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You only have a day or two left to make a difference!
...and now, here's the story:
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It was just like all those stories in the papers, the ones his pals razzed him about reading: the Sun, the Daily Mirror, and the Weekly World News.
He’d been driving along old route 3, trying to dodge all the potholes that came into his headlights and wishing (for about the millionth time) he had a better stereo, when Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You” was completely overwhelmed with static. He had just enough time to pound a fist on the dash, muttering “You piece’a shit”, before the radio shut off. His headlights flickered, then went out as his engine died, leaving him bouncing through a pothole or two in the dark as the pickup rolled to a stop.
Everything in the truck had died simultaneously, leaving him stranded, in the dark, on a lonely country road.
He was about to be abducted by aliens.
Jesse leaned forward, chest to the steering wheel, peering up through the windshield at the night sky. He knew what he was looking for, the stories were all the same: A brilliant light falling from the sky, streaking toward him, resolving into a great ship that would hover over him until their tractor beam had pulled him out of the truck and up into their waiting medical bay. The ship would then disappear into the clouds, or space, or whatever, and he’d either wind up back at his truck in a couple of hours or wandering along a road in another state in a couple of days, naked, with no memory whatsoever of the time he’d been gone.
His buddies were never gonna believe this!
There it was! A light, like an overlarge star, dropping from the sky and heading straight for him! He stepped out of the truck, trying to make it easier on the crewman who would be operating the tractor beam.
“Come on… come on…”
The light grew brighter. Larger. Closer. A bright speck in the sky became a dot, then a disk, then an orb shining with a light more beautiful than anything he had ever seen, even in Close Encounters.
“Come to Papa…” Jesse said aloud, grinning.
The glowing orb flew toward him, maybe 500 feet above the ground, cruising closer…
…then suddenly dropped straight down to land on the other side of the hill just ahead. The guardrail and mile markers at the crest of the rise leapt into sharp silhouette, back-lit by the orb’s brilliant white light.
Jesse jumped and waved his arms.
“Hey, over here! You missed me! Yo!”
The light throbbed, once, then twice. With a sudden flash the orb shot straight up, almost faster than the eye could follow. In seconds it was nothing more than a bright dot in the sky, then a speck. Then it was gone.
“Sonovabitch!” was all he managed before Alan Jackson scared the crap out of him, “Gone Country” blaring out of his truck’s cheap-ass stereo just before the engine coughed to life.
Well damn, he thought as he climbed behind the wheel, slamming the door behind him. I guess I missed my chance. I wonder what the hell they were doin’ up there, anyway…
He put the truck in gear and drove over the hill, toward what he now thought of as ‘The E.T. LZ’, trying, through force of habit, to avoid the damn potholes again. If he hadn’t been paying so much attention to the pothole situation Jesse might have seen the figure sooner. There was a brief flash in the headlights of someone stumbling along right in the middle of the road, and then Jesse was past them, stomping on the brake, bringing the old pickup to a shuddering stop.
A boy of about five or six years old, naked as the day he was born, and Jesse had missed him by mere inches.
“Hey, Kid! You okay?”
He was out of the truck like a shot, falling to his knees in front of the shambling little form. The little boy just kept walking, not even looking at the man addressing him. He would have walked right into Jesse’s chest had the man not reached out to take hold of the slim shoulders.
“Kid? Hey, I’m talkin’ to you! Hey!”
The boy had the unfocused stare of the somnambulist until Jesse gave those shoulders a gentle shake, then he snapped out of it and burst into tears.
Oh my God, thought Jesse. This wasn’t a pick-up, it was a drop-off! He’s been up there with Them!
He wrapped his jacket about the youth’s shuddering frame, then scooped him up and deposited him in the truck. He ran around and got behind the wheel once more and aimed the truck toward the nearest hospital. He drove, but is mind was full to bursting with questions. Soon the boy’s sobbing slowed, then stopped, and Jesse’s natural curiosity got the better of him.
“You were up there?” Jesse jerked a thumb heavenward. “With them?”
His passenger nodded, looking at his bare feet.
Remembering this was just a child, Jesse tried to keep it simple.
“Well, are they friendly?”
A shake of the head.
“You mean, like, an invasion force? Like that? You know what that means?”
Nodding, to all three questions, it seemed.
An invasion? Holy shit, an invasion?
“If it’s an invasion, kid, you’re gonna have to talk to us adults, you know? We need to know what to look out for.”
“Well, shit, what did they look like, at least? Were they big and ugly like on Predator, or all tall and stretched out like in Close Encounters?”
“Neither,” said the boy. “Not tall at all. Quite small, in fact.”
Jesse looked over at his passenger just in time to see the eye open in its forehead.
The old, battered pick-up began swerving all over the road, but this time it had nothing at all to do with the damn potholes.
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