New Stories:

Phantom Rescue by Andrew Finnigan

Neutrino Jam by Brad Smith

Round and Round
Brad Smith

Jim hunched forward, with a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel. By that point, he had mostly overcome his urge to swerve over onto the other side of the road, but driving standard was still causing him some problems. His tiny rental car was shaking like it was moving at 150 miles per hour, even though he was just at the speed limit. It had been a very long drive.

At about eleven oclock he finally saw the sign: Avebury, Wiltshire, Population: 562. Only moments later, he saw the first stone. It was gigantic, perhaps fifteen feet tall. Its gray outer surface was mottled, but still smooth, like it was made of wax, just starting to melt. The rock had stood on that spot for thousands of years. It surely weighed more than twenty tons, but human hands placed it there. Some had said that the stones of Avebury were even more impressive than Stonehenge, only twenty-six miles away. Apparently, the outer henge of Avebury was about 1200 feet across and encompassed much of the center of the village. But that was not what Jim had come to see.

After a few more minutes, Jim hit the center of the town and took a right off the A4361 onto High Street. He decided to park and walk the rest of the way. As he stepped out of his car, he was struck by how beautiful the little town was. Each of the shops shone with the look of a historic but well maintained boutique where you could buy a thousand things you would never see at a mall.

A few more turns brought him up to the shop whose address was on the scrap of paper in his pocket. The shop in question was a little bookshop, whose front was adorned with new age paraphernalia. Anything from glass skulls to miniature UFOs were displayed alongside books on stands, mostly science fiction hardcover. Jim caught sight of his reflection in the glass. He wondered if his sleek sunglasses and bright red shirt were a bit over-the-top in this little town. Everyone he had seen so far wore nothing more extravagant than beige. Then again, he couldnt imagine dressing any other way. His neatly styled hair, his lean build, and his practiced smile told everyone who saw him that he didnt mind standing out.

A little bell jingled as he pushed open the door. The man behind the counter sat on a stool reading a novel. He seemed about thirty-five, with thick hair that looked like the only attention it got was being washed once a day. A faded golf shirt hung loosely from his broad shoulders.

Anything I can help you with today? the shopkeeper asked amiably.

My name is Jim Sayles, he replied hesitantly. Im looking for Tom Reynolds . . .

Ah, yes! I remember your e-mail. I cant believe you flew all the way to England just to see a crop circle.

Actually, Im here for two weeks on a business trip. Ive been in London since Sunday.

Tom continued, Well I cant believe your luck! One was discovered this morning not too far from here. Today at two Im heading out there to speak with a reporter about it.

Do you think the farmer would mind me going out there and trudging around his land?

Are you kidding? All you have to worry about is the farmer charging you an arm and a leg for admission.

Really? They charge admission? Well, money is no object.

In that case, Id be happy to lead you over for a hundred pounds.

Well . . . maybe you could just give me directions . . .

Im not serious! Of course Ill show you where it is. Come back at one thirty and well go see one of the great mysteries of the universe!

* * *

Jim spent the next two hours exploring the marvelous Avebury henge by foot. The scope of the monument filled him with awe at what people could accomplish. The circle of impossibly large stones had been built without the aid of modern technology; all they had was muscle power. Jim crouched in front of one of the larger stones and wrapped his arms part of the way around its base. With a mighty groan, he pulled with all of his might, but the stone stayed where it was, as though it was above responding to such a pitiful effort. Nope, I didnt think that would work, Jim thought to himself.

At one thirty, Jim found Tom leaning on the hood of his car in front of the shop. Tom spotted him and called, Just follow me. Jim returned a thumbs-up and opened the car door, which he immediately closed again when he remembered that the drivers side was on the right. Following behind Tom was a terrifying experience. He wondered if Tom was trying to lose his pursuer, and soon lost count of the tiny country roads they had driven on. Finally, for the first time during the trip, the car in front of him put on its turn signal. Tom pulled over to the shoulder and parked.

There were a few other cars parked on both sides of the narrow gravel road. Tom was already walking out into the field when Jim stepped out of his car to follow. The sun was high in the sky, but it wasn't overly hot. The wheat rocked back and forth in the gentle breeze. He reached down and plucked one of the stalks of wheat and held it like it were a wildflower.

Up ahead, a middle-aged woman was walking toward Thomas. She waved and called, Hello, Tom!

Lovely day, isnt it? he replied.

Lovely specimen! Have you seen it yet? They walked off together, farther into the field, discussing the days find. Jim set off on his own toward the formation. He couldnt see a pattern just yet, but he assumed it was out where about 5 other people were milling around. Two people in particular caught his attention. One man carried a large camera by his side and was talking to a young woman in a smart looking skirt and suit jacket. She looked somewhat out of place standing in the middle of a farmers field. Something the cameraman said caused her to shake her head and gesture towards the crop circle. He shrugged and hoisted the camera onto his shoulder. By now, Jim could see an area up ahead where the sea of wheat just stopped, only to begin again a bit farther away. It seemed to be more or less circular, but he couldnt really tell. Other paths of trampled wheat seemed to jut off in different directions.

As Tom stepped out into the circle, he gave a little wave to the woman in the suit and began: Sorry Im late . . .

Its all right, she said impatiently, in a way that didnt seem remotely forgiving.

I made a few wrong turns . . . he continued apologetically.

She made a dismissive gesture and explained, Weve got our intro done. Were going to do a bit with the farmer and then you. Jim and the other people in the area assembled behind the camera to watch. The reporter primped her hair until the cameraman gave her the thumbs-up. She checked her clip-on microphone and began, Joining me now is Clarence Roberts, the farmer who owns this land. Clarence, what were your first thoughts when you saw this formation?

Well . . . he replied, apparently uncertain about whether to look at her or the camera, my first thought was to wonder how much of my wheat Id lost.

Did you notice anything strange last night? Strange sounds or lights?

Umm . . . he droned as he mentally reviewed the events of the previous night. Well, no. Im afraid I dont remember any, he mumbled, but I did have a strange dream last night!

Was it about aliens? she inquired impatiently.

Clarence looked down at his feet. No.

Is there anything at all you can tell us about this phenomenon? she pleaded, giving him one last chance to give them something mysterious they could use. His eyes opened wide and he nodded.

I just remembered. Im supposed to tell you . . . he began hesitantly, before looking straight at the camera, Visit Roberts farms! Our produce is out of this world!

The reporter winced visibly. Jim grinned and slowly shook his head.

Thank you, Clarence. she sighed, trying to keep control of herself. Tom! Get up here! she commanded suddenly. In the blink of an eye Tom was standing beside her, his TV persona already firmly in place. This is Thomas Reynolds, a UFO and Cereology expert. she introduced in her professional reporter voice, Thomas, in your opinion, is this crop formation genuine?

Absolutely. This bears all the hallmarks of a crop circle that was not created by human hands. Notice the spiral of this circle continues all the way to its very center. A hoaxer would have to be very patient to create such a perfect central area. And remember, this would all have to be done in one night.

What do you think causes these formations?

Well, there are many theories about the origin of these formations. Some believe strange downdrafts of wind can trample crops into circles like this. Others think that crystals of frozen water in the atmosphere focus some type of energy onto the crops, which flattens them into these strange patterns. To me, these theories just dont make sense. These patterns arent just random natural events. They are created by intelligent beings. And since no human could make such a complex pattern in one night, they must have been created by something other than humans. Its perfectly logical, when you think about it.

Do you have any idea what meaning or purpose of these circles are?

Clearly, these patterns are some type of communication. The only question is what they are trying to tell us. I believe that each circle is part of a larger message, and that we could link them together to form a larger pattern. I can only speculate as to what this larger pattern could represent. Perhaps a symbolic representation of the location of their home planet or a description of their DNA sequences.

Thank you, Thomas.

With that, she unclipped her mike and walked over to her cameraman. Jim noticed that she didnt seem too happy. She handed her mike to the cameraman and shrugged. Same old story. she sighed.

Tom had walked over to the other side of the circle and was looking out towards the rest of the circles in the formation. Slowly, Jim made his way to where Tom was standing. It was time to get some answers.

So how can you tell that this is really made by aliens? Jim inquired hesitantly. Tom looked over his shoulder at Jim, then back out towards the horizon.

Like I said in the interview. It has all the signs. he replied absently.

Yeah, but what signs do you look for? Jim persisted.

Aside from the scale and the perfectly geometric circles and lines?

Aside from that, yes.

I sense you are a bit skeptical about the authenticity of what you stand on.

Cant blame me for that.

Its a well known fact that the seeds of the wheat plants in a crop circle are genetically modified. You can read about this, you know. There are books on crop circles that cover all this material. For some reason, Tom seemed to have become a bit agitated. The first circle was placed on a slight hill, and from their vantage-point, they could see most of the rest of the pattern in the wheat. About 10 other circles were connected together by straight lines. Other lines stuck out which ended in Y like branches that seemed to taper off to points. The overall pattern was very circular and gave Jim the impression of a vicious, razor-blade studded Frisbee. Jim knelt down and plucked one stalk of wheat from the horizontal plants beneath his feet.

I grabbed this bit of wheat on the way from the car, and this bit from the circle. Could you show me the differences?

Well, I . . . I cant just explain it, he stuttered, I mean, not to someone whos not an expert.

I just cant see any difference. Thats all. Jim looked at the two stalks and realized that he couldnt remember which stalk was which. He shrugged and discarded them. How many crop circles have you investigated?

Dozens. Tom stated firmly; he was frowning and seemed angry.

And how many of those did you discover were actually hoaxes?

Tom opened his mouth as though he was about to say something, but closed it again. After another moment, he turned to face Jim and said: Well, I . . . What . . . what does that have to do with anything. Are you trying to suggest that Im just some gullible country bumpkin who cant tell when some drunken hoaxers go out and roll around in the fields?

Jim was taken aback. No, not at all, I just wanted to know how many . . .

Ive investigated more crop circles than youve had hot meals. How dare you suggest . . . Tom was fuming. Seeing Tom so enraged was like seeing a completely different person. Jim couldnt understand where he had gone wrong.

I didnt mean to offend . . . Jim began again.

I suggest you leave. Before you trample on any more precious evidence.

Looking around, Jim saw that most of the other circle-enthusiasts that had been milling around were looking at him with their arms crossed, obviously unimpressed. Apparently the cameraman had been taping the exchange. It seemed unlikely that he was going to be welcome here any longer. Jim let out a long sigh, and set off towards the road where he had parked. The situation just didnt make sense. Sure he was skeptical; but that only meant he wanted more evidence before he could accept that aliens were writing messages in wheat fields. It was no reason to get upset.

* * *

It was about four oclock before Jim finally drove past something he recognized. Somehow, he had found his way back to into Avebury on his own. He considered just driving straight through and beginning the long drive back to his hotel in London, but he had skipped lunch and was terribly hungry. He parked in front of the shops and looked around for someplace to eat. The only thing that seemed remotely like a restaurant was a pub across the street called the Boars Head. He hoped that they served more food than just barley soup.

When Jim stepped in, everyone in the place looked up from their tables. They all seemed friendly and welcoming, but he still felt a bit strange as he walked up to the bar. The small size of the pub was very different from what Jim was used to. It had the feeling of a large dining room in someones house. Perhaps that was the reason for his discomfort; he felt uninvited. He took a stool on the bar next to a large man, perhaps in his fifties, with no hair on his head except for an enormous bushy beard. The man wore jeans and a plaid flannel shirt that seemed a few sizes too small for his bulky upper body.

What can I get you? the bartender asked amicably.

Well, I skipped lunch and was hoping to order some supper. Jim confessed.


Um . . . Do you have a menu? Jim inquired. The bartender only smiled in reply.

The bearded man next to him interjected, Allow me to make a recommendation. I believe my new friend here will have the fish n chips, along with a bottle of your finest house wine.

Ah yes, le Chateau Guinness, quipped the bartender.

Sounds great, Jim chuckled, despite himself.

Im Andy, the bearded man said, I take it youre not from around here.

Jim Sayles. Does it show?

Not at all, it was just a lucky guess. Are you here on holiday?

Im in England on a business trip, actually. I drove to Avebury for the weekend.

To see the stones?

I toured around the henge this afternoon. Theyre truly magnificent. But, I must admit, I actually drove here so I could see a crop circle.

Ah yes! They found a new one just this morning.

I was already there. A fellow named Tom Reynolds led me out around two oclock.

Tommy! Our resident UFO nut! Andy laughed. So what did you think of him?

Well, he seemed very . . . Jim paused, searching for the right word.

Yes, he has a reputation for being like that.

Im afraid I've gotten on his bad side.

Oh, thats terrible. Asked him a question, did you?

Yup. I asked him how many of the crop circles hed seen had been hoaxed. Why on earth would that make him so angry?

Andy suddenly convulsed with laughter, pounding the bar with his fist. After a minute or so, he managed to say, Why hes never seen a fake circle in his life, of course!


Tom could never judge one of his beautiful little circles to have been made by lowly human hands.

I take it that you dont completely agree with Toms theories.

You could say that, I suppose.

At least I got to see a brand new crop circle. It would have been tragic to drive from London for nothing.

You drove from London? Youre crazy! What made you think you would actually get to see a newly formed crop circle when you got here, anyway?

Well, it was a gamble, but I figured this weekend gave me pretty good odds.

And why would that be?

I did some research before I got here, and I found a crop watcher web-site which kept a database of the crop circles that were discovered in the area. After a while, I noticed a pattern. The circles within about 15 miles of Avebury tend to show up every two or three weeks on either a Saturday or Sunday morning, almost without exception. I checked last weekend and none had appeared, so . . . Jim let the sentence trail off.

Youre right, of course. I guess Ive never thought about it like that. Very clever.


Oh, the stories I could tell you about crop circles.

Stories, what stories? Jim asked, somewhat startled.

Jim, my boy, he whispered conspiratorially, you could say Im a bit of an expert on crop circles myself. Andys mischievous grin was more than Jim could bear.

So tell them already. Jim pleaded.

Oh, I dont know, my throats awfully dry . . . he moaned melodramatically.

Bartender, Id like to buy another beer for my friend here.

* * *

The exciting and probably exaggerated stories only whet Jims appetite. If Andy was indeed telling the truth, then he and a friend were responsible for most of the crop circles in the area. For some reason, Jim desperately wanted to be a part of such a mission, to participate in the actual formation of a crop circle. Jims enthusiasm was met with incredulity, as though Andy himself thought his little hobby was lunacy, but Jim wouldnt let up. All told, it took another beer and a massive plate of fish and chips before Andy relented. Sometime around eight, Andy finally announced that it was time for them to get moving.

Together they stepped out into the evening air. The weather had cooled down somewhat, but it still felt like a summer night. So, where do we start? Jim asked.

First, Andy replied sagely, we need the proper materials.

They took Jims car to a red-brick house on the outskirts of town. Andy jumped out and entered the garage, only to emerge moments later carrying a bundle wrapped in an old blanket, which he threw into the trunk. Just as he was about to get back into the passenger seat, a woman in a bathrobe appeared at the front door.

Two in a row? she asked, exasperated. "You were out 'till dawn last night! Are you mad?"

Just this once, dear, was his reply, as he hopped in and pulled the door shut. Get going! Drive! Now! he commanded.

Jim continued to follow directions until they arrived at a farmhouse along a country road. Once again, Andy hopped out of the car, but this time he went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. A younger man, probably about forty, came to the door. He had both hair and a beard, but you could still tell that they were two of a kind.

Two in a row? Jim heard the younger man ask.

There was a bit of prodding involved, but he eventually gave in and followed Andy back to the car. Andy introduced the man as Mathew. The threesome set off to parts unknown. Mathew produced a notepad and pen and began sketching ideas for the nights activities. Eventually, Jim was instructed to turn onto a secluded dirt road and pull over.

What now? Jim asked expectantly.

Whatve you got, Mathew? Andy asked, smiling broadly. Mathew held up the notepad he was sketching on. The dim illumination provided by the cars interior light was insufficient, so Andy pulled a small flashlight from his jacket. The pattern drawn had a completely different character than the one they had created the night before. It looked almost organic, with waving lines instead of the harsh angles. Andy stared at the drawing intently, creating a mental plan for the construction process.

You know, this is a beautiful circle, Mathew. But given my experiences this afternoon, I came up with an idea for a circle myself, Jim suggested. Mathew handed him the pen and notebook. A minute later Jim held up his crude drawing, and received broad smiles in response. The sketch was messy and lopsided, but it got the point across. Have you ever tried anything like this? he asked.

Andy seemed not to hear the question, and instead replied, Ambitious.

Is it? Jim asked.

Well, it would have to be huge, you see. Andy explained.

It would certainly push the artistic boundaries of the genre. was Mathews solemn comment.

Well, if you dont think its possible . . . Jim began.

I didnt say that, Andy retorted. It just means we have to start right away, and use a very large wheat field. Luckily, theres one near here that Mathew and I have been saving for just such an occasion. What do you think, Matt?

Mathew smiled. Lets do it.

* * *

Jim tried his best to drive in a stealthy manner, if indeed there was such a thing. At one point, they had stopped the car and hidden the bundle of equipment behind some undergrowth at the side of the road. Now they were on the lookout for a good parking spot. Mathew had explained that parking out on a road in the country was generally a bad idea. Police tended to be suspicious of cars parked in the middle of nowhere, but tonight they didnt have a choice. The nearest village was too far. All at once, they spotted a farm track off to the left. Andy seemed a bit nervous about it, but directed Jim to follow it anyway. Offroading was definitely not the specialty of the little car, but Jim still managed to get it into an adequately hidden spot behind some bushes. They all piled out and walked back along the road to their stash of gear. Thankfully, no cars drove past. As they walked, Jim looked out over the terrain; it was eerily illuminated by the quarter moon hanging just above the horizon. Not a sound was heard except for the breeze rustling the crops and the crunching of their footfalls on the gravel shoulder of the road.

Soon enough, they had reached the tree that marked their hiding place. Andy hefted the blanket and motioned for Jim and Mathew to hop over the fence. He handed them the equipment and proceeded to climb over himself. They stood together by the tree and unwrapped the kit. Jim couldnt wait to see the complex apparatus that allowed them to create the massive formation he had seen earlier. The first thing Andy pulled out was a large coil of thin, nylon rope. He handed it to Mathew and pulled out a second coil for himself. Next, he removed what looked like a broom handle with one end sharpened, which he gave to Mathew. Finally, he took out two wooden boards with some rope attached. One was given to Mathew, the other to Jim.

What is this? Jim whispered incredulously.

Andy misinterpreted the question and replied, Its called a stalk-stomper.

The so-called stalk-stomper looked like a horribly failed attempt to make a bow and arrow. It was nothing but a four-foot wooden board with two holes drilled through the ends, and a six-foot length of rope with each end tied through one of the holes. Dutifully, Jim slung it over his shoulder as he had seen Mathew doing. Andy left the rest where it was and started moving along the line of the fence.

Only then did Jim notice how close they were to the farmhouse. It was perhaps 100 yards away. Light poured out of windows on its main floor, illuminating the yard. All at once, Jim realized that he was trespassing in a foreign country for which he only had a two-week visa.

Shouldnt we wait a bit longer? Jim asked, suddenly feeling very nervous.

We need all the time we can possibly get. Just be quiet, was the curt reply. Andy made a left into the field along a tractor line. Jim followed close behind with Mathew bringing up the rear. The trio passed by a barn and a silo, before Andy stopped and indicated they were turning right into the densely planted wheat. The novice circle maker tried his best to mimic the awkward loping stride of the other two, which apparently reduced the visibility of the trail they left in the wheat.

Something that could be called a heated exchange of hand signals took place between the two veteran circle makers, which ended with Mathew continuing deeper into the field and Andy gesturing for Jim to move towards him. The farmhouse was still too close for comfort, but Jim figured that the people inside wouldnt be able to see them, since their eyes wouldnt be adjusted to the darkness. Once Jim arrived, Andy crouched down and began moving in a slow circle, pressing stalks of wheat down with his hands.

Andy grabbed Jim by the shoulders and placed him right overtop of the center he had just created. He then handed Jim one end of the coil of nylon rope and walked to a spot about 12 feet away, feeding out rope behind him. Andy tied the rope around his waist and unslung his stalk-stomper. He placed the board of the stalk-stomper underneath one of his feet and gripped the rope that was tied to both ends. In this position, he slowly moved forward, using the board to push wheat down with every step. Jim held the rope tightly and rotated in sync with Andy, who quickly made it back to his starting point, thus creating a perfect circle in the wheat.

They now had a center and a perimeter. Mathew seemed to be doing the same thing off in the distance only he used the broom handle instead of Jim to keep a constant distance from the center. Andy moved back over to Jim and asked him to flatten out the rest of the circle, from the middle outwards. Jim did so, with Andy watching his every move. He was a bit clumsy at first, but ultimately picked up the rhythm and it was completed in short order.

When Jim had finished, Andy smiled at him and whispered, And thats all there is to it.

* * *

So it continued, well into the night. After a time, the lights in the farmhouse went out and the wind died down. All was quiet. For the most part, Jim was relegated to the time consuming work of filling in circles that had already been outlined. Andy had fetched another stalk-stomper for himself once he was sure Jim knew what he was doing. The pattern became so enormous that Jim could barely see the farmhouse from the far end.

Eventually, they finished the last circle, hundreds of feet from where they started, and began the circuitous route back, stomping down more lines to connect their carefully placed circles. They completed the crop circle just before 5:00 am, dangerously close to dawn and a typical farmers alarm clock setting. They carefully made their way back to the tractor line. As tired as they were, they still could not contain their enthusiasm.

We did it! Jim congratulated quietly.

We certainly did. responded Andy, I can hardly believe it myself.

Just then, a light blinked on in the second story of the house. The three men looked at the house, looked at each other, and dashed off down the tramline. None of them cared about leaving footprints in the dirt, they just knew they had to get out quick.

While running, Mathew slipped on a patch of mud. He stumbled forward a few more steps and then fell flat on his face with an audible Ooooff. The other two stopped suddenly and crouched down. A mans voice could be heard coming from the farmhouse, and for a moment, Jim thought he saw a figure at the window. They all started moving again, hunched over. Andy veered off the tramline and headed for the barn they had passed earlier. Jim didnt like moving closer to the farmhouse, but it was the only thing available that they could hide behind where they wouldn't be spotted. If they were to break for the road, they would surely be seen. The moment Mathew made it to the barn, they all heard the creek of a door opening. Jims heart was pounding through his chest, but he didnt dare make a sound. Heavy, rhythmic footfalls pierced the silence. There was nothing for the perpetrators to do but stand silently, with their backs to the wall.

Whatll he do if he catches us? Jim whispered in Andys ear. With a broad grin, Andy cocked an imaginary shotgun and pretended to fire several rounds into Jims terrified form. Jim didnt find the little joke even remotely funny.

Thankfully, the footsteps moved from place to place uncertainly. Hopefully, the owner would give up before walking around the barn. Somehow, Jims two companions didnt seem at all perturbed. Mathew seemed almost relaxed. There was no way for Jim to know for sure, but he imagined that he wouldnt recognize his own terrified face in a mirror.

A womans voice called out from a window: What in blazes are you doing out there?

A male voice replied, I thought I heard a noise.

You cant just walk around outside in your underwear! Youll catch your death of cold.

Would you be quiet! Ill catch my death of bullets if there are burglars about!

The three circle makers decided to make their exit. As the argument roared, they slunk along the wall and continued towards their equipment, keeping the barn between them and the house. Judging by the frenzied shouting, they probably could have walked down the front path without anyone noticing, but just to be sure, they quickly gathered their belongings and departed. They laughed for the whole ride home.

* * *

Another beautiful day had lit up the hills and fields around Avebury. It was certainly much hotter than the day before, but it didnt bother Jim, so long as he didnt have to move. He sat cross-legged in a wheat field, reading a book and sipping strong coffee. Much of the wheat surrounding him had been stomped down into a curious pattern the night before. It was just after eleven. He didnt know how long he would have to wait, but there wasnt a more pleasant place to be anywhere on earth.

The farmer who owned this land had been astonished to discover the lines and circles in his field, and perhaps even more astonished when Jim showed up asking to pay admission to see them. When asked how he had found out about the formation, Jim simply stated that it was visible from the road. He didnt have to wait long. A convoy of perhaps eight vehicles joined his own on the shoulder of the road. Toms car was recognizable among the fleet, as was a minivan with a logo on the side, out of which emerged the reporter from yesterday and her cameraman. Jim slipped his book in his jacket and stood up.

As a group, they trudged over to speak to the farmer. Some cash changed hands. With Tom in the lead, the group continued on to the field. Jim got the feeling that Tom wasnt happy to see him. Unexpectedly, the reporter was.

Youre here, she said, in a manner that seemed more like an command than a statement.

Indeed I am, he replied.

I kind of liked the new twist you gave to the crop circle story yesterday. Its more interesting than the usual. More confrontational. Do you want to be on TV?

The question caught him off guard. "You mean, now? Here? he asked. Without waiting for a response, she signaled to roll the camera. Jim was at a loss for words.

As always, Tom was not. What an amazing phenomenon we have here today. This seems to be a fairly simple pattern, made of mostly circles and straight lines, but the sheer size of it is probably the visitors way of expressing its importance. Tom lectured.

Jim regained control and asked: Does this circle show all the signs of genuine alien origin? Asking the right questions is usually the best way to bring out the truth, especially in this circumstance.

Of course. Notice the intricacy of the center of the circle we stand on, Tom replied with a forced smile.

I did notice that. But what about the genetic alterations?

Undoubtedly to look smart on camera, Tom bent down and carefully examined the head of a bent stalk. Yes, I believe so. A more detailed laboratory analysis should be carried out, of course, but in my experienced opinion, it is genuine.

Interesting, replied a poker-faced Jim, trying to give nothing away.

But the best evidence, Tom continued, clearly in his element, is the size.

You have to admit, its at least possible for a group of humans to create something of this size.

Id like to see you try.

Jim bit his tongue and maintained his stern expression. But hypothetically, if this crop circle turned out to be hoaxed, wouldnt that demonstrate that perhaps some of the other circles you thought were authentic were hoaxed as well?

Your conjecture is based on impossible ifs.

Have you ever tried to make a crop circle? Just to see how easy or hard it really is?

I dont see the point in such an exercise.

It seems to me that you have shied away from any kind of research that could possibly prove your alien theory wrong.

Ive done plenty of research. Ive studied these for years now.

But have you ever studied them scientifically? One of the most important parts of being scientific is the willingness to abandon theories that aren't supported by the evidence.

"I know that."

"So you are willing to admit you're wrong, if the evidence is strong enough?"

Of course, Tom replied confidently.

Then I suppose theres not much more to say about this.

Tom looked triumphant, and stepped right into a detailed description of how the long string of simple circles and lines was probably a fragment of genetic code, as he had originally hypothesized. Jim didnt stay to hear the conclusion.

* * *

All passengers please fasten your seat belts and prepare for takeoff, chimed a female voice over the intercom.

Jim slouched deeper into the cushioned, business-class seat and smiled. The last week had been frantic, with many late nights spent at the London office. There had been so many loose ends to tie, that hed almost missed his flight. On his lap was a thick, weekend edition newspaper, which he had been told had a half page article about his crop circle in the Life section. Without a doubt, it had been a heck of a trip.

He eagerly flipped through the paper. A stunning aerial photo of the field was the centerpiece of the article. Seeing it from above was surreal after having seen it from the ground. It was all there: the barn, the farmhouse, and of course, the circles.

The newspaper had really played up the skeptic vs. believer angle. Most of the argument between Tom and himself was included. Tom had gotten the last word, but it was Jim that the reporter had ultimately sided with. Regardless of all that had taken place, the article made it clear that Tom was still a believer. Jim found this both astonishing and disappointing.

Because, from the ground, the crop formation had seemed to be only a random collection of circles and lines, but viewed from above, it had structure. The lines joined the circles together into simple geometric shapes that anyone would recognize. For the phenomenon was indeed a message; it was a massive sentence written on the farmers field. And it said, ALIENS WUZ HERE.


Copyright 2002
Brad Smith
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