WELCOME TO THE FUTURE
Thirty one years ago, during the global energy crisis of 1975, David Hamel was watching The Waltons on his home television in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, when two grey static pixels emerged from the screen and enlarged into alien beings on either side of him. They appeared to him as a humanoid male-female couple, although he admits that's an arbitrary visualization his brain concocted when engaged telepathically by beings from another dimension.
They introduced themselves as "A" and Arkan from the planet Kladen. They brought Hamel aboard their flying saucer -- "They sent me through the roof!" is how he describes the paranormal out-of-body experience -- where their androgynous android companion, On, illustrated how they traveled from their distant galaxy to Earth: their ship floated in an antigravity bubble powered by electrically charged vortical airflow between magnetic rings. It was, the aliens said, the same method they had used when they visited the ancient Egyptians prior to the construction of the great pyramids at Giza, when they turned up as three wise men in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus and when they appeared to Third Reich scientists before World War II in an attempt to avert global military conquest.
On explained that the ship's motor needed no fuel except the inherent magnetic forces that attracted and repelled its components. By varying the relative position of the magnetic rings, a vortex of charged air could be created intense enough to suck the ship through a surrounding electromagnetic disturbance, escaping gravity, radar and common sense. Hamel received a breathtaking fifteen-minute demo ride at hypersonic speed over the Canadian landscape, pausing only to hover over a man carrying a yoke laden with two buckets, who collapsed when he saw the ship overhead. Hamel was then instructed to do two things: develop the aliens' technology on earth in order to save the human race from "the Grid" (the world's asphalt-electrical network) and use it to build a survival ship like Noah's Ark. At last, "A," Arkan and On dropped Hamel back home into his body, and he emerged in the immersive flicker of his TV's cathode static.
Though he says, "They're in my body, my mind, I can't get away from them," Hamel's next and final direct encounter with the aliens came just three months later, when they returned in a black car with red diplomatic license plates. He admits to feeling a little hurt by that visit, because they ignored him and instead communicated for three hours with his wife Nora, whom they had in fact visited once before, six years earlier.
Back then, in 1969, David Hamel was training baton twirling girls at the local Legion hall in Maple Ridge. Nora, who is unable to walk and has limited motor skills due to the cerebral palsy with which she was born in 1944, would sit in her wheelchair, enjoying the maneuvers. The two struck up an understanding, with David's horrific World War II trauma balanced by the pain Nora had suffered because of fourteen botched operations to mend her misshapen legs.
It was after one such surgery that the aliens came to Nora, comforting her during her recovery and, curiously, leaving angelica leaves on her hospital bed, in her hair and on the floor of her room.
Moved by her situation, David asked for Nora's hand in marriage after several years of twirling courtship -- to the disbelief of Nora's family. "I thought for four days about it," says Hamel, who still has three children from an ill-fated first marriage he embarked upon while on leave in Scotland after the war. "They were going to send Nora for more operations. She showed me what they'd done to her, those goddamn doctors. I said, No rotten bastards are going to cut her up again. So I decided to marry her."
Still very much in love, David and Nora now live together in rural Gilmour, Ontario, a God-fearing, Twin Peaksesque hamlet in the Precambrian Shield forests south of Algonquin Park. Their modest two-story home at the end of a dirt road is close enough to town that Hamel can drive in daily to get food, but far enough away that he can build and test flying saucers on his sprawling lightning-prone property without causing too much of a ruckus. NASA once came to visit him here after hearing of the six foty-five-gallon oil drums Hamel rocket-launched using motor prototypes developed immediately after his abduction, and of the power outages he continues to cause in the vicinity of his ongoing testing.
"I would work for NASA if they would listen to me, but they don't!" he rants. Hamel is outspoken, independent, egomaniacal. He's also a practical, hands-on guy, having received only an elementary-school education during his schoolboy days in 1930s Montreal. During the Cold War, he operated radios along the DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line in the Arctic and worked as a roc-cutter for a marble company that designed bank lobbies. "I'll put the lights out for miles, then they'd listen, they'd know what I've got. The scientists come here, but they can't accept the magnetic. They'd rather play around with nuclear rods, but they're poison. There's too much lying, too much greed. Everyone wants the truth, but they won't find it, they won't plant the seed, people are dying, the end is coming!"
Not all of Hamel's neighbors approve of his ufological eschatology, but he doesn't bother them at the local parish -- televangelical Sunday service suits him just fine. Many know him as "the UFO guy," who earlier this year escaped from a head-on collision with an oncoming truck while attempting to turn his car off the highway into the parking lot of a local restaurant. "I don't know how he survived that," says the restaurant owner incredulously. "He sure is stubborn."
But wouldn't you be stubborn if the signs were everywhere? After David and Nora moved here from British Columbia in 1980, they found -- left behind in the attic by the previous occupant -- a yoke matching the one carried by the man Hamel saw from the saucer. And patterns of angelica leaves identical to those left behind for Nora were discovered beneath their wallpaper during renovations.
Nowadays the Hamel home is a treasure trove of occult ephemera. Lining the living room wall (opposite the wood carvings of scenes from the Book of the Dead depicting what some believe are ancient Egyptians receiving radiation therapy from primitive electrode effigies) are blueprints for Hamel's Ark of the Covenant - the Noah-inspired spaceship he hopes will carry survivors of the coming apocalypse. Hamel plans to launch the craft from a giant slab of granite rock near James Bay. Also hanging on the wall is a framed black-and-white airbrush illustration of a domed saucer hovering with a glowing aura, taken from a 1970s pulp sci-fi illustration. Hamel claims the illustration, in the form of undeveloped microfilm, was subcutaneously embedded in his palm following his original abduction. A stigma remains on his hand from the emergency surgery required to remove it.
David Hamel is an inventor. Not only of stories that just might be true, but also of machines that just might work. He is as much an artist as an engineer, weaving alternate realities from historical and scientific anomalies, sculpting metal according to intuited designs. He works alone or with friends in the backyard shed he built himself. He supports his wife on a meager military disability pension, which he began receiving in the 1960s as compenation for crippling bullet wounds suffered during the Second World War.
As if the bureaucratic ineptitude of a twenty-year pension delay doesn't irk him enough, Hamel knows he would now be rich if his magnet-related patent applications hadn't been misfiled years ago. He can't remember when, but he is sure he attempted to patent the process of magnetically aligning individual atoms within a lattice (an idea that is now a profitable emerging procedure in nanotechnology). So upset was he upon arriving in the Canadian Patent Office in Gatineau, Quebec, to find that his entire file had gone "missing" that he slammed cross-shaped vibration magnets on the counter and had to be removed by police for causing a scene.