December 24th – The Festival of Understanding They Who Walk Among Us

The central text, the equivalent of a holy book, of the Gathering of Those Who Know is slim, less than a hundred pages long. It reads more like a novelette than a holy book, a fact that has made the Gathering a very popular pseudo-religious group, given the fact they’ve not been around long, because of how accessible it seems. The text, called How We Came to Know, tells the story of the group’s founders, Millicent Awcome and Vaerible Schlost, focusing in particular on something life-changing that they saw on this very day.

Awcome and Schlost were friends, and had been since school. How We Came to Know begins with the pair at school, a few moments snatched from their collective memories to illustrate who they were; they met in detention, they left messages for each other written in code, attached to the underside of a desk they both used on different days of the week, Schlost made a card game called The Dangerous Citizen and Awcome played the drums. It goes on like this for some time, fleshing out their personalities, so that when the central scene comes you feel as if you already know these characters, and you identify with them. Outside of making prospective members feel a certain kinship towards the Gathering’s founders (therefore making them more likely to join up), these first tales seem to serve no pedagogic purpose. These are not stories to be emulated, they are pacing in a carefully crafted retelling of (allegedly) true events.

When it eventually gets to that founding moment, How We Came to Know jumps several years into the future, when both Schlost and Awcome, now nineteen, were sat together on the edge of a rooftop, drinking. There was a low bar that ran along the top of the wall, which they wedged themselves underneath with their feet dangling over the edge. This was a standard activity in the summer, but it was an unusual thing to happen in the winter, when the wet and snow and ice made getting onto the roof fairly dangerous, but Schlost had been feeling depressed and Awcome was trying to cheer them up. ‘I bet you can’t spit into that puddle over there,’ said Awcome. ‘Bet I can,’ said Schlost, and they spat as hard as they could and their spit hit the puddle and as it did the puddle lit up, as if it were reflecting the summer sun.

At this point, the narrative of that slim book is broken into by the narrators, the two friends, who are very eager to let the reader know that they aren’t claiming that Schlost has some sort of magical spit; they don’t know what caused them to suddenly be able to see reflected in that puddle the alien spacecraft descending from the heavens. ‘It was startling to us both; we were looking around for the source of the reflection, yet not for long because at the same time we could barely take our eyes off of it, that bright white cylinder out of which stepped a person with ashen grey skin and bright red lips and very long arms. As they stepped out of the cylinder they transformed to look like a normal human, and then, when they did, the water rippled under their foot, or was it the foot of someone who was just walking by, someone who happened to look a lot like the person we just saw the alien transform into.

‘We think that if we had not been holding hands so tightly then, and if we had not talked to each other about it, then we would have forgotten it in the next few moments, because as that person stepped on the puddle the memory faded so rapidly, like waking from a murky dream. Yet there was this sensation, as if you had spent all your life until that moment looking through a narrow tube and now your vision was wide-screened, like that moment at the cinema just before the film starts and the borders pull back; this sensation remained. Whenever you have this sensation normally, you may have just seen an alien land, or transform, or whatever it was that we saw that day, you simply don’t remember it.’

The route up onto the roof is easier nowadays, given that the building, once a shop, is now the official residence of the Gathering, where similar visions are recorded and discussed and studied for similarities and important information. ‘We know they mean us no harm, at least directly’ say the Gathering, ‘but we don’t know why they’re here, or what they want; that is what we intend to find out.’ Indeed, this is what will be discussed today, when all the Gathering’s membership will come together for a number of talks that summarise the year’s findings. This year there will be a talk on the increased efficacy of remembering dual sightings as compared to individual sightings. Additionally, there will always be that secondary part of the festival, when the Gathering file up to the roof and each spit off the edge, trying to hit that same puddle, not in hopes of seeing another craft, but out of a sense of respect for the moment when They Who Walk Among Us were first remembered.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Dorritch Walegethra’s Balloons
  • The Entombed Festival
  • Oarswomen for Intermunicipal Unity’s Festival of Departure