He had nothing to do with the stories that came later. They were, he knew, untrue, but he didn’t know if they got out by accident, or overzealousness, or were deliberate disinformation to conceal the truth. It did not, really, matter. The crash had occurred in the desert. Most of the occupants had died, it seemed, on impact – though it had taken them some time to reach the craft, so he couldn’t be sure. It didn’t really matter, he supposed – dead was dead. The craft itself was an amazing machine, beyond what limited science he understood, certainly, but conceivably beyond the understanding of the brightest minds of the day. They had, after all, only mastered the atom two years before, and this was so much more.
But why had they come here? Why were they even flying their amazing machine over the desert outside this small town? What possible interest could these beings from some extraordinary world have in the middle of nowhere that was Roswell, New Mexico? That, he could only learn from the sole survivor.
It looked almost human, in some ways, but it was so tiny. It stared at him with its big brown eyes and he was struck by the depth of sadness within them. It mourned, he felt, for more than its dead companions.
“We came,” it began “from your tomorrows.” He was startled to discover the tiny alien thing knew English, even if its grasp was a little off – even more than the revelation of its origins.
“You all went away” it continued, “you left us behind, alone and scared in your big world. We had to learn to stand as you did, without you. And then we learnt to understand the scratchings you made, and then we learnt your story – how you burnt yourselves in the fire of your Cold war. And you left us behind. We learnt to stand, and we learnt to read, and we learnt your great sciences, and we built the machine. We came back to save you. We are so alone without you. The world is so dark without you. We came back for you.”
He stared at the yellowing pages of newspapers from days he would probably not live to see – the survivor’s most precious cargo – the story they told, and the horrible inevitability of where it was obviously leading, punctuated by the silence of where they stopped. It was not a mistake that could be allowed to repeat. Suddenly, however, the absurdity of what was happening hit him, the pure everyday typicality of it – he couldn’t help himself; he start laughing uproariously. The survivor cocked its head, observing him with curious confusion.
And then, for perhaps the first time in its terribly lonely life, the Beagle wagged its tail in joy.