Something Was Watching

Tree Alien

From time I like to take a break from chronicling Western civilization's collapse and share a story that reminds us there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in presidential politics. Contra the experts on campus and cable news, our understanding of the world is far from complete.

I had a friend in college who grew up in the next town over. Though I might not call him a skeptic, he kept a level head and was always more enamored of natural phenomena than abstract conjecture. His life's dream was to be an astronomer, and he didn't usually go in for the Art Bell stuff.

Except for this one time.

Late one night--it must have been sometime around the turn of the millennium--we were driving in his truck along a lonely road cutting through a narrow river valley between moonlit bluffs on our right and a dark strip of woods on our left. Picture the scene from Stand by Me where Wesley and co. are standing on the train tracks and facing the river, and you'll have a pretty good idea of the terrain. Now picture it in the small hours with the moon riding high.

We were heading to his folks' place, chatting about the sorts of ephemera that occupied much of our time back then: anime, D&D, imported Saturn games, when he threw me a major curve ball. Pursuant to nothing in the conversation thus far, he sprang the following story on me.

My friend had grown up in one of those odd neighborhoods you find beyond the outskirts of medium-sized Midwestern towns. It was past the suburbs but not quite out in the country, a ten-minute drive from civilization along that two-lane river road. That may not seem remote, but if you'd been in the car that night, and my friend had dropped you off on the roadside, you could've looked in every direction and not seen an electric light burning.

Years before, this was the early 90s, my friend had been spending the night at a classmate's house on one of the first weekends of the school year. They were in junior high at the time, when my friend's classmate had lived a block from the house we were driving toward. As preteen boys of the era did, they'd amused themselves with Nintendo games and comic books well into the evening before repairing to the living room for the season premiere of Saturday Night Live.

They'd found the man of the house already ensconced in his worn recliner in front of the TV. My friend's buddy's dad hailed from the ranks of blue collar Boomers pulling down six figures in today's money at a local factory long since closed. You may have met the type: fond of trucker hats, always had dirty hands, but there was a five-year-old Corvette in the garage. He worked long hours in hot, noisy conditions and had a generally low tolerance for youthful exuberance. He seemed to have it in for my friend in particular, so both boys had sat quietly on the earth-tone-plaid-sofa-with-afghan that they'd issued every homeowner in the 80s.

My friend had been sitting at the end of the sofa nearest the big picture window--as far from his buddy's old man as possible. He told me he didn't remember why or exactly when, but at some point during a commercial he'd glanced out that window.

The flicker of the console TV and the dim glow of the old man's stand lamp had been the only light sources, mitigating the mirror effect of looking through a window in a lighted room at night. Only the moon, filtered through clouds and obstructed by tree limbs, had lit the sleeping landscape. My friend hadn't been able to see the white strip of gravel road fronting the yard. He'd barely been able to make out the trunk of the old tree standing right in front of the house.

But thanks to the backlit clouds, he'd seen the shape hunched on the branch twelve feet from him.

The house was a split-level job like all the others on the street, so the living room window was a good ten feet above grade--right in line with the lowest tree branch. My sober, analytical friend insisted that something had been perched on that branch that night. Circumstances hadn't allowed him a good look at it, but he said it was dark and about the size of a toddler with a weird hunched posture. The arms had seemed unnaturally long compared to the other body proportions. But what really made an impression on my friend was the thing's face. Even though it had been turned to one side, he'd seen that its eyes and mouth emitted bright neon green light.

Fear had wrestled with curiosity in my friend's head, and curiosity had won. He'd kept staring at the self-luminous goblin until, with shocking suddenness, it had turned and stared back.

My friend remembered nothing of his interaction with the anomalous entity from that point forward except for its blazing green eyes and mouth, the latter of which gaped wide as if screaming. Yet he recalled no sound emerging; only terrible green light.

He next recalled dimly hearing his buddy's dad growl, "What the hell is your spaz of a friend looking at?" His buddy had shaken him, and when he'd turned back to the room, Kevin Nealon was wrapping up Weekend Update. The whole encounter had seemed to last only a few seconds, but he estimated he must've been locking eyes with the thing for almost ten minutes.

My friend recounted how he'd dreaded looking back out that window, but as befit a delver into nature's secrets, he had indeed looked again. There'd been nothing; only shrouded moonlight seeping through tangled branches.

The boys had called it a night after that. As my friend had lain on plaid cushions under an ugly afghan that late Saturday night in the early 90s, his buddy had asked him what he'd seen.

"Nothing," my friend had said. "I just spaced out."

He said he hadn't confided that story to anyone until he told me those years later.

The rest of the drive passed uneventfully, though I couldn't help glancing at the tree line every couple of minutes. We passed the rest of the night discussing our course loads, swapping anecdotes about the anime con we'd attended a couple weeks before, and rummaging through my friend's vintage Transformers collection.

That night passed into day, and the days ran into years. Somewhere along the way, my friend sank into the rainbow-hued heart of Clown World, his dreams and potential unfulfilled. We still exchange the odd text now and then.

Like everyone in the last few generations, my friend grew up being told anything was possible if he applied himself, only to be sabotaged by a rapidly degrading society, a system that couldn't care less, and an elder generation unable to grasp the largely hidden opposition he was up against. You could make the case he ended up where he did because of the bad hand he was dealt. Then again, most people reading this were at the same table with the same dealer.

If you hung out with our crowd back in those days when the plans laid against us quietly passed the point of no return, you'd have liked my friend. But you'd probably have noticed a subtle distance, as if he was never fully there, even if the two of you were in the midst of a rousing conversation about Warhammer 40K.

I started wondering that night. Sometimes I still do.

The Indiegogo campaign for my third thrilling Combat Frame XSeed novel launches soon! If you haven't gotten in on the series that's revolutionizing mecha yet, now's the time!

Combat Frame XSeed - Brian Niemeier


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  2. Thanks for posting the link about your old movie theater job, I missed that one.

    I have never experienced anything weird. Well, one thing. I recall around the age of 11 of seeing a lighted object in the sky one evening moving very fast, stopping still in the sky for a few seconds, and then move at a slightly different vector at high speeds and disappear. Too fast to be a helicopter, and the stopping in place discounted it being a plane (and it was too sharp and crisp of a movement to be a harrier jet). And that’s it. Too urban where I grew up to ever see anything odd.

    Thanks for sharing. I oddly love these stories.

    1. It's my pleasure, believe me. I enjoy the high strangeness and CF posts more than talking culture and politics these days, for obvious reasons.

      Part of a good Fortean yarn's appeal is that everybody has one. Your account is the inverse of a statement Steven Spielberg once made in an interview while promoting Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "I've never seen a UFO, but ghosts? That's another story!"

  3. Thanks for sharing man, these spooky cryptid stories are great. Stories about weird creatures in the woods are sparse where I'm from, mainly because woods are sparse where I'm from, but we still have our own anomalies. Always strange lights in the sky; but when there's a naval air base nearby you can always blame them for whatever doesn't make sense. But I know a few stranger ones.
    Now I thought differently about these things before I started giving serious credence to the existence of demons. But man, I really have to say I don't know a single person who's been touched by these inhuman experiences that wasn't
    A. Failing, in some way, to walk the straight and narrow, and
    B. Very soon after stricken with bad misfortune.

    I don't know what to say, definitively, on the subject, if anything. But I do wonder about it all.

    1. If you're entertained, I've done my job.

      Without doxxing anyone, I'll say item B at least applies to my friend from the story. If you're the praying kind, it couldn't hurt to put a word in for him with the Man Upstairs.

  4. I like commiserating about the imminent downfall of Western Civilization as much as the next guy.

    But these are my favorite posts here. By a mile.

    I've read a few now and I always enjoy them. This one is a weird one in that I don't know where to categorize it: Cryptid or supernatural? Or both?

    Anyway, after some debate, here is my story. I have only ever had one weird thing happen to me. And it happened while I was so young, my parents usually tell the tale.

    I was 4 years old and the year was 1979. My grandfather, a strong Irish Catholic who used to attend mass every morning at 6:30 until they stopped giving it in Latin, also owned a bar. He was a functioning alcoholic himself who drank two entire bottles of Canadian Club every single day (!!!! No wonder he died only three years later!!!!*)

    But this story isn't about him so much as one of his loyal customers. The man's name was Horace. And Horace was a very old, very kind drunk who came over from the County of Roscommon.

    I was 4 years old and the highlight of my day was walking from my parents' house one door over to my grandfather's bar to hangout (my grandparents lived above the bar and I spent the night there every Friday) with the old guys drinking (Today, CPS would be called but the 70's were different). Horace was a DPW worker who drove a dump truck in the summer and a plow in the winter. He would perform simple coin tricks and tell me stories about the old country. Some funny, some scary. I've always been an old soul who preferred to hang around and listen to old men tell war stories and such.

    Horace died suddenly from a massive heart attack and my parents were afraid to tell me about it because of how close we were. I talked about him and his stories every night.

    On the day of his funeral, my father went and my mother stayed home with me and my little sister. While my mother was making lunch for us, she heard me in my room having a conversation with someone. At first she thought I was talking to my sister. But my mom then saw that my sister, 18 months old, was still in her jumper seat that hung from the door to the kitchen (those things were THE BEST! Almost as fun as Lawn Darts).

    So my mother comes to find me and see me sitting alone at my miniature kids desk. By this time, I was crying, but not in a loud, tantrum fashion. She asks who I was talking to.

    I told her that I was talking to Horace because he came by to see me and say good bye. And I was very upset because Horace said he was going to miss telling me stories and it was going to be a very long time before we talked again.

    My mom said it scared the ever-loving crap right out of her and she had a hard time sleeping for a few nights. My dad usually tells the story when people ask and my mom often has to leave the room when he gets to the end.

    Like I said, I don't remember any of this. I can remember the old house we lived in (we rented an upstairs apartment from a very nice couple who were like a third set of grandparents to me) and I can still see the room that this allegedly happened in.

    *When my grandfather died, numerous people, including my father, claim to have seen his ghost regularly for about three months after his death. He died somewhat young at 50 and died on his birthday, March 17th, which was one of three days a year he refused to touch alcohol. In our family, St. Patrick's Day was for going to mass and having a family dinner. No drinking happened and his bar was usually closed or at least, closed early.

    1. Thank you for your valuable feedback and for sharing your story. I am deeply stirred.

      My great-grandparents, too, owned a tavern. They hailed from another part of Europe, but your tale resonates with me nonetheless. Like a true son of Erin, you have the storyteller's gift. Can you point me toward any stories you may have published?

    2. Brian,

      That means a lot coming from one of my favorite writers!

      About three years ago, after discussion with my wife, I decided to try and make a go at writing professionally.

      To date I have had one short story published.

      Emmett Fitz-Hume is a pseudonym (and the name of Chevy Chase’s character in Spies Like Us). Because my Day Job would not approve of my political, religious and philosophical outspokenness on the Internet, I use one.

      I can email you a link, from my real name and real email, if you don’t mind.

    3. I approve of the Spies Like Us reference

    4. Go ahead and email me.

      Also, seconded on Spies Like Us.

  5. A youtube channel I think you’d quite enjoy

    1. I happened upon Bedtime Stories a couple months ago. It is indeed highly enjoyable.