline read—CONFIRMED: ALIEN SPACECRAFT SPOTTED ENTERING OUR SOLAR SYSTEM.
Antonio and I both stood there dumbfounded for I don’t know how long, listening to the equally dumbfounded news anchors and “experts” sputter their way through the news broadcast. Once my brain started working again, I began thinking of all the bad science fiction stories I had ever read or watched about aliens arriving on Earth and how those stories were rarely peaceful.
My hand found Antonio’s. Stammering, Antonio asked what we should do. So many ideas came to mind, from calling family, to buying emergency supplies, to going to church, to hiding in the Amazon. But then I thought again about all those science fiction stories, and I suddenly knew exactly what we should do first.
After silencing both our phones, I pulled Antonio in for a long kiss, and then I guided him back into the bedroom saying that we were going to finish what we had started earlier. It would be a good distraction, and I figured if we were all going to die soon anyway to an alien invasion or super-virus, we might as well die tired, spent, and wholly satisfied.
Editor’s Fun Fact: There was an uptick in birth rates for the months of January and February the following year across all continents and on Luna.
Sarah Hofstadter, Freelance Illustrator, Canada:
I was high as a fucking kite in my buddy Dane’s apartment with Dane and his little brother Rory. The three of us had gotten bored, so we decided to get fucked up. I don’t remember what we got high on. Some combination of pills the three of us had pooled together from the medicine cabinets of our parents and friends. We’d been high for, hell I don’t know, maybe a half-hour when Rory got a call from someone. Whoever it was told him to turn the news on. It was the broadcast announcing the discovery of the Gaxotian spaceship. We immediately started freaking out in like that “Oh man! Oh man! What are we going to do man? This is so crazy, man. What the fuck, man?” kind of way. Trust me, if you’ve been high enough times, you know what I’m talking about.
A few minutes later, a loud banging started coming from the front door. Creeping my way over to the door, I heard voices I couldn’t understand coming from the other side of it. I looked out the peephole and Jesus Fucking Christ there were the aliens. Just standing there all nonchalantly like. One of them was dressed in a really nice blue-gray three-piece suit, another was in like this Victorian-era maroon gown where the skirt part made your ass look like you had a giant watermelon stuffed inside it, and the third was naked except for a black bowler hat. Strangest fucking thing to see out of a peephole, let me tell you.
Not wanting to be rude, we invited the aliens in. Dane, Rory, and I decided we had a duty to humanity to negotiate peace with these odd, but very well dressed aliens. So we did just that. There was yelling, there was crying, there was hugging, there might have been fucking, I don’t know, shit was crazy. But we did it! We negotiate everlasting peace with the aliens. It was a lot like the time we negotiated a trade deal with the United Penguin Republic of Antarctica the previous year.
The aliens partook from our stash of pills, and then we all just passed out.
I awoke the following morning having only a vague sense of what went on the previous afternoon. Rory was nowhere to be found, and Dane was lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of vomit. After making sure Dane wasn’t going to suffocate, I vomited myself, brushed my teeth, got a bowl of cereal, and looked at my phone. I had a dozen voicemails and a hundred text messages, all of them about the aliens. I went to YouTube, and the front page was nothing but videos about the aliens. I then browsed to a couple of different news websites. Same thing. Aliens were actually real. They had actually arrived in our solar system.
And I was fucking high when it happened.
One of the greatest questions humanity has ever pondered about the universe had been answered. Something capable of shaking the fabric of humankind had happened, and I was so high that I thought it was just another crazy hallucination.
I mean come on! How fucking stupid is that? Missing a monumental moment in human history because you were high. So, so fucking stupid.
Storming around the apartment, I berated myself, screamed curses into pillows, and kicked at random shit on the floor. I gathered up all the remaining pills and flushed them down the toilet. Dane ended up sending me a text later that day asking what the hell happened to his place.
Feeling like a caged animal, I left the apartment and walked around for a while in the overly expensive neighborhood Dane lived in. Eventually, I took a quick rideshare to my parent’s house to grab a sketchbook and then went to a nearby park. I spent the rest of the day sitting alone on a bench filling up that sketchbook with illustrations of alien spaceships, creatures, and planets.
Other than the occasional joint on special occasions, I’ve never gotten high like that again. I don’t want to miss anything else.
Makoto Shinomori, Firefighter, Japan
I was an NCO in the UN Peacekeeping Force at the time serving in an infantry unit based in Europe. My fireteam and I were out on our normal morning run when we suddenly got a call from our platoon leader telling us to return to base immediately. By the time we returned, the base was a madhouse. Everyone was being mobilized, and no one knew why. Not us grunts anyway. A few hours later, my entire company was on a plane flying over the Atlantic towards the United States. About thirty minutes before landing, some full bird colonel from intelligence finally told us what was going on. Aliens were real, they had arrived in our solar system in a large spaceship, and we were mobilizing to deal with the possibility of an extraterrestrial threat.
Everyone on the plane was initially silent, staring open-mouthed at the colonel, until some American girl from Third Platoon said, “Well fuck!” The cabin of the plane became awash in the sounds of people shouting questions, some people reverting to their native languages. Mateo, my squadmate sitting next to me, muttered “Madre de Dios,” and began praying while clutching the cross he wore around his neck.
One of the benefits of serving in the military during a crisis is that you don’t have to think about what to do, when to do it, or how to do it. The military answers all those questions for you. So that’s what I did. I just sat in shocked silence for the rest of the flight waiting for new orders. It was easier that way.
The following morning, we got debriefed about all the stuff the military didn’t know about the aliens. Then we began training to go to war with ET. It didn’t take long for us to realize the military didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
The following months were filled with days of fumbling around in hazmat suits performing combat maneuvers. We learned to fight in those suites, sleep in those suites, patch holes in those suits, and I think a few people even tried to figure out how to fuck in those suits. The more macabre of us contemplated what it would be like to die in those suits.
The military had us study anatomy and physiology. Not the human kind mind you. We were already well versed in the best ways to kill a human. What we didn’t know was how to kill an alien. So how do you learn to kill an alien? Apparently, by studying Earth animals. Wolves, lions, elephants, komodo dragons, pythons, frogs, ants, cockroaches, wasps, octopi, jellyfish. To this day, I can still tell you the best way to kill each and every one of those animals. Most of the time it’s shooting them in the head, heart, or spine, and if that doesn’t work, just blow them up. Just like humans. Go figure.
We also studied botany and microbiology. While those lessons were interesting, they could have all just been summed up to if you see something that looks organic, don’t touch or eat it. Also, don’t pick your nose and always remember to wash your hands after disembarking from an alien spacecraft.
We got blasted up to Luna for six weeks of low gravity, zero-g, and nill-pressure training. Luna was all abuzz about the aliens. Turns out an entire moon full of scientists and engineers were excited and optimistic about the prospect of contact with aliens. They weren’t exactly thrilled when those of us in the military arrived for the sole purpose of training to kill the aliens they wanted to have a chat with. Protests were held every night outside the entrance of where we were staying and where we were training. On Luna Station, they taped protest signs to the windows, so that as we floated outside the station trying to figure out how to shoot a gun without flinging ourselves out into space, we’d still be aware of how much we weren’t welcome.
On and on the training went for twenty months. Then my service was up and I didn’t reenlist. I’d had enough. We had established contact with the Gaxotians by then, and it turns out they didn’t want to kill us. Hell, they were asking us for assistance to keep them from dying. Fortunately, the scientists got to be in charge instead of the military.
Some people have asked me if I was disappointed that we didn’t go to war with the Gaxotians. I tell them no, because if going to war with them was anything like the training we got, then it would have been the dumbest looking war in human and Gaxotian history.
Axovovi Avayaxan, College Student, Luna
Editor’s Note: The following has been translated from Gaxoti to English.
I was alone in my bedroom trying to do my homework while doing my best to ignore the torture that is molting. Humans won the genetic lottery by the way when it comes to skin. You’re just constantly shedding skin a few cells at a time without ever noticing. Next thing you know, boom, you’re taller, bigger, hairier, and it all happened without any fuss or torture. For Gaxotians, shedding our skin as we grow is a much more painfully irritating process, usually involving a lot of hissing, squirming, scrubbing, and once you’re old enough, swearing. If any humans out there are curious to see how molting feels, take a long strip of duct tape, apply it to the length of your upper arm, keep it there for a week, and then start peeling it off. There you go. Molting.
Editor’s Disclaimer: SPR does not advise conducting the above experiment regardless of species.
So, yeah, I was stretched out on my bed doing trigonometry homework, trying to figure out what was so important about triangles, when Grandma burst into my room looking worried. She had shifted from amber and tan to gray and black. [Editor’s Note: Shift(ing)/(ed) — Translated Gaxoti term used to describe the changing of Gaxotian scale color in relation to their mood or emotional state.] Wide-eyed, she told me that the big news announcement everyone had been speculating about turned out to be the command staff announcing that aliens are real. Not really believing it, I watched a recording of the announcement on my tablet. Part of it included some high-resolution images of Luna and Luna Station along with what looked like a small shuttle going down to the blue-white marble of a planet we had been heading towards since before I hatched.
Not quite sure what to think or say, I ended up just saying, “Huh.”
Apparently, my lack of reaction concerned Grandma. She kept saying things like “Are you okay?”, “Do you want to talk about it?”, and “It’s okay to be scared you know.” After multiple reaffirmations that I was okay, she started trying to speculate with me about the aliens, but I never really said anything more than “maybe” or “possibly”. Wanting to just be alone, I eventually said I needed to get back to my homework and she left. For a little while. Every thirty minutes she would pop back in to check up on me. She would ask if I need anything or if I wanted to take a break. She would busy herself by cleaning up my room while trying to talk with me about the aliens. Throughout the day my small bedside table became piled high with snacks, drinks, and I think all of the scale ointment in the entire habitation module. She even brought me her own personal scale scrub brush, which okay, that was a little sweet, if not a bit gross.
During the moments Grandma wasn’t popping into my room, I kept plugging away at my homework. Well, trying to anyway. The itchiness and pain of the molting were slowly getting worse, so I was having a hard time focusing. I was also restless. I would get up to rearrange some of the stuff Grandma had cleaned up or just pace around the room in an attempt to kick-start my brain. I tried texting a few of my friends, but all of them were busy with school. After spending twenty minutes staring at the same math problem, I took a break to peel and scrub away some of my dead skin. I used my own brush. It was then that I realized I had shifted. My blue, amber, and tan scales had all become darker and sprinkled with patches of gray.
Things didn’t improve when Dad got home. He and Grandma began alternating who would check up on me. Whenever Dad would do it, he would pace around the room, attempting to reassure me we were safe from the aliens. They were still really far away, so it would be difficult for them to harm us anytime soon. Even if they tried, the Iuxus had defensive weapons of its own that would protect us. The ship was built to help us escape a war after all. Occasionally, he would halt his pacing, get a faraway look in his eyes, and then after a few seconds he would shift, his scales matching the colors of whatever wall or object he was standing in front of at the time.
Thanks to Dad, when I should have been doing homework, I was instead looking up information on the Iuxus—how thick its hulls were, what weapons it had, how fast it could go, and if it could survive an explosion. I also brushed up on the quickest routes to the emergency shuttles. By the time mom got home, I had shifted again. Now my scales were the same colors as my bed sheets and blankets.
I asked Mom if Dad and Grandma were going to be okay, describing how they had been acting strange all day. She explained they were just freaking out a little because of the aliens. I asked her if adults were allowed to freak out about stuff, and she began laughing. Her teal, blue, and white scales, which had been a little darker than usual, became more vivid. She told me that everyone is allowed to a little freaking out when faced with a situation they do not know how to handle, regardless of age. I was skeptical. Up until then, adults had always seemed like they knew how to handle any situation. We then spent the next half-hour talking about our days while she graciously peeled and scrubbed the dead skin off my back. She never once brought up the aliens. When my friends started contacting me, Mom left to give me some privacy. Before going, she entwined me and said she loved me very much. As I texted my friends back, I noticed I had shifted back to normal.
Editor’s Note: Entwin(e)/(ed)/(ing) — The equivalent of a human hug. Gaxotians who have a close relationship with one another weave their tails together when entwining.
I think Mom had a talk with Grandma because the next day she didn’t check up on me as often. Grandma still seemed a bit off though. Her scales still hadn’t settled back to their usual hues. When she brought me an afternoon snack, I stopped her before she had a chance to leave. I entwined her and said I loved her. She said the same and held me tightly for a little while.
When she left, her scales were back to their familiar amber and tan.
Grace Taylor, Emergency Medical Dispatcher, United States:
The announcement happened in the middle of my shift. Thankfully it had been a slow night up until then. It wasn’t more than five minutes after the announcement was made that the calls began flooding in.
They started out simple enough and not wholly unsurprising given what we all just learned. Dozens of people called in about fender benders or accidents on the freeway. A few pedestrians and cyclists had also been hit. A gentleman having a barbecue somehow managed to set his porch on fire. We dispatched multiple units to people having severe panic attacks or who were hyperventilating to the point they could barely breathe.
It was during the first week that things were the most extreme. The word was fully out and people thought the world was going to end. People were scared, and many lashed out in anger or acted like idiots. Others, well, others just plain went crazy.
We got calls about people getting trampled on or assaulted at grocery and big-box stores during rushes to buy emergency supplies and weapons. A number of people called in saying their RVs and travel trailers had been stolen, sometimes when the owners were in them. We sadly got multiple reports of people committing suicide and familicide. Poor Roberta ended up taking a call about a priest who gunned down his congregation and then asked God to take his life now that he had saved his flock. That was Roberta’s last day. She’s now a florist.
After a few weeks, most people had settled down, but for some others, the paranoia had set in.
Every day we had at least half a dozen calls from people reporting UFO sightings. Once a day we would get a call from someone claiming their neighbor or coworker was an alien. At least once a week there was someone calling in saying they had been abducted by the aliens, but they escaped, and now they had important information about the aliens. We usually forwarded the abductees to the local FBI office in order to offload some of our work. They still don’t return our calls. One old nearsighted man called in saying there was a posse of tiny, lizard-like aliens walking up and down his street, going door to door, selling alien drugs. Mind you, we still hadn’t yet seen pictures of the Gaxotians yet, so the lizard comparison was coincidental. Turns out it was a troupe of Girl Scouts selling cookies. The officer we dispatched ended up buying a few boxes. Bless her.
As the months dragged on, the powers that be told everyone it would be a few years before the aliens arrived, and people realized the world wasn’t just going to up and end. Our days thankfully went back to normal. Only a few calls a week would be related to aliens or UFOs.
Arno Smit, Software Developer, South Africa:
It was early morning in Wisconsin, and I was in the middle of a forest, sitting up in a deer blind overlooking a small glade. It was week two of my annual hunting trip to the United States, and I had yet to see any bucks worth enough points to waste the time or ammunition on. I had become so bored that I broke my rule about no technology while out hunting, and I started listening to the SPR morning news programs on my cellphone to pass the time.
I just spotted some movement in the brush when the world news segment was interrupted for a breaking report. A good two hundred fifty point buck emerged from behind a dense gathering of aspen trees, striding into the middle of a small glade without a care in the world, grazing for good eats on the forest floor. While the SPR host was struggling through the lead-up information about all the sources they had received confirmation from about the breaking news, I was bringing my rifle up to sight on the buck and slowing my breathing. I had just placed my finger on the trigger when the host finally said the words I will never forget. “With the backing of the aforementioned scientific and government sources, we can confirm that an alien spacecraft has been spotted in our solar system between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune.”
Up until that moment I had never understood, or really even took seriously, the idea of an out-of-body experience, but as I sat there frozen in shock with my finger still resting against the trigger, I no longer felt like I was in my own body. I was floating around the glade, stopping by every tree to run my hands along its bark, crouching down to every flower to give it a big whiff, following a trail of ants to their hill, marveling at a group of small birds take flight from a tree, and watching a pair of squirrels chase each other around a bush. In that moment, it was like I was seeing all the life that existed in the glade and how magnificent it all was.
Then, floating in the center of the glade, looking up at the sky, I began to wonder what the aliens were like. What did they look like? Did they resemble life on Earth or would they truly be alien to us? How diverse was life where they came from? If life existed on their world and ours, then how many more worlds existed with life on it? How diverse were all these other creatures on distant planets?
It was all so overwhelming, yet so, so . . . I don’t know. It’s difficult to describe.
I have no idea how long I stayed in that out-of-body state, but eventually, in the blink of an eye, I was suddenly back in my body up in the deer blind. The buck was on the opposite side of the glade staring up at me. He was old but still strong and confident. A wary curiosity existed in his amber eyes. I don’t know why, but it felt like I was looking at the face of an alien just then.
I took my finger off the trigger and lowered the rifle. The buck walked off a few seconds later, disappearing into the forest. That was the last time I ever went hunting.
Urahoxu Adexi, Engineer, Gaxotian Colony Ship Iuxus
Editor’s Note: The following has been translated from Gaxoti to English.
I was wedged between two large, rusty pipes underneath a floor grate trying to diagnose an electrical problem with an ancient circuit board that controlled the water pumps in that corridor of the ship. The glorious life of an engineer working aboard the Iuxus.
While I was reading the circuit board’s log files to locate the problem, a flood of text messages started streaming up my visor. They were all from Iravi, my best friend and roommate. She was asking if I was also freaking out about the news announcement. I told her I had elected to ignore the alert about the announcement given there were a lot of trouble tickets to resolve that day. She correctly pointed out that was just an excuse as there were always a lot of trouble tickets. She patched in the feed for the announcement demanding that I watch it, and like most times, I caved to her demands. It was the announcement informing everyone on the Iuxus that the planet we were heading towards appeared to already be inhabited by a technologically advanced species of aliens. So that was a surprise. As was the water pump behind me suddenly gurgling to death. Turns out it wasn’t the circuit board after all.
I texted Iravi back saying the whole alien thing was interesting, but unless we didn’t care about having running water in our habitation module that night, I needed to get back to work. Forty minutes later, the new jerry-rigged water pump was installed and working at seventy-six percent efficiency. That wasn’t too bad considering the parts I had used. I happily crawled out from under the grate and went about the rest of my day working down the never-ending list of things that needed to be fixed on the tired old spaceship. I was so exhausted by the end of the day, I went to bed before Iravi got home and slept like a hatchling. Like I said, the glorious life of an engineer aboard the Iuxus.
The next day everything was, well, normal. We didn’t know more about the aliens than we had the previous day, but we were told the command staff was working on learning more. The plan was still to continue onto the third planet from the local star despite it being inhabited by aliens. Me and everyone else went about our day as usual. Our larger understanding of the universe might have just been expanded, but our regular day-to-day lives didn’t really change all that much.
As the months passed, we would occasionally get updates about the aliens from the command staff. One update informed us that it appeared the aliens knew we were here because the Iuxus had begun getting bombarded by various forms of electromagnetic waves, and there were indicators they were using their satellite telescopes to visually observe us. They also stressed each time that there were no signs the aliens meant us harm, which we all took to mean they hadn’t yet fired a nuclear warhead at us yet. Towards the end of that first year post alien discovery, the Welcome Package arrived from the aliens.
For those that don’t know, the Welcome Package was a battery-powered computer with a simplified mechanical interface. The computer was loaded with thousands of images from Earth. We Gaxotians got our first look at Homo sapiens. I had a good laugh when I saw that first picture showing a group of smiling humans surrounding a large inflated Earth. They reminded me of pictures I’d seen of these little hairless rodents that lived back on Uxabas, our old homeworld.
After our two species figured out how to communicate with each other and established that neither was interested in killing the other, everyone on the Iuxus let out a collective sigh and the background tension that had existed on the ship since the original announcement disappeared. We also learned the humans would be sending us water, food, and supplies. It was going to be an end to rationing, and I would actually have new parts and components to make repairs with. We would also be getting even more supplies after the Iuxus settled into orbit around Earth. I was shifting around like crazy for weeks. According to Iravi, my scales were practically glowing. I had never been a happier engineer.
About a year ago, I was again contorted into an uncomfortable position in the bowels of the ship when Iravi called me out of the black. Unbeknownst to me, she had entered us into the lottery to visit the Gaxotian Biosphere Welcome Center on Earth, and we had just been declared as some of the winners. When the lottery was announced six months prior, I didn’t think much of it. Iuxus was all I had ever known, so I never really thought about leaving it. I mean, leaving meant stepping out into the vacuum of space to certain death. Iravi had other ideas, apparently, and she was dragging me along with her.
Two weeks later I’m on a shuttle passing through the stratosphere of Earth heading towards a giant desert in the middle of Australia. During the ride, we got a quick briefing on how to act while on Earth and how to interact with the small human population that worked at the Center. The diplomatic envoy we were traveling with informed us that many humans have a deep-seated biological fear of a species of cold-blooded organisms called snakes and that Gaxotians apparently share a few similar physical characteristics of those creatures. We were told to avoid staring too long at humans without blinking, sticking our tongues out, and sudden movements of our upper bodies. We were also told multiple times not to mention the hairless rodent similarities.
After landing, we were processed through a hermetically sealed corridor and then taken to our rooms to drop off our stuff. Our next stop was the large park at the center of the biosphere.
The park was magnificent and beyond beautiful. There was more dirt and grass there than I had ever seen before. And you can just walk on it! Sprinkled around the park were dozens of trees, actual trees with leaves and bark and sap. At the center was a large pond surrounded by hundreds of wildflowers that were as colorful as Gaxotian scales. Filtered sunlight fell into the park, giving it a pleasant temperature and heating the large boulders that were haphazardly scattered throughout the area.
Warmed by the sun and overwhelmed by all of the new the earthy smells, I walked mesmerized through the park with Iravi. We crushed our toes in grass, dirt, and mud. Giddy, we dunked our heads into the pond and we would have gone for a swim if it had been allowed. We rubbed our hands across the trunks of trees and smelled flowers for the first time. We ended up sitting on a sun-baked boulder next to the pond enjoying the feel of the star’s warm rays on our scales.
That was when it finally sank in. Our lives were no longer just the Iuxus. We were no longer destined to live out our entire lives in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space. It was no longer going to be an everyday struggle to keep the Iuxus functioning. After so many centuries wandering through space, we had finally found a planet to settle on. We had finally found a new home.
Iravi and I entwined and wept together.