the short story project


Jim Cowles


The first time he ever saw one was Christmas Eve, December, 24th, 2016 and it wasn’t overly frightening. Winter Storm Goliath had lived up to its name, bringing a huge swath of snow and ice from the West through a large portion of the Plains, from Dec. 24 and continuing through Dec. 29, 2015.  Within that zone a historic blizzard buried the southern Plains in heavy snow, whipped by wind gusts as high as 80 mph.  It was rare for Roswell, New Mexico to receive so much snow and a record 15 inches and snow drifts 10 to 20 feet high made it impossible for most to even get out of their houses; but on Christmas Eve, Bryan Richards wasn’t one of them.

Bryan was born and raised in Georgetown, Colorado, which records show has the most snowfall of any place in the USA.  When he moved to Roswell, he debated on whether he should bring his snow equipment and in the end decided to load it in his truck; now he was certainly glad he had.  He had put chains on his car many times and decided last night to take a few minutes to equip his vehicle.  The snowdrifts were quite impressive, he thought, but to him 15 inches was nothing he hadn’t seen many times.  Early this morning, he opened his garage door and quickly hooked his snowplow to the front of his Explorer.  Then after cleaning his own driveway, he began clearing neighbor’s driveways up and down his street.  The wind was howling badly and most of his neighbors just waved and smiled from the warmth of their houses as he plowed.  He had yet to meet a soul, but after clearing all twelve driveways on his block, he decided to go up and down the street until it also was clear.  “There’s nothing like making a good first impression,” he thought.

Everything was closed that day and the only ones who ventured out were children, making snowmen of course, or looking for a hill for sledding.  The temperature had dropped to 8 degrees, causing most of the kids to head back to the warmth of their homes.  Bryan couldn’t blame his neighbors for wanting to stay inside, but he was more the adventurous type; besides, his wife Helen and their two kids, Zack and Rebecca, were still back in Georgetown and he hated sitting in an empty house, all alone.  They would have been arriving today, but it appeared the family would spend their very first Christmas apart.  It was impractical to travel on the highways in this kind of weather and airports across the Southern Plains were closed.  Bryan would have to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day on the phone with his wife and kids; that was the closest he could get.

It was still early in the day and he decided he’d drive around the area and help anyone who was stuck, or maybe he’d clear the driveway or parking lot of a hospital, or drugstore.  He was feeling benevolent this Christmas Eve and thought this was his opportunity to help others in his new community and a good way to meet people as well; after all, few if any had the kind of equipment he had brought with him.  He actually had a snow-blower as well, but he preferred to use his plow; besides, it was way too cold to stand outside with a snow-blower, considering he could clear 10 driveways with his plow, while the snow-blower might finish one or two at most in the same amount of time.

He circled downtown several times and it was dead as a doornail, not a soul moving anywhere and it was about noon when he decided it might be a good idea to head out toward some of the farm-land to see if anyone might be stranded on the highway.  He could feel the strong wind shaking his Explorer as he left the urban area and headed down Highway 285, going north toward the more open farmland.  He remembered reading about the 1947 incident, when so many claimed a UFO had landed on a farm about 60 miles or so from town and he made a mental note to see if he could take his family out to the exact site; he knew the kids would love that.  As he drove slowly down the highway, he watched closely to see if he saw any other car tracks, thinking someone could have slipped off the road and be covered by a snowdrift; he remembered a person dying a few years back in Colorado from the same circumstance.   He was starting to daydream after he had gone about 60 miles and decided he should turn back toward home, when suddenly he thought he saw the taillights of a car blinking through a snowdrift, down in a small ravine.  He looked for car tracks, but couldn’t spot any. The light was fading as he passed slowly and thinking his eyes might be playing tricks on him, he decided to turn around and park near where he thought he had seen the lights.  He wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw it again through the continuing blizzard conditions.  The wind was beginning to shake his vehicle even more and he didn’t want to get out of his car, but he knew if someone had gone over that twenty-foot embankment, they could be injured or even dead, or could certainly die is this frigid weather.  

No one had ever accused Bryan of being unprepared.  That trait probably came from his father, who had practically crammed that lesson into his head, over and over; besides, now that he had his degree in Engineering and had just landed a lucrative government job near Roswell, he was rather grateful for his father‘s insistence on preparation.  That lesson had got him through some pretty tough classes in high school and college and now he sported a degree in engineering, which opened up many job opportunities for him.  After several years working in a small engineering firm in Georgetown, he chose to move to a government job because he loved airplanes and they told him he would be working on some of the newest and fastest aircraft in the world, if he were only willing to move to Roswell.  When they had said “newest and fastest,” they had him; he was beyond excited.  He was thinking how lucky he was, as he opened his window slightly to see if he heard another car engine, but the wind was howling so loudly he couldn’t have heard it even if there was one.  The snow was falling more heavily now and the strong wind was sending the snow almost parallel to the ground; Bryan was thinking about what his next move should be.

He zipped and snapped his Mackinaw jacket, pulled his hood over his head and tied it tightly, then pulled his scarf around his head, covering his mouth.  He had no choice; he had to check to see if someone was in trouble.  His gloves were right where he left them, in his jacket pocket.  He had learned long ago to always wear sun glasses in the daytime snow, but he really didn’t need them in the fading light; there’s nothing worse than snow blindness and he kept several pairs of darker lensed glasses in his truck for guests.  He glanced out his window once more before laying his shades aside and then swung his car door open.  The wind caught it and abruptly sent it back violently against his leg and he cried out in pain as he pushed it back, stood up and sunk into the deep snow. 

There it was again; he was sure he saw what appeared as a car, or truck tail light, but the only way to be sure was to slide down the embankment and check.  The wind raged as he opened the rear of his vehicle and grabbed his snow shovel; he stood for a moment to ponder whether he should take anything else with him.  A first-aid kit came to mind and he reached in a rear panel of his explorer and put one in his jacket pocket.  ”Water,” he thought.  It doesn’t matter how cold it is, a person needs to stay hydrated and yes he had several bottles with him.  Then he thought of hunger and reached for a pack of peanut butter crackers from another panel, where he had stored several edible items.  “One more thing,” he thought and he grabbed a blanket.  Now he was ready.

He slid down the embankment, using the snow shovel to keep himself from falling and within seconds he was at the bottom.  Yes, there was a vehicle there, completely covered, but apparently still sitting upright and it was running.  Bryan immediately thought of carbon monoxide poisoning and shivered at the thought of finding a dead occupant.  He knew it would take several minutes to get the snow cleared from the driver’s door and decided to clear the window first, to see if the person was still in the car and hopefully, still alive.  When he got the driver-side window cleared, he peered inside and could see an older gentleman lying in the front seat with his head slumped over to the passenger side.  He rapped on the window with the handle of the shovel and the startled man sat up and screamed.  Now realizing he had been found, he smiled and waved and Bryan motioned to him it would take several more minutes before he had the door cleared; the only good news was the wind was not quite as hostile down in this gully and what wind there was might actually help push the door open. 

It wasn’t long before the door was free and it opened with very little effort, the wind actually being a positive factor.  Bryan motioned for the gentleman to turn off his ignition then he helped him get out of the vehicle.  When he stood, Bryan could see he did not have boots on; instead, he was wearing a shiney pair or loafers which would surely fill with snow as they made their way up the embankment.  The man had left his coat lying in the front passenger seat; it had served as a pillow and he had to retrieve it and put it on in a 40 or 50 mile wind, with snow hitting him throughout; it turned into a brief ordeal, but he finally got it on.  Bryan said a silent thank you to his father for his years of training to always be prepared; it was obvious this gentleman had never experienced the need for winter preparation.  When they finally reached the top of the embankment, Bryan helped his rescue into the passenger side of the Explorer, handed him a bottle of water and a pack of peanut butter crackers and said, “Hi, I’m Bryan.” The man smiled and had already drunk half the water before Bryan reached the driver’s side of the Explorer. 

Now that they were both safe inside the Explorer, the man introduced himself as Randall Cotton and he couldn’t thank Bryan enough for coming down that embankment to help him, especially after realizing his car was practically invisible from the highway.  “How long have you been down there, Randall,” Bryan asked?  “Well, I was headed up to see my uncle last night and I guess I got too far offin’ the shoulder as I was going up this here hill and the next thing I knew, I was headed down this here embankment,” Randall replied.  “I spent the night down yonder ‘cause I couldn’t get either of them doors open; I’m just thankful my car was full of gas, sos’ I could stay warm.”  Bryan was tempted to give Randall a lesson in preparedness and warn him about carbon monoxide poisoning, but thought better of it.  “Have you had anything else to eat,” he asked?  “No, I sure haven’t,” Randall replied; “this pack of crackers sure hits the spot.”  Bryan laughed and said, “there are some more things right behind you there in the seat; candy bars and such, if you want ‘em, but right now I’m gonna get you back to my place;  How does a hot bowl of clam chowder sound to you, Randall?”  “My, oh me, that sounds pretty darn good to me,“  Randall said, licking his lips.  “Well, buckle up and we’ll head back into town,” Bryan said.  “Let’s hope we can get there without ending up at the bottom of another steep hill.” 

“My Uncle’s house is just a piece up the road, there on the right, if you care to just go on up there instead,” Randall offered.  “He’s the son of that farmer that found that UFO back in ’47 and quite a character, too.”  “How far did you say it was, Randall,” asked Bryan?  “Oh, it’s not more than a couple of hundred yards up over that hill, yonder,” Randall replied.  “I think you’d like him a lot.”  “Why, you were almost there, weren’t you,” Bryan said, grinning.  “You bet I was and I’d a been there if I coulda got my door open last night; by the way, just call me Randy if you will; I think we know each other well enough to be on a first name basis,” Randy said, smiling.  “Well, you’ve sparked my interest, that’s for sure,” Bryan said.  “That’s one of the things I’d like to do with my whole family; I’m sure interested in seeing where that thing supposedly landed.”  “Well, I heard the old man talk about it and I have to tell you, I believe every bit of it,” Randy replied.  “He said he saw those little men and one of ‘em was still alive and he told me the Airforce hauled them things away; the live one was the pilot.  He said he could see its chest amovin’ up and down and he knew the little guy was still breathin.’  He said he was a little bitty short fellar, with big eyes and grayish white skin.” 

“Well, okay then, Bryan said.  “I’ll just have to turn around here and head up the road; if it doesn’t look too bad, I’ll pull into your Uncle’s driveway and see if we can get to his house.”  “Oh, it’s not what I’d call a driveway, Bryan,” Randy replied; “why, it’s a danged road.  It goes all the way back to his place, maybe a mile or two back in there to the farmhouse.”  “Okay,” replied Bryan, “we may not be able to get up that road, but we can at least give it a look see.  You might be lucky you couldn’t get out of your car last night; you might have frozen to death walking to your Uncle’s place.

Would you like to call him?  My cell phone is right there in the cup holder.”  “No, that wouldn’t do no good, Bryan,” Randy said.  “He don’t have no phone; says he don’t need or even want one of them things. Can you imagine that?  He said if a body wants to talk to another body, he ought to do it face to face.”  “Well, he does have a point there,” Bryan replied, smiling.  “One of the things we humans really fail at is communication.  If I think we can make it down there, we’ll go.  I am pretty prepared, you know, with the chains and a 4-wheel drive vehicle, plus my snow plow.”  “Yeah, it’s a lot better than my car, that’s for sure,” Randy said, throwing a look of disgust at himself, as he patted his own chest.  “My dad taught me to be prepared, Randy; he mentioned it every day of my life when I was growing up,” Bryan said.  “I hated it then, but now, well I’m just thankful for all the lessons.  It sure has helped me in my life.”

“Go real slow here, Bryan,” Randy said.  “His road is somewhere right along here.  Let’s see; there it is, there’s the top of his mailbox!”  Bryan pulled to the side of the road to survey the situation.  “Give me a minute,” he said, as he exited the truck and walked down the slight dip in the farm road. When he got back, he was shaking his head and said, “Randy, the drifts are way too high down there; I don’t think there’s any way I can make it.”  “Well, I understand, Bryan,” Randy replied.  “We don’t want to end up like I did last night.  It ain’t worth it.”  Can we see where that UFO landed from this viewpoint,” Bryan asked?  “No, I don’t believe you can, not quite, anyways,” Randy replied.  “Pull up just a little bit more and let me look at it.  That’s it; that’s good enough.  Yeah, it was right over that hill there by that there clump of trees.  See, right in that area,” he said, pointing the best he could.  They sat several minutes just looking to see if they saw any sign of Randy’s Uncle.  It was dusk and getting dark quickly and they could barely make out what appeared to be a trail of smoke, probably coming from the farmhouse. “My Uncle is one like you,” Randy said.  “He’s prepared for most everything.  I’m pretty sure they’ve got enough wood to keep he and Aunt Molly warm for the winter.” “Well, I bet he didn’t expect this kind of winter, eh, Randy,” Bryan said, kiddingly.  “I bet you’re right about that; this ain’t right for these parts,” Randy replied. 

“So, that thing landed right over there past that clump of trees, huh,” Bryan asked?  “Yep; you see that big tree, that there highest one,” Randy said, again pointing out the window of the vehicle?  “Yeah, I see it; I get the picture.  Hey, wait,” Bryan said, in an excited voice.  “What the hell is that?  “What are you lookin’ at, Bryan,” Randy asked?  “Right there man; see it,” Bryan said, squinting? “See the outline of it?”  “Yeah, I sure as hell do; I do now,” Randy replied.   “It’s white like the snow, but it’s there, isn’t it, Bryan said, asking for reassurance that he is really seeing what he thinks he’s seeing?  “The damn thing is round; it’s a damned UFO, Randy and it’s white, like the snow.”  “It sure as hell is; it sure as hell is,” repeated Randy.  “Oh shit, it sure as hell is,” he repeated, unable to phantom what he was seeing.  “Look at that light shining out of that son-of-bitch, Randy said,” now able to finally grasp what he’s seeing.  “Shit,” he said.  “Oh, shit!”  “Look, somethin’s  coming down out of that thing, but it’s snowing too heavy to see it.  What the hell is it,” Bryan asked, excitedly?  “I can’t tell,” Randy replied; “should we go outside where we can see a little better?”  “Okay with me, Randy, but I’m turning my lights off before we do; don’t wave at that thing when we get out, now,” Bryan instructed.  “I don’t want that damn thing to notice us.” 

“What is it that thing it’s sending down through that light,” Bryan asked, quizzically?  “I don’t know, but it’s pretty big, ain’t it,” replied Randy?  “It looks like a great big long pole of some sort; it’s smaller at the top, then tapers down into a larger base.  It looks like a great big totem pole, Bryan.”  “Well, it doesn’t make any difference right now,” Bryan responded.  “We can’t go down there anyway; besides, I don’t think we should go down there until that thing is long gone.”  “Are you afraid of being abducted,” Randy asked, laughing out loud.  “Laugh if you want to, my friend, but I’ve read too much about abduction cases and I don’t want to tempt fate.  I mean, we’re seeing that damn thing, dude, aren’t we,” Bryan asked rhetorically?  “I heard of people seeing a UFO, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one; how about you?  “Yeah, hell yes, me too,” Randy replied.  “I’m with you; let’s turn off the lights and sit here a minute and if it’s still there, let’s get out and have a closer look.”  “The lights are off, Randy and I’m gonna turn off the interior lights too,” Bryan said;” I hope like hell they haven’t already seen us.”  “Nah, hell, looks like they’re too busy doin’ whatever they’sa doin,’ Randy said, staring intently at the UFO.  “That thing that’s goin’ down is sure goin’ slow; it’s like they’sa bein’ really careful not to drop it.”  “Yeah, I think you might be right, Randy,” Bryan said; “Look at all those lights floating slowly around it. Red, green and Blue; they’re making some sort of pattern.  Roll your window down a little and let’s see if we can hear anything.”  “Don’t you think it’s been long enough for us to get out now,” Randy asked?  “Yeah, I suppose it has,“ Bryan replied.  “Might as well chance it; let’s go!”

The wind had died down quite a bit, but the snowfall seemed to have picked up intensity.  The two men stood at the end of what they thought was a road and didn’t say a word as they watched the show; not a sound of any kind was coming from the crafts, the large one and now several small ones circling.  It was bitter cold and both men were hunching over, with their arms folded across their chest.  The colored lights were impressive and so beautiful and appeared to be coming from the smaller ships circling the long, cylindrical object; they moved it slowly downward, obviously protecting, or watching over something of great value, at least to them.” Randy was the first to speak; “Look there, Bryan.  I think we could walk on down there a little ways and get closer, if you wanna.”  “Shhh,” Bryan said, whispering, “let’s talk in whispers; the wind has calmed down quite a bit and our voices will carry a long way with all the snow on the ground.  You don’t have boots on, Randy; you’ll get frost bite for sure if you walk down there in all that snow.”  “Do you think you could see well enough to drive your truck a little ways down there, Randy asked?  Your plow would help us make a good path, you know.”  “Yeah, I could, but we’d probably make a lot of noise doing it,” Bryan said, whispering even more quietly.  “There’s quite a drift down there, about a hundred yards in and I don’t think I could get through it; besides, I’m thinking we would be easily noticed and we sure as hell can’t get very close without making a lot of noise.  I don’t think I’d want to do it without my lights, anyway.  No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  I’ve got my boots on and long johns under these jeans; why don’t you get in the car and I’ll sneak on down there a little ways and try to get a few pictures with my phone?”  “Okay, I guess you’re right,” Randy said, obviously disappointed.  “Go ahead and get in, Randy, and hand me my phone out the window,” Bryan suggested, motioning toward the Explorer.

Bryan began slowly walking through the snow, phone in hand, being careful of every step.  He was thinking, “Man, I don’t want to step in a hole or something and break my leg,” as he moved quietly, most of the snow up to his knees, or even higher.  He wished he had his snowshoes, the one thing he didn’t have in his vehicle.  “Sorry, dad,” he whispered, as he moved cautiously along, not wanting to lose his balance.  This thing had been there a really long time now and he was concerned it could leave abruptly, any minute.  He surmised that whatever is going on, the inhabitants of these ships wanted to use the cover of the snow storm to do whatever it is they are doing.  He thought he would take about 4 steps, snap a picture and keep repeating that process each time he got nearer the object.  He felt safe, because he was still quite a long way from it and had no intention of trying to get very near.  It would have been easy going with those snowshoes and he made a mental note to throw them in the back of the Explorer when he got home.  Every few steps he took a picture and he was getting some excellent shots now, as the snow had let up substantially; He knew phone shots in these conditions were iffy, but he had to try. He thought, “Look at them; what a beautiful array of colors and the pattern those smaller ships are making is astonishingly lovely; a pattern I think I recognize.  Something like a flyover,” he thought.  A wide pattern, but in this case, the ships were moving slowly, almost reverently, around this very tall and what appeared to be a beautiful black object, which he could see slowly descending to earth.  He finally arrived at a clump of trees, where the snow was not quite as deep and he could move more quickly now; it provided him cover and the opportunity to get a bit closer to the show.  He reached the edge of the woods and decided he was close enough to get a video shot of the whole thing, although he knew his phone was getting low on power.  He shot for several minutes, until his phone warned him of the need for a charge.  He remembered some of the articles he’d read about UFOs and thought to himself, “I’ve heard that when these things appear, everything loses power, but that’s not true, at least with these ships.  The Explorer never stopped running and my phone is working fine.  Maybe they aren’t trying to disrupt anything this time.”

He suddenly remembered it was Christmas Eve and his wife and kids would be expecting a call from him shortly.  Boy, would he ever have a story to tell. Although he had no proof, as he trudged back toward his vehicle, he was thinking “I wonder if that thing is some sort of a monument.”  They appeared to be sitting it down right where the UFO had crashed in 1947.  It must be a marker of some kind, maybe marking the site of the crash; that made sense.  It was almost 70 years since the crash in ’47.  They are exactly like us; they are honoring their soldiers, their warriors, those in the service of their country, planet, universe, or whatever.  That’s a comforting thought. “It took us about the same amount of time to build the WWII Memorial,” he thought.  “Hey, they’re more like us than I thought they might be; they must also have to get the funding from somewhere for their memorial.   Oh my God; they may actually be us!“ He shivered at the thought.

As he reached his vehicle, he turned to observe one more time, but except for the snow, the sky was empty.  The ships, those “space crafts,” had left without making a sound.  When he opened his door, Randy awoke, startled by his entry into the vehicle and the cold wind that came with him.  “Well,” he said?  “Well, you and I are going to visit your Uncle’s place as soon as this snow melts.  I want to get a close look at whatever it is they left behind.”  “What do you think it is Bryan,” Randy asked?  “Inquiring minds want to know.”  They both laughed, as Bryan turned his truck around and headed back to town.  Best to keep some of his thoughts to himself right now; perhaps he would learn more in his new job. They had gone about 2 miles when Bryan uttered, “Monument.  It’s a monument to their fallen comrades.  That’s what it is, Randy.  Yes sir, that’s what it is.”

The  End     





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