by John Grant
I have always thought that people who claimed to have been
abducted by aliens were irrefutably nuts.
That was before something very like it happened to me.
"You're irrefutably nuts," said my good friend Dave Knuckle
when I told him what had happened. "Now let me get back to
reading this rivetingly good novel (John Grant's The Far-
Enough Window, available from all good bookstores and
www.bewrite.net, since you ask)."
"You're irrefutably nuts," said my good friend Dave Knuckle's
sister, Jean Marie Knuckle, when I told her what had happened to
me. "Kindly place your thumb in this mousetrap."
"I'm not that stupid," I told her.
"You're irrefutably nuts," said the guy in the emergency room
who was patching up my thumb when I told him what had happened to
me. "Who would want to be woken up in the middle of the night and
abducted by Britney Spears?"
"I didn't say it was Britney Spears," I protested. "I
said it looked a bit like her."
"You'd be better off watching less late-night C-MAX," he
As soon as I got home, pausing only to add C-MAX to my cable
package, I sat down here at the computer to write up my
experiences while they were still fresh and marketable.
Bear with me, dear reader, as I tell you how it all began on
a dark and stormy night . . .
It all began on what I think was a dark and stormy
night, only I'd had quite a few out of the magnum of Croatian
sweet sherry my landlord had left behind after he'd finished
unblocking the sink and so I may not be entirely reliable on this
score. Anyway, it certainly did begin.
At a guess it was 3am when I awoke, breathless, as if there
was a great weight on my chest. I opened my eyes, and saw that
there was an unearthly, eldritch blue illumination filling the
room, glinting off the curves of my Christina Aguilera Follies du
EuroDisney souvenir toothmug, which had fallen from my hand to
the floor sometime after I had drained it of sherry.
But that was not what filled my vision.
Instead it was, standing in the center of what would have
been a carpet had it not been for the cockroaches, Britney
"Britney!" I exclaimed, though my tongue like a burst inner
tube. "I knew that you were officially classified as passé, but
surely there's passé and . . . well . . ."
I waved around me at my room, a gesture somewhat marred by
the fact, as I discovered, that I had fallen asleep clutching in
my other hand my Stars 'n' Stripes undershorts.
"I am not Britney at all, you naughty boy," said the figure
with a nonchalant shrug. "Oops. Just when you think you've got
them both in at the same time . . ."
Not that I looked more closely, I could see that this
creature indeed was not Britney Spears. For one thing, her
flesh was pale green. For another . . .
"Oops, there goes the other."
. . . she didn't punctuate her speech with moronic
catchphrases from the Britney Spears Song Archive. Clearly, she
was an alien there was no other conclusion that fit all
the facts. But a remarkable humanoid alien . . . at least
so far as I could see, which was quite a long way right at the
"Whap-bonk-a-sploot, and in we go. There, I think I'm ready
now. I have come here, Alan Smithee, to take you to your leader."
"Er . . ." I said, "Um, don't you think you've got that a bit
wr . . .?"
"No." Her forehead wrinkled. "Ram-dam-a-bam-bam, but that's
exactly what I was supposed to say. I spent yesterday evening
learning it so I'd get it off just pat. Sploink-a-like-wow. I've
come to take you to your leader. You know. Alfie.
You may have seen him on television. He was ever so good. I
thought what he said about Saddam Hussein having developed a new
ballistic missile was ever so convincing, even though those silly
old fuddy-duddy CIA creeps and the commie pinko faggot weapons
inspectors said it was just an empty toothpaste tube."
"Oh," I said. Maybe this was just a dream.
"Whop-lo-figgle-spoon," added the alien. "Alfie's such an
intellectual such a sexy intellectual, if you know
what I mean. He says he admires my" she paused in thought
for a moment, searching for the right word "art.
And he's better in the sack than Rummy, even though he
does insist on reading passages from Leviticus the whole
time. Mind you, anyone's better in the . . . But I
digress. I've been told to take you to your leader."
She daintily averted her eyes as I clambered out of bed,
negotiated my way to the bathroom where I thought firmly of
higher mathematics and skydiving for an essential minute or two,
manoeuvred my way into my Stars 'n' Stripes undershorts
even though they'd not so much seen better days as seen better
weeks, they were the only pair that didn't run away when I tried
to pick them up and the rest of my clothes, and returned
to the bedroom.
"I'm ready," I said breathlessly.
"Whizzo-blat-spung-di-o," concurred the alien.
Outside there was a taxicab waiting. The street was otherwise
deserted except for an old guy with a beard who took one look at
us and another at the brown paper bag he was carrying.
"Isn't it a long ride from Manhattan to Washington?" I said
"This isn't just an ordinary taxicab," said the alien,
opening the door. A forty gigawatt waft of sound pinned my ears
to the side of my head. "It's all really alien and cool. You'll
see," murmured a telepathic voice inside my head.
Once we were inside and the doors double-padlocked "I
don't know why they make these things so easy to fall out of,"
muttered the alien the driver turned the in-car stereo
down low enough so that we could listen to Batman telling us to
keep our dentures fastened. The driver had green skin as well, so
he was obviously another alien.
"Could you please turn it right off?" I begged. "I think it
may be something to do with the grapes in Croatia but I've got a
really bad headache right now."
There was a prompt click, and blessed silence. As the driver
revved the engine I watched, fascinated, as his skin slowly
changed color until he looked exactly like a human being.
"Thanks. I been stuck in this cab for four hours now," he
explained, "and she wouldn't let me stop playing her greatest
"Not my greatest hits!" said the alien crossly. "They
just look like mine."
In moments the taxi was airborne, soaring above the streets
of Manhattan. With the Empire State Building to the left of us,
we rocked in the skies for a moment before streaking off
"Get your m*t*e*f*c*i*g ass outta my way, a*s*o*e!" came a
scream from the front seat. An owl turned and bolted.
"Verisimilitude," explained the driver in a more normal voice.
Anyone hearing that will think this is just a normal taxi, you
"Oh," said the alien.
Minutes later we were in the Oval Office. Behind a big
rectangular desk sat none other than . . . well, let's just say I
recognized a face from the covers of MAD Magazine. He was
deep in argument with a rather thin-faced man who was clutching a
sheaf of papers.
"Look, Mr President," said this latter, "I agree with
you that it's a good idea to say in your Address to the Nation
that you're better than Superman . . ."
"Well, why the f*c* are you arguin', then, Ari?"
". . . and I know that Superman goes faster than a
speeding bullet . . ." persevered the thin-faced man.
". . . but it's just that I don't think the best way to
express this, Mr President, is for you to say you're
faster than a speeding dum-dum."
"Well, I do, and I'm God, you hear me? Now get outta here
before I ask Sir John Ashcroft to come join us."
"Oh. Right. Yes. Anything you say."
The man fled, leaving a blizzard of discarded papers behind
Alfie turned towards us. "Ah, Britney, honey," he said with a
grin, "I'm glad to see you've got here safely. No, it's OK, just
leave it out. Oops, and that one too. And you must be Smithee?"
he added, turning his attention to me. "Come over here and sit
down, make yourself comfortable. I'd offer you a pretzel but I'm
not allowed any doctor's orders, you know. I just have one
little thing to do and I'll be with you."
He picked up a Mickey Mouse telephone. "I don't care if she
is Sister Wendy and was on live television three thousand
miles away at the time of the murder," he barked, "fry the
Alfie slammed the receiver down and turned back to us,
grinning infectiously. "I do so love dealing with appeals
for clemency," he said with a chuckle. "Now . . ."
"Pin-waddy-thlup," said the alien.
"What I am about to tell you, Smithee, is a matter of the
most profound National Security. You are not to breathe a word of
it to any other mortal being, you hear, on pain of . . . well,
you heard what I said to Ari about bringin' in Sir John?"
I gulped in terror. Minutes passed before I could speak
again, moments during which I realized that now I really
would have to wash my Stars 'n' Stripes undershorts. "It's
OK to write about it in my Crescent Blues column, though,
"Oh, sure," said Alfie affably. "Putting it in there's akin
to giving it a Double Top Security Code Red Commit Suicide Before
Reading security coding. I told Laura she could put it in one of
her poetry anthologies, too. Safe as houses. But aside from that
. . ."
"Good. Now listen to me . . ."
The tale he told me, dear reader, was a truly incredible one,
punctuated as it was by the alien's frequent all-in wrestling
matches with her T-shirt which, now that I noticed it, stayed
It seems that the US Government has known for centuries that
We Are Not Alone in the Universe. I don't mean just that there
have been a few stray radio signals from the far side of the
Magellanic Clouds, either. The whole place is utterly swarming
with intelligent alien civilizations. Everywhere you look. And
they just about all have faster-than-light space travel as well.
They've been visiting us. Talking with our political leaders.
Giving advanced technology to our scientists for the benefit of
the entire human species. How else do you think Nike and Reebok
worked out how to get those flashing lights into kids' shoes? Do
you really think a human being unaided could have invented the
valuable No-Holo-MioTM voting paper, whose efficacy was so well
demonstrated in randomly selected Florida test areas just a few
years back? Could any human mind have designed the S.U.V.?
"Roswell!" I whispered raptly.
"Er, nothing, Mr President. Please continue."
Just then another of the many phones on the great desk rang
shrilly. Alfie grabbed it up.
"God on Donald Duck!" he snapped.
He listened intently for a few moments. "OK, Tom, increase
the security-alert level to yellow. You're quite right. You can
tell Colin's an Al-Quaida operative just by looking at him.
Better take him out."
"Sorry about that," he said, smashing Donald back into his
cradle. "Now, where was I ...?"
Not unnaturally, Alfie explained to me and the alien, who for
some reason seemed entirely unperturbed, when faced with all of
these alien civilizations, none of whom are Christian and all of
whom may possess untapped oil resources, it is the moral duty of
the USA to bomb their planets flat. Oh, and it'd be a good idea
to give each and every one of any survivors the right to vote for
Alfie that's what democracy is all about.
However, there are logistical difficulties in such a worthy
enterprise, not least of them being the fact that "Heads
are gonna roll for this!" stealth bombers won't fly in the
interstellar vacuum and, even if they did, it'd take them about a
billion years to reach the nearest alien system.
But the resourcefulness and pluck of loyal freedom-lovers is
not so easily thwarted as all that, no sirree, because . . .
Yet another phone rang.
"God on Tweety-Pie. Oh. Right. Well, if Tone's pooped on the
carpet after reading the latest opinion polls, Cheri, just rub
his nose in it. Byeeee."
. . . because of literature.
"And this is where you come in, Alan. I am a great fan
of your novel Lots of Co-Eds in the Shower, which I've had
Laura read to me over and over, especially the bits about Junior
Rockets. I think you're the man for the job!"
"Oh, wow, like, Mr Prez! Me? I'm so . . . honored!
Like, gee! Er, why?"
Well, apparently all of these bigwigs in the upper echelons
of the Republican Party's Scientific Research Division
prop. Pat Robertson were diverted a couple of years ago
from their normal task of trying to prove creationism to study
the alien civilizations and search for any cultural weak point
they might have, any chink in their armor that might be exploited
for destabilization purposes. Once destabilized, they could be
bombed flat or "liberated with extreme prejudice", as
Alfie put it at leisure.
And those boffins have just found one!
Uniquely throughout the known universe, the human species has
invented fiction. No other advanced technological culture,
whatever its array of the creative arts, has ever discovered the
notion of making up stories. They have the written word, of
course; and most of them have books that are physically very
similar to ours except that, thanks to alien superscience,
they have mass-market paperbacks that never fall to bits when you
open them fully. But the contents of those books are entirely
factual: no novels, no short stories. The same for their movies,
which are all documentaries. The extraterrestrial cultures are
all mightily confused by our human habit of inventing fictions,
which they regard as akin to lying something almost
entirely unknown to them.
The opportunities for we Americans to destabilize their
dastardly regimes are obvious. What could be more disconcerting
for them than to be exposed to a torrent of novels? By the time,
baffled, they'd picked their way through the complete works of
Marcel Proust or Fyodor Dostoevsky, trying to sort out fact from
fiction, they'd be a culture in complete disarray, tottering,
weak, easy pickings for the stealth bombers that would by now
have reached them.
"But we have an even worse trick up our sleeves," confirmed
Alfie to me. "It's a dirty trick, but then when you're fighting a
dirty enemy it's OK to use dirty tricks. At least, that's what
God told me. Or I told myself, me being God an' all.
"Have you ever heard," he continued, "of xLibris? Trafford?
"Yes," I said smartly. "They all refused to publish my
groundbreaking literary work Lots of Co-Eds in the Shower.
Bastards. If it hadn't been for my being able to strike up a deal
direct with LightningSource the book would never have . . ."
"Precisely," said Alfie with an apple-pie grin. "And that was
what led Rummy who's a lot cleverer than he looks, well,
he'd have to be, stands to reason to hatch a Diabolical
"If bombarding the aliens with zillions of novels published
by orthodox publishers could destabilize entire civilizations,
bringing them to the verge of collapse, imagine what'd happen if
we shipped 'em the entire catalog of xLibris and iUniverse
I was too appalled to speak. My own novel had been turned
down by those companies because I'd insisted on using semi-
colons, sentences with verbs in them, and SpellCheck. I would
have humanitarian concerns about giving certain serial killers
more than one of those books, but shipping the entire catalog to
. . .?
The alien looked dumbfounded as well. She had an expression
on her face much as someone might have in one of her own
restaurants searching for, but unable to find, the salmonella in
the plateful of food just set in front of them.
"Diabolical," I whispered, "is le mot juste. When do
"Well, we need a pilot for the faster-than-light spaceship we
have just cooked up, the Spirit of Free Enron. We need
someone who'll take it to all those distant planets and drop on
each of them a multi-megatonne payload of unsold self-published
print-on-demand paperbacks. And, with your advanced knowledge of
literature, you've been recommended to me as the uniquely
Oh, Buffy, if you could only see me now, I thought.
You'd be sorry you never answered any of those tastefully
explicit e-mails I sent via your fansite . . .
"Mr Prez," I said coolly, "you've come to the right man."
For copyright reasons I cannot recount here, dear reader, the
full details of my adventures among the starways serving my
nation in the way I knew best the tv movie, starring Bruce
Willis as Alan Smithee and Jennifer Lopez as onboard assistant
(developed by the scriptwriter from the actuality, unfortunately
just my lifesize Buffy the Vampire Slayer Action Figurine, which
collapsed from incurable puncture somewhere near Aldebaran), will
shortly be screened by late-night C-MAX but I can assure
you that it was really, really exciting.
Looking back on it all, the strangest thing is that it all
took place within just a few hours. When those boffins said
"faster-than-light" they really meant it, because, thanks to
relativistic effects. when I woke up in the bed to which I'd been
returned by flying limo after getting home to Earth, it was just
the next morning. Indeed, I'd have been tempted to dismiss the
entire episode as a dream were it not for the fact that . . .
Yes, as a Highly Top Secret trophy for my service I now
proudly have, sitting on my mantelpiece for want of a
garden and a garden pond a conical-hatted Alfie statuette,
showing the great man cunningly disguised in a beard and
clutching what I've been assured is a fishing rod. If I had any
further doubts about this having been given to me by a grateful
nation they'd be dispelled by the stamp on the base, which says
Made in Taiwan.
Eat your heart out, Luke Skywalker!