Authors: David Moody
Once I get outside I’m fine.
All the nervousness, the trepidation and the apprehension disappears in seconds. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
People ask me why I run but I never give them a straight answer. I never give them an honest answer. I give them all the usual bullshit about keeping fit and healthy and I might tell them that I run because it’s good to get out and find all those places you can’t get to by car. When you’re running, I sometimes tell them, you’re everything and you’re nothing. You don’t matter to anyone but yourself. You can run past a hundred people and none of them know how far you’ve run or how much you’re hurting. I tell people that I like to run because I like the quiet. I tell them I like to be on my own. I sometimes tell them that I like to think, but I never tell anyone what I think about.
I left home just under half an hour ago. There were a few grey clouds on the horizon. Now the entire sky is almost completely black and I know that in a couple of seconds the sun will disappear. There’s a lone pocket of blue sky above me which is about to be swallowed up by dark clouds attacking it from all directions. I’ve seen this happen before when a storm’s been brewing. The clouds suddenly stop following each other and start to criss-cross the sky at different heights and different speeds. Unpredictable and unstoppable.
My legs are aching and my head is pounding. The atmosphere is heavy and oppressive and there’s a cold wind suddenly gusting all around me.
Christ, here it comes. I’ve done almost four miles and I’m soaked with sweat and now here comes the rain to make the last mile and a half home even more difficult. I’ve run down sheltered streets lined with buildings and footpaths covered by a canopy of trees but it’s only now that I’m out here with no protection that the rain is really beginning to pour down.
There’s nothing I can do but keep on running. The harder I push myself, the sooner I’ll be home.
Bloody hell. Now this is the real reason why I run.
I must have followed this dirt track a hundred times but it still takes my breath away. The rain’s ice-cold and it’s crashing down all around me now but it doesn’t seem to matter. The view here is incredible. The muddy path is never more than a couple of feet across even at its widest point and it’s hard going - boggy and uneven - but it’s worth it when I reach the top of the hill. I’m out on the edge when I reach the top of the hills, following the line of the cliffs. A two hundred foot drop and nothing to see but the ocean.
The rain’s so heavy now that it’s almost like a mist. There’s the first growl of thunder - a low, ominous rumble that I can feel through the ground. I can feel it in my legs and my belly.
Exhilarating and humbling. A sudden split-second flash of electric blue light and another crack of thunder and now I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m in trouble here. I’m out on my own with no protection. I’m cold and wet and I feel as exposed as an electricity pylon. I might as well be playing golf as running.
There’s another flash of light. This time I’m looking in the right direction, straight out over the ocean. The lightning seemed to hit the water just past the first rocks of the Devil’s Peak. If I close my eyes I can still see it in negative. But closing my eyes is the last thing I want to do up here. Shit, almost lost my footing.
I’ve got to concentrate. One slip and I’ve had it. It was a bloody stupid idea to come up this way today.
I never stop when I’m running. It’s hard to get going again once you’ve slowed down. But something’s not right. I can’t put my finger on it. The rain’s even colder now I’m standing still but that’s not important. I can hear something over the noise of the sea and the storm. I can hear a new sound. A different sound.
There’s a jet.
No, wait. There’s more than one.
They don’t usually fly much at this time of day, and certainly not in this weather unless there’s a damn good reason. There are five of them flying in an arrowhead formation. When they fly along the valley they’re a hundred times faster and nowhere near as loud as this. They’re never usually this close to each other.
There are even more of them.
I can see seven jets now, sleek and dark, still flying in formation but they’re getting lower. One by one they’re emerging from the heavy cloud cover. They’re well away from the land now and out over the ocean.
There’s something else behind them.
They’re leading it out of the clouds.
Whatever this thing is it’s huge. It’s black and it’s fucking enormous. Fucking hell, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s silent. All I can hear are the jets surrounding it. This thing is immense and it’s not making a bloody sound. It seems to be going on forever - hundreds and hundreds of metres of Christ knows what stretching down through the clouds and out over the ocean. It looks and moves like a fucking submarine carving its way through the turbulent air. Its vast belly is black, smooth and featureless but for a few bright pinpricks of light towards the front. I can’t even begin to estimate the size of this thing.
There are jets surrounding the entire machine. They look so small that they’re like the shadows of scavenging birds against it.
I can see the back end of it now - there’s a huge brilliant ball of blue-white light behind the ship. That must be what’s powering it. How can it be so quiet? Christ, how can something so big move without making a sound? All I can hear are the jets and the storm.
I can’t look at the light. It’s so bright and powerful. Jesus, I can feel my skin beginning to prickle and tighten with the heat.
The rain and sweat is evaporating and there’s steam snaking up from my skin.
The distance is deceptive. The whole convoy is moving at speed.
Just a couple of minutes since the first jet appeared and the last one is now disappearing from view. All I can see is the ball of light moving out to sea.
A second of silence, and then the sound of the waves on the rocks below and the driving rain returns a thousand times louder than before.
I’ve got to get home.
Thomas Winter was twenty-seven two weeks ago. He has one brother, Robert, who is three years his junior. There is no other family.
On March 13 last year Mary and Kenneth Winter - the parents of the boys - died in a car accident just outside London.
Mrs Winter and the driver of the van that hit their car died instantly. Mr Winter hung on for a further four and a half days before passing away in hospital.
As the sole beneficiaries of their parent’s joint will, the two boys received equal shares of a substantial estate. Mr Winter had been practical and had made arrangements well in advance which removed much of the burden from the two shell-shocked brothers. By November last year their parent’s properties had been sold, their investments and pensions realised and their bank accounts closed.
Robert continued with his studies at university - there he managed to find an oasis of normality when the rest of his world had been tipped on its head. Thomas, on the other hand, left his city office job and bought a modest bungalow in Thatcham, a small fishing village some twenty miles from where he had been brought up.
Thomas has a girlfriend, Siobhan, who he genuinely adores.
When his parents died most of his friends quickly disappeared.
Siobhan stayed by his side throughout and remained strong, dedicated and supportive. Even on the nights when Thomas sat alone and cried himself to sleep in the darkness, when he wouldn’t eat or drink and when he’d speak to no-one, she had waited nearby. She knew that he would need her eventually.
The village of Thatcham is on the east coast and is popular with holidaymakers throughout the summer.
It is late August.
I sprinted down from the cold and exposed hillside and then tripped and stumbled through the rain-soaked streets of the village. The holiday season was almost over and the summer crowds had begun to subside. There seemed to have been more tourists than ever this year but now only a determined minority of the annual sun-seeking invasion force remained.
I ran down the main promenade and followed the cobbled street which ran parallel with the curve of the shingle beach.
There was a long and irregular line of shuffling figures gathered along the arc of the grey sea wall. They were all stood with their backs to me, every last one of them staring out over the ocean and out towards the dark horizon. Families stood together in bright waterproofs talking, for once, to the normally insular and reticent locals. It was obvious that they’d all seen the same incredible sight that I’d just witnessed. No-one could have missed it. Even though I was only there for a few breathless seconds, I could sense a peculiar unease and uncertainty hanging in the air. The locals, the tourists and myself were united in the fact that none of us had a bloody clue what had just happened.
The heavy black clouds had smothered the afternoon with a murky darkness. I glanced up the hill towards home and could see my cottage. Bright yellow electric light was shining out from the living room and, standing in the window, I could see Robert’s silhouette. He too was staring out towards the horizon hoping to catch sight of the awesome thing (whatever it was) that had silently flown by a couple of minutes earlier.
I took another deep breath of damp, electrically-charged air and followed the road round the hairpin bend and then up towards the cottage. The final hill usually hurt more than any other part of my run. I was so preoccupied thinking about what I’d seen that I didn’t even notice the pain.
`Fucking hell, Tom!’ Rob yelled as I crashed clumsily through the front door. `Did you see it?’
For a few seconds I couldn’t breathe, let alone speak. I swallowed, slowly lifted my head and nodded. Coughing to clear my throat, I stumbled into the kitchen to get a drink. `I saw it,’ I managed to gasp between breaths. `And?’ he pressed, obviously keen for me to expand. `And what?’ I replied, still struggling to force enough oxygen into my body to prevent me from passing out. Now that I’d finished the effort and pace of the final mile of my run was starting to hit home. `I don’t know,’ Rob continued, oblivious to my suffering, `what do you think it was? Where the hell did it come from?’
I shrugged my sweat-soaked shoulders and peeled off my sodden T-shirt. I leant against the nearest unit for support, kicked off my muddy trainers and looked up at my brother and shook my head. `You tell me,’ I mumbled, still finding it difficult to talk. He walked away and I slowly followed him back into the living room. `I can’t believe it,’ he babbled excitedly, `I mean, for bloody years we’ve been talking and dreaming about something like this happening and now it has. More than that, it’s happened here!
Christ, the most important event in the history of bloody history itself and we’re smack bang in the middle of it!’
I really did want to match Rob’s obvious enthusiasm and excitement but at that moment in time it was impossible. I had a thousand and one questions running through my tired brain but I didn’t have the energy to even try and answer any of them. My mind was willing, but my body was most definitely still weak. `I was in the kitchen when I heard the jets,’ he continued regardless. `I heard them fly over and I came in here to see what was going on. I thought we’d gone to war or something and then I saw it. Bloody hell, it flew right over the village! It must have been a couple of miles long…’
Robert didn’t stop talking but I stopped listening. I walked across to the wide bay window on the far side of the room and, dressed only in my shorts and muddy socks, I looked out towards the horizon and then down onto the busy village below. The streets which had been relatively empty for much of the day were suddenly teeming with figures and there was still a decent sized crowd gathered by the sea wall. The storm was finally passing and moving out to sea and as the heavy clouds began to creep away the low light of the afternoon gradually began to improve. `So what was it?’ I asked, inadvertently cutting across my brother and repeating his earlier question. I hadn’t actually meant to ask it, I was just thinking out loud. `For Christ’s sake,’ Rob sighed, `what do you think it was?’ `I think it was a spaceship,’ I muttered, unable to think of a more impressive way of describing the most incredible sight I (or anyone else) had ever witnessed. `But it can’t have been. That’s ridiculous.’ `Why is it?’ `What?’ `Why is that ridiculous?’ `A spaceship?! Come on, we don’t…’ `We’ve been sending people out into space for decades, haven’t we? If we can do it then…’ `Yes, but…’ `But nothing. Just accept it, Tom, this afternoon we were visited by bloody aliens!’