Author: Bill Cox

When I was eight years old, my step-dad put me in the hospital. One punch was all it took, but that punch eventually knocked me all the way through the social care system and out onto the streets. Funny to think that it might also have saved my life.

Being homeless, you get used to the religious types desperate to redeem themselves by redeeming you. If I’m honest, I can’t stand these Holy Willies, but as they often have hot food, I’m prepared to nod my head to their nonsense if that’s the price of a decent meal.

So, my hunger finds me in a soup kitchen run by the latest lot of kooky cultists, who are called the Celestial Brotherhood, if you can believe that. One of the glassy-eyed chosen hands me a plate of food but says “Please wait until Grace is said before eating.”

Eventually one of the true believers stands up to give the blessing, which is just as well as my belly is rumbling up a storm. He raises his hands and starts speaking. The funny thing is I’m not quite sure what he says. I can hear the words but they don’t seem to make sense. Suddenly, as he carries on, it’s as if I can physically see what he’s talking about, like a full-on religious vision. I kid you not. But instead of angels and demons I can see space and planets and somewhere called Tau Ceti. I even see an actual alien (a Celestial, I presume) and can feel the purity and the power radiating off of it. It seems to look at me directly and I feel, well, I feel whole for the first time in my life.

It takes me a minute to realise that the guy has stopped speaking. Tears are rolling down my cheeks. The old woman sitting across from me has what I can only describe as a beatific smile on her face.

Everybody is still, then, as if by unspoken command, they all stand and start silently walking to the far end of the hall. I’m still sitting but can feel something working away in my mind, wriggling like a worm, trying to eat my thoughts and excrete something else out, an idea as big as the galaxy but with a piece missing. It strikes me that my tinnitus, a legacy of my step-dad’s assault, means that I didn’t hear absolutely every word of the blessing. And that feels important.

I shake the stupor off, get up, push past the Brothers on the door and out onto the street. I don’t look back.

I’ve given that experience a lot of thought over the past few days. We have this streak of irrationality within us, a desire to believe, to have faith. What if there really were aliens out there and instead of them attacking our cities with space lasers and nuclear bombs, they attacked our minds with an idea, a spiritual concept tailored for maximum appeal. Like a virus, it could start small, converting those on the periphery of society, those that nobody notices or cares about. It would replicate over time, until eventually everyone in the world believes in the benevolent Celestials. Then, as one, we’ll turn our faces up towards the sky and down they will come in their spaceships, the new and unopposed masters of the world.

My advice to you? If someone asks if you’ve heard the good news about our Celestial Brothers, run for your life. In the meantime, if you’ve any spare change…