Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Short: Men in Black; The Drones

(I’d like to thank Jeff from Histories, Mysteries, and Strangeness who did a great post on the exciting news that one of our favorite shows “UFO Hunters” is coming back on for some special episodes including one on Men in Black. This phenomenon associated with UFO sightings gave me a great idea to do a short story based on one of my theories of Men in Black. Oh, and Jeff, I'm borrowing your first name. Hope you like your namesake.)

The eight people outside the diner in Midland, Texas studied the huge open sky above.

“I’m telling you, I saw something when I was drivin’ up.” Izzy Harkins pleaded.

“We’re not sayin’ we don’t believe you. It must be gone now.” The cook shrugged, his hands tucked into his pockets, his apron splattered with oil.

The waitresses and a couple of patrons came over and patted him on the back.

Just as they turned to go, the cook screamed out.

“Would ya look at that!”

They turned as one and studied the dark open sky. To the west a group of 5 lights moved slowly and steadily. They formed a triangular shape in the sky that was impressive in size. Each light was a bright white, but not glowing, more illuminated within as if not needed for viewing into the darkness. It was steady and smooth as it swept across the sky in a silent glide.

“Helicopters?” A waitress asked.

“There’s no noise.” The cook replied.

“Planes from the base in New Mexico?” Another asked.

“No noise.” The cook grumbled again.

“It’s one object.” Izzy noted. “Look at that.” He pointed. “It’s blocking out the stars.

As it came over the end of the street it was obviously one unit, each light bright but very condensed, the inner triangle shimmering slightly so that Jeff Mitchell could see glimmers of it coming in and out of his sight, as if it were somehow iridescent or slightly transparent.

“What the hell is it?” The cook backed up in fear as it moved steadily overhead now. The sense of something blocking out the starlight was very apparent. No one breathed or moved as they studied it, capturing in their memories every light, the speed, the height from the ground, the size of the structure.

That’s freakin’ enormous!

Jeff didn’t like this at all. He expected another slow Friday night, maybe his dinner break at the diner, hoping to capture Wendy’s attention as she waited his table with the same order he always got on Fridays. Instead, he was standing out on a chilly autumn night watching some freaky weird ass aircraft pass over his town. His town. At least, a cop liked to think it was his town when he invested his life, time, and patience protecting it.

“You wanna go check on that?” The cook snorted as it began to shrink into the distance, still taking a steady path.

As if coming to attention, Jeff rushed over to his car and jumped inside. He called in to the station about the object and its course and asked for someone to check with the bases about possible fly bys.

“I’ll get answers.” He assured the cook, but his eyes were on Wendy who was nibbling on her lip nervously as she studied him with large eyes. He wanted so much to comfort her, but the time for such things was later on. Right now, he needed to know what the hell that was and if it was coming back. Everything in his gut told him it wasn’t going to be answered easily.

There was no denying that was a UFO and those don’t get admitted to by the higher up’s in the government

Not getting answers from the office, he drove on down the highway heading east as if hoping to encounter it again, three hours after it had passed by. No one at the station saw it, but they did get a few stray calls. It seemed like only the lucky folks at the diner had caught a good lengthy glimpse at it.

And not a damned cell phone camera in the bunch of them.

He couldn’t blame them for freezing up their brains as it passed by. Admittedly, even though he was trained to react to threats, Jeff had just stared in stupefied awe and humbling respect as it glided silently overhead. It reminded him of his first time Trick-Or-Treating when the neighbor opened the door with a radiant smile and offered him free candy. He remembered feeling as if this wonder had been there all the time, but he hadn’t had the right conditions to witness it until he donned a costume on October 31st and knocked on a neighbor’s door.

He should have headed home after his shift, but he was too wired. Jeff cut down a back country road toward Odessa. He knew his grandfather would be up. The old man was a very early riser and always had been since his ranching days in New Mexico. Jeff sat in his car outside his grandfather’s home and wondered how to bring up the forbidden subject.

When he was growing up there was always a hush when anyone mentioned grandpa having ranched in New Mexico. He knew it had something to do with the Roswell incident, but he couldn’t brave asking him. He surmised by his mother diverting the conversation that they were all scared to ask him about it. Perhaps they were afraid of upsetting him or making him divulge something he swore to never tell, but even as a young child, Jeff sensed he was protecting grandpa by not speaking of the 1940s.

He had an experience he could share with the sharp old man and he was determined to do so. He might have been just turned 90, but the rascally man could drive his point across directly and with a good deal of wisdom. It was him that told Jeff to quit “pussy footing” around the waitress and “go for it.” He wryly reminded him he “wasn’t getting any younger” at 37.

Jeff forced himself to knock on the door and it swung open without warning.

“Well, boy!” His grandfather’s face lit up. He had a bowl in his hand and it perplexed Jeff to see if filled with cracked corn. “I’m heading out to the hen house, wanna come?” He chuckled, seeming to teeter on his tiptoes as he made his way across the hard packed ground.

Jeff had to admire the old man for refusing any assistance or any company out here halfway to Odessa. It was a lonely stretch, but that was how Grandpa liked it. He always said he was born on a ranch and would die on one. Although this ranch he’d worked since the 60s was now desolate, he still kept his chickens and a horse that he couldn’t ride.

“You’re here early. I’m assuming this isn’t about your mother fussing over my groceries and my meals and wantin’ you to poke around my pantry?”

That made Jeff chuckle. “No, Gramps. I wanted to talk to you about something I saw.” His grandpa leaned over, casting the seed to the hungry chickens as he began to spill the story.

“So, whatcha think it was?” The old man narrowed one milky blue eye at him.

“Well, sir, I don’t know.”

“And you think I would? I didn’t see it, boy.” He slapped him on the back and laughed into a coughing fit.

Jeff reached out wanting to help him walk, but then stopped himself. He’d hate that if his grandkid did that to him some day.

The elderly man stopped at the picnic table under the shade of a mesquite tree and sat down. “Well, I’m guessing you want to know about the 1940s and Roswell, huh? I knew one day someone’d get up the gumption to ask me about it. I didn’t think it’d be you cause you’re so practical.” He wheezed. “I thought it might be Betty. She was always all mystery and magic.” He smiled wistfully.

Yup, that was Jeff’s sister. She was 40 years old now but still filled with giggles and excitement about everything strange and unusual in the world, as if it still held mysteries. Jeff didn’t think it did. At least, not until last night.

“My ranch was, oh, I’d say 5 miles from the crash site. Louisa and I had just had the twins, your daddy and your Uncle Smitty.” He nodded. “I wouldn’t have even known about it, except some military boys came our way and started asking questions about what we saw and if they could check our spread for debris from a crashed plane, they called it.” He rolled his eyes.

While Jeff listened as the trained officer of the law that he was, his mind reeled with the details, the names, the places, and all the secrets his grandfather unfolded. He finally tore out his notebook from his breast pocket and began to take notes when his grandfather gave him permission assuring Jeff, “I’m much too old to intimidate.”

One week later, Jeff shifted in his seat, the question for him was, would this MUFON group find any merit in what a cop from the Texas panhandle had to contribute? He was past feeling embarrassed about admitting seeing a UFO. He was past admitting that he believed in men in black. It wasn’t a belief. It simply was…fact.

“…and so we’ll hear from Officer Jeff Mitchell.”

Hearing his own name startled Jeff, he came to attention and gathered his papers in his trembling hands at the table.

“Do I need to stand up?” He asked.

“No, you can stay seated.” The group leader smiled. The men at the round table were intently listening to him. Only in this field of investigation could a newbie be taken seriously. He appreciated that and suddenly he realized they were all swimming in the dark here trying to figure out what UFOs were and what they meant. He relaxed in his seat.

He cleared his throat. “My name is Jeff Mitchell.” He cleared his throat again. “I guess you know that.” He chuckled. The others smiled and he felt an immediate relief. Thank God he didn’t have to stand. He hated public speaking since those godawful oral reports in grade school.

“I’m from Midland Texas, Highway Patrol. On October 23, 2009, I and several other witnesses from Burt’s Diner on Side Street at 6:50 p.m. saw something moving in the sky from west to east at a steady and slow pace. I’d estimate about the speed of a hot air balloon.” He cleared his throat again and drank some water. He continued on his story of the sighting.

When he took another water break he broke into his explanation of his grandfather’s history and experience during Roswell and what he had learned from a lifelong friend who was part of the investigation into the alien spacecraft’s crash. His grandfather had remained friends with Mac McMahon since back in the Depression era when they were kids. They went their separate ways during WII, but stayed in touch. It wasn’t until the Roswell crash and military men coming to his ranch that soon after Mac came to his door and explained they would be pulling out. He seemed to probe his grandfather for someone he could trust and told him, “you can’t imagine the half of what’s going down. Nothing’ll ever be the same.” The man had said.

Decades later in the mid 60s, his grandfather came across Mac again when he was visiting family in New Mexico. It was over some beers at a local bar that he spilled his guts about what project he’d been involved with since that time. What he told Jeff’s grandfather was shocking and fascinating at the same time. Jeff admitted to the MUFON members that he was doubtful there was truth to it, that is, until he’d been visited by the infamous Men in Black himself.

“So, Mr. Mitchell, what is your take on these Men in Black? You say they came to your door and remained standing there writing down what you described?” One man read the form he’d filled out on the MUFON site.

He nodded briskly. “They were awkward and very generic. I’m trained to remember faces and they were so nondescript, I can’t tell you the color of their eyes or anything memorable about them. They wore standard black suits and dark shoes. They acted like twins, standing the same way, same tone of voice, same questions as if it were rehearsed. They were leaving when I asked if they had an email address I could contact them at. They just nodded and walked off. I got the feeling they had no idea what I was talking about.”

“What do you think these men black were?”

“You really want to know what I think?”

They nodded in unison.

“They’re drones.”

The group looked confused by his frank reply.

“How did you come to that conclusion?” One man asked.

“Well, it has to do with what Mac McMahon confessed. You see, his part in the cover up in the desert was minimal. He was there more as a figure for the younger soldiers to keep them adequately intimidated and pump them up with a sense of patriotism and greater purpose. When he was done there, he was stationed in Ohio. It was there in the 50s that his work began in earnest until the late 1960s when it was turned to overseers.”

“What was this job?”

“He was to train human facsimiles in the art of dressing, speaking, and managing their way in the world. These drones, as I like to call them, arrived as blank slates. They were taught to dress in suits and carry on a 1950s and 1960s professional appearance. This is something they still maintain today because, you see, they only do what they’re taught to do. They have no sense of image, appearance, superficiality, or the nuisances of human life. They can imitate, but only what their programmer has trained them for. They don’t learn from examples while in the world and amongst the people and the newer technologies. The reason they often times seem awkward and out of date, is because the program ceased in 1969 when Mac McMahon died. Without input from their programmed leader, they continued on and trained their own kind in methods that are vastly outdated with technology that is archaic by today’s standards. They can’t learn more. They have limited ability to do more than what they’ve had programmed in.”

One man cleared his throat. “If we’re to believe these men in black are actually some kind of robot…”

Jeff shook his head briskly. “No, not robots. They’re biologic. They’re simply guided by our DNA to appear like us but with a mind that’s programmed from the DNA of a trainable creature from another world. They have our bodies, they have the minds of an animal. They can only do what they can imitate and they only imitate from their leader. They’re drones.”

“And their purpose?”

Jeff leaned forward in his seat, arms resting on the table. All of this sounded insane coming from his mouth, but he had stepped into these waters and nothing he based his life on before could apply to this new man with new knowledge. He was beginning to understand the giddy realm of “born-again” Christians or new parents who realized the world was beyond them, something greater, something more purpose-driven.

“They’re here in cooperation with the alien race that crashed in Roswell. They were on the cusp of sending more ships and making landing parties to consider our purpose in the universe. We agreed to an alternative, a monitoring device of sorts. These drones were given to us, trained by us to blend into the population. Their purpose is to monitor humans’ reaction to UFO sightings. They rush to the site, question the people, record their responses, and report them back.”

“Why do you suppose they do this?”

“In preparation for eventual meeting with the alien race. Right now, they test our reactions, they monitor our responses, and they agree to the request of three major governments who had a hand in the pact.”

“What agreement?”

“To not make contact until man shows he’s ready, evolved enough, perhaps open-minded enough and less selfish and angry. It serves our world in that we have time to make adequate changes to prepare us for this eventuality and it serves the aliens in that they have the opportunity to observe mankind and his ability to adapt, perhaps his worthiness of survival. According to Mac McMahon in 1969, the last time he spoke to my grandfather, man was more like the creatures with whom the drones were given their thought processes. It will be a long time before there is contact, but the governments do what they can to try and form us into something more educated, more open-minded, and more diplomatic.”

The group went silent. “Well, Mr. Mitchell, that is an explanation that I never expected.”

“It has merit.” One man admitted.

The others began to speak in chattering excited voices as they contemplated the efficacy of his explanation.

Jeff listened to the men and women speaking about such things as interstellar travel, aliens, and men in black as all fact. He felt a pleasurable relief that he was no longer alone. These were the kind of people Mac McMahon spoke of, the ones who would change the world. The ones who would guide the way to make contact with a race that had no animosity, but also would not share their secrets with the fearful and those in denial.

Smiling, he listened to the animated conversations with pleasure. He’d started a storm all right. Perhaps it would spread beyond this regional meeting and on to other corners of the country and world because the time was coming…for contact.


  1. Oh, I'm honored to have inspired a story! I love the Men in Black topic, and a lot of the stories do have them behaving rather drone like. It's one of those things where you almost want to meet them, yet, you're scared of what might happen if you did meet them!

  2. This was wonderful also Autumnforest !!! I enjoyed Jeff's comment also -i loved the "drone" theory about them!! researchers (who are great btw -like John Keel and others have tried the extradimensional theory with them -but I think the drone theory makes a lot of sense also and loved how you worked it into a wonderful Halloween short!!!
    a little about my life -public speaking is the phobia that caused me to take my first drink -somewhere about October 1980 in high school- that was my sophomore year-and i sailed (more or less) thru my sophormore year thru senior year in high school and loved it -because I had found what I thought would be a "crutch" I could use the rest of my life to gain friends and not appear so damn nervous all the time!!!!
    well guess what 10 years and more after that first drink 1990 to 1993 were the most horrific and useless of my life because of drinking -my life revolved around drinking -i was with a lover who drank in 1993 and it only took the both of us two days to finish off one of those big 1.75 liter bottles of vodka!!!
    I blame myself for not helping him (and myself) as I had had previous exposure to AA -he is still a wonderful friend and lives in Wyoming-I pray he is no longer drinking!!!!
    I love your writing Autumnforest -I think after a bit -maybe after writing some horror only fiction -that you should go for it and write the "great American novel" in many different traditions from John Updike, Gore Vidal, Joyce Carol Oates, Erica Jong, the dude who wrote "The Cider House Rules" haha can never remember his name-I think with some of your life experiences it would be a beautiful-sad yes in some ways-but ultimately very happy as you show that people can survive horrors they go through growing up!!!!
    I think you'd do a great job -and hey horror is always my fave anyway haha so if you don't want to-its Ok :-)
    Izzy Harkins is a great Texas pseudo -you have the colloquialisms-damn is that spelled right? -down perfect haha my mom and dad knew a "Durwood Thigpen" growing up there no kidding-all the best to you my friend beautiful and thought provoking stuff!!!

  3. Hey Dev;
    I spent a few weeks in Midland one summer (would like to forget it). The best thing to do? Go to Odessa and watch the rodeo (I am so not the rodeo type--don't like people antagonizing creatures or chewing tobacco--ick).I did start a "great american novel" one time called "Watching a train wreck" about my experiences growing up, but people have trouble believing that all the drama that occurred in my family was real. Even I look at it and go "that's impossible plot-wise!" The story of my life (and my wellspring of wisdom) comes from being the baby of the family and watching all the people in my life self destruct. The compassion I've learned from being around people with sexual identity issues, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, other addictions, depression, suicides...I just really feel an enormous compassion for people in every stage of their evolution as a spiritual entity. I can't get mad at people for being where they are because tomorrow and the next day they'll be in a different place. It's like what you went through--you probably can't even imagine that lifestyle now. Like it was a different person. Every minute of every day we're reborn just a little. BTW My father was one of the leaders in the world in alcohol recovery programs. I grew up in an AA family with the serenity prayer on our wall and not a drop of alcohol in the house. Guess what? three of the five kids had alcohol/drug issues. I really get those moments of epiphany. I've seen others go through them. I went through my own with panic attacks back in 1990. I'm so very proud of you! You have transcended.