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Copyright © 2017 by Elise Abram
Cover image © Cover fonts: Enomia by Arro (Sora Sagano), “, Spirit”, and ID 2121283 copyright Magann - Dreamstime.com
Interior design by Pronoun
Distribution by Pronoun
Not of this World
The Arrival V1
The Arrival V3
A Morgan by any other Name
The Earl of Oswald’s Revenge
The Circle of Life
At the Mere Thought Of
The Last Supper
There’s an anomaly in the midst of Sheppard Mercant’s wheat field. It’s an anomaly unlike any other of its kind, though there are others through which parallels may be drawn. Mercant’s anomaly forms a perfect square. Inside the square are rings. Inside each ring is a perfect, five-point star. The anomaly extends for metres in any direction. Standing on the cusp of Mercant’s field, one is hard-put to see it as different from any other field. But as one nears the centre of the field, tall, lanky stems give way to a clearing. Inside the clearing, the wheat is bent as if steamed.
It’s always bent; never broken. If it’s authentic.
I’d spent the better part of the morning pacing the pattern, hopping from one ring to another, measuring, photographing, and making notes. I felt energized, and that was bad. It meant there was something wrong with the anomaly. After spending so much time inside it, I should have had a headache. I should have felt dizzy. My camera should have been on the fritz. No, I’d examined enough of these anomalies to know something wasn’t right.
I tell Mercant and he can’t believe it. He swears he’s seen lights hovering in his field. Swears his farm was shut down tight for the night, no one’s come or gone for hours. Says he found the anomaly at the crack of dawn. Was up with the roosters. Takes my discovery personal, like it’s an accusation. Kicks me off his property like it’s my fault he’s been hoaxed.
No sooner have I zipped shaving kit into overnight bag than my phone rings. Sheriff Pete calling. Another crop circle reported early this morning.
I arrive at the site still close to dawn. Woven into the canola is a three-dimensional pattern of circles.
I set up on the inside border of the largest circle in the arrangement. The display on my camera goes wonky. A good sign.
Stalks are blown out at the nodes. It happens when moisture inside steams and bursts out like popped corn. Another good sign.
Sheriff Pete holds one end of a cloth tape. I take the other and walk the distance to the far side of the anomaly. She’s a good size, this one is. Record the length. Record the width. Make note of the weave of the stalks. I’d take a picture but my camera’s useless. That’s the problem with technology—the more sophisticated it is, the likelier it’ll be taken out by even the tiniest of EM fields. What I wouldn’t give for a mechanical thirty-five mil. You’d think I’d have learned by now. My theory: is it’s genetic. Buried deep in the Y chromosome there’s a technology gene.
“What’d ya think, Joey?” Sheriff Pete asks. I correct him mentally; I much prefer Josef.
Hands on hips and suppressing a smile I shake my head. “So far so good, Pete. The farmer still around? What’s his name?”
“Corey. Dan Corey.”
“I need to speak with Farmer Dan, then.”
“Try to show a little respect, will ya, Joey? Farmin’ ain’t as glamorous as book publishin’, I know, but don’t belittle him like that when ya see him, eh?”
I wave Sheriff Pete off and concentrate on the anomaly.
Time ticks by. The pounding starts in my right temple. Now I have to decide: is it the usual migraine? Too much sun through too little hair? Something else?
Migraine or sun would be bad. Means Farmer Dan’s been hoaxed, too.
Something else, on the other hand...
Something else would be out of this world.
Sheriff Pete returns, Farmer Dan quick on his heels.
Farmer Dan’s unaware of human presence in his field. He throws in sightings of low, hovering lights three days running, for good measure.
Back at Sheriff Pete’s office, Officer Sweaty Pits brings in a kid in cuffs.
“For God’s sakes, Rocky! What the hell do ya think you’re doin‘?” Sheriff Pete hollers. “That’s Matt Donohue’s boy ya got there. Let him go.”
“Caught him in Flannigan’s field, boss,” Officer Sweaty Pits says. “Playin’ with this.” He drops a two-by-four, two fiberglass measuring tapes, and a blueprint traced onto graph paper onto Sheriff Pete’s desk. “At least three others got away.”
While Sheriff Pete tries to convince Officer Sweaty Pits to release his prisoner, I examine the two-by-four. Rough rope ties around either end to make a harness. Heavy rope. One foot at rest on the two-by-four flattens the growth while the other balances on the ground. A second man holds the tape at the centre of the circle. Acts like a human compass.
I exchange the rope for the blueprint. Nice. Symmetrical. Like in Mercant’s field.
Farmer Dan’s was different. Asymmetrical, but balanced.
Officer Sweaty Pits thrusts his considerable nose at me. “What’s this guy doin’ here?”
“This here’s Joey Schliemann. He’s here to investigate the crop circles.”
I wince. I much prefer “anomaly”. It’s the subtle difference between serious and sensational.
“Hey, I’ve seen you before, man,” Donohue Junior chimes in. “On TV. Dude! You’re the documentary dude. That show! What’s it called?”
“‘Pseudo, Not Science’,” I offer. Regrettably, one of my most lucrative and bothersome endeavors.
“You rock, dude!” Uncuffed at this point, he leaps out of his chair and offers me a knuckled fist. I respond in kind. He turns it into a secret handshake. My fingers go limp but maintain just enough body to play along.
“This is the man!” Donohue Junior tells Sheriff Pete and Officer Sweaty Pits as he sits. “His show? Gave me the idea.”
I’m not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed at the revelation.
“Okay, Warren, let’s start at the beginning, eh?” Sheriff Pete asks.
“I’m arrestin’ him for vandalism, boss.”
“Now hold on a second there, Rocky. Warren’s our local golden boy. He’s just graduated from university down there in Waterloo. Why’d a boy who studied Math want to go ahead and vandalize anythin’ for?”
“Vandalism,” Golden Boy snorts. This was getting good.
“Caught ‘em packin’ up after they’d vandalized Flannigan’s field. He and his buddies. Puttin’ their crop circles all over it.”
“One man’s vandalism is another man’s art.”
“Hush, Warren, okay? Now, if what Rocky’s sayin’ is true, ya could be in a whole lot of trouble here.”
“If I may?” I ask, jumping in on my own accord. “You’re the one who’s been making the anomalies in the fields?”
Hushed, Golden Boy nods.
“For God’s Sakes, Warren. Art Flannigan’s your great uncle. Why’d ya wanna go destroyin’ his wheat crop like that?”
“Come on, Petey,” Golden Boy whines. Sheriff Pete clears his throat and looks uncomfortable at Golden Boy’s familiarity. “You know as well as I do that no one ever gets out unless they do something to get noticed.”
“And ya think destruction of property’s the way to do it?”
Golden Boy hitches a thumb in my direction. “Got him here didn’t it?”
My shoulders shrug; lips form a thin smile.
“Somehow I don’t think Kingston Pen is what ya had in mind for gettin’ out,” says Sheriff Pete.
“You claim to have made all of the crop circles?” I ask Golden Boy.
“Mercant’s. And Flannigan’s. Can I have your autograph?”
“Daniel Corey? He’s got one too? No way, man!”
“Have you done others?”
“Now hold on a second there, Joey,” Sheriff Pete interrupts. “Ya don’t have to answer that, Warren. Not if it’s goin’ to incriminate ya.”
“I’ll mention you by name in my next book.”
“Three others.” Golden Boy lists them off.
“You got a map handy?” I ask Sheriff Pete.
A map depicting each anomaly hangs on the wall behind Sheriff Pete’s desk. He points it out.
Sheriff Pete finds one in a coffee mug on his desk. Hands it to me. I toss it at Golden Boy.
“Show me which ones are yours. Cross them off. Every one.”
Golden Boy looks at me apprehensive.
“With impunity,” I say.
Golden Boy looks at Sheriff Pete apprehensive.
Sheriff Pete nods.
Golden Boy goes to the map and exes out almost half. What remains forms an obvious north-north-east by south-south-west pattern.
Stake out time. I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance. I toss a coin. North by north-east it is.
Third day on my roost on the hill on the Crane farm. Managed to convince Farmer Crane’s wife not to bring me any more coffee after the first few hours of the first day. Best if I’m left alone. Watch says it’s well past midnight. Time to pack it in. Camera goes first. Still not mechanical. Hicksville, Ontario. Would think you’d have a hard time finding digital instead.
I’m zipping up my camera bag when something catches my eye. A light. Hovering. In and around the wheat stalks. Now two. Soon joined by a third. Flitting back and forth in scrutiny.
The lights disappear. Abruptly. All at once. Then, a bright flash. Lightning, I might believe, but then there they stand. Two figures. Tall. Draped in incandescent oyster they assume a face-to-face stance, arms forming a loose square. At once, they begin to sway to silent music.
Slowly move, quick box step, twirling round, open, turn. One-two-three, two-two-three. Shoulders rise. Fall again. Moving on a single plane, tall and completely poised. Triangular faces showcase ovular eyes. Smoky and luminous in celestial moonlight. Fabric ofdress gowns shine,twinkling in the night. One-two-three, two-two-three, weightlessly promenade. Steam buoys from wheat stalks forming nebulous mist. Feet barely skim farmland in a spiraling glide.
Floating. Hovering. Refined. Gently bending wheat stalks in their wake.
A uniform stop, audible pause in inaudible music. They disappear. Reappear. Relocate. Chests rise and fall in breath. Then begin again.
Up forward down, up forward down...
Round and round. Suspended above the crop. Lighter than air. In and about the existing circle.
Faster and faster. Ever graceful, elastic, elegant, then stop.
They pause, each holding the other, arms square. Shoulders rise and fall in breath on a single plain.
Lights flash from overhead. Multicoloured. Illuminating the wheat field. Visual applause from the audience overhead. Discernable silence joins the existing auditory lapse.
A bright flash and I’m alone amongst the wheat stalks. In the dark.
Daybreak irradiates the dawn; spotlights the anomaly in the field. One large circle dotted with seven smaller circles around its perimeter. Cookie-cut outs. Asymmetrical footprints left behind by the aliens as they danced their waltz bathed in moonlight’s silvery illume.
They came to tell the world, just because they could. They came to tell us they were alive; they came to help us; they came to share with us. They came, and then they left. And the future of the world was changed forever.
My name is Jones, and I’m an anthropologist. Please, don’t confuse me with that other Jones: I study the culture of living societies; he relished in the cultural objects of dead ones. I‘ve been pretty much all over this world and it’s true what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same. With each and every passing year, I realize that people are people are people. We all cherish our families, celebrate our triumphs, and mourn our losses; we all strive for greatness and wallow in the self-pity of defeat; we all are born, live, breathe, and bleed, and we all die. People are people are people. The one thing we have not yet learned to do is to respect other people while they are being...well...people.
In the whole history of the world, people have fought. People have killed other people over love, over hate, over religion, over a principle, no matter how pointless. Why, in my lifetime alone, I‘ve witnessed the Viet Nam War, the Gulf War, as well as countless other skirmishes in Bosnia and the Middle East. People never learn. And war’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let us not forget about what we’re doing to our planet—it’s a wonder we’ve even come this far; it’s a wonder they stuck around for as long as they did.