by Sergio Palumbo
Edited by Michele Dutcher
'THIS IS without any doubt…’ blond-haired forty-year-old male Michigander Paul Ildthwithy thought while staring at what he had unexpectedly found in the woods, or better, ‘wuds’ as he and the locals called them. ‘It couldn’t be different. This is a reddish thong, a thong from another world!’

You might wonder, how could he be so certain of that? Well, not that it was a thong, but that it came from another world? In frank words, it was easy to be explained. The size, first of all: being as high as a hundred and thirty inches and as long as a hundred inches, this wasn’t underwear a woman with a waist, for example, of thirty two inches, or any man, could possibly wear. Well, unless they were large white bears that happened to have been brought here from the icy North Pole, or giants as tall as twelve foot that made use of such cloth for covering only the pubic area…But this wasn’t so. The man was certain of it. ‘This is a very strange thong of unprecedented size,’ Paul thought, ‘it looks like a panty front with a half-to one-inch strip of fabric at the back that sits between the buttocks.’ And then, the only other possibility that came in handy, or that he imagined, was that it might be something a very tall alien, an alien creature of some sort, could have worn.

Why alien, you might wonder, anyway? Well, there were many reasons for that, and none of them was pleasing or allowed people to stay calm, and feel safe.

The woods in the Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area had been said for long to be full of strange lights in the sky, and some even thought it was UFOs, or other unknown devices that came down from the clouds at night, and a few also suggested that they came here to have a beer, or go on a binge in the freezing air of Earth before the sun rose. How could he think they were wrong? After so long spent travelling through space among different systems, and having left who knows what planet behind, and who knows when, they had to be willing to get out of their tiny flying saucers and have a free and light-hearted time on the surface of a verdant world like that of the Earthlings. Why not? Undoubtedly comprehensible, but strange anyway. Strange indeed…

As for Paul, there was fun enough far into the night in the area, if you were looking for entertainment and delight. No need to stumble into one of those creatures from outer space, if they did really come here, and he had heard accounts of a few people said to have spotted strange things, and something even more unbelievable, without figuring out why somebody go searching for aliens in the ‘wuds’, maybe ending up with negative consequences. But on this occasion things were different as he himself had found a thing—or better a thong—which was not from this world. This changed everything, and he really wanted to know. How could he act in another way, indeed?

This was why he came back the following night, equipped with his winter jacket, the thermal pants, the portable, small though long-lasting jacklight, his wellies, his personal pistol and, of course, his typical though worn-out headdress, the blue fishing hat his brother had given him years ago. And, thanks to his smartphone, he didn’t need a proper digital camera in case he needed to shoot photos in high resolution, of course.

It didn’t take him too long to get to the same place where he had found that thing—the thong—though the late evening and the shadow from every tree made him doublecheck his way more than once, and the direction of the verdant path he was walking. But it took much more than that to confuse the mind of a local Michigander like him, as he had been used to such ‘wuds’ since he was a child, and knew that area. Oh, what fun!

After an hour of easy walking, he heard noises from a clearing ahead. That had to be the place where somebody was, maybe the same aliens that had just landed there before. He had not seen strange lights in the sky, but that meant nothing of course. He was near the site where he had found that thong, and that thing made him think he had gotten to it. He had to go and have a look, immediately!

He thought that people, and he too, had to be careful in those ‘wuds’... It was hunting season, and they got thirty thousand unemployed auto workers there, drunk off their ass, armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons, those aliens didn’t know what danger they could stumble into in that area. The same dangers the unwary tourists might stumble into, anyway…A sad occurrence, but funny in a way, he thought. Everything was funny as long as it was happening to somebody else, obviously…

After all, if those creatures from space really came here with no invitation, they weren’t welcome by any means. And if someone shot at them, they shouldn’t be too surprised, maybe.

So, when the man came out from the trunk he had been hiding behind, and saw that group of strange creatures, very big—almost as tall as very tall bears—that were grouped together wearing only thongs, with their arms elongated to the middle of their unusual circle, and were involved in a deplorable activity, or a very strange dance—whatever it was!—in a very lascivious way, he just couldn’t prevent his mouth from opening and saying ‘No orgy here, you ill-mannered tourists from outer space!’

How did we come to this point here today, you might be wondering? Well, it has to be explained, so please follow us as we try to put in easy terms what happened, and why Paul had walked to this forest in the late evening. After drinking, maybe, too many beers, and not only that…And having just that thing—that thong—in his mind.

Paul Ildthwithy was from the small town of Pontchartrain Shores and in order to get to this place, within the Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area, he had to drive past—like all the hardened long-standing car drivers going on their way to Madison, in nearby Wisconsin—the ghost town of Allenville, which—like the old remains of the urban area, its history now almost forgotten—was becoming better known nowadays as Alienville due to those UFO sightings.

Truth be told, whatever you did and whenever you came, you would always be greeted with stunning scenery and great views. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula had always been separated from the rest of the state—both physically and mentally—by the Mackinac Straits, to be part of Wisconsin, and it contained 29% of the land area of Michigan but only 3% of its population. It had figured prominently in French plans to create an empire in North America, Paul had learnt at school several years ago, when he was only fourteen. Father Jacques Marquette and other missionaries had made peace with the Algonquian-speaking Native people and built settlements, including the port of Sault Ste Marie, in 1688. At that time the French hoped to conquer further south, but the British stopped their intentions in 1763. Then, the whole area was sold to the newly established United States, in which it proudly stands nowadays. A very long time had gone by since then, and in the next hundred years, with the exhaustion of readily available minerals, the state’s economy declined along with mining, becoming mainly dependent on tourism. The population here, at least previously, had grown as the first European immigrants moved into the region, as the accounts indicated; then had experienced gradual overall decline during the last few years. This was how things went, and people weren’t very happy about present conditions, in terms of economy, of the area they presently lived in.
Residents like Paul called themselves Yoopers (derived from ‘UP-ers’), known in the U.S.A for their liking for ice fishing, snowshoeing and outhouse racing (yes, also for that!), and had always been endowed with a strong regional identity, shadowed by the perception that they were neglected by the rest of the state. Be it true, or not, this increased the separation they felt—both physically and mentally—between them and the rest of the U.S.A. …

All the local Yoopers referred even to people like them who resided in the Lower Peninsula not differently from the fabled ‘trolls’ as they lived ‘under’ the Mackinac Bridge. Due to the separation and perceived political differences from the Lower Peninsula, and without forgetting about those commercial cartographers that, in some cases, had drawn incorrect maps that inadvertently annexed the Upper Peninsula with Wisconsin, at various times proposals have been made by the Yoopers to be separated from Michigan as a 51st state named Superior, thus including portions of northern Wisconsin and/or the northern Lower Peninsula. Several politicians had attempted unsuccessfully to get that in the 1970s, or so Paul had been told when he was very young. Although people from the other parts of the U.S.A. amusingly said that if it ever happened, it would be the least populous state in the Union, this didn’t dishearten combative Yoopers like the man himself, regardless of the consideration that citizens from the nearby areas of the country made fun of them and called what might be next by the name of the ‘Civil War for the independence of the Upper Peninsula’, also nicknamed as ‘the most stupid of all the wars and struggles fought within the U.S.A. in historical times…’

Paul wasn’t interested in what people from other states thought, and wherever you went in Michigan, you found that toughness, especially given the fact that usually tourists who came here called the Michiganders just ‘townies’, which was exactly like calling someone a commoner or a peasant, from his point of view. And he didn’t like it…

Anyway, though poorly suited for agriculture, with its lonesome and wild places covered in trees, the Upper Peninsula was full of stunning landmarks, the eastern section characterized by low-lying quagmires and similar lands between softly undulating limestone hills. One of its parks was, as a matter of fact, the least visited national park in the country, due to its location, with fewer visitors in an entire year than Yellowstone had in a single week! Which made others laugh, too, which the man didn’t like. Well-known for its hard long winters—and the common saying here was that ‘people were looking forward to summer, as it was the most beautiful single day of the year…’, or also that ‘they would like if they couldn’t have all four seasons of weather in one week…’—the northwest corner was known to be the most desolate, with a few fishing villages, especially the rough and broken Keweenaw Peninsula. Rain, wind, ice and sun had created arches and deep caves, and you could also find strange archaic symbols on rocks around. Those too were reputed to have been made by aliens. After all, weren’t there those UFO sightings here?

Strangeness added to ancient strangeness!

As someone famous had once said, ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican in Michigan. We want jobs in!’ Paul was pensive that day, thinking of that saying, and his time as an unemployed man. Also the problems with money that he faced every day. This didn’t help him stay away from alcohol, anyway, which was necessary to him due to the very cold climate of the state for long months of the year, according to the common excuse he gave to himself for his actions.

Maybe on that evening he had drunk too many PBR beers, bought at a party store—that was where Michiganders purchased alcohol—as Yoopers like him were used to do (just to stay warm, not because it was cool, as they said, as the tradition here was that people should commonly hit the liquor stores during the bad weather, and after all, this was also the place where, due to the cold climate, all the politicians kept their hands in their own pockets …) and so his gait was uncertain and he didn’t walk too straight. He had also swallowed too much Frankenmuth Chicken at a Fast Food stop and he didn’t feel too good now. Inebriated and a bit confused, he wanted to go on and reach those talked-about woods. Yes, those places with the sightings…This was why he was well equipped with his wellies, the jacklight and so on. This before the many beers had left him a bit confused, but he didn’t want to give up that evening, obviously!

Once he had gotten nearby and parked his old car, he went through the forest, past a pine and then a tall larch, soon leaving the shadow of some alders at dusk, an old basswood and the leaves of a large chestnut tree before reaching a curved trunk of an Araucaria and, well, whatever plant the other might be that stood next to the last one he had just left behind… After all, there were over fifty species of trees and more than a hundred kinds of shrubs in the area, most of them had already gone under his wellies by now, so how could he ever know the name of them all? He wasn’t interested in the types of vegetation of the mountain forests or the way they were catalogued. This might be a matter for an academician, but not for him…It was enough if he was able to differentiate a tall shrub from a real small tree—and not that he easily made it all the time—or the leaves of deciduous greenery from those of another one bearing cones …

Yes, he knew those ‘wuds’ as every local did, but not that he also knew the names of all the plants. As an unknown person had once said, there was no wi-fi in the forest, but you will find a better connection there…Maybe that was correct. Not that his old smartphone had a better connection elsewhere, outside town, it had to be remembered.

This to say how much he knew about forests, and wilderness, or also biological diversity about animal species. Which was from zero to below zero, as some said, making fun of him. What he had been told, and had learned by heart since he was a child, was that funny saying that went like this: Always go to the wild woods with someone in worse shape than you. The bears out there, if you might unexpectedly stumble into them, will know it… But on this occasion, he had come alone. And the worrying fact was that sports were the reason Paul looked out of shape. He watched them all on TV every day.

Then he heard those noises, and reached that clearing hurriedly. There he spotted what had startled him.

‘No orgy here, you ill-mannered tourists from outer space!’ This, if you remember, was the point we had come to a few lines back, and this was what Paul had told those creatures he had seen once he got out from behind the trunk. ‘I’m talking to you, you strange things with those thongs!’

Until that moment, the man had been staring in a surprised look at those unknown beings that seemed to be involved in a sort of unusual tribal dances in which some entered in pairs and formed smaller groups, moving with sticks to mark the many steps of the accompanying music. Though, here he couldn’t listen to any music at the moment… Then, he had seen the unusual clappings of hands—or whatever their reddish paw-like fingers really were—before he spotted the separate movements of each dancer away from the group. He didn’t know what it meant. If it really had a meaning, in the end.

The group had divided into two parts again and started going onwards, and backwards, while moving with wild gestures, as if they were members of some archaic tribe of a time gone by, in a way. It looked like a Bollywood movie, or something like that…Not that he liked such things too much, not even those alien things with those thongs…

Their dances varied, but there something was continuously present at every moment of their moves, from his point of view: a real madness the man would have never imagined he was going to see one day in the members of an alien species that should be supposedly more evolved, at least technologically, than Earthlings like him.

If those dances reflected the lifestyle of that alien species, they looked like depraved individuals, Paul told himself.

The first one among those creatures, larger than a bear, the face being part that of an unusual bird and the lower part a whale’s, or something like that, turned to the man and its mouth could have swallowed him whole very easily. Paul couldn’t imagine what strange anatomy might be hiding beneath that alien’s dense fur and the hairy legs, except that unbelievable cloth he saw, the reddish and perverted thong it had at its waist, partly visible now. Which looked like the one he had found in that area a day ago. So, for some time the unknown being kept staring at him, like the others of that group. Then, the voice started speaking in his head.

‘We came here for a ritual, wearing the traditional garments our species used in the ancient times on our planet. It’s a must-do for us. You humans have to understand it…’

‘Ahhhh...the ritual...’ the man said, as if he really understood what the alien was talking about. But he hadn’t figured out a thing of course. Nor how he had heard those words in his mind if that creature hadn’t opened his beak-like mouth. After all, he had never heard the music that group was listening to, when they had started to dance, maybe that too was a mental thing only they could feel and follow, who knows. A mental thing to be made by using a thong! And he didn’t know much about alien things, or alien thongs! ‘Yah…’ The man’s accent was really influenced by the typical speech of the area’s Scandinavian immigrants, as his father had once been, so they said ‘yah’ instead of ‘yeah’. At times he wondered if the people from outside the state took him for a German thinking that he said ‘Ja’ in a way…

‘Fact is that an ancient outpost was built here by our ancestors who first visited Earth…’ the words heard in his mind continued ‘And here, where the ghost of that long-gone outpost was once situated, is the place for us to go…’

‘Ahhhh… an ancient outpost… Yah…’ Paul repeated, without comprehending what he had heard. Nor why they were wearing thongs, and nothing else… Then, before his mind could really start working, something else occurred.

At first, there was a strong light in the sky, a powerful wind shook the treetops, and then noises in the forest nearby, and steps, too, as if unwanted newcomers were approaching the site.

It became clear as other beings came out of the trees. And also, they were aliens! This the astounded Paul saw, and he almost didn’t believe it. What a damn’ day!

Another group of aliens, as tall as those bear-sized creatures he had just talked to, or whose voice he had heard in his head, but with a varied skin colour—or was it their spacesuits?—came forwards, and they too wore large thongs! These newcomers looked like monsters from the fabled accounts of thin, skinny creatures of the forests, much taller than men, too, but with bulging eyes, unbelievably long legs, and a glassy face that had nothing to do with anything that might be thought to be human.

The two parties looked at each other for some time, without speaking—ha, they talked via telepathy probably, the same as it had occurred to him when he had sensed those words—then the first group assembled together and they seemed to be going to fiercely face each other for some reasons.

‘We came here first!’ the bear-sized alien said, and Paul could hear the phrase at the top of the mental voice, or will, of that strange being. ‘This is our ancestral place on this uncivilized world for our ritual, the same as it has happened in the past for years!’

‘No! This is ours, and our ancestors came to Earth long before yours, and this is why we have the right to stay here today, for our ritual, and with nobody else around. Especially you dirty Dli-kt from the dirty Dli-kt system!’ The voice of the glassy faced alien also hit the thoughts of the man with unbelievable power that made him think he would like it if they all just kept silent from that moment on. Well, they weren’t really speaking, as the communication was going on telepathically, simply by sending those words, and thoughts, immediately into his human mind…

But it couldn’t be helped as the inebriated Paul couldn’t figure out how this was happening now and, even if his head wasn’t free of all the alcohol he had ingested, and that made him burp from time to time, he was unable to stop, or tell those creatures to stop talking, or thinking, and get back to their dirty flying saucers and back to their dirty worlds in outer space. ‘Oh great!’ he thought. ‘Now we have two different groups of unknown aliens of diverse faiths and religions that are going to fight each other for the right to carry out their entirely pervert dances here… The damn’ space is a place of really bewildering diversity…’

‘You stupid Uft-likt… don’t dare think of this! Our calendar is a long procession of festivals: so we have a festival for every reason and for every season. This is why we have to come here, to this archaic world, to practice our rituals… Our people once lived in the woods and the forested hilly regions that we no longer have on our planet,’ said the bear-sized alien who had first spoken—at least in the man’s mind—at the top of his voice. Okay, of his mental speech.

‘This is an excuse to be here too much, this place is not just yours. We have proof, we have holo-footage, you came here too many times! Also, we have the same rights, and our people is older than yours! And on our world also we don’t have forests any longer, and we need to come here, to this planet full of trees—and of humans that are still far from our level of modern civilization—to get our special skills in dance and music. This is a thing that can only be made with a thong!’ the supposed leader of the other alien group replied in a low—always mental…—tone. Paul wondered how those silent speeches might be so noisy as they crowded his human mind with many foulmouthed people speaking at the same time…

Before the two parties started exchanging blows, another unexpected event happened, the sky was full of wind, again, which wildly shook all the treetops, until it was as light as a summer day. The man stared at that big—well, it was really huge—spaceship-like thing in the air, above the clearing they were in, and it looked as if it was painted in a reddish colour. ‘The same colour of the damn’ alien thongs…’ Paul thought, angered and dejected.

A ray came down from the alien vessel—what else might it be, after all?—and another group of strange creatures appeared in the middle of that area. They were fat, lion-sized beings with large heads, small eyes, long legs and four incredibly powerful hands at the end of massive arms, but with a difference. They were armed! Before he saw the start of a laser gunfight taking place here in the forest late in the evening, he thought he should move away at once, but he had no time to act. In fact, the tallest of those alien newcomers spoke, in the head of all other creatures present, and in his mind, too.

‘You all, the Dli-kt from Dli-kt and also you Uft-likt, stop what you’re doing now! You’re on an archaic world, on the outskirts of the known planets, this place is not for you to come at will. The uncivilized species have to be left aside from your rituals, and your fighting. Humans have nothing to do with you, and you have nothing to share with them. Please, accept our suggestions, or face the consequences… And we don’t make threats for no reason, you well know of this!’

As soon as that one had ended his speech, armed guards that had appeared from the sky kept the two groups away from each other. It seems that the coming of those new aliens had changed everything, stopping the fighting among them before things went from bad to worse. Whatever those new creatures really were, the previous parties of the alien dancers seemed to be afraid of them!

It didn’t take long before the two alien groups—those with the thongs—went back to their space vessels. Then, the one that seemed to be in control of the place now, the alien who had come down from the wide spaceship with his armed guards, stared at Paul and spoke mentally.

‘Sorry about that, these reckless aliens came here to cause troubles, and after all the junk they left last year, and the problems they started, we were informed and we thought better to intervene on this occasion… So, the matter is solved, and you, uncivilized Earthling, can go away safely, provided that you don’t talk to anyone about what you saw here…’

‘Talk? See?’ these words came to the man’s mind, but he didn’t say anything. ‘Uncivilized, my ass!’ The alien seemed to have heard them, and added, ‘I feel your thoughts, I know you are afraid, and angered, it’s a fact…’ The creature ended his speech with more words. ‘Now, go from here and drive carefully to the road. You seem a bit drunk, and I sense much alcohol in you… Beware of the asphalt…’

‘Uh-oh!’ a bewildered Paul said, and his voice come out like a last bit of forced breath. So without waiting any longer, he walked away without looking back. Then, as he hurriedly moved to get soon out of the forest, some doubts came to his mind…Had the alien said ‘Asphalt’ or was it ‘ASS-fault’? The dialect of Michiganders caused problems for him as he knew what asphalt meant, but locals like him pronounced it by saying ‘Ashfault’, or even ‘ASS-fault’ at times. Or did that strange armed creature want to say that he was going to meet his doom on the road and that it might be his fault if he didn’t drive attentively because of his confused mind? Hard was that to acknowledge now…What was the real meaning of that term? Not that it mattered much, in the end, as he entered his car, once he got outside the woods, and started driving back home like a madman, be it because of the beers previously drunk, or the sensation of uneasiness he felt and all that he had gone through on that late evening in those woods. And, be it because he didn’t drive attentively, or because of his drunkenness, he ended up with falling down a precipice, with all those sidelights and the high beams of the car that flew through the air before it hit against the rocks below. The case was thought to be another UFO sighting for the next few days, which wasn’t too unusual in that area—well, not more unusual than aliens wearing a reddish thong, anyway—especially as the car had been spotted flying in mid-air by other drivers. In the end it was revealed to be a sad accident when the damaged remains of the vehicle were found, and the truth became clear.

Though others said that Paul had to be really scared to drive so hurriedly early in the night, and it might be aliens he had spotted who had made him act that mad way. Whatever, the UFO sightings continued during the next months, though growing rarer, and the following year another big thong, alien in origins, was found in the same woods. And it was the turn of Gethin Sallow, another Yooper who lived nearby, to go there and see what was going on. Because he wanted to know… Until the remains of his car, too, were retrieved from a river. Was he also so scared, or full of alcohol, to be in a hurry to get to the water, or was it something else?

The men in black that came to town a few days later, looking more like robots than real humans, said that everything was under control, and there had never been any alien beings in that area. They also said that if anybody else reported seeing something strange, or had UFO sightings, they were here, right for them, and to check thoroughly the brakes of their car to be sure that no other bad accident happened. They looked very precise about their job.

Better to be in the safe hands of the governmental officers who looked after your health night and day and crossed the whole country to do their duty than staying doubtful, or driving drunk, wasn’t it right? This was what the locals thought, in the end. If there was anything they understood about that story of those alien things with the thongs, it was just this: to hell with whatever thongs, or alien things, might be spotted, or found, one day in the ‘wuds’! Give me a beer, and don’t talk to me about aliens, everyone said, which greatly increased the sales of alcoholic beverages, making the bar and liquor store owners even happier…

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