The Malarkey

By Kathleen Dubell


hubble telescope


“Ten years ago, we saw the [aliens] for the first time, glimpsed through the tiny, dim lenses of our telescopes: distant silhouettes passing calmly among the stars. We saw the tensed curve of a towering shoulder, an upraised jaw, a bristling, inscrutable scalp turned away from us. We were terrified, dumbfounded, amazed. We exploded bright green flares, sent up blasting rockets, lit up our world’s atmosphere. In ten days the [alien], still unawares, took two bounding strides through the black and white sea of space, and vanished from sight. We wept.”

An edited excerpt from Dr. Stanislaw Goddard’s unpublished manuscript of Waking Giants, with explanatory brackets added by D.N.


The strangest stories one reads and hears are those that pretend to hold the impossible within their paper-thin folds. Dr. Stanislaw Goddard, a formerly prestigious astronomer, told many unbelievable stories in his life, most laughable, but the story of the “aliens” that he (and others, a very few others) saw twenty years ago, a story of loping giants that crossed through galaxies in a few hours – that story was discomforting. Everyone here in London ignored him, and in time he was forgotten, his story lost, and rumors of giant aliens spooled inexorably into oblivion. Before Goddard died a few years ago, no one thought of him again.


“‘It is with great happiness and exultation that I welcome _________ ______, the charming leader of our friends, the [aliens], to our wonderful city,” announced the Head Mayor of London from behind his very tall podium. He was pinioned in an uncomfortably starchy suit, and he wore a dense black hat that was slowly crushing a line into his pudgy forehead. Behind him, the [aliens] bowed, now shrunken down to human-size. All six of them looked remarkably calm under the stunned stares of the encircling crowd.

Suddenly there was a distant commotion at the far back of the crowd […] Dr. Stanislaw Goddard had come out on his white marble balcony above the city square, and now stood with his hands clasped on the iron railing, his gray head bent towards the [aliens].

The crowd applauded him at once. Slowly, turning as one, the [aliens] raised their left [appendages (Perhaps. The word used here is unclear)] and saluted Goddard. Through clenched teeth, his smile painful to behold, the Head Mayor said, “And many, many thanks to Dr. Goddard, for without him we would never have accomplished the formation of the Goddard-[Alien] World Treaty. We are each of us incredibly grateful for our esteemed doctor.”

Again the [aliens] saluted him, and this time Dr. Goddard lifted his hand and held it out to them with palm upturned, a gesture of both welcome and apology. Everyone was frozen, some in awe, others in interest or confusion. The six [aliens] on the raised platform, the tired old doctor, the stiffened Mayor, the watching crowd: all stood immobile. Then Dr. Goddard lowered his hand and went back into his fine townhouse, not to be seen again for many years […].”

A condensed excerpt from Dr. Stanislaw Goddard’s private journal, edited by D.N.


It is with some curiosity one notes the layers of detail Stanislaw includes in his writing, not only in his obviously fabricated journal entries (for there was no such Goddard-Alien peace treaty and no aliens of any kind on this planet throughout its whole history) but also in portions of his unpublished manuscript, (quoted above), Waking Giants. He notes that the telescope lens through which he saw the aliens were “dim” and the scope itself “tiny” (perhaps in terms of capability, not size). But in 1846, the finest telescope Goddard possessed was rather impressive. It had multiple magnifying lenses and precise maneuvering (see figure IV). Many scholars conjecture that the instrument Goddard actually used to view the “aliens” was an heirloom of sorts, passed down from his great-grandfather, something the Goddard family often derisively refers to as the Malarkey (Emily Goddard, The Goddard Legacy, p. 67).


“He went into the attic after dinner and opened the ivory case he had placed under the wardrobe. The lid was very heavy and its sharp white corners threatened to cut his fingers. All along the edges of the box were the elongated figures of elegant suited men, depicted with staring eyes and thin arms raised high over their heads, as though they were about to dive. He took out the Malarkey from this case. It was a small black tube with glass spheres affixed at both ends, an ugly and cold instrument, but he smiled as he turned it in his hands. After a moment he rose and crossed to the low windows at the end of the attic, passing a dingy astrolabe swinging on its chain, to where his collection of advanced telescopes stood gleaming on their tripods. Slipping between them, he thrust open the double windows, put the Malarkey to his eye, and tipped his head up at the night. He could see vast shadows sliding behind the stars. Again he smiled, and his face was distant, preoccupied. Changed.”

An excerpt from Marian Thistle-Delaney’s novel, Walking Shadows of the Mind, an artistic retelling of Goddard’s descent into madness.


Most scholars argue that the Malarkey was merely a lumpy conglomeration of lead pipe and glass fused together. It would be impossible for anyone to look through and see the back of one’s hand clearly, let alone the distant stars.


“We have come to believe that an enfeebled Dr. Goddard lost his way in the treacherous London streets after dark, and was waylaid by a murderous thief, possibly one of the very active Red Gang, or the Watching Eye. A smattering of his belongings (a smashed pocket watch, a bloodied handkerchief with his initials, and a broken, also bloodied cameo) were found in a malodorous alleyway in the depths of the city. These belongings were identified as his own by Mr. Thomas Eldrit, one of Stoddard’s acquaintances. We regret to inform you that Dr. Stanislaw Goddard is likely dead.”

An artistic depiction of the note Inspector Richard Mortmain would have sent to Stanislaw’s family and friends after the doctor’s sudden disappearance, courtesy of Marian Thistle-Delaney.


One can only too easily imagine what happened to Dr. Goddard after his Giant Aliens theory brought him so low in the public eye. His own family (particularly his wealthy aunt, Emily Goddard, who had supported him and his scholarly work for years) shunned him, and his few friends scattered. By late April of 1864, Goddard had lost all connection to his former life, and had taken up the guise of a homeless vendor on the banks of the Thames, where he sold bits of rounded glass he had found in the river. He was not there long, perhaps a few months. When his friend Thomas Eldrit heard of his new low position, he came to inquire of his friend, hoping to help Goddard find a place to stay, but by the time he reached his location, Stanislaw was gone. Alarmed, Eldrit contacted the authorities, claiming that he had seen a note (which he presumed to be suicidal) weighed down by a hunk of black glass by the river. As he had approached to grab it, the note had blown into the Thames. Whatever had been written on it was lost in the muddy, sewage-laden waters. Days later, the London police found what was left of Stanislaw’s personal items, strewn haphazardly in a stinking alleyway several miles from the riverbank.

What I impart to you next, I do so in the confidence that the knowledge will never leave this room. What the police also found was what appeared to be the remnants of a strange device: pieces of black lead pipe, and two small unbroken spheres of silvery glass. I have the repaired device with me now. Let me take off the curtain over this stand. Here is the device. Shall we look through it?

[Scattered laughter]

Thus ends the recorded excerpt from D.N.’s private presentation to the Special Council.


Below the opened port in the glass atrium’s ceiling, the members of the British government advanced one by one to the Malarkey, resting like a black pipe bomb on its little curved wooden stand. Bending low, they looked through its battered, seamed length into the night sky above.

One by one they returned to their seats, all unspeaking. The last to look through was Diane Nelson, and after she had done so, she turned and smiled almost apologetically at her six-person audience.

“So now we know,” she said. “Shall everyone put it to a vote?”

Every man and woman of the small assembly raised their hands. When she had finished counting, her lips moving as she looked distinctly from one person to another, the Queen herself rose, took a metal hammer from the nearby Duke, and struck the Malarkey. It cracked cruelly along the seam. Her Majesty returned the hammer to the Duke, and the remainder of the Council, moving in a silent circle, beat the Malarkey into dust.

Private Notes from the Special Council, transcribed and sealed. MOST SECRET. FOR HER EYES ONLY.

THE END

broken glass



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