The Hoaxer

Goddard waited in the field for Mr Andrews, who had gone to get his camera. The area before which Goddard stood was not like the rest of Mr Andrew’s pasture: it was brittle, grey and dead. Something, Mr Andrews said, had landed there. A visiting journalist had done a story on Mr Andrews because he had posted a video on youtube that had gone viral—of a bright, orange orb of light descending on his farm, shot from inside his house. The thing had slowed as it reached the earth, hovered for a moment or two, then disappeared.

The video had been featured on a prominent youtube channel dealing with that kind of thing, then made the local news in several cities. The article was scathing and sardonic—it painted Mr Andrews as a liar and as a petty, ignorant and self-seeking hoaxer. The trick, the journalist had said, was one of several things including simple video editing (performed by a savvy son or nephew), an LED light projected onto a plate of glass, a custom-made Chinese lantern, or, finally, actual aliens who had travelled “billions of lightyears to land directly in front of where he was filming, then disappear.” A late night talk-show host had also joined in on the fun, referring to Mr Andrews as senile, which might have been the case. He had a strange, pottering and downcast manner to him, which was partly why the news segments were so popular—he stumbled, ummed, erred, waved his thick and dirty fingers around as though he were shooing away flies. The entire episode had caused him to withdraw even more than he was known to, which allowed gossip in the town to spread unchecked like hogweed. There were some, Mr Andrews had told Goddard, that initially confirmed the orange light, but after the story got around on television and the internet and the tide turned against him they sang a different tune—went quiet or joined in on the ridicule.

Goddard crouched and once again felt the withered grass beneath his fingers. In three weeks it had not grown back. Several of Mr Andrew’s sheep had died painful and grotesque deaths, their bodies cremated out in the field. Mr Andrews had said he wished it was a hoax so that he could come out and say it and be done with it—but there was no part of him ready to lie about what had happened; he had seen what he had seen, and was ready to die for that. This was the part that Goddard was keen to capture the most.

After a while Mr Andrews emerged from his house with the camera. Goddard rose and walked out to meet the old man half way. He had a funny kind of walk. It looked like he was stepping on something coarse with cold bare feet, like his entire property was the burnt, irradiated perfect circle in his paddock. He hated to see him bear whatever pain was causing him to crouch, to stutter, to shamble. He had gotten to know him over the last few days—knew, for instance that he was remarkably self-effacing, but bold, and laughed a good laugh, though didn’t tell jokes himself.

“Here it is, sir,” he said, waving the camera triumphantly. Goddard was excited. What was in that camera was what Mr Andrews didn’t trust the first reporter with, nor the press who had interviewed him, nor Goddard when he had first turned up. He didn’t trust people in the town with it either, having wisely learnt from their reaction to the first video. Not only did it contain an alleged follow-up appearance of the orange light exactly a week later—further in the distance he said, high up and lasting several minutes, but video evidence of poltergeist phenomena he had experienced in his house in the intervening week.

Goddard had witnessed personally the things Mr Andrews described as having recorded; during a massive storm that had hit he and his wife’s house several years ago—small, shining white lights passing through the walls; levitating office items (a paperweight, loose papers, a filing cabinet sliding across the floor), and most disturbingly and incomprehensibly of all, having returned the day following to clean up the mess, they had found several steel and ceramic items around the house inverted or warped, with debris either inside or stuck halfway through. It had been when his wife had picked up an ornamental clam-shaped soap-holder, perfectly intact, impaled by a toothbrush that she had screamed, and Goddard had believed.

Mr Andrews blew dust from the camera and wiped its screen with a thumb, waiting for it to boot up.

“Sorry about this, sir,” he said.

Thanks for checking out my short story.

Did I tell you I wrote a novel? You can read it here for free, or get it for your e-reader on iBooks, Amazon or Kobo. Or you can just say you read the book, and donate five bucks down below. Go on.

Gabriel Muoio



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