I had just finished reading the book. The creature came right through the wall, as if one or the other had no substance. Immediately, I knew it was a "Large Being."
A good thing, too. There are far fewer of them than their commoner cousins, "Small Grays." The vast majority of "abductees" or "experiencers" - people who have recounted to researchers being seized and experimented upon by alien "Beings" - report they were first approached by a team of Small Grays: 31Z2- to 41Z2-foot-tall, thin, hairless creatures with disproportionately large heads, soft, rubbery skin and enormous, almond-shaped eyes, black with no pupils.
My Large Being satisfied the consensus of abductees' reports: half-again taller than a Small, also gray, with the same sort of Brancusi-ish head, but with rougher, leathery skin and an air of authority that leads many to refer to it as "the doctor."
A hand with thin, prehensile fingers and no thumb took from my hands the book: "Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T.," by C.D.B. Bryan (Alfred A. Knopf. 476 pages. $25).
It raised the volume toward its almost noseless, slit-mouthed, domed-forehead face. It stood like that for as long as it took me to breathe deeply twice, and then telepathically dictated to me. (The opinions expressed hereafter do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of this column.)
"To begin with," it began, "for your own ridiculous self-respect, it is well past time that serious humans take us seriously. This M.I.T. conference, this silly gathering of ostensibly wise and knowing scholars the book is about, could have been done years before the spring of 1992. There could be even more intense, skeptical research by your very best-credentialed scientists.
"Your attention, of course, is a matter of total indifference to us. You are random surplus organisms, of no practical or moral value, useful only for experimentation. We could, of course, engage in mass, unequivocal communication with you. Centuries ago, millennia, we could have come in and lectured, or seized, your leaders. But why bother?
"Off and on, a few of us have entertained the fantasy that somewhere, somehow, sometime, a human, or several, will develop sufficient intelligence and vision to comprehend, elementally, who we are and thus to perceive our needs and purposes.
"But you are far too primitive. Actually, this book, in its modest simplicity, comes closer to comprehending than most humans have.
"We exist, as some of the book's speculations suggest, not on other planets, other solar systems, but rather in other planes of reality, other physical dimensions.
"Of course, that is an appallingly boiled-down explanation. It took me five seconds to absorb and commit to memory this book I hold. Reading it, we noted, took you 15 hours of intense concentration, and already you have forgotten three-quarters of the content. To us, your entire concept of time is nothing more or less than a mobility handicap.
"We have nothing to learn from you, and no ambition to tinker with your pathetic, boring, childlike ways of life. Our sole interest in you is empirical genetic experimentation, including hybridizing models, using your bodies. In the last 50 years alone we have done so with 1.5 million specimens of your race - about half the largest and five times the smallest of the so-called scientific estimates cited in this book.
"Because of memory repression, most of those specimens remember little or nothing of the experiments on them, though some recall contacts with us spontaneously, and others through hypnotic probing.
"Perhaps a millennium from now you will have advanced far enough to see what we are, and to understand our curiosities.
"Until then, for us, you are bugs in a jar."
With that, the Large Being simply faded out, first diaphanous, then transparent, then invisible, as the Star Wars poster it had
been blocking off regained its amiable luster.
Did all or any of that actually happen? No. Or not so far as I know. It came from somewhere, perhaps from my imagination, or maybe from actual experience that I have repressed because of the unbearable terror of the implications of the Large Being and its tribe. Case after case in Mr. Bryan's book eroded my case-hardened skepticism about these phenomena.
Having read the book before, I would like to add:
If you are even remotely interested in alien visitation lore and speculation, reading this book would be a good thing.
It's blessedly free of cant, piety, superciliousness or boosterism. Mr. Bryan brought to the task the courage of a classic pioneer, the skepticism of an indomitable journalist, and the intellectual rigor of a scientist.
At points, the book goes tedious, the price for making credible the impassioned candor of an enormous accumulation of deeply suspect "abductee" recountings. But overall, it is fascinating - compelling, terrifying, haunting, yet entirely rational. A hell-for-leather read. And maybe, just maybe, a very important book.
(But I do wish Mr. Bryan and Knopf's editors would look up "nauseous" and "nauseated." Their indifference to the precision and grace of language on this point is nauseous. It's enough to render literate Beings nauseated.)