My novel “Escarpment” begins with these lines:
“…The events described in these pages could not possibly have happened as recorded here, although they did happen exactly as I have written them…”
Although many of the episodes in that book are based on incidents told to me by people who have Second Sight (the gift – or curse – of extrasensory perception) “Escarpment” is essentially a work of fiction.
So I guess that in the book’s opening I lied. Here, I don’t lie.
Kamishinden is part of the sprawling bed-town suburbia in the north part of Osaka city. It lies in a basin adjacent to a busy expressway. It used to be a bamboo forest and is still dotted with clumps of tall bamboo that sway and rustle in the wind.
I worked in Osaka’s commercial district, commuting by subway. It was just a forty-minute ride to Senri-chuo, my station at the end of the line. From there, a fifteen minute walk – out of the station complex, over the expressway and down into the Kamishinden basin – to where I lived with my wife and young daughters. The way was a winding path between high apartment buildings.
My own apartment was on the third (and top) floor of a small building. When the path made a final turn to the left, I could see it up ahead. Immediately behind it, rises up a hillside covered with foliage and undergrowth. On top of this, there is a golf-practice range, the high netting standing out against the sky.
I was making my way home, the time around nine o’clock at night. Behind me, I could hear another man wending his way home, too.
I often enjoyed a few drinks with colleagues after work, but that evening I had come straight home. I feel it important to point out that I was completely sober.
It was a clear, cold winter night. Because it was winter, the sky was dominated by the constellation Orion, which seemed to fill the sky above the netting of the golf-practice range. I looked at it as I walked; then my eyes followed the direction of Orion’s Belt to the south-west, coming to rest on The Pleiades, the misty cluster of stars also called The Seven Sisters.
As I stared at that curious little cloud of stars low down in the night sky, the stardust that fills the cluster began to stir. To move, then to roil; finally, to expand.
I stopped in my tracks. The man who was walking behind me must have stopped to stare at it, too, because I have no recollection of his passing me.
Within moments, the stardust grew into a cloud much bigger than The Pleiades, so big that it blotted out that constellation entirely. I was mesmerized, rooted to the spot, watching an object move soundlessly out of the stardust.
It was composed of three parallel, long and narrow rectangles, each one flush to the other, as though welded. The texture was metallic, the color lead. Their appearance made me think of some kind of undercarriage.
There was no sound as it moved through the sky from the cloud of stardust, in a south-westerly direction, passing high above my left shoulder. How high it was, I couldn’t estimate. Nor could I judge its size, although it seemed to be very big.
I have always regretted what I did next.
Instead of continuing to watch it and communicate with the man standing just behind me, I let myself become overwhelmed by excitement. I bolted to my apartment building, thinking I would be able to track the object’s progress better from my third-floor veranda.
My wife was cutting vegetables at the kitchen sink. I still remember rushing past her, shouting, “I’ve seen a UFO! I’ve seen a UFO!” I still remember her expression; it said, “Idiot.”
Of course, there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary in the sky to see by then. And I never bumped into the man who had been behind me so I couldn’t verify what we had seen.
Or hadn’t seen. Or had dreamed, or hallucinated.