The ship sat in a ring of blackened grass. Again, what Billy did next depended upon who was asking. To the many, many interviewers he sat with after the morning of first contact, he would say that he reached the edge of the landing ring (as it was soon called) and understood somehow that going any further would be dangerous, so he stopped and called the sheriff.
That wasn't really true. He actually did step past the burnt grass ring, and got within about five or six feet of the ship before deciding he didn't really feel like getting any closer.
When asked to elaborate on this, he couldn't.
"I dunno, I just sort of lost interest," he said. "Didn't seem important anymore."
He did call the sheriff, though. Thus, the first confirmed sighting of an alien spaceship on the planet was recorded in the police logs at 6:42 a.m., August 14, as a case of possible trespassing.
The police came, and someone remembered the meteor hunt from the night before and connected it to the strange object in the field, and then more police came. Then the fire department, a couple of state police troopers, and an ambulance for some reason, and soon the tiny road—at the time it was called Tunney Way—was so overrun with vehicles nobody could get past.
Sometime around 10:00 a.m., the sheriff got his hands on a bullhorn and started asking if the occupants of the ship could please come out with your hands up. This sparked a minor debate as to the likelihood that anyone inside the spaceship (a) understood English, and (b) had hands. The debate and the question were both moot, though, as nobody inside the craft responded in any obvious way. It didn't open, or make a noise, or flash a light, or otherwise react to the query.
Another debate ensued, regarding the legitimate alienness of the ship and the potential that this was only an elaborate hoax. The fire chief pointed out that the craft could easily be something constructed out of cardboard and foam, and surely if that were the case it would be light enough to be moved to the field in one evening, perhaps specifically on an evening when a meteor had also been spotted. The report could have even been a part of the hoax: perhaps there was no meteor either.
This theory gained enough traction that by 11:30, the sheriff decided to postpone the call he'd been planning to make to the National Guard and just walk up to the ship and see what was what.
He and two of his deputies did just that, retracing the same steps Billy had taken and getting just about as far, until all three of them decided this was actually a bad idea—suffering, some said, from a sudden and inexplicable lack of fortitude—and they should try something else.
They stepped back. And when it was pointed out that by not getting any closer they failed to resolve the question of whether or not the object was a large prank, the sheriff took out his gun, dropped to a knee, and fired two rounds at the center of the ship.
A spectacular thing—the first real spectacular thing—happened.
The bullets ceased to exist. They reached a certain point in the air beyond the skin of the ship's hull, flashed brightly, and then were gone, much like a mosquito in a bug zapper. Their disappearance was accompanied by a deep THUD, like a thousand pianos hitting a low C at the same time. It wasn't so much heard as felt, deep in the belly near the umbilical.
It was enough to convince the sheriff not to fire a third round. He got to his feet and turned to the nearest deputy. "Somebody get me the president," he said.
Of all the embellishments surrounding the events of the morning of first contact, one thing remained true: he actually did say that.
Calling the president of the United States was not something the sheriff's department of a small Massachusetts mill town could just do, it turned out. There were steps to take, and jurisdictions to consider, and people to convince.
Convincing people was a big hurdle. It didn't much matter how sane and level-headed any one person in this chain of reportage was, the person on the other end of each link was going to begin with, no really, why are you calling? and there wasn't much anyone could do about that.
Compounding the problem was that as far as anybody was concerned, alien spaceships didn't simply land at the edge of little towns in the Connecticut River valley, and if they did, they didn't land only there. Admittedly, that opinion was colored by Hollywood movies and science fiction books, but actual military history and tactics further informed those stories. If the ship was the vanguard of an invasion, it was in the wrong place. If it was part of a fleet, there would have been other ships. If it was lost, it would have moved, or asked for directions. If it was disabled—it didn't look disabled, but how would anybody know?—somebody would have asked for help or a wrench.