He Came from Outerspace


It came down like a bright ball of fire, then disappeared into the depth of the dark night. It was a few minutes later that a heavy thud shook our house.

Not yet 10 years old, I remember that April night in 1961 like it happened yesterday, and it still makes me sick to my stomach. Only now that Mom has passed can I begin to unburden myself and tell what happened during those three days.

After the house shook, Dad grabbed his shotgun and headed out to have a look. By this time, I was sent to bed, so I wouldn’t be in the way.

Then I heard the shotgun blasts. Curious, I got up and sat at the top of the stairs, listening and watching.

Soon Dad came rushing in. He was sweaty, pale, and in a panic, shouting at Mom to grab some towels and that he’d shot a man.

Mom did as she was told. She came in the house another couple of times to get first aid supplies before disappearing outside.

How long it was between the time I watched Dad rush out of the house with Mom in tow, I’m not sure. Soon I heard them on the front porch, where it sounded as if they were struggling to carry something heavy.

Scared, I retreated to my bed and remained there until morning. That’s when I learned the extent of what had happened.

Dad had shot a spaceman, and the ball of light we’d seen and the shaking of the house had been his spaceship coming to Earth. I could hardly believe that men-from-Mars were real.

It took another day before I caught a glimpse of this spaceman. He didn’t look like the monsters my comic books had made them out to be.

He looked so human though he spoke words I had never heard before. I thought that perhaps it was Martian or something.

I also saw his orange space suit, covered in blood, while Mom was trying to clean it in the kitchen sink. When she saw me, she shooed me away.

That night, I sneaked into the bedroom where the spaceman lay. He was dead by this time, and Mom and Dad were trying to figure out what to do with his body and were fearful that there would be an attempt to rescue him.

Though the lights were out, I could tell he had been shot and that he had died from those wounds. I couldn’t understand why his blood was red and not green like I had been lead to believe.

The next morning I watched as Dad carried the sheet-wrapped body from the house to his backhoe. Mom helped him load it on the machine and then stood crying as Dad drove into the wheat field where the spaceship had come down.

From my bedroom window, I watched as Dad placed the spaceman’s body in the ship, then push both into the hole he’d dug, before he buried them. I marked that spot in my memory after being warned to never say a thing about what had happened.

Three days after the spaceship and the spaceman’s unceremonious burial, I was in the hallway between the living room and stairs when I saw the news. I was not supposed to be there as I had been forbidden to watch it since the ship crashed on our farm.

Though he was in black and white, I knew the man receiving a handshake from the Soviet Premier. I had seen him, listened as he died, and watched as he was buried in the wheat field in front of our house.

“Who is Yuri Gagarin?” I asked without thinking.

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