I was chopping wood at night, when I saw a faint light through the hazy fog. I trudged through the forest to get to it, wondering who could be out here this late. I stepped through the mud and ruts and weeds and over large rocks and logs and stumps and twisting roots. From a distance it looked like a fuzzy glow - a distorted flicker in the smoky fog. The light looked too big to be just the headlights of a truck that may’ve gotten stuck in the mud while the driver was out fishing or hunting. As I got closer, it looked more like a solid piece of something, like the entire thing was glowing. I parted the leaves and branches of bushes and stepped closer. When I finally got to about forty feet away, it appeared to be some kind of craft, glowing a dull white through the leaves of the woods. As I balanced my way toward it, stepping over downed trees and large rocks, I was not afraid, I was more curious. There’s not much to do way out here, so trying to locate the unexpected light had been a real thrill.
As I drew near to the object, three unusual beings stepped from the darkness. One of them was very tall, and the other two were very short. The tall one was at least six-foot-eight and looked like a plant that was all wrapped up, as if its long, broad leaves were combed upward to protectively cover its head and arms, like a dark olive banana that had been peeled and then reassembled, with the peels overlapping and protecting what was inside. The plant-like thing had three thin little legs and feet like suction cups.
The smaller beings were more like little people - three feet tall, and again with large flaps that seemed to start at their thighs and rise up like broad flower petals or leaves to cover their heads. It was hard to distinguish them from the other plants in the darkness and fog. It seemed as if the little ones were part human, as if a cross between the tall plant guy and a regular person. The small ones stayed in the background and peeked at me shyly through the gaps in their petals.
The big one stepped forward and began speaking to me. But his voice, if you could call it that, was nothing but a series of squawks that quickly wore on me and soon lost my attention. I looked over to what I assumed was their means of transportation - a spaceship-looking craft the size of a van. “This yours?” I raised my voice over the tall one’s muffled squawks and mumbles, “Or did you all lurch out from the swamp?”
The ship was not that impressive as far as spaceships go. Not that, to my knowledge, I’d ever seen a real spaceship before. I just thought that if I ever did see one, well, I guess I assumed it would be shinier and more impressive. This one just looked very bland and utilitarian, not super flashy or cool or even all that sleek. It was kind of egg shaped, like a flattened out oval, or sort of like a slightly deflated football. It wasn’t even a cool, shiny color really, it was more of a tone - a dull gray tone that slowly pulsated a soft white glow somehow.
Finally the tall plant guy’s voice sort of evened out, as if he had been tuning it, as if trying to tune in to me the entire time they shuffled out of the shadows. His squawks quickly evolved into short clips of words. “Spaceship ours,” he bellowed deeply as he stepped to me. The other two small ones stayed in back, in the shadowy darkness.
“Who are your little friends?” I asked suspiciously, clutching my shotgun.
“Your offspring,” he said. “A cross between you and one of ours. But a mistake on our part. We discovered later, when we got them back home, that they did not work out so well at all.”
“Why? What’s wrong with ‘em? Couldn’t breathe your atmosphere or something?” I wondered aloud.
“No. They dumb. Like you. . . Stupid. Lummox. . . Can not learn real good. . . Too slow,” he groaned like a broken trombone.
“Hey, I’m pretty smart,” I squared my shoulders, a little offended.
“For your kind,” he said, “Dumb. Slow. For our kind.”
“So?” I snapped, “You came all this way to tell me I’m stupid?”
“No. To leave them with you. They yours now. You take them,” he groaned like a rusty gate hinge.
“So, you tried to create some worker drones. They didn’t work out. And somehow that’s all my fault? Yeah, that figures,” I sighed and squinted, raising the brim of my hat with the barrel of my shotgun.
“You take. They yours now,” the tall plant-guy repeated, then turned and waddled back to his ship on his spindly little legs. He disappeared into the glow of his ship without opening a door, then rose without a sound and disappeared into the smudge of dark, sludgy clouds. And then he was gone.
I looked over at the other two beings standing off to the side in the darkness. They were looking up, watching their ride leave them here in this cold, dark, swampy, wooded, foggy, foreboding place. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them because I could tell they knew what was going on, that they were being left behind, abandoned. “Come on,” I called to them, “Let’s get you home. It’s getting cold out here. . . Let’s get you something to eat. You must be hungry,” I turned and waved them over as I started back to my farm. “I’m sure we can find you something to eat. . . But I don’t know what that could be."
Later, I felt badly that things didn’t work out for any of them, despite my growing feelings of being used.
"The Light in the Darkness"
Copyright: © 2011 Tony Rauch
Tony Rauch is an architectural and urban designer, and an all around great guy filled with nothing but good things. Good things.
Rauch has three books of funky/jazzy/arty short stories out, "I'm right here," from Spout Press, and "Laredo," and “Eyeballs growing all over me . . again” from Eraserhead Press (some dark and gothic, some kinda sci-fi, some absurdist, some experimental, some fairytale, some fantasy-ish, some dream-like and surreal, some whimsical, some social satire). Both presses have web sites. Eraserhead Press plans to publish additional collections of his short stories in the coming months/years. He also writes screenplays.
For more info, refer to his wordpress page: http://trauch.wordpress.com/