When I was a kid, my mother used to sit on our back porch during the warm Smoky Mountain evenings and look at the stars. She wasn’t searching for the Big Dipper or trying to discern the outline of Cassiopeia. She had no interest in astronomy. She would do it for the sole purpose of trying to terrify me. After staring at the sky for a few minutes, my mother would squint her eyes and tilt her head. “What is it?” I’d ask. She’d let the tension build for a long moment then slowly turn to me with a grave look and say, “I think I saw a UFO.” At this point, I would run upstairs and crawl under my bed.

In a list that includes snakes, elevators, electricity, propane tanks, my eyeball popping out of its socket, and a whole host of other fears, aliens are up near the top. Some say it’s an irrational fear, especially since I’ve never actually seen an alien, nor do I personally know anyone who has. But I also don’t know anyone who has fallen into a collapsed septic tank while mowing their yard, yet that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

What started with my mother’s pranks on the back porch only intensified when I was in college and made the mistake of seeing the movie Communion. In the film, which is supposedly a true story, a man is captured by aliens then taken to their spaceship where he is probed in the most disagreeable way imaginable before being teleported back to his bedroom. While I don’t believe aliens will visit us just to give us colonoscopies—if they’ve figured out how to travel faster than the speed of light, then the human digestive system can’t be all that baffling—I do fear they will have unpleasant motives.

If you think I’m being ridiculous, then you’ve probably been lulled into a false sense of security by the popular depictions of friendly aliens, the likes of Alf and E.T. But the notion that aliens are bumbling dolts with big hearts and great senses of humor is nonsense. If aliens are able to travel to Earth, it will mean they are of superior intelligence. And how do we treat life forms not as intelligent as us humans? We keep them as pets, put them in zoos, or eat them.

My fear of being devoured by an extraterrestrial is just one of several topics Jess strongly encourages me not to discuss while in a social setting. I’m not exactly sure why, but it might be because when you announce the fact that you have a completely sensible fear of aliens, you are automatically lumped in with the kinds of people who believe in Bigfoot or think Elvis is still alive. It’s an unfair comparison, because those people obviously have no grasp on reality.