Alien Abduction: A Personal Recollection
When I left academic mathematics for good I packed up my flat in Cambridge -- everything I owned at that point fit neatly into a suitcase and a backpack -- and flew back to Canada. I moved into a cheap apartment next to a train station in a town where there used to be a steel mill, but now there was just high unemployment. I was unemployed and I had no clear job prospects or even a clear idea of what kind of job I wanted. My apartment had mice and the dishes rattled every time a train went by, which was all the time.
I wasn't a visual artist yet; I wrote music and used complex statistical methods to gamble on horse races. And I was working on an ill-defined writing project that involved spending a lot of time hanging out with paranormal researchers and ghost hunters and people looking for messages from god in the digits of Pi and the likes.
Most of the people I met in that community were charlatans. I spent hours one night in a cafe listening to the rambling, feverish, unbroken monologue of a man in a jean jacket and bolo tie who spoke incoherently about alien abduction and out-of-body-experiences and Einstein's lucid dreaming techniques and Houdini and escape artistry and free diving and airbrush painting... At the end of the evening somebody handed around a signup sheet for some kind of lessons this guy was trying to sell and the whole thing felt like a goofy paranormal version of one of those sleazy high-pressure timeshare meetings.
Afterwards I met one of the guys from the audience on the subway platform. Let's call him Travis. Travis told me that he had wanted to sign up for the lessons but was too broke. He thought that maybe this guy in the bolo tie might help him with the PTSD he suffers from as a result of multiple alien abductions during his childhood.
We sat in the subway station watching the trains go by and Travis told me about the abuse he'd suffered, the experimental surgeries, the probes implanted in his body, the sexual abuse, the rape. The consensus amongst mainstream psychologists is that 'abductees' like Travis are mostly sane and sensible people who have unintentionally spun together a web of false memories, mixing bits of real experiences together with nightmares and culturally available texts. For these people their memories of alien abduction, however fantastical, apparently seem just as real and vivid as any other memory. (Susan Clancy has a great book about all this.)
Travis told me that when he was eleven years old aliens removed his brain and did something to it before putting it back into his skull.
He took off his baseball cap.
His fingers were stained with grease and tobacco and his hair was long and unwashed.
He pulled back his hair and showed me the scars.