08 April 2010

What I {Got Someone Else To Do} Today

So this past weekend/week has been insane.

I want to tell you all about it.

But I am exausted.

So I got someone else to write for me.

My friend James Futch.  I've mentioned him before.

He has kindly offered his services. 

 If only this guy had a little more imagination...

My name is James Futch, and I’ll be your guest blogger today.  Ms. Rachel is on spring break.

            As some of you may or may not know (it doesn’t matter), I am an event videographer.  I record all sorts of “once in a lifetime” events for posterity.  Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, even the occasional funeral.  Given the climate of the South, many of these events are outdoors.  I oftimes find myself behind a gleaming tripod, sun beating down on the back of my neck.  Sometimes, as couples are exchanging vows and rings, I risk a look skyward.

            And remember.

            A summer some years back when I first got into videography.  And the true reason why.
            I was an avid runner in those days.  I loved all types of terrain, but mostly I ran the wooded perimeter of Fort Gillem, an outmoded military depot in south Atlanta.


 The route was roughly 8 miles.  This included the cutthrough to the center of the base, where I finished my run with a full tilt boogie across an abandoned air strip.


These daily jaunts were a time of solitude and reflection.
It was July.  Hot.  The run was like any other, except that during a lonesome stretch of road, I glanced to my left and saw that a bunny rabbit was loping along the opposite side of the high barbed wire fence that encircled the entire depot.


 The bunny hopped gracefully, and to my astonishment, it seemed to be pacing itself to my running speed. A slightly smaller bunny rabbit materialized from the dense woods and joined the weird procession of runners.  Every now and again, they would glance at me with panicked expressions as if trying to warn me of impending doom.  They ran alongside me that way for a several minutes, arm’s distance to my left (and on the other side of the fence) and then hopped away into the dense undergrowth.

I looked at my Rolex GMT Master and saw I’d lost track of the time, as well as passing the usual cut-through to the airstrip.  It was dusk when I reached it, the sun no more than an orange smear over the treeline.  As usual, the endorphins were surging by then and I was ready for my rocket blast across the flat half mile of tarmac.  I pumped forward and then –
            I saw it.
            It hung there just over the treeline at the end of the strip – a pulsating orange ball that I first mistook for the sun.  The sky darkening around me told me it wasn’t.  All traces of the real sun were rapidly disappearing behind the trees.
            “What the?”
             My legs, still jiving and thrumming from the run, moved forward on their own accord, a stumbling robot walk.  Closer to whatever that thing was that hung over the trees like a burning jack-o-lantern.

             Had I run across this strange phenomenon today, I would simply have fired up the video application on my iPhone and then I would have fled home to examine the evidence.  But this was back in the misty 70’s, long before such sorcerer’s toys existed.
I would have to return with a bulky 8mm camera in tow – one that I just happened to have in the trunk of my car.
Although I’d had the camera for some time, I hadn’t really used it.  Was, in fact, planning to take it to a pawn shop after my run, which is the reason it was conveniently in my car.

I’d acquired the camera from my downstairs neighbor.  She’d lost her job and sold it to me for a few hundred bucks to cover the rent.  I planned to use the camera to make a video diary of my life and times, but those very things got in the way I forgot all about it.  Now suddenly, I had a reason to utilize the gadget.
I stopped the forward advance of my autopilot feet and reversed, reluctant to take my eyes off the craft (there, I said it – doesn’t sound so wacky after all).  Because I knew then that what I was seeing was nothing of this earth.  Nor was it natural.
 I ran to my car which I’d left in the parking lot of the old post exchange.  Within minutes I was back, with the 8mm.  The orange ball was still there, hovering like a miniature dying sun.
“Gotcha” I said, as I secured the camera to the tripod and began rolling tape.  Quite possibly, this was the first time I felt the satisfaction of videography, a feeling I would experience time and again.  The timecode ticked off in the camera display as I zoomed in and out in an attempt to give perspective to what I was recording.  I played with various settings to get the clearest resolution.  I became so engrossed in the filming (as I would later on at many a wedding) that I failed to notice the thing was getting gradually closer.  Soon, it was no longer in my viewfinder.  It was directly over me.  I looked up as the first shaft of white hot light shot out from the base of the craft.  My tripod and camera broke gravity and were sent spinning upward.  The light grew brighter and I felt the heels of my Nikes rise up from the tarmac.  My head jerked back as I was lifted from the ground by the force of the tractor beam.  Once its grip had been asserted, it was too late.  I rose upward, a writhing, screaming worm on the end of an invisible hook.

Then I fainted.

How long I was unconscious I do not know.  Hours perhaps.  When I finally woke up, I thought, I’m being born. 
I was laying on my back.  Bright light.  The source of it was somewhere behind the backlit silhouettes of several vaguely human heads peering down at me.
I tried to rub my eyes and realized my hands were restrained by my sides.  My feet were also bound.  I wiggled them against fleshy bonds that felt like lengths of intestine.  My eyes were adjusting and I began to discern the facial features on the gourdlike heads hovering over.  No doubt about it.  Anybody who’s ever watched X-Files or read Whitley Streiber’s Communion knows a Grey when he sees one.
That’s what these creatures were.
We’ve all heard the tales, the hoaxes, and the UFO mythology that burgeoned in the late ‘70s (when this took place) and then saw another revival in popular culture in the ‘90s, with such hits as Independence Day and E.T.


But whereas those cuddly celluloid aliens were fiction, these were quite real.  The unreality of it at the time, however, had me reduced to a state of shocked speechlessness.
As it turned out, speech was unnecessary.
I could feel them, reaching into my brain, probing around for vital statistics.  No secret was safe.  I squirmed as they invaded the darkest corners of my mind’s attic, turning over private artifacts and tossing them aside with psychic indifference.  Here was the time I got caught cheating at the church Easter egg hunt.  And here, a shameful memory of the time I aimed a BB gun at a bird, and hit it.  Just beyond that, in a box that the aliens pried open with idiot determination, was the love that I held on to for a girl I once knew.  They turned it up over end and scattered it like ashes (it took weeks of subsequent psychiatric analysis to get things organized again).
When they’d finished ransacking my mind, the questions began.
They intoned them, into my head.
They heard the answers before I could formulate them into speech.
“What do you want from me?” I pushed the question forth.

 One of the aliens glided to the front of the gathering.  He/it answered.
“For eons we’ve studied your piddling race.  We’ve mocked you from the stars as you continue your weak attempts at survival.  And we’ve studied you.  I see by your thoughts you are well aware of our doings, n’est-ce pas?  In the last centuries we’ve had many dealings with your government heads, beginning in the 1950’s, during what you know as ‘The Roswell Incident.’  The bartering of alien technology for human specimens is a long held tradition of your current governments.”
“You mean Velcro and microprocessors and blacklights – that’s all you guys?  In exchange for –”
The alien cut me off.  “In exchange for a few pieces of poor white trash that nobody would believe if and when they were returned.”
“But why return them in the first place?  Wouldn’t that arouse more suspicion,” I thought.
“There were reasons,” defended the alien.  “In most cases, they were sent back with implants to monitor behavior and movement.  Also, we could control certain individuals at the request of your government.”

To do what, I wondered.

“To cull the population.  Mass murderers, bombers, dictators, all controlled by us at the behest of your governments.  This worked out fine during the 1960’s but in the next few years, most of the returned abductees developed aggressive cancer in the sites of the implants, killing the ‘tee and rendering the implant useless. That’s where you come in.  You are going to help us further our studies.”
The tone of his thought suggested I didn’t have a choice.
"We need to know more.  Beyond what even the new non-carcinogenic implants are able to tell us.  You will dispense with the crude video apparatus we brought up with you.  You will buy better equipment and take to the field.  You will get fitted for a tux and you will purchase it.”
I “listened” as they mentally filled me in on my assignment.

I think about this sometimes when it is dusk at an outdoor wedding and the horizon is that queasy smear of bloody orange.  Everyone is focused on the bride and groom.  And why not?  We’re all there witnessing a ritual as old as mankind – the coming together of two…to become one.  It’s just lovely.  A mystery.  Like the tears that appear on my cheeks when I realize that every frame I record is a betrayal to my fellow earthlings. 

The viewfinder says RECORD and the implant in my hip tells me to get a closer view (the aliens cleverly hid the scar behind a crude tattoo of a heart, of all things). None of the friends or family members notice the tremor in my hands as I turn the zoom ring.  They all think I’m doing my job.  And I am.

Just like the aliens told me to.

Post Script - Have I mentioned that James is also a published writer?  This means he gets paid to write things and people pay for things he writes! Boggles my mind.

He co-wrote this.
and this.
and this.
and this.
and he's currently working on one about these.

And think, you just read all that for free! Don't you feel lucky?

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