By Robert T. Jeschonek
By “they,” I mean aliens…the kind who creep into your bedroom at night and whisk you away to their ship for tests or just outright torture. The thought of it terrifies me: that I might be lying there, helpless yet conscious, as they take me away.
I’ll bet it scares you, too. Because it’s something that might just happen to any of us on any given night. If eyewitness reports are to be believed, it happens all the time.
Not to mention, we’ve seen it happen again and again on TV and in the movies. The alien abduction scene has been recreated so many times, it’s become ingrained in our collective consciousness. When it’s done right, there’s nothing scarier.
For me, the best and scariest version was in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Just thinking about the scene in which the aliens keep trying to get into the locked farmhouse so they can snatch the little boy inside sends shivers up my spine. No, really.
Long before that, there was the story of Barney and Betty Hill, who claimed to have been abducted while driving in rural New Hampshire in 1961. This story also made a huge impression on me. Decades later, in fact, when I was driving in rural New Hampshire myself one night, I thought I was doomed to repeat their experience. Rolling around a bend in the road, I saw the edge of an illuminated disk hanging above the darkened forest. White-knuckling the wheel, paralyzed with fear, I let the car drift the rest of the way around the bend…
…At which point, I saw that the edge of the disk was actually the upper edge of a hot air balloon sporting a Burger King ad. Out in the middle of nowhere, I kid you not.
So much for my big Close Encounter. But finding out that my flying saucer was just a big advertising balloon didn’t take away the fear. It’s still with me to this day…lucky for you.
Because my fear of abduction inspired “Chariots of the Godless,” my story for ReDeus: Native Lands. While brainstorming ideas for a story for Native Lands, I thought about things that are part of the quintessential American cultural landscape. Alien abduction quickly came to mind. The fascination with extraterrestrial encounters, from the Roswell incident to the Allagash Waterway abductions, is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our national imagination.
Would alien abductions still happen in post-Return America, in a country ruled by omni-powerful gods and roamed by mystically-attuned divine entities? Better yet, could the gods and divine entities themselves ever be the victims of abductions?
I loved the idea right off the bat. The thought of one of these godly powerhouses spirited away by alien beings, subjected to the same kind of terrified helplessness and violation as human abductees, seemed like new ground to cover. It felt fresh, like something I hadn’t seen before.
“Chariots of the Godless” took off from there. Along the way, it became an action-oriented tale, a race against time as the aliens carry off captive gods for mysterious, perhaps sinister, purposes. It also became an unlikely love story, as a relationship grows between human abduction expert Dr. Nessus and the justice goddess Mayet. Nessus and Mayet could not be more alien to each other, both in temperament and in terms of the worlds they come from…but they move past their fears and find strength in the very differences that fuel their alienation.
Maybe this will be our truest salvation when the aliens come to call: recognizing that our fears of abduction relate most directly to our fear of the unexpected, of the stranger who sneaks into our lives uninvited and changes us in some deep way. For the truth is, our fear is often misplaced; strange changes are not always bad and can lead us down unexplored roads we might never have dared travel if left to our own devices.
Though I, for one, will continue to watch for glowing disks hovering over the treeline when I drive through the woods at night. And if I glimpse strange lights outside my bedroom windows, I will hold my breath and pull the covers up just a little bit higher.
ReDeus: Native Lands is now available in digital and print formats.