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“Come on! I need to show you something. You’re not going to believe it. It’s the proof we’ve been waiting for.”

The urgency in Stanley’s voice is undeniable. The lure of the couch and the video game is strong. The call to adventure is stronger.

“Let me tell my mom.”

Albert picks up his phone. “Hey, Siri. Text my mom. I’m going on a bike ride. Be home for dinner.”

The boys are off. They head out the front door and hop on their bikes, ride down the driveway, and zip through the neighborhood. Stanley takes Albert to the edge of the development, to the place where organized conformity hits the untamed wilderness of the woods on the other side of the wall.

There’s a hole that goes under the wall. It’s been there for a while, and it’s just the right size for a 9 year-old boy to slither through. The boys didn’t dig it themselves, but they sure do maintain it. They keep it hidden so that it doesn’t get filled in by the “friendly” volunteers on the Neighborhood Standards and Practices Committee.

They dust off the spiderwebs that build up and gently re-home any insects or animals that might want to make their bed there. This hole is a gateway to freedom, and they will not let anything get in the way of that.

The ritual is familiar.

The boys conceal their bikes, camouflaging them to blend into the wall. Then, they remove the cover from the hole.

“Cover me,” whispers Stanley.

“All clear,” responds Albert.

One boy crawls through. Then the other. Albert pulls the rope that guides their makeshift door shut behind them. They are free. The woods are alive with sounds, smells, and forbidden sensations. They walk together in companionable silence, anticipation building.

They come here frequently enough that everything feels familiar. It’s hard enough to get to that it always feels forbidden, and the excitement that comes with sneaking around and getting away with it has yet to fade. It’s intoxicating and too much to expect a growing boy to be able to resist.

They reach a clearing, and there it is: silver and dented, with black scorch marks that indicate that it was coming in hot. Its saucer shape is about as cliché as it gets. And yet. This is the real deal.

It’s an alien spacecraft, and it crashed in their woods.

The boys circle around it a couple of times, trying to get a handle on the situation before they make a move. They’re looking at this problem from every angle, waiting for a sign, a crack, an opening, anything.

“It looks broken to me,” declares Albert, his disappointment palpable.

Those are the words. The words are the key and he found them on his first try. The door opens smoothly and silently, as if to prove to Albert how not broken they actually are.

“It looks broken to me, but it’s not.”

The boys exchange a look. The kind that says We’re going in.

Usually they would hesitate. They’re good boys, after all. They’re the type that have a secret door to a forbidden wood, but not the type to engage in reckless behavior. Did you see how meticulous they were getting in here? They’re the only 9 year-olds who have ritualized the practice of safety and caution.

Now they are looking at proof that the rumors are true. The unfamiliar lights blinking in the night sky lately? Everyone always wants it to be aliens, but it’s never aliens. And yet. This time it is: It’s aliens.

The door is open. The boys are ready. Stanley goes first because the grounded UFO was his find. “Cover me.”

“All clear.” Albert follows close behind.

The door closes behind them and everything fades to black.

The program has completed its purpose.

The boys had no way of knowing that this moment had been 642.5 years in the making. That’s how long it takes the light of an exploding star, the one we call Betelgeuse, traveling at 186,282 miles per second through the vacuum of space, to reach Earth. You see, at the exact moment that Albert spoke those magic words and the craft’s door opened for him, the light of Betelegeuse’s supernova explosion took its place in Earth’s sky. It was subtle at first, kind of like how you can see the waning moon in the daytime. You can see it if you’re looking but you wouldn’t notice it if you’re not paying attention.

It wasn’t that big of a deal anyway.

The supernova shining in the daytime sky was overshadowed by the swarms of those silver flying saucers that were suddenly surrounding this planet. Their star exploded 642.5 Earth years ago, rendering their home planet (they called it Planet in their language) uninhabitable. The aliens hopped in their spacecrafts, and started the next phase of their evolution as homeless wanderers, searching for other forms of intelligent life in the universe.

The downed saucer that Stanley and Albert found was a scout sent out ahead of the others. It was programmed with one purpose: to find intelligent life that wanted to be found. You see, it was the strength of the wish of these two boys, the wish to find intelligent life outside of Earth, that drew these aliens straight to us.

Two wishes, driven by the desire to not be alone in all of this emptiness any longer, traveling through space at the speed of thought, managed to connect with each other. Two intelligences separated by time, space, and improbility found a way.

It’s a miracle of synchronicity, a tribute to the power of a genuine wish coming from the purest heart to overcome any obstacle and to make the impossible very, very real.

Unfortunately, this moment of intergalactic connection, this meeting of the minds of alien species, this definitive proof that we are not alone, was incredibly short lived. The people of the flying saucers take one look at our planet and they all agree.

“It looks broken to me.”

“It looks broken to me.”

“It looks broken to me, too.”

A consensus is reached. The planet is broken and therefore this form of intelligence cannot be that intelligent after all.

Away they flew, never to be seen again.

Jennifer Racusin

Jennifer Racusin is a writer with a runaway imagination, an artist making huge bird puppets, and a teacher teaching the future how to think.

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