I hiked to the top of Vintém Hill with my friend, Bobby during the summer of 1969. Each step we took brought us closer to the moment Bobby and I had waited for since we were kids—the whole experience felt surreal. We were on a mission to see the unknown. We wanted to see aliens and were told Vintém was the place to go. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect day for our adventure. The sun was beaming down on us and the path we followed was surrounded by lush green grass that guided us in the right direction. A smile spread across my face as I turned and took in the scenery around us. White, run down houses were scattered throughout the greenery in the valley below, “Dude, are you coming? We’re going to be late.”
“Yeah,” I turned back to the path; “I’m coming.” Bobby and I made it to the top of Vintém hill by 4:30 like the note said. We still had two hours to wait before what we thought was going to be the greatest event of our lives.
“You ready, man?” He asked me.
“Hell yeah,” I smirked. To understand my euphoria, I’d have to take you back to the day Bobby and I became friends. It was our Halloween party in the second grade and we both came to school dressed as aliens. That’s when I knew we’d be friends forever. Our science teacher in the seventh grade, Mr. Yates, only fueled our fascination with Aliens. Bobby and I had trouble fitting in with other kids at school, but we ate lunch in Mr. Yates’ classroom during our awkward middle school years. He once read us an article about a UFO citing on Vintém Hill. At the time Bobby and I had no clue a place like Vintém even existed or that people regularly reported seeing UFOs there. A few years later, we found out Mr. Yates went to do an investigation on Vintém Hill himself and was found dead a week later. For most, this information would have been a turn off. For Bobby and I, it only made us want to go even more—for Mr. Yates’ sake.
During our sophomore year in college Bobby came running into our room one day with a newspaper in his hand, “You’ve…gotta…see this,” he managed between breaths.
I took the newspaper from him and read the headline article. Two men had been found dead on top of Vintém Hill. I felt chills creep up my spine, “This is the place—“ I started.
Bobby, still huffing, nodded with a smile on his face, “Dude!” That was the day we began planning our trip to Vintém Hill. It was something we decided we wanted to do after graduation as a final hurrah and before we had to start real jobs. One final moment we could try and live our childhood dream. The fact that we had the opportunity to go still boggles my mind, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We had done as much research as we could from the old newspapers at the library. It didn’t give us much, but we were able to get the name of a man who claimed he knew the exact steps to follow if you wanted to get a chance to see aliens. What could be better than putting his method together with the place most known for it’s alien sightings? At least, that’s what we thought.
Bobby challenged my idea, calling it ridiculous, “Something about this doesn’t feel right, dude.”
In a moment like this, the saying ‘trust your gut’ tends to cross the mind. My gut was telling me to go for it and that it would be a great experience, which was completely opposite from what his was telling him. How did we decide? We entrusted our fate to a coin. Heads meant we called the alien dude; tales meant that we just took the trip and tried to see a UFO by ourselves.
Bobby took out a coin and tossed it into the air. The quarter fell to the floor and rolled a couple feet away before finally falling. Bobby and I looked at one another then back to the quarter and ran to it. Heads. Funny how we left something like this up to fate. Bobby picked up the quarter and turned it over in his hand. If ever given a second chance in life, I wish we never flipped that dumb coin and I wish Bobby was able to talk sense into me because now, we’re both in trouble, “I don’t know about this, man,” Bobby said looking at the quarter in his hands.
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Dude, we could get killed. For all we know, this guide could actually be a serial killer and this is his trap. What if he’s a con-man, Nick.”
“What are the actual chances of that happening though?”
“In Brazil? Pretty high;” he put the quarter back in his pocket. “We already run the risk of some serious shit happening to us by going there as tourists. Do we really need a guide to draw more attention to us?”
I thought about it for a second. There was a definite danger level in hiring this guide. At the same time, I didn’t want to go all the way there not to see anything, “What if we go there, no guide, and go to this hill and never see a UFO or an alien? Besides, he just gives us instructions on what to do and where to go.”
Bobby took a deep breath, “And what part of that doesn’t seem creepy to you?”
“We’re twenty three, man. We’re probably not going to get another opportunity like this in our lifetime. I thought we were going for the experience.”
“Then I think we should at least contact this guy and see what he’s like. If he seems like a total waste of time then we don’t have to listen to him. Let’s at least call and get some details.” So we called the guide and he answered the phone; at least we knew he was a real person and it wasn’t a scam. His name was Miguel. Our conversation with him didn’t last long—there was somewhat of a language barrier. From what we were able to understand, he would have a package for us to pick up on August 19th, the day we planned to tackle Vintém.
August 17, 1969. We were finally on a plane heading to Galeáo International Airport in Rio de Janeiro. I was extremely eager to finally see Vintém with my own eyes. In a matter of hours, I could be seeing a UFO. Bobby was excited, but not like I was—he still harbored some doubt. We landed late that night. By the time we got our bags and made it to our hotel, it was close to one in the morning. We asked for a wake up call at eight, I took a sleeping pill, and Bobby and I passed out.
The next morning, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. At the diner, I thought our breakfast would never come and it didn’t help that Bobby was being so quiet; but, as we called for a cab, Bobby’s mood became happier and he was basically back to being his normal, joking self, “You ready?” I looked at Bobby as a smile of excitement spread across my face.
Bobby looked at me and nodded, “Yeah man, let’s do this.” He seemed a little nervous, another small moment when we should have trusted his intuition and gone back. That is something I’ll never get over. Our fate was set then and there. We’d entrusted our lives to that coin and blindly followed its results. If it wasn’t for that, we’d still be home, continuing on with our mundane lives. The cab driver dropped us off in front of the guide’s door; all we had to do was knock.
An old man, crouched over, with silver, stringy hair down to his shoulders, came and answered the door, “Posso ajudá-lo?” he spoke in a raspy voice.
I pulled out the Portuguese phrasebook that I borrowed from the hotel. I flipped through the pages trying to look for the words he said, but the longer it took for me to find the words, the more I forgot what the words were. I looked at Bobby, “I don’t know what he said, dude.”
Bobby shrugged, “Let me see that.” He took the booklet from me and opened to the beginning. I smiled at the old man who just stared blankly at me with his droopy eyes.
“How are you?” I asked the old man, somewhat slow hoping that he would understand somehow. He didn’t. He just kept staring. “Miguel?” I asked to see if we were talking to the right man. A slight smile crossed his face and he nodded.
“Ah!” Bobby said before clearing his throat.
“What did he say?”
Bobby looked at me. “I have no clue. I’m going to ask if he knows English.” He faced the old man and made eye contact, “Vocé inglés?”
“Um pouco sim. Muito pouco,” The old man wiped some drool that had escaped his lips.
“Pouco, pouco…doesn’t that mean little in Spanish? Would it mean the same in Portuguese?”
Bobby was flipping through the booklet. “I think so.”
“Aliens?” I asked him. I definitely thought that was a word he would know.
Miguel nodded, “Money?” I took my wallet out and paid him the $1,000—money that Bobby and I had been saving up for months. He smiled then disappeared from the door for a minute then came back with a small beat up box. His shaky hand held it out, “Take.” I grabbed the box from him. He nodded, “You follow.”
Bobby and I both stared at the box, “Follow? Follow what’s inside?” Bobby asked. The old man nodded and made an opening motion with his hands. I opened the box and immediately two glowing green capsules that were pressed up against a corner caught my attention. There were also two pieces of old, crinkled paper and two heavy masks that appeared to be made of lead. The masks caught me off guard; they covered half of my face when I held one up and stone solid. Bobby and I looked at each other then back to Miguel who still had a partial smirk on his face. He was breathing heavily and I couldn’t tell if it was because he was old or because he actually had some other bodily issue.
“You follow,” Miguel pointed to the pieces of paper, “You see aliens,” at the end of his sentence, he winked. At the time I thought he was just being a cute, awkward old man, but now I know he was harboring a secret from us—a secret that was not his to tell, but I wish he had warned us one way or another.
“Thank you very much, thanks.” I said as I looked down and tried to read the papers. The old man slowly closed the door.
“Well that was odd.” Bobby said taking the papers out of the box.
“What? He seemed nice.”
“I didn’t say he wasn’t. Let’s find somewhere to sit so we can read these.” We found a small café to sit at around the corner from Miguel’s house. There were two papers to translate. One only had two instructions on it: “16:30 estar no local determinado. 18:30 ingerir cápsulas, após efeito proteger metais aguardar sinal mascar,” Which I translated as: “16:30 be at the agreed place. 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask sign.” I read it aloud to Bobby; “What is that supposed to mean? What’s the ‘agreed place’?”
“If I’ve got this right, we’re supposed to go to the top of the hill; that must be the agreed place. That doesn’t explain the time difference, though. It just says basically that it will be obvious and to have the lead masks out and ready.”
Bobby nodded, “Seems simple enough.”
“Still think it’s a hoax?”
“We’ll see, won’t we? What time do we have to be at the top of the hill?”
“16:30, so 4:30?” I surprised myself with how quickly I converted the time.
“We should probably start walking, Dude.”
I nodded and took one last sip of my coffee, “How long do you think it will take to get to the top?”
We both stood up from the little table leaving behind the paper that Bobby translated behind, “Several hours at least.” Bobby said. Before we left, we stopped and picked up a water bottle to take the capsules with. “We’re not going to make it,” Bobby said fidgeting.
“Relax. We’re just getting a bottle of water. It will take one minute.”
Bobby nervously checked his watch. “What happens if we’re not there on time?”
“Then we come back tomorrow. I don’t know. You’re worrying too much.”
“And you’re not worrying enough. Let’s just hurry up.”
“A bottle of water, please.” The waitress looked at me. Oh, right. “Água por favor.”
“Copo ou garrafa?” She asked.
I looked back at Bobby who checked his watch again. “Garrafa por favor.” I hoped that was bottle and not cup. She went below the bar for a moment and came up with a bottle of water.
“Get a receipt so we can bring the bottle back and refill it.” Bobby said before I paid.
“That’s a thing?”
“It is here.”
“Why? And how do you know that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they try not to be as wasteful. And because, it says on the sign over there.” Bobby pointed to a sign on the wall behind the counter of the café that read ‘Recarga’ with the picture of a water bottle being filled from a faucet.
“What’s receipt?” I asked.
Bobby pulled out the booklet again, “Recepção?” he was asking me, but she nodded and handed him a receipt; “Obrigado.” He bowed his head then we both went to the door. Once outside, we realized the hill wasn’t as tall as we’d expected, so it didn’t take us long to make it to the top. We made it just before four thirty, which worked to our advantage. We were able to find a spot on the hill we liked and one where we thought would be the best to see the aliens.
“Dude, I cannot believe we’re here right now. Could you imagine what Mr. Yates would be saying if he were here with us?”
“Run for your lives?” Bobby sat in the grass.
I ignored his comment and joined him on the ground, “Would you look at this view? No wonder the aliens come here.” We sat there for a minute in silence. As I looked around us, I could see the houses at the bottom of the hill. They all had smoke coming out through the chimney and they were so close that all they all formed one gigantic, dark cloud. The lull on the hill was much different from the hustle and bustle from the city below. Lights started to flicker on as the sun began to set.
Bobby checked his watch again, “Can you imagine the look on people’s faces if we went back with proof? We’d be famous. Never have to work another day in our lives.”
“Yeah, that’d be great, man.” My mind trailed back to that morning when we had met up with the guide. When we found him, we weren’t aware that he didn’t speak a word of English, so we found ourselves dissecting his sentences word for word with a Portuguese dictionary. I laughed at the thought.
“What are you laughing at?” Bobby looked at me.
“I was remembering this morning when we were trying to communicate with the guide.” I saw a smile start to spread across Bobby’s face.
“We were like fucking idiots trying to communicate with him. Where would we be if we hadn’t bought that dictionary from our hotel lobby?”
“Definitely not here.” We both chuckled.
“What time do you have?” I asked.
He looked at his watch, “Five-fifteen.” I nodded and went back to looking around us. The sun was beginning to set.
“What do you think he put in those capsules? Why did they look like they were glowing?” I stared blankly at Bobby. I had no idea what Miguel put in the capsules or even why we had to take them. His guess was as good as mine. “And what the hell is with these lead masks he made for us? What’s this going to do? Prevent us from being abducted?” Bobby’s tone grew more sarcastic; “Because they only cover our face. The aliens would likely cut our heads off and take the part of our bodies not covered by the lead mask.” We both laughed at Bobby’s gruesome idea. It helped take some of the edge off. “What’s the note say again?” Bobby asked coming up to the box and sitting.
I pulled the piece of paper out of the box. Originally it was written in Portuguese, but Bobby and I stopped at a café to translate it. “16:30 be at the agreed place. 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask sign.”
“What sign is it talking about?” Bobby asked.
“I have no idea. Maybe it’ll be like Batman’s signal, you know, the beam of light.”
“And what it’s going to be in the shape of one of these masks?” Bobby asked holding one of the masks in his hands. Thinking about the image of a beam of light looking like one of these masks shoot up into the sky made us both laugh again.
“I don’t know, I’m sure we’ll know when the time comes, though.”
“You know it’ll still be light out when all this is supposed to happen,” Bobby mentioned.
I hadn’t even thought of that. Seeing aliens before the sun completely set? That didn’t make sense, “You’re right.” We sat there again for a few minutes without saying anything. I don’t know what Bobby was thinking, but I was trying to figure out why aliens would reveal themselves when it was still daylight. I thought maybe that was the key that everyone was missing. I flicked a grasshopper that was lying on a blade of grass in front of me, “What time do you have now?” I asked.
Bobby glanced at his watch, “Six nineteen.”
“We’re getting closer.”
“I know. Nick, I don’t know if I can take those pills, man.”
“We don’t know what’s in them and I just—I don’t feel comfortable with it. I mean, what could they possibly do anyways? Like people claim to see aliens all the time what good will these pills do?”
“It’s just part of the experience, Bobby.”
“Are you okay with doing it?”
I nodded, “We can only be young and reckless for so long, dude.”
“That’s true. I don’t know; I just feel uneasy about it.”
“Great, so then if the capsule is poisonous, you’ll be here to take me to the hospital.” I tried making a joke of it, even though I wanted him to take the capsules with me.
“You’re pretty set on doing this, aren’t you?”
“I’ve only been thinking about this since I was a kid, Bobby. Of course I’m dead set on doing this.”
“You are one cocky son of a bitch, you know that?”
“I can be;” Six twenty-nine came a lot faster than either of us were expecting. The knot in my stomach had grown, but I tried to ignore it. I took one capsule and one of the lead masks out of the box along with the water bottle. Bobby took the other mask and capsule.
“What are you doing?”
“We can only be young and reckless once you said, right?” I smiled and nodded.
“It’s six thirty, Dude. You ready?”
“Yes, very;” I stuck the capsule in my mouth and drank from the water bottle first, then handed it to Bobby who did the same. We both looked at each other.
“Do you feel anything?” Bobby asked.
“No, you?” He shook his head; “Maybe we got ripped off,” I said looking back into the box for something we might have missed. The masks. “What about the masks?”
“We have to wait for some sign. Could that be it?” Bobby said pointing to a bird flying overhead.
“No,” I shook my head, “Birds have been flying by all day.”
“That one looked different.”
“I think it’ll be more noticeable than a bird.”
There was a moment when the earth stood still. The birds quit their chirping and the breeze stopped blowing all at once. One moment the world was alive, then the next it was as if not a soul ever existed. Nothing but silence rang through the air. I tried to speak, but nothing would pass my lips. I turned to see if Bobby was still next to me. He was noticing the silence of the city down below, which had been bustling with life only a moment before, and looking up into the sky above to see if this was the signal. He then looked to me with the same confused look on his face that I had painted on mine. I pinched myself to see if I were dreaming, but again, nothing happened. Just then, the wind picked up and we were in the center of a beam of light.
“The masks!” I shouted; “Put on your mask!” I looked up and was blinded by the light.