It Came from the Sky - Chelsea Sedoti

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Gideon P. Hofstadt and this is the 100 percent authentic, truthful, nothing-held-back account of what happened this past autumn. It’s the story of how extraterrestrials came to Lansburg, Pennsylvania, and the chaos that followed.

There were sightings of unidentified flying objects. (Commonly referred to as UFOs.)

There were close encounters of the fourth kind. (Commonly referred to as alien abductions.)

And, of course, there was The Incident, which you may have already heard about.

It’s only right to begin this manuscript by clarifying one significant detail: there were never really aliens.

In the beginning—before the Seekers, before the media circus, before the promise of an extraterrestrial fountain of youth—there was only me and my brother.

Gideon and Ishmael Hofstadt, ages sixteen and seventeen, respectively.

Just us and an abandoned field.

And a mishap that became a lie.

And a lie that became the greatest hoax the world has ever seen.

Event: Inception

Date: Sept. 7 (Thurs.)

It began with an explosion.

The explosion was intentional. The events that followed were not.

On the evening in question, I was in my lab—a converted outbuilding in a field on my parents’ farm. (Hofstadt Farm: 592 Olga Lane, on the outskirts of Lansburg, Pennsylvania, United States of America.)

I’d been given permission to use it two years earlier, when I was a freshman in high school. I could’ve taken over the spacious barn instead but was deterred by its proximity to the house. Besides, even though animals hadn’t been kept there for decades, the smell of horses lingered.

I didn’t enjoy the smell of horses. I didn’t enjoy horses in general. The only animal I routinely tolerated was my cat, Kepler. Unlike most four-legged creatures, Kepler wasn’t loud or dirty, and he shared my distrust of most people.

But I digress.

To prepare for that evening’s experiment, I’d calculated the expected force of the explosion versus the distance from the blast site to the house, where my parents were engrossed in Pitch, Please, a reality show where contestants pitched ideas for America’s next reality show. From their spot in the living room, they’d be oblivious to the blast. While Mother and Father were usually lenient about my science experiments, I imagined their tolerance didn’t extend to bombs.

I gazed lovingly at my newly built seismograph, which was inspired by the online geodynamics course I was taking. Tonight’s explosion would allow me to test the seismograph’s sensitivity. As an added bonus, the blast might be large enough to register on other, nearby seismographs as well. Some of those seismographs, like the one at The Ohio State University, had publicly available data.

After doing my own reading, I could compare data from OSU’s seismograph and…

Well, I didn’t know, exactly. I supposed it would seem like an achievement to look at professional data and see a registered quake event I’d designed.

I opened a document on my laptop, noted the time, and observed that the seismograph seemed to be running properly. The explosion would be the final test, proof that my build was successful. And as soon as Ishmael returned, the detonation would commence.

But where was he? I’d sent my brother to double-check the explosives we’d set up in a field at the edge of the farm. It should have only taken a minute, but he still hadn’t come back. It would be typical of him to lose interest in the experiment at the most pivotal moment.

I now realize I shouldn’t have let him get involved in the first place. I should’ve wondered why he even wanted to be involved. But I ignored the warning signs, because I enjoyed having an assistant. And yes, I also enjoyed having someone to lecture about science, even if he wasn’t paying attention 82 percent of the time.

I paced back and forth—as much as one can pace in a twelve-by-fifteen-foot shed—getting increasingly anxious. I cleaned the lens of my telescope. I straightened bins of electronic components and checked the soldering I’d recently done on my Arduino. For a long moment, I gazed at my poster of the Andromeda galaxy. (Andromeda galaxy: the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way, approximately 780 kiloparsecs from Earth.)

I’d just decided to go looking for Ishmael when the door flew open and he waltzed in, as if time was not, and had never been, of the essence.

He was eating an ice cream cone.

“You got ice cream? I told you to hurry, and you got ice cream?”

“Chill,” Ishmael said. “It’s from the house. It’s not like I drove to Super Scoop or something.”

“You know the rule about food and drink in