From Chapter One...
The temperature at noon that July day had been at least 120 degrees in the shade, and, even at seven-thirty in the evening, with all the windows rolled down, the interior of his twelve-year-old, un-air-conditioned VW van had still been hellish. To make matters worse, his impulsively chosen shortcut had turned out to be little more than a rutted desert track. And then, shortly after rounding a blind curve, the early twilight sky began to glow, bathing the sere desert landscape in an odd white light. It seemed to be coming from somewhere directly above him.
He pulled over to the shoulder, leaned his head out the window, and looked up.
Hovering about five hundred feet overhead was a large, disk-shaped object, its underside suffused by the brightest artificial light Culley had ever seen. He later estimated the disk’s diameter at approximately a hundred feet, although at the time he was so dumbfounded that he forgot to grab the camera lying next to him on the seat, let alone make dispassionate observations
After a few seconds, the strange craft silently descended, fluttering like a luminous, oval leaf caught in a phantom wind. It came to “rest” about fifty feet above the road a few yards in front of him, whereupon the radio went silent, the headlights winked out, and the idling engine coughed, sputtered, and died.
Culley sat there transfixed, unable to move a muscle.
Even now, a decade later, both the abject terror and intense curiosity that engulfed him in alternate waves were still vivid. He wanted to run and, at the same time, he desperately wanted to know what the object was and where it came from.
While he pondered his next move, a peculiar, disembodied voice began to echo in his head: It’s all right, Dr. Wisdom. We won’t harm you. We are your friends. The terror was still there, but it was soon overlaid by a sense of well-being, as if all of this was really happening to somebody else.
A few minutes after Culley “heard” the calming voice, three extremely short creatures with disproportionately large, bulbous heads, huge wrap-around eyes, and wearing pale blue, luminous body suits glided out of the hovering craft. They were surrounded by a beam of bright blue light that shimmered as if it contained thousands of minuscule diamonds.
As soon as the creatures reached the ground, the beam disappeared, and they glided noiselessly toward his van. It somehow seemed perfectly natural that their feet never actually touched the ground. One of them aimed a small object at him, and he found himself opening the door.
Supported by the tiny trio, Culley floated in the direction of the waiting disk. With great effort, he glanced down at one of the hands that clutched his arm and noticed that it had but four, pencil-thin fingers, one of which was significantly shorter than the others. What made these alien fingers even more bizarre was their total lack of anything that remotely suggested fingernails.
When he and his captors reached a point directly beneath the UFO the blue beam reappeared. Still unable to move a muscle, he felt himself rise into the air. He sensed that two of the bulbous-headed creatures were floating immediately below him while the other one hovered just above his head--although the intensity of the beam blocked most of his vision. In a few seconds, Culley felt himself pass through the thin outer surface of the alien craft and into a brightly lighted, white-walled chamber that looked like an operating room. Its most obvious feature was an oddly-contoured table that seemed to grow from the floor like a flat-topped mushroom. He could also see an array of unfamiliar devices attached to the walls and suspended from the low, luminous ceiling.
As he took in his new surroundings, Culley did his best to convince himself that he was totally out of his mind--crazy with the God-awful desert heat, perhaps--or that he was having an extraordinarily bad dream. Yes, that was it! He’d pulled off the road and gone to sleep. . . .
After complying with their “suggestion” that he shed his clothes, the creatures floated him onto the table. Then, after several more similarly clad creatures entered the pie-shaped chamber, they subjected the distraught anthropologist to the strangest physical examination he’d ever experienced. Culley was poked, prodded, and invaded in almost every imaginable way, plus a few that seemed patently impossible. Most of their instruments--including a free-floating device not unlike the CBS logo that scanned every inch of his body, and several tubes that could be inserted into a variety of bodily orifices with little or no pain--were unlike any he had ever seen or imagined.
There was an ineffable, almost magical quality to the whole scene, which seemed to confirm science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s famous “law”: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Culley found himself repeating it over and over again in his mind as they continued to poke and prod and scan.
The medical procedure was supervised by a taller, more robust alien whose eyes and sharply pointed chin closely resembled those of the little, bulbous-headed beings who'd escorted him into the ship, but was otherwise far more humanoid in appearance. Culley's assessment was reinforced by the fact that he--unlike the short creatures, this one definitely seemed to have a gender--had ten extremely slender fingers that ended in what appeared to be fingernails.
The "supervisor" refused to answer any questions and simply did his job. Nor did his tiny assistants have anything to say as they went about their duties, their movements jerky and robot-like in contrast to the more fluid--and human-like--motions of their taller companion. All the while, the same impersonal "voice" he'd heard in the van kept repeating It's all right, you're safe here and It won't hurt much, just a tiny pin prick as they deftly inserted yet another set of needles into his abdomen and testicles.
Most of this, of course, did not come back into his consciousness until long after the experience, not until Culley had submitted himself to an extensive program of hypno-regression directed by Dr. Harold Stern, an eminent Beverly Hills psychiatrist and one of the leading authorities in the field. And even now there were a few memories that remained fuzzy and incomplete, no matter how hard he tried to bring them into focus. It was as if “they” still didn’t want him to penetrate certain areas of his experience.
But the principal event of the evening, which he finally recalled in full one morning in Dr. Stern’s office, happened shortly after the physical examination. He’d noticed that they paid a great deal of attention to his genitals, which surprised him. Why were they so concerned with that part of his anatomy?
He was about to find out.
In a few minutes, or perhaps even an hour--by now Culley had lost most of his time sense--one of his captors floated him off the examination table and into another chamber. This room was similar in size and general appearance to the first one. However, its most prominent item was what appeared to be a large, round bed, which, like the “operating table” in the previous room, was anchored to the floor and occupied most of the space. He was floated onto the bed, and “told” to relax. Once again, he felt extremely heavy and unable to move his body.
It was at this point, initially, that recollection had become difficult. Culley remembered, word for word, his dialogue with Dr. Stern while under hypnosis; he’d listened to the tape God knows how many times, trying to pull it all together:
Dr. Stern: “Okay, Culley, what’s happening now?”
Culley: “I’m being floated onto the couch, or bed, or whatever it is. I’m trying to sit up, but I can’t. They’re leaving, now. I’m scared shitless. What’s going to happen next? I don’t want to talk about it.”
Dr. Stern: “Relax, Culley; it’s not really happening this time. Just let yourself relive the experience. If it gets too painful, we can stop any time.”
Culley: “The gas! They’re filling the room with a green gas or a mist, I can’t really tell which.”
Dr. Stern: “Are you alone now?”
Culley: “Yes. But the gas or whatever--it seems to be absorbing that funny odor, sort of like baking soda in a refrigerator, if you know what I mean--is filling the room and I can’t see anything! Oh, I’m so scared!”
Dr. Stern: “Hang in there, Culley! What’s happening now?”
Culley: “Okay, Doc. Now the gas is dissipating rapidly. I don’t know where it’s going, but it’s just about gone. The musty smell’s back, but not as strong. It’s also getting a little warmer. I still feel heavy, but I can move my arms and legs pretty well. Oh, oh! Somebody’s coming in. I can’t see too well--there’s still some mist. But it looks like--no, I don’t believe this!”
Dr. Stern: “What don’t you believe?”
Culley: “It’s a woman! One of ‘them.’ The same big eyes and pointed chin. But she’s beautiful in an exotic way. Yes, very beautiful and very sexy, even though her pubic hair’s blood red.”
Dr. Stern: “How do you know that, Culley?”
Culley: “Because she’s stark naked! What’s she going to do? Oh, no! I don’t believe this is happening. She’s getting onto the bed with me. She’s--she’s touching me. Thank God she’s got normal hands! And . . .”
Dr. Stern: “Where is she touching you?”
Culley: “My penis. It’s--it’s getting hard!”
Dr, Stern: “Take it easy, Culley. Do you remember anything else about the woman?”
Culley: “Yes. She’s telling me that her name is Qaazi Qaan-gaa, that she loves me, and that we’re about to conceive a son. And the corners of those remarkable eyes! They sometimes flutter upward, especially when she makes love. I know something else, too.”
Dr. Stern: “What’s that?”
Culley: “I’m deeply in love with her, too, more in love than I’ve ever been or ever will be. Maybe it’s all a trick. Maybe my mind’s playing weird games, but I desperately want to see Qaazi again. Someday, somewhere. . .”
But Qaazi and her diminutive companions remained illusive.
Initially, he’d been a true believer, eager to share his fully-recalled sexual encounter with a beautiful extraterrestrial with anyone who would listen. Indeed, he was convinced that it was his sacred duty as a social scientist to proclaim that UFOs and aliens really did exist, and that the human race as a whole would soon be forced to come to grips with this awesome fact. The end result was a moderately successful UFO book entitled Encounter in the Desert, which he wrote in collaboration with Dr. Stern.
As it turned out, although he made a fair amount of money from it, at least initially, the book cost him both his marriage and whatever chance he might have had of receiving tenure at Graham--or any other stateside institution, for that matter. No respectable college or university wanted a UFO freak on its faculty. And so, after failing to land a teaching job of any sort in the States, he joined the ranks of failed academics, burnt-out graduate students, and kids just out of college looking for an adventure who fed the seemingly insatiable Japanese appetite for English conversation classes.
Teaching the nuances of American English pronunciation to ten stone-faced Japanese businessmen jammed cheek-by-jowl into a tiny cubicle they had the nerve to call a “classroom” was emphatically not what Culley had expected to be doing a decade after earning his doctorate in anthropology. But the job wasn’t very taxing, at least mentally, and he’d had a lot of time to think. The upshot was that, after eight years of mulling over what had happened to him that evening, he was no longer sure of anything.
For a brief period after Encounter in the Desert hit the bookstores, Culley had been fairly active in the affairs of several of the more responsible UFO research groups, among them the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). He was, after all something of a celebrity in those circles. He also regularly contributed to a variety of Internet lists devoted to UFOlogical subjects. But the kooky, New-Age nonsense he kept encountering, even among ostensibly “serious” UFO researchers, caused him to question the validity of his memories, including the ones dredged up by Dr. Stern.
The two pieces of possible physical evidence, a small red mark on his neck and a bad nosebleed, had disappeared long before he’d sought professional help. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more it seemed that his ex-wife Lorna, the Graham Tenure and Promotion Committee, most of his colleagues, and the polite, close-cropped Government types--he never found out exactly which agency (or agencies) they worked for--who’d pestered him for a while after the book appeared had been right all along, and he had hallucinated the whole damned thing!
And so, after he moved to Tokyo, he did his best to slide beneath the UFO community’s radar, as well as that of the Government and whatever the aliens–if indeed they weren’t figments of his imagination–might be using to keep track of folks they abducted.
Until this morning . . .
Pushing aside the noren, Culley threaded his way through the crowded coffee shop to the small table where the person who had triggered these memories sat, menu in hand, looking for all the world like an ordinary Japanese customer. As he approached, she put down the menu and smiled up at him with that love-filled half-smile he remembered so well. And then the corners of her eyes once again lifted ever so slightly.
He stood there staring at her, open mouthed.
Unless his mind was playing massive tricks on him, this beautiful, fashionably dressed young Asian woman had to be Qaazi Qaan-gaa.. There was no other rational explanation.
“Someday” was today, and “somewhere” was here--in a crowded Shinjuku Station coffee shop. Although he’d often fantasized about what he might do or say if this moment ever came, his throat suddenly went bone dry, and he found himself unable to utter a single word.
Dearest Culley, a well-remembered voice whispered deep within his psyche, please sit down. I am indeed who you think I am. And yes, I did “suggest” that you take that particular train and that you follow me here. I apologize for being so manipulative, but it was the only way I could be sure that we would meet.