William H. Johnson, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (c.1944)
William H. Johnson, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (c.1944)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages


We were driving west on I-10, from Austin back to California. Van full of band gear and sleeping musicians. At sunrise we entered New Mexico, a gorgeous clear desert day. Ahead to the right you could see the first foothills. Above them was a black object, stationary, simply hovering.

In the late '80s I began reading the UFO literature, hoping for some sign of intelligence superior to ours. It was around the time scientists first raised alarms about ozone depletion. My motive was sheer pessimism: capitalism had won, the popular movements were defeated, our home was being stripped and poisoned for the profit of a vulture minority. Maybe someone ethical and smart would save us from ourselves.

It's hard to judge size from a distance. Perspective plays tricks. We watched it all morning, growing larger with the hills below. But it must have been enormous. The size of whole city blocks. Jet black and profoundly motionless in the sky to the right.

According to contactees, the UFO critters shared this pessimism. Whitley Strieber stresses visions he was shown of the world exploding, and of a detailed three-dimensional map of the broken-down ozone layer. There are many similar accounts. One of these has remained prominent in my memory. A woman abductee was spoken to by an entity whose words were in a language she didn't understand. Later she related them to a friend, who guessed their dialect. It was Gaelic, and the message was, "The children of the northern peoples are wallowing in universal darkness."

Around noon we stopped for gas. By that time the hills, and the object, were directly perpendicular to the road. You could see it clearly from the pump. I pointed, asking the attendant, "What's that?." "Dunno," he said. "But it's been there all day."