Monday, May 31, 2021

An Oft-told Tale

Annamaria on Monday


I am still in dictation mode.  For this reason, I am “writing” a tale I have only talked about before today.


Catherine Zizi wouldn't have known about the small town in Iowa’s local news: strange lights in the sky. Catherine was in her cottage in Spring Lake, New Jersey at the time. Her son called midway through his summertime trip, pack-backing through US National Parks. He was already laughing at the other end of the line when she answered the phone. “I guess nothing interesting ever happens here,” he said, barely able to speak through his guffaws. “It's on the front page of the paper that a couple with a cabin in the mountains saw a strange light in the sky. They all think they're being invaded by aliens. There are a lot of nutjobs in this place, Mom.  I'm liking it, but I can't wait to get back to civilization and your lasagna!”

Andy came home in time to enjoy his mother’s cooking and the beach over the Labor Day weekend, before returning to his studies at the University of Michigan. The subject of the amusing town in Iowa didn’t come up.


That autumn, stories—all seemingly unimportant—began cropping up in local papers in cities and on news websites of small towns.  Rashes of house break-ins.  Such intrusions were ordinary; they happened all over, all the time.  The strange thing about these was that people returning home found a mess but could never discover what, if anything, the thieves had spirited away.


It took a long while for journalists to see the larger trend in what seemed, at first, isolated incidents. But soon the national news feed began to understand that what was happening in suburban Chicago, in Lafayette, California, and in Peekskill, New York was also occurring in Holly Springs, Louisiana, Lynchburg, Virginia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Hundreds and soon thousands of photos appeared on social media of empty closet shelves, clothing strewn about, boxes emptied onto carpets, the contents of refrigerators tossed on floors and into sinks.  There seemed to be no distinguishing factors about what kinds of homes or neighborhoods were attacked.  Police, state troopers, and afterwards FBI agents all heard the same answer when asking what was missing.  “Nothing.”  “Not a thing.”  “Nada.”


Pundits on news channels began to speculate about the meaning of the events and the possible perpetrators.  Fox News blamed ANTIFA. On MSNBC, talking heads posited several possibilities, the most tractable being a furtive search for stolen art, missing for decades thought to be secreted in some obscure location.

Given the complete lack of real damage or any acts of violence or theft, law enforcement soon settled on the most logical and amusing explanation: a nationwide group of pranksters, undoubtedly organized in some secret internet chat room was playing games with the American public. 

Outraged citizens soon demanded that the federal government investigate exactly how an army of intruders were, without physical evidence, gaining access to homes and offices.  “Many disturbed locations had been protected by sophisticated alarm systems,” said Judy Woodruff of PBS, in an interview with the Secretary of Homeland Security.  She followed up with all of the burning questions of the moment.  “Could these be distractions from a much more dangerous and nefarious attack going on elsewhere and a left unnoticed because of all the attention paid to these strange intrusions? Has anyone found any underlying pattern in any of this? What should ordinary people do to protect their homes from what amounts to an annoyance, but that may mask something far more serious?”  No satisfactory answers emerged from such conversations.  


Although their pace slowed somewhat, the break-ins continued.


As it happened, Catherine Zizi became the only human to happen upon an attack in progress—in her beachside cottage. That day, she uncharacteristically entered from a little used door in the back of the building. Since her shoes were sandy, she left them at the bottom of the steps that led to the bedroom floor. What she saw from halfway up the staircase astonished her to say the least.


Though she saw no person or animal who could be causing such a thing, boxes were dropping down from the top shelf in the hall closet outside her son Andy's room. Out of one of them spilled all sorts of wires having to do with computers and electronic devices. Chargers for long obsolete cell phones, ethernet cables, some thick yellow wires with, to her anyway, incomprehensible gizmos on both ends. Frozen and barely breathing, she watched as the various wires began to twirl and circle inside the box, that resembled, for all of the world, spaghetti in a pasta bowl being twirled with a fork. Then some of the wires raised about 2 1/2 or three feet into the air and began to disappear.


When Catherine gasped and grasped the banister to keep from fainting dead away, the operation abruptly stopped. With a slight whooshing and chirping sound she sensed—though she could not see it—that the creature, whatever it was, had vanished. The remains of its half-eaten meal lay on the floor.


Catherine's story was picked up by all of the news networks in the New York Metropolitan area, and soon she was being interviewed worldwide. Steadily, then, the home intrusions slowed and eventually stopped completely.


Within a week, more strange lights were sighted over Iowa, but this time they were red not white. Five days after that, Umberto Antonioni, an astrophysicist at the University of Milan received a digital communication, partly in bad English and partly in quite good Italian. It thanked the people of Earth for saving the species that had invaded our planet. “We were on the verge of extinction, until we discovered the caches of extraordinarily nourishing food on your beautiful blue planet. We have not been able to comprehend why you collected and stored our precious food.  Why would almost every home save such items?  We think you are a very advanced species that has somehow understood that we would face annihilation, and that you decided to save us. This is the greatest act of interplanetary generosity in recorded history. We will never forget you.”


No one has ever been able to authenticate the source of Professor Antonioni's message. Or its veracity.  





  1. Glad it had a happy ending! It seemed to be heading down the Stephen King path for a while there!

    1. Thank you so much, Michael! That it seemed in any way at all Stephen King-ish makes it even funnier than I thought it was.

  2. Well, at least, you still have your sense of humor, AmA!

  3. Thank you, EvKa. If I lose my sense of humor, put me in a hole and throw dirt over me. Whoever is inhabiting my body won’t be the real me!

    And thank you, shall I say Nemo? I am pleased!

  4. Thanks, Sis, for passing along an explanation I can give to Barbara for why I haven't thrown away many, many cartons. I can now describe them as foodstuffs for the needy.

    1. Glad to be of service, Bro. But please don’t tell Barbara where you got the idea. I value her friendship very much, and I want to stay in her good graces.