A Note from the Author:
I met Dr. Linda Deltare during a birding festival at West Virginia’s New River Gorge in the spring of 2010. I was struck by the enthusiasm of this elegant, elderly lady as she observed a constellation of Starlings sweeping through the sky. I remember her looking away from her binoculars excitedly exclaiming, “Did you see how they responded in unison to the leader’s chip call?”
She focused her gaze right at me, and since there was no one else was nearby, and I was uncertain whether her question was rhetorical or not, I felt obliged to respond. “I’m afraid I didn’t hear the chip call or see the flock’s response,” I said. “To be honest, I’m not that tuned-in to communication behavior in flight.”
She started an animated ramble about flock behavior until she stopped herself short, apologizing. “I’m sorry. I get carried away by that sort of thing. I’ve been interested in communication theory since my college days, part of my Master’s work and doctoral thesis.”
“Oh, please go on,” I told her. “I may not know much about it, but I’m interested. I love learning new things about bird behavior.” What I said was true. I was interested. I never lied to Dr. Deltare — or almost never.
So we had a nice conversation about this and other similar avian topics as we worked our way back to our group of fellow birders. We then encountered each other on and off for the next few days, establishing a comfortable acquaintance. At the end of the festival, we exchanged the typical farewells — “I hope we run into each other again some day at another birding event.” I meant it. She impressed me as a smart, pleasant, and interesting lady.
Curiously, we did run into each other, time and time again over the next few years, at almost every birding event I ever attended. I saw her at the Maygration in Cape May, New Jersey, then at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in the North Carolina Outer Banks. I saw her at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, at Merritt Island in Florida, at Magee Marsh in northwest Ohio, and again at the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Our little acquaintance gradually grew into a warm friendship. We shared each other’s cell phone numbers and email addresses. So after that, I was not as surprised to see her at other birding events, as we both obviously shared the hobby and passion. But really, looking back, it was a little weird seeing her everywhere I went.
One day, she even showed up in my home town of Winston Salem, North Carolina, at one of our regular Audubon activities at Bethabara Park. I was taken aback at her presence, surprised at how far she must have come for such an unimportant event, or perhaps just to see me. After an enjoyable morning of birding, I asked her to join me for lunch and she readily accepted. It was then she finally unloaded the burden she had been carrying, and for whatever reason, she decided to unload it on me.
“Ferd,” she said with a coarse cough, while lighting up a new cigarette using the dying ash of the one she had just finished, “there’s something I’ve been anxious to tell you — something I’ve never told another living soul. But my days grow short. I have lung cancer, and it’s going to kill me, and what I know cannot die with me. I simply have to pass it on to someone I can trust, and from the first time I met you, I felt you could be that person. I’ve been following you for a few years now, to get to know you better, and I’m convinced you are the one.”
“Well, gee, thank you,” I said, not knowing exactly how to respond to that.
“No. Don’t thank me. This is nothing to be thankful for.”
Waves of emotion washed over her wrinkled face, and I sat patiently while she gathered her thoughts.
“I was abducted by the government a long time ago, against my will and under duress,” she said. “Here, take notes.” She handed me a pen and a pad of paper.
She proceeded to spin a fantastical tale about an alien from space, about government conspiracy, about technology and large corporations, about danger to herself, and a lifetime of running and hiding. She told me how she was the only one who could speak to this alien. She called him by name — Mat. She said the world was not ready to accept him, so what she was about to tell me should remain a secret. I nodded understandingly, wondering where she was going with all this craziness, and listened patiently to her interesting story. We sat there for hours while she told her tall tales, a long story spanning decades. At times she became visibly agitated, and she often looked over her shoulder in a comedy of suspicion. I was absorbed and fascinated by the energy of her story-telling, and frankly, by the story itself. She spun a good tale!
Lunch turned into dinner, and when she finally finished, she said, “I know this must be difficult to believe, but I have evidence. I hate bringing you into this. The government’s been after me for most of my life, and I’m afraid they’ll come after you someday, too. I’m sorry.”
Now, I’ve heard this sort of thing before. I’m a doctor for god’s sake. I made my diagnosis hours previously. This was a classic case of Paranoid Schizophrenia, heavy on the paranoid with a solid persecution complex, and clearly out of touch with reality with a fascinating delusional construct that was consistent with her obvious intelligence. The only part that didn’t fit was her awareness that this would be difficult for me to believe, and that I would need evidence. I find that most Paranoid Schizophrenics aren’t that aware of or sensitive to the viewpoint of others.
She pulled something out of her backpack. Then, after looking over both shoulders, twice, she placed a glowing, pyramidal object in my hands, and closed all my fingers around it. “Guard this with your life!” she said, with a very intense look in her eyes. “And never say a word of it to anyone!”
I promised Linda I would do as she asked. She examined my face and looked deep into my eyes, to convince herself of my sincerity, I suppose. After that was settled, she seemed visibly relieved and strangely worried at the same time. “Promise me again. Don’t show the Trangula to anyone. To anyone! Hear?” I assured her again it would be our secret, and I meant it. I was only a friend, not her doctor, but I always honor confidences — or nearly always.
But now I feel I must unload this stuff myself. My friend Linda is dead now, and someday I’ll be dead, too, maybe sooner than I expect. Her story must be told.
There was proof. Beyond her notes, I had that interesting pyramidal object, until it disappeared from my locked safe, I don’t know how. Now all I have to share are the words of a possible Paranoid Schizophrenic, but it would be crazy of me not to tell her story. I know too much.
So here’s the first part, as it was told to me by one who was there.
Fernando Crôtte, M.D.
Winston Salem, NC
May 16, 2020