In a house on a dusty street, there was a quiet stranger.
Young Jerry Sleight never knew the stranger was there, nor did his parents. Of course, being only a few months old, little Jerry had no good reason to notice anything besides lights and the smile of his mother. For his parents though, the reason was basically that the stranger was invisible, hovering, and silent. And who looks for something unseen and unheard?
The stranger’s job was to observe and observe he did. He watched the parents feed, change, and fawn over the infant. He was there for each cry and each laugh. His time was passed floating in the northwest corner of the rooms, taking note of everything around Jerry (height, weight, reactions, etc.), watching as each day passed into another and another and another. Until a day came when the stranger decided to introduce himself.
On that Saturday morning, the parents were still asleep, and Jerry was sitting up in his crib, content. He was never the type of baby to cry; he was a watcher, not unlike the stranger in the room. He was always taking everything in. The stranger wondered if he felt a kinship there. It was a foolish thought, he observed to himself, as he moved closer to the crib, but the thought remained. And so it was on that still weekend morning when the stranger first appeared in front of Jerry, as a bright light.
He was an oval shape, an orb of brilliant green. A green unnatural to our world, but shimmering and breathtaking all the same.
Even though Jerry was only a few months old he knew this was something wondrous, unique. And naturally, he wanted to touch it, squeeze it, and maybe even eat it. But as his hand reached out, the light moved before Jerry could reach it.
Then the green light quacked like a duck.
Jerry gave a giggle. He almost fell over, and struggled to balance his weight and sit back up. Closer… closer… there.
The light blinked and then it meowed like a cat.
The light changed to a darker green and then it suddenly roared like a lion.
This shocked Jerry. A quiver of the lips and tears immediately formed in his eyes. But before Jerry could release his ever-so-unique cry for help, the light had shifted from an oval to that of a tall and thin man. He was clean-shaven, perfectly symmetrical without a hint of hair on him, but still green. He reached out with one of his newly-formed fingers and touched the side of Jerry’s face.
A fizz on the skin, a light electrical energy, like static over a thick rug. Jerry was immediately calmed.
The finger softly moved from the light caress to sweeping away the tears that were on the face. It didn’t take more than one graceful gesture to accomplish.
I apologize child, for startling you, the stranger began in a voice that was broken, almost robotic, as if played backwards on a record player. I thought you would enjoy the noises since they sound like your toys.
The stranger paused, realizing the futility of speaking to an infant in this way. We will speak more in a few years, when you are worthy of communication.
It was then that the stranger returned to stand in the corner of Jerry’s room. And for the next few years, that is where he would be, always in a corner, watching Jerry and waiting for the right time to begin.
For Jerry Sleight though, the first face he would remember seeing would be that of the quiet green stranger.
He was the unseen man in the corner no matter which room Jerry was in, appearing and reappearing to Jerry with each exit and entrance the boy made. Stores, daycares, other people’s houses, it didn’t matter. The green man would be there, quiet, standing perfectly still and waiting, and only the little one could see him. His hairless and unnaturally thin-sized head; his neck, arms and fingers each too long; and those unblinking eyes, always watching.
It was clear to Jerry’s parents that the child was fascinated by something nobody else could see. They spoke about it to doctors, and more obtusely to friends, wondering if others had the same experience or if it was something to be concerned about. This was all before Jerry’s first word. “Him.”
When Jerry first said it, both his parents reacted as you would expect. The mother ran to hug and kiss him, while the dad tried to find a video camera—something, anything—to capture the moment.
“Did you hear that, honey?” the mom asked, picking up her son. “Did you hear that? He means you.”
The dad didn’t agree, but blushed. Finally finding a camera, he turned it on and pointed it at his wife and child.
The video was shaky, feeling the excitement of the cameraman.
“See daddy, see daddy, Jerry! Say it again. Say it to daddy!”
The son did not reply.
The mom tried again. “You can say it again, Jerry. You can, he’s right there. Say ‘him.’”
Instead, the child turned his head and pointed into what looked like an empty corner, saying again and again. “Him… him… him…”
Then there were the first steps.
Most people who watch that video of those first steps would see Jerry struggling, stepping awkwardly, then almost falling, and then moving faster, finally being caught by his dad.
It is a sweet and loving little moment, captured forever.
But if a viewer was to study Jerry’s eyes while his father hugged and praised him, it would be obvious that he was looking past his dad and up at something unseen in the corner. The baby was hoping for a reaction from someone else.