Aphelion Issue 255, Volume 24
October 2020
 
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Boianai

by Martin Westlake




‘…nothing can be more fantastic than a natural phenomenon not yet recognised and classified by the human mind.’ Jacques Vallee, Anatomy of a Phenomenon, Neville Spearman Ltd., 1966

 

Morgan hated the Badlands detail. She’d never had a crew that hadn’t complained. Days away from the seabed. The ancient Kerimov craft, with their primitive drive unit, unreliable nav systems, claustrophobic quarters and stale air. The pointless, fruitless wandering over igneous rock and vast tracts of devastation. She knew the logic. If we don’t patrol it, then we can’t claim it’s ours. But what was the point of claiming something that was largely, if not completely, uninhabitable and would remain so for thousands of years to come? Sometimes, they’d detect the Others, doing exactly the same thing on their side, and then she felt sorry for whoever was captaining their ship – for it must be the same for them. Boredom. Stale air and boredom. And no chance of engaging, no chance of excitement; the Kerimovs were – deliberately – unarmed (since both sides were agreed that the poor old Earth should be left to recover) and, since only the first generations of craft were sent on the terrestrial detail – protected with only the flimsiest of shields. The later generations were all sent up into space, where being armed and being well-defended actually mattered. But if Morgan wanted to get up there – and she did – then she would just have to grit her teeth and complete the quota down here set for her by some chinless wonder down in the main hex.

There were rumours of survivors, of small colonies existing in less-radiated pockets, but none had ever been found on their side of the frontier and nobody knew whether the Others’ rumoured discoveries were simply propaganda. Still, apart from the prospect of an occasional distant encounter with one of their craft, there was nothing else that a Kerimov captain could hold out as a source of motivation. And not a single crew member, in Morgan’s experience, had ever been enthused by such a prospect.

They’d been out on this detail now for five days. The navigator, a dour Yankee called Dow, had growled in disgust when he saw the craft.

‘She’s a scrap heap,’ he said. ‘Navigation system’s notorious. We’d do better with a compass.’

‘Don’t talk like that in front of her,’ said Morgan.

The engineer, Mundindi, a young Congolese with a bright future clearly ahead of him, shared Dow’s disgust.

‘This lady should have been retired a long time ago,’ he said, as he clambered aboard.

The fourth crew member, Doc Garcia, said nothing but theatrically dragged his medical kit on to the ship and made a great show of grimly stowing it under his bunk.

That’s how ancient this particular Kerimov was, thought Morgan; there wasn’t even enough room for the Doc’s kit.

Almost from the off, there had been problems. One day out, Mundindi reported an aberration in the drive chamber and had spent most of the following four days coaxing the torus. Dow, meanwhile, was convinced the nav system had been wrongly calibrated before they had left.

‘They probably did it deliberately,’ Morgan jibed, ‘to give you something to complain about.’

The Doc, being the Doc, had spent most of the five days with his head in a learning module. She couldn’t blame him. There was nothing else for him to do. Sometimes, she wondered if the people back in the main hex had ever been in one of these ancient, creaking craft; ever breathed in the ever-more stale air; ever experienced the sheer boredom of travelling back and forth on pre-set courses across what remained of the ancient world.

And then, as they gazed at their consoles and Garcia’s mouth beneath his visor silently voiced his lesson, the craft suddenly and violently shuddered.

‘The torus!’ Mundindi shouted. ‘I’ve got nothing.’

‘Nav all down,’ Dow cried.

Morgan shook the Doc’s shoulder. His mouth scowled impatiently as he stopped his course and took off his visor.

‘Something up?’ he asked.

‘We’ve got a problem with the ship,’ said Morgan, ‘– maybe a big one.’

‘Oh, good,’ said the Doc. ‘Why am I not surprised? Give me a call when I can do something.’

The craft shuddered again – more violently this time.

‘I told you we should never have come out in this pile of …’ Dow shouted.

‘Do you know what’s up?’ Morgan asked Mundindi.

‘The plasma’s all over the place,’ said the engineer, studying the data screen before him. ‘There was a massive surge and now the power is well down.’

‘How big?’ said Morgan.

‘Big enough to bugger the nav system,’ said Dow.

Morgan scanned the data and frowned.

‘We’re falling,’ she said. ‘Can you swim, Doc?’

Garcia grinned. ‘I think I’ll go back to my studies,’ he said. ‘The excitement is killing me.’

The cool bastard, thought Morgan, as the Doc put his visor back on. Of course, the craft would probably float if it hit the water, but still…

‘I’m getting something now,’ said Mundindi, sweat beading his brow. ‘We should be able to put her into a hover, at least.’

‘Do your best, Mundi,’ said Morgan. ‘Any change, Dow?’

‘The system’s back, Captain – at least, for the time being.’

‘So, where are we now?’

‘Old Papua New Guinea. We’re over water. You won’t believe this, Captain.’

‘Try me.’

‘We’re hovering over Goodenough Bay.’

‘If anybody tries to make a pathetic joke about that I’ll have them clapped in irons.’

‘That’s fair enough, Captain,’ said Dow.

‘Ha, ha,’ said Morgan.

She and Dow watched on as Mundindi fussed with his controls. There was a very faint, persistent humming noise now – uncharacteristic of a drive system which, until then, had been silent.

‘What do you think, Mundi?’

‘Honestly, Captain?’

‘Honestly.’

‘I think we’re going to have to send out a distress signal.’

‘You’re joking.’

Mundindi shook his head.

‘Sorry, Captain, but there’s nothing I can do. The hex really shouldn’t have sent us out in such a pile of junk. It’s just crazy.’

‘I knew it,’ said Dow.

Morgan looked at her data. A distress signal. How embarrassing. But they’d have to do something soon. If the Others saw them hovering for any length of time, then…

‘All right, Dow,’ she said. ‘Send it out.’

The navigator turned back to his console, no doubt happy to have something to do at last. And then he frowned.

‘I can’t, Captain,’ he said. ‘It’s not working properly.’

Morgan cursed.

‘What’s the problem?’

‘The beam is erratic. It’s switching off and on.’

‘Mundi? Is this a problem with the software?’

‘I’m not registering any problem with the software, Captain.’

‘Could it be physical damage?’

‘That second tremor was pretty violent but normally…’

‘Normally, we shouldn’t be out in this trash can,’ said Dow.

Morgan ran through the options.

‘OK,’ she said. ‘We need a visual. Somebody needs to get suited up, please.’

‘Sure, Captain. But are you certain about the suit?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Look at the data, Captain. That’s air out there. What people used to call “fresh air”.’

‘Do we trust the monitors?’

‘They all say the same thing, Captain.’

‘Radiation level?’

‘Extraordinarily low.’

‘Mmm…,’ said Morgan, ‘we may just have stumbled across one of those pockets the Others have been discovering.’

She shook Garcia’s shoulder and explained the situation.

‘How exciting,’ he said, in his best deadpan fashion. ‘If I’m reading your mind, Captain, you’d like me to suit up and go through the lock and test the air. Am I right?’

Morgan grinned.

‘Good of you to volunteer, Doc.’

‘I always know when I’m not wanted. The shields are up, right?’

‘We’ve put up a weak shield, Doc. It was the best we could do, but maybe it’s not necessary.’

The Doc thought for a moment, then nodded in acknowledgement.

It took him a while to suit up. The space was restricted, and the suit, which had clearly never been used, was stiff and unwieldy. At last, he shuffled into the lock, with a sarcastic wave of his hand. They watched on the monitors as he clambered up the ladder onto the top deck. He bent down, peered into the camera and waved again. And then he started to inspect the top deck.

‘Christ!’ he said. ‘The beacon’s bent double, as though we hit something.’ He pointed his camera at the bent antennae.

‘How the hell did that happen?’ asked Morgan. ‘Did we hit something, Dow?’

‘No collision registered, Captain.’

‘I’m going to take my helmet off now, Captain.’

They watched, as Garcia gingerly detached his helmet and lifted it off.

‘Ah!’ he said. ‘Fresh air!’

They heard him breath in deeply.

‘It’s fine up here,’ he said. ‘No need for suits. I’m coming back down.’

When he emerged from the lock, they all involuntarily hoped for a hint of the fresh air he had breathed in, but the Kerimov’s systems had pumped the lock full of the usual stale recycled air. Mundindi was studying the images the Doc’s camera had captured.

‘What do you think, Mundi?’ asked Morgan.

‘It looks as though somebody has taken a sledgehammer to it,’ he replied. ‘Of course, if we’d been flying a more recent model this couldn’t have happened.’

‘Yes, yes, Mundi,’ Morgan snapped. ‘We know that, but we’ve got to make do with what we’ve got.’

‘Then we’ll just have to try and bend it back into place.’

‘How’s the torus doing?’

‘She’s stabilised, Captain.’

‘Good. Dow?’

‘Captain?’

‘Are your sensors all working, now?’

‘Yes, Captain.’

‘Mundi?’

‘Captain?’

‘Will she hold if we go up on deck?’

‘She’ll hold, Captain.’

Morgan shook Garcia’s shoulder. He took off his visor.

‘More excitement?’ he said. ‘I don’t think my heart can take it.’

‘You don’t have a heart!’ said Dow.

‘Listen up, Doc,’ said Morgan. ‘We’re going for a stroll on the deck.’

‘But I’ve only just come back,’ said Garcia.

The lock on the ancient Kerimov would only let them through one at a time. The Doc went first. Then Dow. Then Mundi. And then the Captain. Gingerly, each of them took of their helmet.

‘This is crazy,’ said Mundindi, taking deep breaths. ‘Even Dow’s smiling.’

Morgan was studying the bent antennae. The blue beam of superlight that should have been firing up into the sky in a constant ray flickered ineffectually into the top deck casing.

‘What do you think, Mundi?’

‘I think we might just be able to bash it out.’

‘Bash it out?’

‘Sure. Straighten it out with something heavy. But whether the beamer will work correctly afterwards…’

Mundi fetched tools from the ship’s interior and then the crew members took it in turns to pull on the antennae’s superstructure, as Mundindi attempted to bash the struts back into place. It was hot, tiring work. There was the usual haze above them, but they could feel the sun’s rays on their backs as they pulled and pushed. They felt the sun swing lower and lose its strength as dusk approached. As the dusk turned to twilight, Dow decided to take a rest and leaned over the ship’s rail.

‘Captain,’ he said.

‘What is it, Dow?’

‘There are people down there. Look.’

Garcia joined him.

‘Dow’s right,’ he said. ‘We’ve found one of those pockets, that’s for sure.’

Morgan and Mundindi came to look. The weak shield blurred the view a little, but through the gloom they could see a coastline and a lush green hinterland stretching away before them. There was a clearing on a ridge, and on the ridge, on a rectangular earth brown clearing, were the distinctive shapes of human beings.

‘How many, do you reckon?’ asked Morgan.

‘I’d say thirty or forty,’ said Garcia. ‘Quite a community.’

‘Look!’ said Dow. ‘They’re waving. So much for your shield, Mundi.’

‘We can only put up a weak shield, Dow,’ said Morgan. ‘We’re too low on juice for anything stronger.’

‘Sorry, Captain,’ said Dow.

‘Anyway,’ said Morgan. ‘Let’s get back to work.’

‘Coo-ee,’ said Dow, waving back. ‘Bye for now, and if we don’t get this pile of junk fixed damned soon, we’ll be joining you around the campfire.’

The others waved too and watched in fascination as the long line of people gathered on the ridge waved back, some criss-crossing their arms above their heads and gesturing enthusiastically.

‘Look,’ said Morgan, ‘if the torus stops playing up then maybe we’ll go down and introduce ourselves, but right now we’ve got to get that antennae straightened out and hope that we can send off a distress signal. So, gentlemen; back to work!’

The crew worked through the night and into the following day, sometimes re-entering the craft to sleep. It was slow and delicate work. Gradually, they straightened the bent antennae back to its former position and shape. The distress beam still flickered, and only occasionally shone a full intense column of blue superlight into the night sky. The men on the ground gathered again as a second night fell. The crew waved at them from time to time and they waved back as they had done the previous evening. This time, the people below waved a torch at the craft and the Kerimov’s light sensors rocked the ship gently back and forth in response. Morgan was getting increasingly concerned. They’d spent the best part of thirty-six hours hovering in the same position. The Others had surely detected them by now and would have realised their craft was in distress.

It was Mundindi who broke her worried reflections.

‘Captain?’ he said, from the cabin.

‘Wait,’ Morgan replied. ‘I’m coming back in. What is it?’ she asked, once she was back inside.

‘We’ve got full power again. The torus is back to normal.’

‘Sure?’

‘Certain.’

She switched on her speaker.

‘Dow, Doc,’ she barked. ‘Take a last breath of fresh air and get back in here. We’re leaving.’

‘Not even a last wave?’ said Dow.

‘Not even,’ snapped Morgan. ‘Get back in.’

‘What’s up?’ asked Dow, once he was back inside.

‘We’ve got full power again,’ said Morgan. ‘We’re getting out of here.’

‘Destination, Captain?’

‘Take us back to where we were before the torus blew, OK?’

‘I’ll try, Captain.’

They strapped themselves in. The faint whine, Morgan noticed, had gone.

‘Here we go,’ said Dow.

They felt the craft accelerate upwards and then, just as before, it shuddered violently twice.

‘Dow?’ said Morgan.

‘We’re back on course, Captain.’

Phew! thought Morgan. She looked at Garcia. He had his visor back on and his lips were moving silently again.

 

#

 

‘Welcome back, Captain Morgan,’ said the controller when they got back down to the main hex. ‘Just so you know,’ he continued, ‘we’ve got a welcoming party for you.’

‘A welcoming party?’

‘Don’t worry. It’s just that we missed you.’

‘Aw,’ said Dow, ‘the little diddums missed us.’

But when they stepped out of the airlock, one-by-one, they saw that there was indeed a welcoming party waiting for them. The officer saluted.

‘Captain Morgan?’

‘Yes, officer?’

‘I’d be grateful if you’d please follow me.’

The party led them into an empty door-lined corridor. Each crew member, starting with Morgan, was shown to an empty room and asked to wait inside. Why, Morgan wondered, were they being separated? A few minutes later, the officer knocked and entered.

‘Sorry about that, Captain,’ he said. ‘Would you please follow me?’

Morgan followed the officer into a lift and down several floors to the science labs. In the lift, the officer put a finger to his lips; they were not to talk. Finally, the officer led her to a mock oakwood door.

‘I shall leave you here,’ he said. ‘Just knock and go in. The Admiral is waiting.’

‘The Admiral? What…?’

The officer put a finger to his lips again. Morgan knocked and went in. The room was one of the standard off-white all-purpose spaces the builders of the main hex had apparently favoured. Admiral Sheahy sat behind a mock oakwood desk. She stood as Morgan entered.

‘Ah! Captain Morgan,’ she said.

Morgan saluted.

‘Admiral!’

‘Please sit down.’

Morgan sat down on a chair placed in front of the desk. There was a knock, but on a different door – one behind the Admiral.

‘Come!’ said the Admiral.

A short man entered carrying a small black case. Morgan immediately recognised the inimitable style of the intelligence services.

‘What’s happening, Admiral?’ Morgan asked.

‘Do you mind?’ the Admiral asked, as the intelligence operative took his equipment out of the case and set it up on the corner of the desk.

Morgan shook her head.

‘Of course not,’ she said.

‘All set,’ said the operative.

‘Thank you,’ said the Admiral. ‘Now then,’ – she smiled reassuringly at Captain Morgan, ‘could you please tell me about everything that happened to you after the torus started playing up?’

When Morgan had finished, the Admiral asked her to return with the officer to the room where she had briefly waited before. Meanwhile, the Admiral and the operative carried out the same procedure with Dow, the navigator, Mundindi, the engineer, and Garcia, the doctor. When the last interview had been finished and Garcia had been led back to his room, the Admiral turned to the operative.

‘Well?’ she asked.

‘They’re all telling the truth, Admiral. There’s not a shadow of a doubt. And their stories corroborate perfectly.’

The Admiral nodded.

‘Bring them all back, would you, please?’

‘Together, Admiral?’

‘Yes, together, please.’

‘May they talk?’

‘Yes, yes.’

Morgan followed the officer, with the rest of the crew behind her.

‘What’s up, Captain?’ Dow asked. ‘Did we do something wrong?’

The officer stopped and turned.

‘This isn’t a disciplinary procedure,’ he said. ‘If it had been, we’d have told you and there would have been a lawyer in the room.’

He winked, then turned and led them on to the room where Admiral Sheahy waited. There were not enough chairs in the room, so they stood to attention and waited. This time, the officer followed them in.

‘At ease,’ said the Admiral. She rose to her feet, walked around the desk and sat back on the desktop, with her hands on either side. ‘I’m sorry to have subjected you to this procedure, but it seems something rather strange has happened to you all. In the first place, your Kerimov disappeared completely from about the time you first experienced trouble with the torus until you re-established your initial course some thirty-six hours later. In the second place, the Kerimov’s data bases can tell us nothing about those thirty-six hours; it’s as though they were wiped clean.’

‘You know the crew simply can’t do that, Admiral,’ said Mundindi. ‘They can only be accessed at the main hex.’

‘Yes, yes, I know,’ said the Admiral, ‘which is what makes all of this quite so fascinating.’

She gestured to the officer. The room darkened and images were beamed onto the white wall behind her.

‘In the third place,’ she said, ‘could you please remind me where you carried out the repairs, Navigator Dow?’

‘Yes, Admiral. It was above old Papua New Guinea. We hovered above Goodenough Bay. The people we saw were at a place called Boianai.’

‘Boianai?’

‘Yes, Admiral.’

‘We sent a Kerimov out there just now. These are the images you can see. That, Captain Morgan, gentlemen, is Boianai as it is today.’

The images they saw were scenes of desolation and black igneous rock. Beyond, the ocean boiled in a familiar mix of chemical soup and the strange mutant sponges that had taken over the seas.

‘Now,’ the Admiral continued, ‘clearly, that does not correspond at all to the descriptions you all gave us.’

‘Could the nav system have been mistaken?’ asked Morgan.

‘I told you the day we left, Captain,’ said Dow, ‘I was sure there was something wrong.’

The Admiral smiled.

‘I can understand your confusion,’ she said. ‘And I know you think your Kerimov was not airworthy – we heard your complaints…’

Dow blushed. ‘I’m….’

The Admiral waved him smilingly to silence.

‘But the fact remains that the nav system on your craft is perfectly functional. We’ve run all the usual tests since you returned.’

‘I’m confused, Admiral,’ said Morgan. ‘If we couldn’t have been anywhere else then…’

‘We’re all confused, Captain,’ said the Admiral. ‘The fact is, you weren’t anywhere else; you were nowhere else.’

‘But Admiral,’ said Mundindi, ‘we were somewhere, surely?’

The Admiral smiled. ‘We’ve been scratching our heads ever since you disappeared and reappeared, Engineer Mundindi. In any case, we’ve no reason to hold you anymore. We’re going to release you to your quarters in a few moments, but first I’d like to give you some advice.’ The Admiral walked back around the desk and sat down. She looked into the polished mock oakwood surface for a few moments before speaking. ‘As a scientist, I am absolutely convinced that there is always an explanation for everything. But what I have learned over the years is that we don’t always have an explanation – yet, perhaps, or never, maybe. Some phenomena are beyond our understanding, or beyond our capacity to explain. That, to my mind, is the case with your experience over Boianai – or wherever it was you were. At least, for the meantime. Now, my advice to you is to keep quiet about it. We’re at war, after all, and there’s no reason to frighten the horses unnecessarily – particularly since we can’t say with any certainty what happened to you. On the other hand, tell everybody what you saw – those people, in a pocket, and green vegetation and blue seas. And tell them you breathed fresh air. Give people hope, in other words, not doubts. There are survivors. We can live on the surface again one day… Tell them what you saw, but don’t tell them what you know.’

 
#

 
The door slid back silently. Morgan sat in her wheelchair, bent over, her head nodding slowly.

‘Admiral Morgan?’ said the visitor.

‘Rear Admiral Mundi!’ said Morgan, as her chair turned. She squinted up at Mundindi’s proud frame. ‘To what do I owe this rare pleasure?’

‘The archaeologists sent me.’

‘The archaeologists?’

‘They’ve got something to show us, they say. Mind if I take a seat?’

‘Of course, Mundi. Sit down. Can I offer you anything?’

‘No, thank you, Admiral.’

‘Call me Hannah, Mundi! I’ve been retired for quite a while now, as you know.’

‘OK, Hannah – it sounds strange, though. You remember that business with the Kerimov, over Boianai?’

‘Hah! How could I forget? Do you remember Dow complaining?’

‘He never stopped.’

‘And the doctor, Garcia? I mean, how cool could that man get?

Mundindi nodded. ‘They’re both dead now, you know that?’

‘How?’

‘A skirmish. Twenty years or more ago now. They got separated and were ambushed by the Others.’

‘I wonder if Garcia still had his learning visor on.’

They laughed briefly.

‘So,’ said Morgan, ‘what are we waiting for?’

‘They’re going to send everything over, so you don’t have to move. When you’re ready, I’ll let them know.’

‘I’m ready.’

Mundindi activated the console and a whitewall lit up.

‘Admiral Morgan, Rear Admiral Mundindi?’ said a tall, dome-headed bald man.

‘That’s us,’ said Mundindi.

‘I’m Spencer, the chief archaeologist. We’re going to play you something we found. We think it might interest you.’

‘Play away,’ said Morgan.

‘Here it comes. I’m going to play it to you first, and then we can talk, if you wish.’

The screen showed a man with a large, rectangular face and a shock of brownish-black hair falling over his right eye. The man had smiling eyes, but his expression was earnest. He was wearing an old-fashioned rough woollen jumper.

‘Can you imagine what it’s like,’ said the man, ‘to look up into the sky and see a totally foreign-looking object … just hovering … er … not very high up – maybe two or three hundred feet up in the air and glowing, and two … er … bipods jutting out from underneath it and sparkling all around and some figures up there. This solid-looking object and figures walking about on top and not the slightest noise whatsoever. And so we waved – wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get this object down onto the playing field? – and as we waved, wondering whether we’d get some recognition and whether perhaps they would understand what we wanted, they waved back…’

When the interview was over and Spencer had reappeared on the screen, Mundindi gave a long, low whistle. ‘Remember what Admiral Sheahy said?’ he asked.

‘I remember,’ said Morgan.

‘Say, Spencer,’ said Mundindi, ‘when was this made?’

‘1959,’ said Spencer.

‘Hell,’ said Mundindi, ‘that’s a long time before the…’

‘Almost one hundred years before,’ said Spencer. ‘It’s two hundred and thirty-three years old, now.’

‘What does intelligence make of the guy?’

‘He’s definitely telling the truth,’ said Spencer.

‘Who was he?’

‘His name was the Reverend William Booth Gill. He was what they called a missionary, a religious man, spreading his faith, working at a remote mission in Papua New Guinea at a place called – wait for it; Boianai.’

‘That’s crazy!’ said Mundindi. ‘Where did you find this clip?’

‘We found a whole stash of films and videos and other stuff in an office that got entombed in mud before the heatwave arrived. Some of it burned, but a lot survived. We’ve been going through the material. They kept getting sightings of what they called ‘UFOs’ – unidentified flying objects. Most of the stuff is rubbish; meteors, secret weapon exercises, weather balloons, drones, birds – you know, that sort of thing. But a few of the sightings are more difficult to explain – and this is one of the most difficult. Gill was an ordained priest, so he wouldn’t easily have lied, and there were no signs of any eccentricity or drinking or whatever. Moreover, he was accompanied by thirty-seven witnesses, who all wrote down and signed what they had seen. It sort-of corroborates well the story you and your fellow crew members told Admiral Sheahy all those years ago, don’t you think?’

Later, when they’d said goodbye to Spencer, they sat for a while in silence. Finally, Mundindi spoke.

‘I suppose we should be happy,’ he said.

‘Not really,’ said Morgan.

‘But doesn’t this prove it?’

‘Prove what, Mundi?’

‘That we were there, in Boianai, in Papua New Guinea, in 1959 – that’s where our Kerimov went.’

‘Maybe.’

‘What do you mean, maybe? How else do you explain that interview?’

Morgan’s head was dropping and shaking again, but she was listening hard.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘But this discovery doesn’t explain it, either. They’ve just replaced one mystery with another.’

Mundindi nodded.

‘You’re right,’ he said, ‘but this is a much better mystery, don’t you think?’

‘I don’t know, Mundi. I don’t know. Maybe we saw the past. Maybe we didn’t. But I’ll never forget that fresh air. We really breathed that, didn’t we Mundi?’

‘Oh, hell, yes.’


Postscript (Excerpt from the Prologue from Randolph Stow, Visitants, Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1979)

On 26 June 1959, at Boianai in Papua, visitants appeared to the Reverend William Booth Gill, himself a visitant of thirteen years standing, and to thirty-seven witnesses of another colour. At 6.45 p.m. Mr Gill, an Anglican missionary, glanced at the sky to locate the planet Venus. He saw instead a sparkling object, ‘very, very bright’, which descended to an altitude of around four hundred feet. The craft was shaped like a disc, perhaps thirty to forty feet across, with smaller round superstructures, and had on the underside four legs pointing diagonally downwards. Uppermost on the disc was a circular bridge, like the bridge of a ship, perhaps twenty feet in diameter.

Behind this bridge, and visible from the waist up, human figures emerged and proceeded to busy themselves with some operation on deck. They bent and straightened from time to time, occasionally turning in the direction of the onlookers, but showed on the whole no interest in anything but their machine. The focus of activity seemed to be a thin blue spotlight directed at the sky. This was switched on at irregular intervals, each time for the space of a few seconds. The figures, seemingly four in all, continued preoccupied with this work for the rest of the night.

On impulse, as one of the figures leaned over the bridge, the clergyman saluted him by waving a hand over his head. The figure replied in kind, like a skipper on a boat (said Mr Gill) waving to someone on the wharf. Then a Papuan teacher called Ananias waved with both arms, and two other figures returned the greeting. Encouraged, Mr Gill and Ananias began to wave a good deal, and were acknowledged by all four visitants. The watching Papuans were ‘surprised and delighted’. Small boys called out, everyone beckoned the ‘beings’ to come down. But there was no audible response, and the faces and expressions of the figures remained obscure: ‘rather like,’ as Mr Gill said, ‘players on a football field at night.’

 

 

Note: the original 1959 filmed interview with the Reverend William Booth Gill can be viewed at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJr-Ss5DnFU

[1] Extract from Visitants by Randolph Stow, published by Text Publishing 2015. Randolph Stow 1979. Reproduced by permission of Sheil Land Associates Ltd.


 


THE END


2020 Martin Westlake

Bio: Martin Westlake is a British-born resident of Brussels, Belgium. His last Aphelion apprearance was "Sanction" in our April, 2018, issue.

E-mail: Martin Westlake

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