GENRE: SCIENCE FICTION; March '93.
Even now in California, South America and Italy someone is scanning space for
possible signals of extraterrestrial origin (the S.E.T.I research programme), and for
different forms of communication from ours that are crossing space, trying to reach us.
The world of the year two thousand has not forgotten flying saucers.
From modern American legends about close encounters with UFOs ever since the
times of the Far West, the idea was born of a treaty, a kind of peace treaty that has lasted
up to today, between the farmers of these areas and aliens - a treaty that guarantees
advantages to both.
The extraterrestrial beings that I have imagined are not the usual stereotypes who arrive
on the movie screen in brightly colored spaceships, speak our language fluently and look
very different from us.
I have imagined a model based on the indications of the majority of experts, the one
most often found in photographs and described by witnesses of sightings, true or false as
they may be.
There is also a reference to the relationship progress/superstition and the often too
radical thinking of old-fashioned types, like country people, about those suffering from
Somewhere in the CALIFORNIAN countryside, today.
Jeremiah McSweeny is a farmer. His son Joe, an AIDS sufferer, is in the department
for the terminally ill in the county hospital. The doctors have told his father that the boy
has forty-eight hours to live, at most three days.
As usual Jeremiah is spending the day following Joe's progress from behind a glass
screen, when an old acquaintance of his arrives. It is Tom Franklin, another local farmer.
He has come to make a certain proposal for the umpteenth time: does McSweeny want to
become part of the "Treaty", so that something can be done for his son? But Jeremiah
McSweeny is an old-fashioned man, the salt of the earth, and turns down the offer telling
Franklin that he does not want to have anything to do with his devilry. Then Tom
reproaches him for not giving his son any better chance than his wife Rose, who died from
cancer ten years previously when McSweeny and his family had moved away to another
part of the country.
McSweeny tells Franklin that God's will must always be done and that his son finds
himself in this position through his own fault: he is paying the price for his dissolute life
style in Los Angeles, where he had lived up to a few years before.
Tom, however, knows how to get round him and asks him what Rose would have
wanted for her son: salvation or death?
Jeremiah, who loves his son but is a stubborn man, finds that although Franklin has
already asked him this question tens of times, this time he cannot pull back and decides to
go that very evening to a meeting of the Council, which was set up to decide questions
concerning the Treaty.
Franklin fetches him in his pick-up. McSweeny gets in with a shotgun in his hand
saying that it is too early yet for trust. The driver nods and they set off together. On the
way Jeremiah explains that his has spoken to Father Ramirez, the town's priest, whom he
had met during his usual rounds of hospital visits and had mentioned the thing to him
getting a negative response. Father Ramirez told him that it is wrong to trust in the forces
of darkness rather than in God to solve one's problems.
Franklin accuses McSweeny laughingly of talking like some of the old Navaho Indians
who prefer to let their teeth rot rather than go to a white dentist.
Jeremiah is not in the least amused and makes Tom stop the pick-up. He tells him that
he will not sell his soul to the devil and explains that what the priest told him is the least of
his worries. What disturbs him most is the havoc wrought by the aliens on Wilson's cows -
Wilson is another farmer.
Then Tom tells him to remember the positive things that the extraterrestrial creatures
have done: the fields of a certain Brown, a holding of little value that had never yielded a
satisfactory harvest, suddenly became the most fertile in the area and also the recovery of
Luke Pine's daughter, a child with polio. Besides, Franklin says the aliens do not
experiment on animals because they are evil and that they behave no differently from his
own daughter when she dissects a toad in a biology lesson at school.
By now McSweeny is convinced and they go on their way.
When they reach the Pine farmstead, the same Pine whose daughter was cured, there
is a great deal of movement. Tens of pick-ups are parked around the house and it is not
difficult to imagine that there is a farmers' meeting going on.
Once inside McSweeny is surprised to find that all those present are part of the same
co-operative as him. Jeremiah was unaware of this.
Some are playing cards, others are talking about cattle and crops. Luke Pine, who is
head of the council, approaches to welcome him. Then he turns to the others to introduce
the new member (once presented to the council there is no going back and you are an
effective member of the Treaty. This is not a written rule but if McSweeny pulls out after
this moment nobody will stop him but, having gone back on his word he will lose
At once Jeremiah asks who the head is, but they tell him that there is not one and that
everything is decided by raising hands, in the best American tradition (in fact Pine does not
occupy a position of command over the other members; he is considered a person of
importance and called "head of the council" as it is his family that keeps the book with the
history of the council and with the rules that govern it).
Jeremiah is pleased about this equality among the members and feels at home.
Pine himself, in front of all the others, tells him the story of the Treaty.
He tells him that it all began in 1871, when a certain Henry Benson, a farmer who lived
about fifty miles out of town, found a strange silver object in the shape of a disc, about
twenty meters in diameter, while he was looking over his pastures on horseback. He was
scared stiff but ran and called his neighbors who were rounding up cattle nearby. They all
took courage, cocked their rifles and went to the foot of the hill when the thing was, to try
and figure something out. They went inside and found two human-like figures. One of
them was dead. The other, who was badly injured, was put on a cart and taken to a doctor
in the village, not so much because they wanted to care for him but to find out what exactly
They all realized that the object and the creatures did not belong to this world, but none
of them suspected that it was an interplanetary spaceship that had crashed on the earth
for technical reasons.
As he looked like a human being the alien was cared for and recovered. The county
was overcome by the fear and suspicion that there was something diabolic behind it all.
Only the doctor, a clever man, managed to calm tempers down and avoid a lynching.
Pine then tells McSweeny that this creature, being unable to communicate in any other
way, managed to explain by gesturing that he wanted to go back to the ship. They took
him, and he sent an S.O.S. to his companions.
The day after another spaceship arrived. Another four humanoids got out and the
farmers gave them the alien and the body of his companion who had died in the crash.
The humanoid explained to his friends what had happened and then took them to
Benson's house. His sister was there, paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a
horse some time before. Before the incredulous eyes of those present, she recovered.
The aliens' civilization is much more advanced than ours and their powers are unlimited
Henry Benson was really happy and realizing that the alien's recovery was not his doing
but the doctor's, he felt indebted and, not knowing how else to return the favor, he made
them a present of his best pair of oxen. They loaded them onto the spaceship and set off,
but first they made it clear that the friendship would not end there.
Pine is almost moved by the account of the origins of the Treaty, while Jeremiah is
dumbfound. He had often heard talk of the aliens and seen strange things, like the
business of Wilson's cows, but not being part of the association, he experienced it all
indirectly as the other farmers always tried to keep him as much in the dark as possible.
Pine finishes the story saying that the extraterrestrial creatures came back and gave
their friends equipment with which they could get in touch with them; in this way every time
the inhabitants of earth were in need, they would come down to help them.
It was Dr. Preston, the most learned man in town, who wrote it all down.
Then they tell McSweeny the three fundamental rules of the Treaty:
a) reciprocal help in all situations;
b) to keep the secret with the authorities (whose curiosity had been growing over the
years, given the constant increase in sightings);
c) given that point a) is a one way thing i.e. help only from the aliens to the inhabitants
of earth, the latter have to supply material for study to the former as repayment (cows and
other animals, plants, etc. - it being understood that no experiments shall be carried out on
Besides the history and the rules, in the book there are also the names of all the people
who have been members from 1871 up to today. The number of members of the Treaty is
growing and at the moment they are all part of the farming community. The story of the
Treaty is now well known over several small counties. From West to East and from North
to South, a part of the "backbone" of the United States is protected and helped by UFOs.
Every centre has its book in which the amount given to the aliens by the different members
and what they have received is recorded, like in a sort of ledger.
Jeremiah McSweeny writes his name in the book.
Now the members can launch an SOS for his son Joe.
However there is a problem: in October '92 NASA began a research programme called
S.E.T.I., whose purpose is to systematically scan the universe in search of signals coming
from space, which prove that other possible worlds want to communicate with us.
Because of this, the farmers ask the aliens to come without replying to their message. The
topographic co-ordinates of McSweeny's farm are added to the message so that they
know where to come down.
There is always a margin of error with a message that has to travel into the depths of
space, so for Joe there is still some risk.
The next morning Jeremiah and Franklin have Joe McSweeny discharged from hospital,
saying that the boy has expressed the desire to spend his last few hours at home. They
do not tell him anything about the help he is going to receive, but only that everyone wants
to be near him in a homely atmosphere.
In the hospital McSweeny meets Father Ramirez again who, having got wind of things,
tries to dissuade him; but McSweeny is not to be convinced.
When they reach the farm Joe is put to bed.
Time passes slowly; the appointment with the UFO is scheduled for midnight sharp (the
time of arrival has been calculated from the time it took to send the message and the
known speed of the spaceship).
When, just past midnight, nothing is to be seen, the tension in the house becomes
unbearable. The men are almost sure that the signal has not reached destination.
Just afterwards, however, everything begins to tremble, the electricity comes and goes,
the house is lit up as if by day: the aliens have kept their appointment.
It is the typical scene from a science fiction film: the buzzing of the flying saucer, first
loud and then dying away. The door flies open. McSweeny feels a mixture of joy and fear.
At last the aliens come out.
Jeremiah has been told something about them, but with all the other things he has had
to do there has been no time to ask to see a photo of them.
The creature is a dwarf with huge eyes set in a small head which in turn seems too big
for its body. It is as pale as death and is completely bald. It is wearing a silver suit and
has four fingers on each hand.
It greets those present in English.
McSweeny is dazed by all this and even more so when he hears that the alien speaks
with a voice that he already knows: it is the voice of Miss Jones, his old school mistress.
When he asks for an explanation he is told that it is not in the least a coincidence. Miss
Jones had taken part in the education, if we can call it that, of the aliens.
In the 1930's the UFO pilots felt a growing need for total communication. So one of
them came with what in earthly jargon is known as a voice synthesizer, or better a
translator, and began to programme it. The alien gave a name for every object in its own
language into the machine, then indicated it to Miss Jones and recorded her voice saying
the object's name. In this way the two terms were associated. This programming went on
for two months and the aliens stayed on earth all that time.
When an alien wants to say something it speaks in its own language into a kind of
microphone and the converter translates it into English. To listen another "microphone"
on its chest sends the term to the converter, which translates it into the aliens' language,
and then into a kind of ear-piece. Obviously the result can only be a fragmented and
distorted type of language.
In the meantime Joe McSweeny is near his end.
Another alien comes in with the same type of voice synthesizer (every alien, given the
duplication of the programme, has Miss Jones' voice) and they both go into the boy's
Joe is with Pine's wife, who is there to take care of him and, above all, to stop him from
looking. She is holding a wet towel on his forehead which also covers his eyes. When he
hears the door opening he pulls off the towel and looks. The shock is enormous: he
thinks two demons have come to take him away.
Franklin and the others try to distract Jeremiah during the wait.
A few minutes later Joe comes out of the bedroom, cured, and hugs his father. Pine's
wife has explained everything to him, but he is still shaken by his encounter with his
The McSweenys are happy and say good-bye to the aliens.
Pine even sends his daughter's regards to Elvis (a detail that raises the point of an
American metropolitan legend: Elvis Presley is not dead but has left this world of his own
will to go with the aliens and often comes down to earth to visit us. He is sometimes seen
by people who are momentarily kidnapped by the extraterrestrial creatures or by those
who manage to get close enough to peep inside a UFO.
The aliens nod, then get back into the flying saucer and set off, with the same effect as
before (buzzing, vibrations, etc.) after the McSweenys have given them a pair of horses.
McSweeny is delighted with his choice and realizes that if progress is devoted to a good
cause it should never be hampered and that it does not go against religious belief.
There is only one regret: the privilege that his son has had cannot be shared by thousands
of people all over the world. In fact the aliens are forced to hide through the fault of
governments that want their super-advanced technology not to treat the sick, but only for
terrible, unknown weapons with which to hegemonize one another.