I stood with my jaw hinged open, like a fish taking one last gasp for air. It was real and it happened right in front of me. I clamped my mouth shut before I inhaled any more of the swirling forest dirt. Should I walk toward it? Should I run away? Was I the only one who’d seen this?
After who knows how long standing there alone, I finally decided to investigate. I left the trail and walked cautiously forward. Forest debris crunched underneath me; pine needles, branches, bugs – who knows? I wasn’t watching my feet. My eyes were fixated on it.
I was looking at a UFO.
It sat smoking under the wreck of a tall pine tree it had just crashed through. A two-foot-wide trunk rested precariously on top of the thing’s shiny, angled hull, see-sawing there like a struggling beetle on its back. Broken branches were everywhere, with another downed tree by its side. The closer I crept, the more the craft looked like a giant flying arrowhead. There were no windows, only angled metal. The air around me smelled like pine sap and rotten eggs.
I stopped about twenty feet away from the crash and rested my hand on a tree trunk to ground myself. The unnatural heat radiating off the bark was the only thing capable of tearing my eyes from such a strange sight. I looked up the length of the tree. The top of the poor pine had been sheared off – sliced as easily as a potato – and it wasn’t alone. From the angled slices of the trees above, I could see the ship’s downward trajectory.
A groaning, flexing sound came from the crash site. I missed whatever made the noise. It still lay smoking and immobile with that tree on top of it. Suddenly there was movement on the other side, dark and gleaming. It was floating. It was smoothly rounded and looked a lot like a black motorcycle helmet. It was headed around the front of the pointed ship, in my direction.
It was soon clear that it was a helmet – sitting on the frame of a man completely covered in a black flight suit, black gloves, and black military boots. There were no colorful patches, lettering, or markings anywhere on him. It’s as if he were a living shadow.
A man? How … ordinary. I was suddenly utterly unimpressed.
He kept his gaze aimed at the wreck and removed his helmet. I saw the side of a light-skinned, chiseled jaw just before he turned his back to me and continued his visual inspection. He shook his head at whatever he saw, then ran a gloved hand through his short brown hair.
I must have sighed loudly in my disappointment. He spun around abruptly. His eyes found mine immediately. He took a few excited-looking steps toward me and asked, “Hey – when is this?”
“Uh, you’re in Colorado.”
“No – when? What year is it?”
He spoke English, but I couldn’t place his accent. I furrowed my brow and shrugged at his strange question before I answered. “It’s twenty-twenty.”
His eyes got huge, like, just-been-electrocuted huge. Suddenly he bent over double. I thought he was going to throw up, but I heard laughter come from his mouth instead.
“We did it! Ohmygod, we did it!” he laughed at the sky, gloved fists in the air.
I watched the mysterious pilot—who might be more than a little crazy—giggle like a kid, dancing in place. As he wiped happy tears from his eyes, he froze, a strange look on his face. He looked back at me, his eyes two gleaming pools of ice-blue fire. “Wait. Did you say twenty-twenty?”
I nodded my head.
CS is an avid reader, dabbling poet, and multi-genre author of several short stories, a self-published fable, and a low fantasy novel.
In addition to reading and writing, she loves music, movies, and spending time outdoors with her husband and dog under the Colorado skies she calls home
One more thing: another story from the flash fiction competition that came within a gnat’s whisker of joining the top 3, but which I couldn’t not publish.
This story, and the winning stories are published in Shoreline of Infinity 19.