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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

A Strange Friend

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/20/2024
Posted: 3/29/2006
Page Views: 8025
Topics: #AlienAbductions
I am asked to join a secret government agency…maybe.

Most people who have not experienced a UFO sighting cannot imagine anything more unlikely. Most people who have not experienced an abduction by aliens can't imagine anything more bizarre than that. One of the hallmarks of the abduction experience seems to be that, just when you think it can't possibly get any stranger, that nothing in the world could top what you've just experienced—something does.

In my case, it happened one Tuesday night in the spring of 1994, not long after my encounter with the alien who called himself Vincent. I was at home in New Hampshire, sitting in my office, having just said goodbye to the last member of the Abductee Support Group after our usual weekly online meeting. I wasn't yet sleepy so I joined the "regular" (non-restricted) chat room to see who was there. I was almost immediately "winked at" by someone using the handle Arcadia.

ARCADIA: Hey, aren't you the guy who runs the abductee support group?

PAUL: That would be me.

ARCADIA: What can you tell me about it?

I gave the person—I assumed a female—the usual rundown: that we existed, not to challenge abductees' experiences but to help abductees get through them; to share our experiences so we could pool our knowledge and perhaps even do something about these experiences, since obviously the government wasn't going to help.

ARCADIA: Maybe the government IS helping. Maybe they're more involved than you know.

There was something about the way she phrased that…it gave me goose bumps. But I determined not to lose my head.

PAUL: If they are, WE haven't seen it. Abductees live in fear and shame mostly because society denies their very experiences. If the government knows aliens are doing this, they need to announce it so these people can at least have the support of their families and friends.

ARCADIA: Do you REALLY think the government should announce that aliens are abducting U.S. citizens but there's nothing they can do? What effect do you think THAT would have?

I had to admit she had a point. Even if President Clinton himself made the announcement, most people would laugh it off or claim it was an attempt to distract attention away from his dalliances with an intern.

For several weeks after that, every Tuesday Arcadia would be online after the Support Group meeting and she and I would chat, always about government involvement with aliens and abductions. She told me she was female; when I mentioned I was gay she told me she was a lesbian. We were both thus freed of worrying that either of us might have sexual designs on the other.

Then came the bombshell.

ARCADIA: What would you say if I told you I WAS working for the government? For a secret department that actually deals with aliens?

PAUL: Why, is that the sort of thing you feel you're LIKELY to say?

(I had just read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and I'd always wanted to be able to use that line.)

ARCADIA: Well, it's true. And we've been watching you.

Now, please don't think for one minute I took her seriously. I am very aware that just because typed words on a screen claim to be emanating from a lesbian secret agent doesn't mean they are. I could as easily have been chatting with an 80-year-old paraplegic with rickets and a bottle of ketchup he keeps as a pet and dresses as Van Johnson. You just can't tell.

But the only way to have a conversation with someone, online or in person, is to behave as if you believe their story. At the same time, you have to remember what they've said—printed or saved transcripts make that easy—and, as time passes, if you haven't caught them in any contradictions, their stock starts to rise until, eventually you feel you know them—and, by then, you probably do.

It's very difficult to maintain a false online persona over the course of weeks. As Mark Twain once said, "If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."

While Arcadia's announcement didn't contradict anything she'd said previously, it was still outrageous enough that I took it with a grain of salt. Funny; we know that there are secret government agencies and people working for them—but we never expect to meet such a person. (I actually had met one, the wife of a friend who had spent a couple of years as a CIA mathematician. But still.) If Arcadia had told me she was a Hollywood sound editor, or a product tester at a dehydrated potato factory, or even a night guard at an electric company who made custom teddy bears as a hobby—I wouldn't have been as hard to convince as I was over the idea that she was a agent for the X-Files.

But I went along with the joke.

PAUL: If I'd known I was being wiretapped, I'd have spent more time having phone sex. I hate to think of those poor guys locked in a phone closet with nothing to do with their hands.

ARCADIA: My department doesn't do phone taps. We don't have to. I'm a full clairvoyant.

I had no idea what a "full clairvoyant" is supposed to be, unless it's a psychic getting up from a Thanksgiving dinner. But of course I had to respond.

PAUL: Well, you can't just say something like that without following through. What color underwear

Before I could finish typing, I felt a warmth suffuse my right shoulder, or rather the area between my shoulder and my neck. I was alone in the townhouse and this wasn't a blast from the heater; it seemed to radiate from within the muscle and was not subtle. In fact, it took my breath away. Arcadia's next sentence appeared on my monitor:

ARCADIA: Did you feel that?

I've mentioned that abductees are psychic, and that I have some minor abilities of my own. But I'd never experienced anything like this.

PAUL: Uh, yeah. Cool.

I, of course, was not going to reveal how overwhelmed I'd been over this display of an ability most people wouldn't even believe exists.

ARCADIA: Where are you going for your next class?

PAUL: If you're psychic, why ask?

ARCADIA: Humor me.

PAUL: San Jose.

ARCADIA: That won't work. How about the week after?

I checked my calendar.

PAUL: Mechanicsburg, PA.

ARCADIA: I'll meet you there.

PAUL: You don't even know where I'll be teaching!

ARCADIA: Humor me.

Arcadia wasn't online the next week when I logged in from San Jose; and by the time I arrived in Mechanicsburg I'd pretty much forgotten about her. The class proceeded as usual; but on the last day, Friday, just before lunch break, I was handed a note which read, "Let's have lunch. (signed) A Friend."

At first I actually couldn't imagine who I might know in Mechanicsburg. Then I remembered Arcadia. I stepped out into the glaring light (the classroom had been rather dark) and glanced about the parking lot. There were twenty or thirty people getting into cars, and a few entering the building; but my eye immediately jumped to a woman standing near a black Jeep. She was wearing black slacks and vest over a black shirt and a black Stetson hat. I knew, and walked directly to her.

"You must be my 'friend'," I said.

She smiled broadly. "I'm convinced," she said. "You picked me out of a crowd. You are psychic."

I stared levelly at her. "You're wearing a black cowboy hat in Pennsylvania," I pointed out. "That doesn't exactly require the talents of The Amazing Kreskin."

"Still," she said. "Is the Dutch Pantry all right?"

She showed me the pistol stuck in her pants.

I'm not a huge fan of the Dutch Pantry, a chain of restaurants that I'd hoped had closed years before. And neither was anyone else; which is probably why Arcadia chose it; she and I were the only guests there. After the waitress had taken our order, Arcadia said to me, "I have to make sure you know I'm serious." She pulled her vest up a bit to reveal a pistol tucked into the waistband of her slacks.

"That can't be comfortable," I noted easily, as if all my friends carried deadly weapons in their pants, when in reality hardly any of them do. "I sure hope the waitress knows how important it is she gets our order right."

"It's necessary," Arcadia assured me. She stared intently at a white panel truck parked across the street, visible through the large, plate glass window.

"What?" I asked.

"Just trying to make sure that isn't a spy truck," she said.

"We don't have to sit by the window," I remarked.

"No, it's okay."

By now, I'm thinking, Okay, this is a CompuServe fruit loop who owns a gun and happens to live near enough to Mechanicsburg to meet me here. I had no idea how she'd figured out where I was teaching, since I hadn't mentioned that online…I was pretty sure.

Aw, heck, I was online for hours a week. Who could remember what I'd revealed?

"So," I said, "I assume you want to ask me what I know about the aliens. And in exchange I get lunch, but no actual information in return."

"Actually, we already know what you know," she said. "At least, what you've said in the Support Group."

"That's a closed section," I said guardedly. "I'll be happy to tell you what we know generally, but I won't reveal specific—"

Arcadia laughed, her bobbed blonde hair bouncing. "We monitor the Support Group. We know every word you type. Relax," she added at my look of horror, "we aren't interested in any of you as individuals. Your personal secrets are safe with us."

Lunch, consisting of a salad for the spy and a gelatinous hamburger for the geek, arrived. We began to eat, then Arcadia continued, "Actually what we're interested in is seeing if you'd like to work for us."

I almost choked on my hamburger. I won't deny I was flattered. Who wouldn't be? "Would I get a flashy car and a License to Kill?" I kidded.

"Why not?" Arcadia responded. "I did."

I took a deep breath. Time to think about this sanely. "I make a very good living teaching programming," I said. "I don't know that a government job could keep me in the manner to which I've become accustomed."

"We haven't talked about salary yet."

"The IRS thinks I owe them back taxes," I said.

"Those would have to be paid first."

"I'm gay."

"That's not against the rules as far as I know," she replied.

"There's got to be a catch," I insisted. Somehow I knew there was one.

"I can't lie to you," Arcadia said. "And I mean that; we know that one of your abilities is knowing when someone is lying to you. There is a catch."

"Which is…?"

"You'd have to leave the Support Group," she said. "You'd have to stop telling people what you know about abductions. You might even have to mislead them for the greater good."

"Lie? I'm not really comfortable with that."

Arcadia sighed. "I know. It's part of the same ability. But it's necessary."

I put down my fork, still bearing a French fry. "Why is it necessary?"

"I can't give you details until you've signed on, been sworn to secrecy and all that."

"And you're ready to do that today?"

"No. This is a preliminary meeting. Think of it as a first job interview. I had to meet you in person. The second interview will come in two weeks. Then we'll decide whether to move ahead seriously."

She paid the check and we returned to her Jeep. "I don't have to tell you to keep this meeting to yourself," she said.

"Of course," I agreed. So, I thought, she hasn't exactly told me to keep quiet. By now I was convinced that Arcadia was either psychotic, or exactly what she claimed to be, in which case every word she spoke should be weighed for hidden meaning.

We didn't speak as she returned me to the company where I was teaching; the open Jeep was noisy and discouraged conversation. When we arrived I hopped out and shook her hand.

"Think about it," she said, smiling. "I'll see you in two weeks."

"Where will you be in the meantime?" I asked. She looked into the sky. "Almost directly overhead," she replied, and then pulled out of the parking lot.

How could Arcadia be "overhead"? Did she mean the skies over Mechanicsburg? Was she telling me she was an alien? Or that the government had a space station? Maybe she was just a balloonist going after the Guinness World Record for longest lighter-than-air flight by a lesbian spy.

Aliens were beginning to look like the least of my worries.

Since I was supposedly being monitored, I didn't dare call Holly to find out what she thought about this situation. In fact, I had no local friends or family comfortable enough with the whole UFO thing that I could talk with. Besides, it was supposed to be a secret. Sort of.

That Friday, I did not know where I would be in two weeks. I hadn't yet gotten an assignment, and had planned to take the week off. However, the following Monday I was asked if I would take a certification class at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, by my boss. The purpose was to allow me to teach a Microsoft Visual C++ class he wanted to sell. I had never been to Redmond, so I agreed.

On Tuesday, after the support group, Arcadia was waiting for me online—and she had a guest.

ARCADIA: I want you to meet someone.

PAUL: Okay.

ARCADIA: Paul, my name is Billy. I am using Arcadia's computer.

Billy explained that he was Arcadia's boss. We chatted for awhile about my training job, whether I liked it, what I'd most like to accomplish in the world, and so on—typical job interview questions. Of course, it was always possible that Arcadia was both people—the conversation was being made via her CompuServe ID. But considering how convincingly Eric had masqueraded with three computers and three IDs, if Arcadia was trying to play two parts she was doing a pretty amateur job of it…for a person who packed a gun.

Besides, I noted subtle differences in Billy's punctuation and grammar, compared to Arcadia's. So I tentatively accepted him as "real".

After he left, Arcadia confessed something.

ARCADIA: I'm in love with Billy.

PAUL: I thought you were lesbian.


PAUL: Then what kind of love are we talking about? Is Billy a woman?

ARCADIA: No. It's confusing.

And suddenly I found myself playing counselor to a lovelorn "mostly" lesbian, which is hardly my area of expertise. But she seemed to need a friend, and apparently I'd been elected.

The next Sunday found me on board a jumbo jet flying to Seattle. I had brought with me a copy of Whitley Strieber's latest book to read while flying. I took my seat next to a thirtysomething guy, fairly good-looking, with iron-gray hair. He noticed my book immediately.

"If you ask me, the government knows more than they're telling," he said by way of starting a conversation.

Do they ever! I thought, but said, "Probably so."

"I mean it!" he insisted excitedly as the plane took off. This struck me as odd since most people usually wait until after takeoff to start criticizing the government. "These UFO sightings happen all over the world and it's been going on for decades, maybe centuries. You can't tell me the government doesn't know about it."

I shrugged. "I can't tell you either way. I'm not in the government."

He looked me square in the eye, which isn't easy when you're sitting next to the person you're looking at in adjacent airplane seats. "But what do you think?"

"I think it's happening. I think UFOs are real."

"But what do you think the government knows?"

I shrugged again and laughed with what I hoped was finality. "The government might know all about it," I said. "But if they do, we'll never find out, because people in the government are far more interested in keeping their jobs than in doing the right thing." That seemed to satisfy him, and he went to sleep for the remainder of the flight.

I thought no more about him until I returned to my room at the Redmond Residence Inn Monday afternoon. I had an odd sense as I opened my door that the room was occupied. It turned out I was right; Arcadia was sitting on the day couch, waiting for me.

"I hope you don't mind," she said. "I let myself in."

"No, not at all," I shrugged.

"So, she said, "what did you think of Billy?"

"He types nicely," I said.

"No, I mean in person!"

I was still blank. "Have I met him?"

"He was sitting next to you on the jet over here," she laughed, "asking you what the government knows about UFOs."

"That was Billy?" I was astounded. "How did he get a seat next to mine?"

"Oh, that," Arcadia dismissed. "That's easy. Do you mind if I use your bathroom?"

"No, not at all," I said, wondering why she felt she bothered to ask permission after breaking into my hotel room. She rose and stepped into the lavatory, closing the door behind her. Suddenly I was very aware that she'd left her purse on the coffee table, open, with a small spiral pad poking out. I caught my breath. This is a test, I thought. She wants to see if I can resist going through her purse!

Gun in purse

I have never had the slightest interest in the contents of purses, other than to idly wonder why in the world anyone feels they can't leave home without taking a sack of their belongings with them. Still, the bag sat on the table, oddly seeming to be the centerpiece of the entire room's interior decoration.

I left it alone and sat to wait.

After awhile, the bathroom door opened and Arcadia said, "Thanks. Oh, my, look at the time! I have to go."

"I have some questions," I said. "What did you mean you'd be 'overhead' last week?"

"There are a lot of things in orbit you'd never suspect," she said. "If you join us, you'll find out about a lot of them."

"One more thing," I said. "Where are the Greys from?"

She hesitated in her rush for the door. "Not from where you think," she said.

"Not from Zeta Reticuli?" I pressed.

Her face took on an odd expression. "Don't be so certain you're looking in the right direction," she said.

"Well, if they're not from up there, they'd have to be from…down? Underground?"

"Just think about it," Arcadia urged. "Don't be so sure that what you read is so."

When she was gone, I found myself making a decision as to Arcadia's veracity.

  1. She'd met me in Pennsylvania and in Washington state. That suggested she either had someone paying her to travel, or she was independently wealthy.

  2. She knew about the man sitting next to me on the plane. That meant she was either psychic, or the man really had been Billy. (And she claimed both were true.)

I couldn't deny the evidence. It seemed as if Arcadia's story of working for "the government" was true, or at least, possible.

But, I realized, thinking over everything she'd said to me—there was one, possibly minor, detail she'd never actually mentioned.

Which government did she work for?