The road was dry and dusty, with barely a living thing in view, save some scrubby low level brush, and in the far distance, miles away, what appeared to be a small herd of cattle grazing on whatever scrubby grass they could find. Across the plain, mountains jutted out of the earth, with no warning. There were no rolling hills leading up to them which might have brought one to the gradual realization that one of the most majestic mountain ranges in the world was close by. Instead, these magnificent mountains simply rose up out of the flat plain to their full height. Despite the near 90° heat on the plain, the tops of the mountains remained white with snow.
She hiked up her backpack and took a drink out of the bottle of water she carried in her belt. There was no use putting her thumb out, there were no cars traveling this dusty two-lane road that ran straight for as far as one could see. The next town was 12 miles away, and if she didn’t get a ride, she’d be sleeping on the plain, again.
She’d taken off on the journey on a whim, the way she too often started things in her life. Like her marriage, like her job, like starting and quitting school. Somewhere in her head, she knew she needed to find herself, to discover who she really was, what was important. And so….she gave away the stuff she couldn’t sell quickly, stuffed the oversized backpack she’d bought with a few clothes and a lot of dried meal packets, a water purifier, a small bunson burner, and a couple of crystals in her pocket, and her pendant of moldavite around her neck, for whatever spiritual/metaphysical protection they gave her, and began walking. And walking. Now, a week into the walk, she’d be happy for a ride, for a shower, for a hot meal.
There was no shade on this road either. She’d probably made a mistake choosing to travel this road. Her thinking was that it was a real road, that there would be some traffic, even a little, and she’d get a ride. Big miscalculation. Now a couple hours after starting her day at sunrise she needed a break. She took off her backpack, and sat on it on the side of the road. In her backpack, she carried a small umbrella that served as a sunshade, which she took off and stuck in the pocket of the backpack. She drank some more water, and began idly wondering what she’d expected to find out here.
As she stared off at the mountains to the west, she realized that all around her, save under her sunshade, the day was brightening up, beyond the norm. Bright enough to hurt her eyes behind those expensive sunglasses that she was so glad she’d splurged on. Then she began to hear it, the low vibrating sound of what she assumed was a car. No, a truck. As it got closer she realized it was behind her, not coming from the road. Assuming it was maybe someone riding an ATV around, she turned to look, hoping for a ride.
What she saw was straight out of Star Wars. A vehicle, about the size of a mid-size car, coming toward her, fast. As it got closer she realized it had no wheels, in fact, it had nothing touching the ground, and was actually hovering about 8 feet above the ground.
She shook her head, hard. It was getting closer, maybe a half mile away. Staring at it, she wondered if it was real. It was round, with a slightly domed top, and there was no visible driver. Was she hallucinating? Is this what her quest to discover herself had brought? An imaginary spaceship, in the middle of a high plains desert? A mirage of sorts? She made a mental note that when she got where she was going to, she was going to make some concrete plans to get back into a life that had people, and normalcy, whatever that was, around her.
The vehicle stopped about 100 yards away. Three mechanical legs came out of the bottom, creating a tripod, and it rested on those. Almost in a trance, she stood up. She needed to know if it was real, or a figment of her imagination, so she began walking toward it, slowly, gingerly, stopping every few paces to gather her courage, and allow herself a change of heart that might involved running off in the other direction.
Her curiosity got the better of her though. For one, she knew she couldn’t outrun this Thing, and for another, she was pretty sure that this Thing, whatever and whoever it was, had come to her purposefully. About 20 feet away, she stopped. She began to walk around it, to study it. She began to lose her fear a little, believing that if there was something here that wanted to hurt her, it already would have. She could make out small slits all the way around it, that appeared to be windows. As she walked around it, she could find no doors, no seams that even suggested a door.
She decided it must be a drone. Must be, had to be, someone controlling it from somewhere far out on the plain. Maybe in that distant field where the cattle grazed. She went closer. She touched it. It was dark, and cool. Which was weird, considering the temperature and the sunshine beating down on it. As she stared at it, studying it, a panel began to raise where there had been no sign of a panel, and it slid off to the side, leaving a doorway right in front of her.
Why she wasn’t terrified, she did not know. She didn’t move, she didn’t try to go through the door inside, (she wasn’t stupid!). She stood there waiting, she was going to allow whatever was in there to call the shots.
To her surprise, a voice spoke to her in English, with no hint of an accent. It was a kind voice, smooth, not demanding, just curious. It asked her if she wanted a ride. Her eyes must have been bugged out, because the voice said, “Hey, don’t be afraid. We’re just here to help. We patrol this lonely road, and from time to time see people who need help.”
“So you are the Good Samaritans of the universe?” She asked in her normally sarcastic way, when she found her voice. Then, a few seconds later, she asked, “Can I see you?”
A reply came from inside the door. “I guess you’ll have to see me, if you want me to give you a ride. I don’t look quite like most humans, but also not completely different. It’s a short ride to the next town in this thing. “
His voice was calming, and she was gaining courage as he spoke. She had a million questions now. But she couldn’t stand here, in the middle of the desert, in the hot sun and ask them. She took a deep breath, and made the mental leap. “OK…I’d like that ride.”
She slowly walked through the door. Inside was a small creature. Not unlike some kind of humanoid. He had long thing legs, and arms. His head was large in relationship to his body, and shaped somewhat egg-like. He had large eyes, and indeed, a huge forehead and upper head, completely devoid of hair, much like the aliens depicted in stories of those who claim to have been abducted by aliens. However, instead of ears, he had two antenna-like appendages from the top of his head, each about 4 inches long. These protrusions were, as best she could tell, ears. They seemed to be pointing at the sounds, and were shaped at the top like little funnels.
The most striking thing about his appearance was the lime-green color of his “skin”. It was smooth, hairless, and almost seemed to glow, especially on the palms of his “hands”, which had what appeared to be a thumb and 2 fingers. She thought about that for a moment, and made a random, mental note to herself that opposable thumbs must be a universal evolutionary feature.
He was kind enough to just stand still, and let her take him in. Her eyes were like saucers and her breathing somewhat shallow and irregular. He let her stare at him for about 5 minutes, then he said,
“We need to get moving. There’s a vehicle heading toward us, and it would be better if this craft was not seen. Please have a seat over there. Clip the harness down between your legs, and prepare to take off at a pretty high rate of speed.”
Without a word, she did as she was asked. Momentarily, she heard a muted high-pitched sound, and within seconds, felt the pull of a couple G’s, pressing her into her seat. Presently, the creature unclipped himself, and came over to check on her. He smiled a lipless smile at her and asked her to come with him. He explained he thought she might like the view. She unclipped the harness, and followed him.
He pushed a button and two windows appeared as the shell covering over them raised up. She gasped as she found that they were miles in the air, high enough to fly over the mountains if needed. She looked at him and asked, “What should I call you?” “Captain will do” he replied.
“How long will this ride be?” she asked. “How long do you want it to be?” He smiled as he said it. “I’m not sure,” she replied.
Then began the flood of questions which had been pooling in the back of her throat. “How is it that you can speak to me in perfect English, with no accent?”
“I have a translator embedded in my head, which changes your language into mine, and then changes mine into yours. So, honestly, I don’t even have to think about it.”
“Where are you from? Because I know you’re not from here, I mean…” she laughed at herself for the sheer depth of that statement. “I mean, you’re not from this solar system. Which is absolutely crazy to me anyway, but I’m just going with it because here you are…here I am….”
“I’m from a planet in a solar system approximately 5 ½ what you call light-years from Earth. Your scientists call it Proxima Centauri” He replied. “It’s in the same galaxy, and as far as we know, not yet discovered by anyone on earth.”
“And why are you here?” She asked him. “I mean really, you have the ability to travel that distance, and you come here and help stranded travelers on the high desert?” You aren’t scouting us for galactic dominance, or to figure out what resources you could take from us?” Obviously, she had watched way too many sci-fi movies.
He laughed a pretty hearty laugh for someone whose voice was somewhat thin, and high-pitched. In fact at that moment, she realized she had no idea if he was a HE, or a SHE, or something else. She just assumed that he was a male of some kind.
He began to speak, and said to her, “Humans are funny, the way they so often live from a place of fear. Always thinking that a more highly evolved form of life would want to take from them. But if a species is to actually evolve, it must learn to come from a place of caring, not fear. We have no interest in terrifying humans, making them afraid of us. Power of that kind is not what we want. We want to help, to set an example, one or two people at a time, until the scale tips and people are no longer afraid of what they do not know or understand. After all, we have learned to live for a long time. I am, in Earth terms, 1,145 years old. We’ve been traveling to Earth, and other planets that support life, for millenia. But never with ill intent.”
He went on to explain, to talk about the great pyramids, about the Mayan ruins, about the lines in the Andes mountains, and more. She listened and became so engrossed she lost track of time, and was brought back to reality by his question, “Now, how long did you say you wanted this ride to be?” She” looked at her watch, exclaiming “Oh my God!” when she saw that 2 hours had passed, when she’d thought maybe 10 minutes had gone by.
He handed her a glass of water. She drank the water, leaned back in her seat and fell asleep. She woke an hour later, by her watch. Smiling at her, he suggested that she might be getting hungry, and that he didn’t have any earth type food. She realized she was famished.
“I guess it’s time to go back” she said softly. There was so much in her head to think about, to absorb, to somehow adjust what she thought she knew to what she actually did know, now….3 hours later. In 3 hours her life had changed forever. She watched out the window, as the craft lowered. In a matter of minutes it was hovering above the ground, outside of the town.
“Aren’t you afraid someone will see you?” she asked. “ We have a simple reflective shield we put out, and it keeps most people from seeing us. Town is about a mile walk from here. Just walk over to that street sign and you’ll find the road.”
Street sign? Out here in this desert? She looked at him quizzically, but said nothing. He saw her puzzlement, and said, “Yes, a street sign. Actually it’s one we put up. We’ve done quite a few, every time we drop someone off, we plant a street sign if there wasn’t one. When you see one, you’ll know that this experience was real. I’ve enjoyed having you here. I hope I showed you that evolution can lift us all. Extend love wherever you can.”
She was too dizzy to even think twice. She walked slowly toward the door. “Thanks for the ride, Captain,” she murmured. “And for the lesson….” With that, she walked off the craft.
She headed for the sign. When she got to it, she turned to face it, and began to laugh. She took this picture, and then began the trek into town.
Looking behind her, for a last glimpse of the craft, she saw Captain waving his thin, green arm at her. He went inside, the door slid shut without a trace, and she began to hear low vibrational sound she’d heard when it had landed. Then it lifted off the ground, as the legs tucked back under the craft, and within seconds, it was a spec in the sky, and then out of sight.
Shortly after, she sat in a red vinyl booth in an old diner. The vinyl was worn completely on the corners, with the white piping showing through. There were cracks in the solid vinyl, and the table was some kind of gray formica, with a dull aluminum frame around it. Straight out of the 50’s.
As the waitress brought her her hamburger and fries, she took a step back, and looked at this customer with her head in her hands. “You ok, Sweetie?” the waitress asked gently. And then, “I noticed you walking in, without a car or nothing! How did you get here?”
She sighed a deep sigh, and lifted her head out of her hands, and smiled. “Evolution, I guess…..”
This story is a writing prompt for my writers group, Hypatia, here in FL. One of the women offered this picture, thinking it might be a good prompt for us. Her daughter who lives in Colorado took the picture herself. We will meet Sunday, and see what we’ve all done with it.