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The Tale of the "Warm"

It’s funny the things you remember from your early childhood. Take this story, for example. I was at my grandparents’ house with my family. At the moment I was sitting in the car waiting for my parents and sister to come out, and I could hear Mom and Dad talking to Grandma and Grandpa in the front doorway.

Now my grandparents’ house was situated on top of a large hill with a very steep driveway. This sort of isolated the house from the rest of the neighborhood, though it had some awesome views of the Berkeley Hills across the valley. As you can imagine, there was not a lot of traffic on their dead end street, so it was generally safe to let a child my age run around alone. (This was also the 80s, when no one cared.)

Anyway, I had gotten tired of playing in the yard and was sitting in the car waiting impatiently. There was no one else around. Mom and Dad stopped talking in the doorway and went into the house for some reason, so they were not present to witness the strangeness that occurred. Perhaps if they had been there, it wouldn’t be such a big mystery today.

As I was sitting there kicking my legs in my car seat, I became aware of a strange rumbling sound from the direction of Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway. Curiously, I turned in that direction, but as the rumbling got closer I became a bit nervous. Something was up, I just knew it.

Suddenly, over the rise at the top of the driveway, a large, gray, rectangular... thing... appeared. It was about the size of a large garbage truck, but it had no cab. There was no place for a driver anywhere, in fact. Whatever the thing was, its roof was completely lined with metal piping, as if it ran on something other than gasoline. More piping stood out on the front of the object, where the cab should have been.

The thing emitted a tremendous roar that scared the crap out of me at three years old. It screamed out a noise that sounded kind of like “wwwwaaaaarrrrrrmmmmm” as it sat at the top of the driveway doing nothing. After about five minutes, maybe less, it backed down the driveway and disappeared behind the rise again. I could hear it fading into the distance as it went down the steep driveway and returned to the distant road.

The minute it was gone, I could stand it no longer. I jumped down from the car seat and raced toward the house, only to be met halfway by my parents. Of course I was excited when I told them all about the weird thing I’d seen in the yard, and, of course, being three years old, they barely understood what I said. I finally tried to impel them to react somehow by thinking of a name for the strange craft. I called it a “warm” based on the noise it made.

“A warm?” asked Dad, looking incredulous.

He decided this was the end of our conversation. While Mom strapped me into the child seat, he just climbed behind the wheel and started talking to Mom about some adult nonsense. He ignored me for the rest of the drive home and no more was said about the mysterious Warm. Even at that age, I knew nothing else would come of it.

Several decades later, I’m still at a loss for what I saw. Perhaps it was really some kind of garbage truck, though Grandma and Grandpa had no trash cans at the end of the driveway. It couldn’t been some kind of street sweeper, but, as far as I know, there were no robotic street sweepers in that era. At that age, it didn’t occur to me to look at the pavement to see if there was any water or sweeping marks, so I don’t know if there had been.

Whatever that thing was, it left an indelible mark on my three-year-old memory. To this day I sometimes get a chill when I hear a piece of machinery with a similar sound. Perhaps I saw some kind of technology the public works department was testing out. Or maybe I witnessed something from another world. Whatever it was, I don’t want to see it again. Cue the X-Files music now!

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