butterfly zipper centipede, 2016
graphite on paper, 12 x 38 inches
acrylic, graphite on paper, 22 (18) x 20 inches (trapezoid)
Biological Omnicurious Bits, 2016
graphite on paper, 17.5 x 20 inches
eyes all around, 2016
graphite on paper, 8.25 x 12.75 inches
Seven years ago I had a brief encounter that still seems too incredible, too extraordinary, impossible, implausible, sensational—pick your adjective—to actually have happened. Nevertheless, it did. I finally worked up the courage to publicly share the fact that, basically, I had glimpsed a future hybrid human species. Well, even more than that…..
14 July 2009, near Santa Fe, NM
In the late afternoon I took a studio break and went for a walk with Domino the dog on a 30-acre stretch of undeveloped land at the front of our property. Though the land appears flat, there are gentle slopes and valleys with big clearings. The vegetation is mostly scrub, with chamisa, grasses, and sagebrush dotting the landscape along with low piñon pines and juniper shrubs. I needed a break from everything so I deliberately left my cell phone behind.
As Domino searched for rabbits and my eyes wandered the terrain, something shimmery caught my eye. I headed toward the reflection, taking care to avoid prairie dog holes and anthills and squeezing through a cluster of junipers when I almost bumped into it. The source was an object about the size of a tour bus, but not as slender. A shimmering, ethereal veil seemed to encase the whole structure like a ghostly sheet. It had this quality of being mirror-like yet transparent at the same time. As I got closer, I realized that rather than reflecting me, and the scene behind me, it was reflecting what I would see on the other side if it weren’t there. It didn’t look like a physical material covering the structure yet it seemed more substantial than virtual. I wondered what created the effect—a laser, a hologram, a video? The metallic structure underneath the reflective veneer resembled an aircraft, and it was shaped like a plump fish inside two bisected hoops with a pair of wing-like protrusions at one end and a series of cylinders encircling the other.
I struggled to process what I was seeing. The craft looked like something from a movie, but the reflectiveness was bizarre. What was it? Whose was it? As I went to touch the surface, a door slid open and a woman stepped out. I stepped back startled, glanced at her, and then looked behind her. The interior was a cockpit of sorts with multiple screens, controls, two chairs, and things strewn about—helmets, electronic equipment, unidentified stuff. Unlike the interiors of actual airplanes and spacecraft or those depicted in movies, this had a forest-and sky-color scheme that gave it a cozy, domestic feel. This struck me as odd. On the opposite side of the craft a door stood open and I could see through to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the East. The door closed quickly and I focused on the woman.
Light from the structure, her suit, and the sun overhead was bouncing everywhere making it difficult to see her, or anything, crisply. She was about 5’10” with olive skin and short, curly dark brown hair, maybe in her late 40’s. She was dressed in shiny silver coveralls and wore an electronic earpiece. I decided it must be a film set, but there was no film crew. In fact, I saw no sign of anyone else, though perhaps there were more people inside the craft. The gate to my property was closed; no one had buzzed to come in. How and why this huge thing had gotten here was top of mind. It was all too elaborate and expensive for a prank. I checked in with myself. I wasn’t hallucinating, I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t drunk. No. No, this was real.
Domino came over to sniff the woman’s shiny butt. I said hello and politely asked if there was something I could help her with. She spoke quietly while looking at me but I couldn’t understand or determine what language she was speaking, though it sounded Germanic. Then I heard English coming from small speakers in the surface of her suit, just below the clavicle. It was a woman’s voice, though different from the shiny lady’s. I assumed it was a translation of what she was saying. The speaker voice said, “This might be difficult to comprehend.”
Through the translator she told me that her name was Anicca Holt and she had been traveling in the year 2346 through a wormhole when something threw her spacecraft (the big gleaming structure in my yard) off-course and back in time. She had to briefly land and recalibrate. She said that past-time travel was highly dangerous and extremely rare; she was surprised to have survived. “Cosmic events shifted dark matter,” she continued, allowing tremendous advancements in space travel through “supported wormholes.” I asked if manned spacecraft could move faster than light but she shook her head. If I had more than a casual understanding of space science, I thought, I might be able to trip her up and find out if this was a hoax. She continued speaking, adding that other galaxies became accessible via “folds in the fabric of space-time.” She repeated that phrase “folds in the fabric” a few times during our short conversation and, perhaps because of my training as an artist and limited knowledge of astrophysics, it took root in my mind as a literal visualization along the lines of Bernini’s marble fabric in the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
I chuckle to myself. This. Is not. Credible. A spacecraft missed its target to future earth from outer space. Seriously? What she missed was that turn to Roswell. I tried to think of an alternative explanation. Were my friends capable of a ruse this sophisticated, not to mention expensive? No way. Nothing came to mind other than the film shoot theory, so I decided to play along and asked why her space vehicle had not been shot down when it entered U.S. airspace. She said humans did not possess the technology in 2009 to detect either the craft or “folds in the fabric.” Of course not. I asked why she was traveling in space. Holt explained that she was a psycho-biologist and had been visiting a life-supporting planet called Norian in a nearby galaxy, though she did not identify the galaxy. She had been there to study the second generation of human hybrids called huchumans. Humans from Earth interbred with chugaimans, one of three intelligent species on planet Norian and the only ones that share crucial traits with humans. Wait, I thought, this strange woman just told me that humans interbred with aliens. I wondered if a hidden camera would catch me in some awkward state of gullibility and I looked at her in composed disbelief. She held out her arms. Computer screens were embedded in the sleeves of her suit on the underside of each forearm. She touched one of the screens and it extended in both directions for a bigger viewing area. Super cool. I wanted that suit. She showed me two short video clips.
In the first video, a not-precisely-human-looking person walked toward the camera, and then began to pose and strut against a stark white background. Holt narrated. She said that life on Norian is strikingly similar to Earth, with some marked differences, of course, and it was exciting to observe novel displays of nature. On the screen was a huchuman living on Norian. As a rule, humans were not allowed to live permanently on Norian, only visit and stay as guests. But when a small group of humans chose to partner and have children with chugaimans, those that agreed to adopt the chugaiman way of life were given permission to stay on Norian, others elected to live on Earth. Holt’s work was to study and analyze the dominant physiological characteristics and behavioral tendencies of crossbred offspring. Most huchumans present the eyes, hair patterning, and Biological Onmicurious Bits [BOB] of chugaimans and the skin, face and bone structure of humans. She explained that their behavior and psychological make-up is complex and she had yet to complete a comparative analysis to properly identify and define the prevalent attributes. I asked how it was possible for humans and chugaimans to have genetic compatibility and produce fertile offspring if they were from completely different planets. She responded that there were different theories and the matter had been frequently debated. The civilizations on Norian are significantly older and more scientifically and technologically advanced than on Earth. Holt believes that human ancestors originally came from Norian, though past travels to Earth are not readily found in the Norian historical records made available to humans. That seems too coincidental, I thought, and wondered why a movie set would have such pretense.
I watched the huchuman, who appeared to be a young adult male, move across the small screen with ease, clearly aware he was being filmed. It occurred to me that chugaimans must be attractive or humans would not be inclined to have sex with them. The huchuman’s skin was smooth, the color of cinnamon, his body lean, soft looking and sensual—not stout or brawny. Something about him reminded me of Grace Jones, except for the eyes. The eyes were spectacular, mesmerizing in fact. They started in the front like human eyes but wrapped around the head to the back, though not all the way. The eyelashes were long, dark, and lush. The eye stayed in position to blink. To look around, the eyelid closed behind the eyeball as it moved swiftly and seamlessly from one end of the elongated socket to the other, and then back. The motion was lovely, rhythmic, and brought to mind a zipper closing, butterfly wings flapping, and a centipede walking. It was all of those things yet none of those things. This huchuman literally had eyes in the back of his head. The ears were small, more round than long and located on the sides and to the back of the head, below where the eyes ended. Short, curly black hair with sporadic, long yellow tufts spiraled around his torso like a candy cane stripe. The hair began under his chin and ended at the waistband of his loose-fitting cadmium red pants. His chest, arms, hands, and feet were bare and, with the exception of the hair, looked quite human. His eyes, in fact his entire face and body, had a look of elegance with a touch of creepiness, but appealing overall. If this was not legitimately a hybrid human, it was some pretty amazing special effects.
I concentrated on the computer-generated voice of the translator, but I caught and recognized a few words that Holt herself used. One was “funny” and I was pleased at the prospect of that word still being used in 300 years. At some point, she laughed lightly, which surprised me. My surprise baffled me. Did I think a sense of humor would cease to exist in the future? Then I realized that I don’t usually imagine people laughing in the future, or the past for that matter, a strange insight given the circumstances.
The second video, Holt explained, was an enlargement of microscopic organic matter, a type of hormone called Biological Omnicurious Bits, or BOB, that chugaimans as well as huchumans exchange with one another. BOB was the primary focus of Holt’s research. On the screen were translucent, watery, vibrating, one-celled organisms with a dark eye-like center, somewhat like octopus eggs. Holt said that BOB is created in various glands in the body and transmitted to others via the mouth, hands, hair, or genitals, though it is most definitely not for reproductive purposes. She studied the chemical structure, how an exchange is triggered, and the complex way BOB functions to maintain individual and collective psychological and physical well-being. BOB can relieve disorders, and in some cases cause a change in appearance or behavior. Sometimes a great many chugaimans each give a small amount of BOB to a single individual in order to fulfill a specific community need, but this is done sparingly because of the hardship on that individual. According to Holt, chugaimans have a sense of oneness not found in humans or the other two intelligent species on Norian. With an exchange of BOB, they are essentially a bit of one another. This results in a fluid personal identity, blurred boundaries, and a transformed concept of me and you, us and them. This, Holt believes, explains the chugaimans’ deep sense of community and intrinsic willingness to cooperate, which helps them thrive. To the best of Holt’s knowledge, they have no currency and conflicts rarely, if ever, end in violence, though interspecies conflicts could be deadly.
This insight to extraplanetary relationships led me to ask if we humans learned to live more harmoniously on Earth in the future. Was there anything to fear down the road? “No more than before,” was the response. “Humans always find something to fear, but the question remains: is fear necessary?” Hmmmmm, I thought, a philosophical space-time traveler. Our conversation shifted from Norian to future Earth. I commented that her presence indicated that we managed not to self-destruct and blow the planet up. She laughed. I asked what happens regarding climate change and available resources. Holt explained that there is a lot of history in 300 years and though the future is not perfect, it is not a complete disaster either. There are unfortunate environmental events and challenges that significant advancement in technology and engineering sufficiently mitigate, an ongoing endeavor. “Whether it is 1776, 2009, or 2346,” she said, “humans are humans. We adapt. We solve problems, even those of our own making.” Holt went on to say that we drop misconceptions as we gain knowledge and experience—a maturation process that naturally continues in the 24th century. I asked about human rights, global political relationships, and warfare—admittedly a broad topic. She paused. A mysterious look crossed her face and she replied that a major global conflict ensues. Ultimately it causes people to re-discover the value of reasonable behavior in matters of importance, those outside of entertainment. This results in a period of balance, depolarization and compromise that sparks innovation and has a major stabilizing effect on economics. Economic sufficiency is a unifying force that has a powerful influence on American, as well as global, politics and freedom. However in 2346, Holt started to explain, major discontent is brewing as new alliances create controversy concerning resources.
Suddenly there began a series of beeps and tones and the door slid open again. Holt rushed inside, touched some screens, pushed some buttons, and said she had to depart immediately. “It was a pleasure speaking with you. Please, please, it is imperative that you quickly move back, beyond those trees and close your eyes to prevent damage from the laser.” I hurried to the spot she indicated and held my eyes shut. Wow. Had I just witnessed the most incredible thing ever? Though, who on earth would believe me? I was still unsure if this was real or a joke, wanting to hear more, much more. I heard mechanical noises and rumblings. When all was quiet I opened my eyes. Anicca Holt, her cool video suit and her spacecraft were gone. There were no burn marks on the ground, just crushed grass.
One of the last things I heard from Holt’s speakers before the door closed was “I’m afraid I must leave you curious.”
Anicca Holt and I had spoken very briefly. We discussed huchumans, the future and space travel, with the conversation unraveling organically. I got the sense that Holt shared information that she herself found most interesting. Despite the reality of the experience, I was dizzy with disbelief. There were so many questions I didn’t have a chance to ask. She had asked me none. I wish that I had gained more specific knowledge of the future. What I did glean is that the future, at least the next 300 years or so, is no more disastrous than the past or present. I continually wonder about the nature and extent of the next global conflict and which of history’s unlearned lessons will give rise to it. I do believe that amazing things are possible and fear dissolves when humans collaborate and unleash ingenuity. Though pushing aside what stands in the way of cooperation and innovation is the Gordian knot of human interrelationships.
Back in my studio after the encounter, I immediately made notes of my discussion with Holt. I sketched and sketched the huchuman trying to capture what I saw on the video. With only a brief viewing, my efforts to recreate the structure of the face and hair patterning were awkward and unsatisfactory, nothing like the graceful fluidity I saw on Holt’s screen. Did the jaw connect to the ear? How did the cheekbone follow the eye socket? The brow line undulated slightly, but in what manner? How many eyeball widths was the eye socket? I printed out images of humans and tried to overlay huchuman traits, but the results veered even further from an accurate representation.
As precise details of the huchuman evaporated from memory I decided to respond more naturally and stylistically. I made drawings that reflect a mere glimpse of a different kind of being. I felt compelled to carve “folds in the fabric” into alabaster, though not in a freakish frenzy like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The first of these sculptures is my interpretation of two cosmic rocks—Earth and Norian—united by a tunnel in the fabric of the universe and sex between species. Something to look forward to, no?
Holt’s insights left me strangely hopeful, with what I call a ‘Kafkaesque idealism’ that still creeps into my work. I speculate on the significance of my experience and if there is a way to employ the bits of information I was given. I carefully considered whether to contact the authorities or some official body. I imagined the potential ways that could play out and they all ended in absurdity or my shredded integrity. I suspected that any knowledge gained from a peek at the future would be distorted, diluted, dismissed. Calling NASA or the FBI seemed just plain wrong, but so did not telling anyone. This was too amazing to keep to myself. So I chose to share my experience in a customary venue for me, secure in the notion that enough ambiguity lingers around an art installation to keep me safe. And those who know, know.
~ Susan Begy