April 05, 2023

The Space Alien (excerpt)

Chapter 1

The Flying Saucers

The flying saucers first appeared in the United States. Before long they were being observed all over the world. Although Japanese newspapers had published reports about their presence in Japan for some time now, their increasingly frequent visits around this time breathed new life into the story.

The large, round, saucer-shaped objects shot through the air at high speed and high altitude. More than a few people wondered if they were new surveillance aircraft launched by a foreign country. Others speculated that they came from a star somewhere in the galaxy to investigate conditions on Earth.

But most scoffed at such notions.

“A bunch of tall tales!” they exclaimed. “Sure, we could believe it if everyone in a major metropolis looked up and saw them. A couple of guys up in the mountains or out in the countryside—they’re just seeing things. Big meteors can appear saucer-shaped. And there are optical illusions like mirages. The headlights of a car driving up a steep road and flashing across the sky look like saucers. In any case, no strange aircraft like that exist anywhere. Where’s the hard proof? Where’s the evidence that one of those flying saucers ever landed on solid ground?”

Serious people didn’t give the subject any serious thought.

The flying saucers themselves ignored the gossip, appearing in country after country, and showing up more often in the skies over Japan, where observances had once been rare. Yet because so few witnessed these appearances, the larger number of people who hadn’t seen them questioned such accounts, even when printed in the newspapers.

As far as society was concerned, these “witnesses” had merely mistaken one thing for another.

And then came the day when a startling incident gave the doubters second thoughts and made the skeptics catch their breath. What sort of an incident was this? Before we get to that, let us introduce a young man by the name of Ichiro Hirano.

Ichiro Hirano was an elementary school student in the sixth grade. He lived in a sparsely populated area in the outskirts of Setagaya Ward in Tokyo. The house next door belonged to one Kitamura-san, a young man of twenty-five with a keen interest in the sciences. For the past month, Ichiro had taken to visiting him often. Ichiro liked science too, and was fascinated by Kitamura-san’s discourses on the subject.

Kitamura-san’s small house was a ramshackle structure with only three rooms. He lived with an aging, half-deaf housekeeper. Shelves stocked with dense science books filled the rooms, along with technical equipment like microscopes and telescopes. Ichiro loved observing the Moon and Mars through the telescope.

One day Ichiro asked him, “Kitamura-san, do you think flying saucers are real?”

Kitamura-san didn’t need to be asked twice. He launched into a detailed history of the flying saucer phenomenon, how UFOs had first been observed here and there in the United States and then here and there in many countries around the world.

After listing various theories held about flying saucers—similar to those laid out above—Kitamura-san concluded, “As for my own thoughts on the subject, I would refrain from making too much light of the gossip and rumors. Even if people are mistaken in what they are seeing, I find it no less intriguing that so many people in so many places would be equally mistaken about the same thing.”

It was human nature, he pointed out, to not believe everything at first sight.

“The acceptance of new inventions is no different. The airplane, for example. A century ago, no one had seen a human being fly. Long before that, though, many dreamed about being able to fly like a bird. Even during Japan’s Edo period, some people attached big, bird-like wings to their bodies and attempted to soar through the air. People called them crazy. Who could imagine such a ridiculous thing? It was a laughable idea.”

But who was laughing now?

“Nowadays, planes carrying fifty or sixty people can soar through the skies and circumnavigate the globe in two or three days. That’s why we shouldn’t be too quick to ridicule the idea of flying saucers. What is unimaginable to us may be perfectly commonplace to the inhabitants of another world.”

“The inhabitants of another world?” asked Ichiro, a wondrous look on his face.

“Other worlds beyond our own planet. There must be innumerable civilizations in the universe grander and more expansive than our own.”

Ichiro said, his face flushed, his heart pounding, “Oh, you mean like Mars? The aliens came here from Mars?”

“Maybe. And perhaps from a different star entirely. Either way, it is not unthinkable that beings elsewhere in the universe should come to investigate our planet.”

“That means there could be people from another world inside those flying saucers?”

“It is possible. But even unoccupied, the instruments and mechanisms could conduct the reconnaissance on their own. Consider the wireless aircraft we are building on this planet. There must be worlds orbiting other stars with far more advanced technology. An unmanned vehicle could be controlled remotely and sent to photograph conditions here on Earth.”

Listening to Kitamura-san speak aroused in Ichiro feelings of both trepidation and delight.

“What would beings from another star look like? Martians have lots of rubbery tentacles for legs. Like octopuses. Real scary monsters.”

“Ah, yes, the inventive stories of the British writer H.G. Wells. In fact, nobody knows what form they might take. Nobody knows if there are any living things on Mars. These flying saucers need not come only from Mars. More likely they are from bigger planets much farther away.”

“So creatures creepier than an octopus?”

“Who can say? Maybe those rubbery tentacles make them look like jellyfish. Maybe they look like clanking machines. And maybe they look just like us.”

“That sounds even scarier. What if you ran into a guy like that walking down the street?”

Kitamura-san chuckled. “I have no idea what I would do. But who’s to say we won’t cross paths one day? If there are aliens from outer space inside those flying saucers and one of those flying saucers lands somewhere on Earth—”

Kitamura-san fixed Ichiro in his gaze. Ichiro felt a shiver up his spine. For a moment, his vision blurred and Kitamura-san himself took on the form of a fantastic monster.

“What is it, Ichiro-kun? Why are you looking at me with a scary expression on your face?”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing.”

Nothing but his imagination. Kitamura-san grinned back at Ichiro in his usual calm and kindly manner.

Chapter 2

A Million Eyewitnesses

On a Saturday afternoon, two or so weeks after Kitamura-san and Ichiro had their conversation, Ichiro and his father went to a big theater near the Ginza shopping district in downtown Tokyo to see an animated movie. It was around five o’clock in the evening when the movie ended.

Not yet ready to call it a day, the two of them exited onto Ginza Avenue and made their way on foot toward Shinbashi Station. The store windows along Ginza Avenue were lit up. The neon signs glimmered. The night had not yet fallen. The electric lights and the sky above glowed with an equal brightness.

It was that bewitching hour of the dusk, when everything felt slightly off, when even people passing by on the sidewalk grew indistinct and faded into the shadows.

As on any evening, the Ginza shopping and entertainment district was thronged with pedestrian traffic. So as not to get lost in his thoughts and wander off on his own, Ichiro kept a tight grip on his father’s hand. But then he was struck by the overwhelming feeling that something unexpected was about to happen in the skies above. So he tore his gaze away from the store windows and looked up.

Undisturbed by even a wisp of wind, the clear skies appeared heavy and gray. Here and there a star twinkled in the twilight. Ichiro couldn’t help thinking about those flying saucers. What star, what different world so very far away, had sent them here?

“What’s the matter?” his father scolded and gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “Let’s pick up the pace.”

That’s when it happened. Ichiro started. His heart leapt into his throat. Was he seeing things? Directly above his head, shining with a pure white light, a round, saucer-like object shot across the high dome of the sky.

“What’s going on, Ichiro?” his father pressed. “What are you staring at?”

“Dad, look! There’s another one! Two of them. Three. No, four! And one over there. Five of those flying objects! Do you see them, Dad?”

Startled by this unexpected outburst from his son, Ichiro’s father turned his attention to the sky as well. It was all a blur until his eyes could find a point to focus on, but Ichiro kept saying, “There! There!” His father looked in the direction he was pointing and caught sight of the strange spectacle.

One, two, three, four, five of them, flat and round and shining with a silver light, shot over Ginza Avenue and flew off toward the west. Ichiro wasn’t imagining things. His father could see them too.

The father and son standing stock-still in the midst of the crowds thronging Ginza Avenue soon drew the attention of other pedestrians. First one, then two, then they all stopped and looked up.

“Balloons!” a boy yelped.

A young man shouted back, “Those aren’t balloons! Balloons wouldn’t shine that bright. Those are flying saucers. Flying saucers!”

His words ran like a wave through the crowds. People froze in their tracks and raised their eyes toward the sky. Movement along the Ginza ceased, as if thousands and tens of thousands of its inhabitants had suddenly turned to stone. A truly strange spectacle.

As drivers and riders noticed what was going on around them, automobiles and bicycles stopped as well. Such was the uproar that even the trams and trains ground to a halt.

Except not all of the pedestrians had seen the flying saucers. In the time it took to call out, “Where? Where?” the five silver saucers crossed the Ginza skyline and disappeared from view.

“There! There!” came the responding cry, as people rushed toward Sukiyabashi Crossing and Hibiya Street like a surging tide. But human beings on foot couldn’t keep pace with the flying vehicles. The fleetest of foot among them soon lost sight of the saucers.

Then they noticed the dark silhouettes dotting the rooftops along Ginza Avenue, where store employees and customers had gathered, trying to figure out where the flying saucers went. The pedestrians clambered up to the rooftops to stand with them. But flying like arrows shot from a strong bow, the saucers were already gone.

“Phone the papers! Send a plane after them!”

There was no need to call the press. Reporters were already on the story, crowding around the counter telephones inside the stores and shops. In fact, it soon seemed as if the entire press corps had perched atop the roofs of the newspaper offices in Yurakucho, shouting and scanning the skies. Quick-witted photojournalists aimed their cameras in the direction of the flying saucers as they flew away.

Of course, their editors thought of sending up chase planes too and reached for their phones to make arrangements. But they soon abandoned the effort, realizing that in the time it’d take to ready a plane for takeoff, the saucers would be another ten miles away.

A better idea was to phone their news bureaus in locations where the saucers were headed. Leapfrogging from one bureau to the next, they planned to thus discern the whereabouts of the saucers. The police had the same idea, and called ahead to set up an air cordon and pin down the coordinates of the mysterious aircraft.

Ichiro and his father stood there in a daze, observing such a commotion that the Ginza had never experienced before. But just standing there accomplished nothing, so they boarded the train at Shinbashi Station and returned to their home in Setagaya.

On the train platform and in the train, the talk around them was about nothing but the flying saucers.

“They’re spy planes from a hostile nation. Another war is right around the corner.”

Such rumors and speculations were par for the course. Any theory the imagination could concoct was treated as the cold hard truth, except nobody opined that the saucers might be emissaries from a distant star.

They’ve all got it wrong, Ichiro thought a bit smugly. Nobody knows what’s really going on but me.

When the train arrived in Setagaya, a crowd had already gathered around the radio store in front of the station, listening to a broadcast about the flying saucers. According to the news reports, the five jellyfish-shaped saucers arrived from the direction of Tokyo Bay, flew over the Ginza, crossed through the skies of Toranomon, Aoyama, and Meiji Jingu into Setagaya Ward, and from there followed the Koshu Highway towards Hachioji.

The reports said that, as in the Ginza, every town along the route was thrown into an uproar.

That night, every radio in every house in the city remained on in anticipation of the next update. The next morning, newspapers flew off the stands as readers devoured every story about the saucers. Papers devoted their entire local sections to the subject, along with photographs and artists’ renderings. Alas, such was the altitude of the unidentified flying objects that photographs captured them only as five indistinct dots.

The papers published the thoughts of astronomers and university professors. The “experts” prattled on about the history of the flying saucer phenomenon and what their American counterparts had to say on the subject. None of them ventured forth with their own opinions.

So where had the saucers gone? On that matter, the newspaper and radio reports proved anticlimactic. They’d flown for sure over Setagaya Ward, but after that, the darkening skies made them impossible to see. Hachioji was the biggest city in the area. The police and newspaper reporters had camped out there, ready and waiting.

But the flying saucers never arrived. Based on their speed, they should have appeared over Hachioji at twilight. They never showed up. They simply disappeared.

Unlike in the United States and other countries, this time as many as a million people in the Tokyo metropolis had seen them. Hardly unfounded rumors or tall tales. A million people weren’t simply “seeing things.”

Nevertheless, no one had the slightest idea where the silver jellyfish-like saucers had gone. The newspaper articles and radio broadcasts speculated wildly. After passing over Setagaya, the saucers might have climbed to a high altitude and disappeared from sight. Or passed out of view over the fields and mountains and turned back to the Pacific Ocean. Or flew over Honshu altogether towards the Japan Sea.

All anybody knew was that one of these options had to be true.

Except every single one of them was wrong. In the evening papers the following day came astonishing news that rocked the whole country back on its heels.

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