This is strictly confidential, and I'll be in big trouble if they find out, but I'm going to tell you about the first time I was abducted by aliens. It was many years ago, but that first time is still fresh in my mind. So is the smell. I'd heard abduction stories, but none of them mentioned anything about aliens stinking like rotting seal carcasses, or the overpowering stench inside the spacecraft. You'd expect superior beings from another galaxy to have air conditioning, but the inside of that thing was like a cheap hotel room with no windows, where a bunch of elderly men with stomach trouble had been holding a farting contest for a few weeks. Nothing prepared me for it. Most of the stories you hear focus on how the aliens will interfere with you in an unwelcome and personal way. Which is why, as soon as I woke up and realised where I was, I turned to the alien who seemed to be the boss and said:
"Okay, if you're going to do anything in the way of probing or penetrating go ahead, but at least warm your hands first, will you? Or your tentacles, or whatever." I was attempting to break the ice by introducing a light-hearted tone into the situation, but the alien seemed shocked.
"Are you serious?" he said. "What kind of people do you think we are?"
Now, when I say he spoke to me (I assumed it was a male, and it wasn't until later that I understood their gender arrangements, which are a little different from ours) what I mean is that I heard his voice, but his mouth didn't move. Mainly because he didn't have a mouth. "Aha," you're thinking, "it was some kind of telepathy, right?" Wrong. He spoke through his ear. Loud and clear. I discovered they employed one ear for listening, and one for speaking. And one for sex. As I said, their arrangements were a little different.
Before I could express my relief at hearing that my intimate orifices were safe from investigation, the alien made a noise that sounded like a discreet cough, and continued:
"However, I must warn you," he said, "that after we've gathered the necessary data from you, we need to conduct certain… procedures."
I asked what he meant.
"Basically," he said, "we have to turn you into a redneck."
Seeing my confusion, he curled a friendly tentacle around my shoulder and continued. "You see, in order to study your species we generally abduct the most intelligent specimens. However, a problem arises once we've extracted their data. If we release them, they're naturally eager to recount their experiences. The more intelligent they are, the more likely they are to be believed, which doesn't suit us just yet. What can we do? We'd never consider killing them. We respect all life forms, even those whose rights are unrecognised by your species, such as whales, cockroaches, trees, and dandruff. Our solution is to transform our visitors into the type of people who lack credibility. Everybody then disbelieves them, and points out how suspicious it is that the only people who ever seem to get abducted are rednecks, weirdoes, and clearly delusional fantasists. So, we're going to reduce your intelligence, put ninety pounds on you, limit your vocabulary, and make your eyes dart around the whole time."
This was bad news for me, especially as I was, at that time, Regius professor of moral philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford. "But wait," I said, "can't you use some type of device to erase the necessary part of my memory?"
He laughed indulgently. "You've been watching too many movies," he said. With that, he signalled to his companions, and within moments I found myself strapped on a gurney, losing consciousness. I managed to ask one final question:
"What is that damned smell?" I croaked.
"What smell?" he said.
It was then that I saw the alien had no nose.
And that, friends, is how I became the man I am today: an overweight auto mechanic called Randy, living in South Carolina. As I said, this is all top secret, and if they… wait. That smell. And those lights outside. Dear God, they've found out I'm writing this! Maybe through some kind of brain implant. Okay, I'm going to get this on the internet before they capture me. But if you're reading this, you are now in possession of the truth, and they may come to get you. Remember, the first sign is the smell.