Across the green-gold plains of rural Tennessee, strange objects hide in the tall grass. The rusty protuberances bear resemblance to dilapidated farm equipment from yesteryear, but the locals here know much better.
“We’ve got alien artifacts all over in Tennessee. Oh yeah. They rained down heavy in these parts.”
That’s Anna Lee, the punchy barista at the quaint, roadside Café Truck Stop 7B on beautiful Highway 64 just outside Waynesboro, Tennessee.
“Them artifacts been showin’ up round these parts for hell, fifty, sixty years now. I can remember my granny bringing in one of those screws, you know, and that tinfoil material stuff just like they found out at Roswell. One night right after a storm, tornado whipped up everything, you know. And she come running in, my granny did, outta the rain, with some of them little pieces of metal and that’s the first time I heard bout ‘em. But sure, yeah, everyone knew. All the folks in this county knows bout all them artifacts out there!”
“Yeah, but the government won’t tell you that!”
That’s Larry Beaumont, Anna Lee’s gruff husband who runs a quaint little moonshine distillery just behind the Café Truck Stop 7B. He sits on a paint bucket in the dirt, stirring a vat of rainwater with an old ax handle.
“Government don’t want you to know we got aliens out here. We seen ‘em. Them FBI agents. They come out here and check ‘em all out you know. Sometimes they bring in the helicopters and cart ‘em off. Just take off into the sky with a big ol’ artifact. But most time they just leave ‘em out here, radiating god knows what into our water and our skin. But they won’t admit nothin’, no. They don’t want nobody knowing’ nothin’ about alien artifacts ‘round Waynesboro.”
Larry told me about a local collector, a friend of his, Evander Seedgums, who has been stockpiling artifacts for decades. I drove my rental Prius down some treacherous dirt roads to find him, hunched over a pile of worms outside a ramshackle shed of scrap aluminum and old plastic house siding.
“Them’s radioactive worms,” he finally confessed, long after I explained I had heard of him through Larry and Anna Lee. He was convinced for quite some time I had come from the Department of Homeland Security.
“Yeah, these worms glow at night from all that alien radiation.”
He led me down a path through the field behind his quaint little dwelling. What appeared to be dishwashers and automobile parts lay rusting in the field, succumbing slowly to the tentacles of weeds that pulled them into the ground.
“That’s all alien,” Evander said in response to my quizzical gaze, “but the good stuff’s all in here.”
He crept open the crumbling wooden door of the big burnt out barn at the back of the field. Inside I saw a menagerie of rusted metal, decaying foam, and mangled metal masses intricately tangled together. What looked like a pink radiator was somehow engorged on a giant silver spike whose end disperses into thousands of wiry antennae. One would expect to find discernible objects in such a junk heap: motors and car parts and lawn tools. But just when I thought I saw a headlight it turned out to be the end of a massive hose with no obvious end. Everything just seemed to disappear into itself. I couldn’t find one object that could be easily identified, yet everything looked rather familiar. I came upon a small collection of what looked like stones or meteorites piled on a flat metal surface.
“What are these?” I asked Evander.
“You ever heard of the Williams Engilmath?” he asked. “It’s a rock with an electrical plug sticking out the side. You ever seen something like that on Earth?”
“Oh,” I said, “is that what these are?” I flipped over the rock looking for some type of protrusion.
“Hell nah that’s just an old rock,” Evander dismissed. “Be careful though, could be radioactive.”
“So are you sure this is all from outer space?”
“Hell, I dunno. This is all just a bunch of crap someone threw out. Could it be from another planet? Sure. Why would anyone want this sh*! on their planet? I wouldn’t want this shit on my planet.”
Could I have been had? Were jolly Larry and Anna Lee just joshing about? Were they back at the Cafe Truck Stop this very moment having a jolly at my expense? Was this all an elaborate rustic hoax? I thought it best to play along and see it through.
“So what do you think of these aliens, sending all their garbage here?” I asked Evander.
“It’s encouraging that so much of their trash is landing here. Us humans probably developed all our technologies from aliens. Computers, jet planes, copy machines, traffic lights, space heaters, these were all developed by our government in secret, based on technology they found from alien artifacts over the years.”
Evander pointed to advancements in tech he witnessed over the course of his own life: “one day my teacher was scratching a board with chalk, enumerating and what not, and then one day, boom! Overhead projectors. Technology just doesn’t move that fast on it’s own, yah know?”
“So what do you think’s next?” I inquired. According to his premise, surely there was more old alien technology out in space right now, heading our way. What secrets might it hold for mankind?
“There’s so much we can learn from their crap. It’s just like when all that plastic we dump in the ocean washes up on some island beach, and the scrubby little natives there are all “what’s this? What could I make outta this?” And they cut out the side of an old milk carton and then use it as a shovel, you know? To dig for clams in the sand. That’s what our scientist are gonna do with all this shit.” He gestured wildly at the mass of junk in his barn as he said that.
Before parting I asked Evander Seedgums one last question to probe his uncanny wit. This man had the steel-trap brain of a true collector, and I wanted to dig deeper.
“Would you say then, that humans are the cockroaches of the galaxy, surviving off the waste another species has left behind, never evolving beyond basic, primitive behavior?”
“Yeah, I’d reckon so.” Vintage Seedgums, that.
But billionaire philanthroper and entrepaneur Elonged Mollusk is quick do disagree with such magnanimous metaphors. I called him via FaceTime for a quick interview just after departing Mr. Seedgums backcountry estate.
“We’re doing much better than cockroaches on a galactic scale,” Mollusk insists. “We’ve built superconductors and spaceships and contemplated the existence of Gods. Have you ever seen a cockroach in Church?”
He stared at me through my iPhone screen for what seemed like ages after asking the question, searching my eyes for some answer. To my eternal relief he finally continued:
“Of course we can learn much from the aliens. First of all, they’re quite smart to send their trash here. This planet is heating an exponential, irreversible pace. The Earth will soon be the most efficient incinerator in solar system! Surely they read our heat signatures in their electron telescopes and designated us Trash Pile #1! A boon to the intergalactic garbage industry for sure.”
“But why,” I mused, like a kitten playing coy, “would they send their garbage here when they could as easily send it directly into the sun, or some other star, or a black hole for that matter?”
“Leonard, my good man,” (we’re on a first name basis, me and Elonged) “don’t be so obtuse. Of course they should not send trash into the sun! That could have catastrophic consequences! Suppose that junk is radioactive, or worse? It might spark up a giant sun flair or trigger a massive gamma emission, creating a massive death ray destroying everything in it’s path for light-years to come! Or cause irreversible destruction to the natural atomic processes occurring inside the solar mass! We can’t risk damaging the most important asset in the solar system!”
Mollusk reminded me of the tour of his Southern California Imagineeration Lab he’d given me last fall. “Remember the X-64 Deepspace Neutron Rocket?” he asked.
“Of course!” I replied. How could I have forgot, the launch pad was just outside his eight-acre croquet course behind the Propulsion Campus. We’d paused to watch a test launch with the Duke and Duchess over a spot of tea, and just after the break her Majesty hit the centre peg! Do I remember the X-64, oh that Elonged Mollusk. That’s classic Elonged.
“Well,” he continued, “we’ve now retrofit a storage bay into the rocket with capacity for six metric tons of compressed garbage.” Soon, he explained, us meager humans would be sending our trash off-world, too.
“We’ve learned so much from the vast plethora of alien artifacts littering our countryside. Our scientists have been working on this stuff for decades, it’s amazing how far we’ve come. Soon we’ll be emptying our landfills into massive containers and converging it all in one place, in one giant pile next to the launch site. Then we’ll just start blasting that crap outta here!”
“But where will we send it all?” I ask again cheekily. “And what about all the alien junk? Won’t it just keep piling up faster than we can get rid of our own trash? Will we need to send all the alien trash off-world also?”
“Well, my friend.” He called me his friend! “you really weren’t far off with the black holes. The best bet would be to send our waste into another dimension entirely.” But, as Elonged pointed out, there’s considerable public resistance to the idea of black holes as galactic trash compactors. Elonged was quick to remind me, “People just fear what they don’t understand.”
And what about the alien garbage here on Earth? Mollusk won’t even consider the notion of disposing any of it, and makes me a bit embarrassed to have even asked.
“Dispose of them?? We must cherish them and examine them!” he cried, shaking his head at me. “We still have so much to learn!”
by Leonard Lénard