By Josh Hutchins
I stomped on the brakes like a kicking mule, and the rusty red tractor skidded to a stop in our front yard, with one of the large tires resting among the bright blue and yellow buttercups my wife loved so much. I pulled the fuel shut-off and it died with a jolt.
“What are you doing? Is there a fire?” A petite woman approached me with that walking pace which betrayed her frustration.
“No, there’s no fire. I was— “
“Well, there was an explosion or something. I heard it. I was inside talking with—“
“Cindy, I know about the explosion. I was there. I mean…I was RIGHT THERE!” I sounded giddy.
I met her a few feet from my tractor and held her hands, looking intently into her brown eyes. I was panting heavily, and I could tell by her face that she was confused.
“Well, why aren’t you out there fighting the fire?!” She blasted.
“Honey, there IS no fire. It’s all frozen around it.”
“Around what?” She shrilled.
“Around whatever crashed.” I retorted, wiping dirty sweat off my brow with my shirt sleeve.
“Crashed…like an airplane? Were there people on board? Oh, my GOD? We must go help them. We shouldn’t just…” She looked all around.
“CINDY! Look at me. It wasn’t an airplane.” I pulled out my cell phone. I was so excited that my hands were fumbling the thing. “Look.”
I held the phone up for her to see the picture. At first, she squinted, then her eyes flared open in shocked amazement.
“Decatur, what is that?” She had her hands over her mouth.
“I think it’s an alien spacecraft or something.” I said, as if I were casting a spell.
Cindy instinctively moved away. “You have to delete those.”
My face contorted in confusion. “What? Why?”
Her cell phone rang and she pulled it to her ear without looking at the screen.
“Yes. Um…yes. My husband did, yes. Ok, he’s right here.” Cindy held her phone out to me.
I took it, hesitantly. “Hello?”
“Mr.Brogden?” A woman asked me in a sort of forced politeness.
“Yes.” I replied, slowly.
“Sir, I am from the county emergency management department, and we’ve been notified of an accident in your area. Can you please take your wife and anyone else nearby, and go inside your home? We are dispatching specialized personnel to handle the situation.”
“Sure.” I said, then handed the phone back to my unhappy-looking wife.
As we walked inside the house, Cindy relayed our contact info to the woman on the phone, followed by a few “yes’s” and “uh-huh’s”. I frantically typed away at my phone’s screen, trying to prevent Cindy from realizing what I was doing. I pulled aside the sliding back door to our small brick home. A lab and a terrier met us at the door. You’d think they would prefer to be outside on a summer day, but the blast of cool dry air inside the house told me exactly why they preferred to be indoors.
“Go on, go on.” I shooed them away as I tried not to give away my need to hurry. Once I turned the corner into the short hallway, I sprinted to our bedroom. There, I snapped open the closet doors and dragged a green back pack down from the top shelf. I smelled it…almost without thinking. It was stale, but it didn’t matter. I tossed it onto the blue blankets of our disheveled bed and begin throwing other things at it from around the room: a phone charger, some envelopes, clothing items, a hat, some cash I kept stashed inside a metal tin in my sock drawer, a thumb drive…and my .45 automatic. I heard Cindy conclude her phone conversation.
“Babe. The fire department is coming up the driveway right now. The lady said they’d have a clean-up team here in less than an hour.” She called from across the house.
I stuffed my gun in the back of my pants, zipped the back pack, and threw it onto my shoulder. I gently pushed my hand into my front pocket to check on my precious cargo. It was still there, and still cool. I briskly walked back down the hall.
“I think we should just stay here and…what are you doing?” She asked, in total deadpan.
“I’m…I’m going to the post office. I’ll be back in a little while.”
Her faced twisted. “The POST office? You should be staying indoors, like we were told.”
“Babe, you know me.”
She huffed and blew a blonde lock out of her face. “What’s so important to mail…right now?”
Her eyes darted to my hand as I reached in my pocket and withdrew a small shard of blue metal. I raised it to eye level and gestured for her to take it, but she recoiled.
“What is that?”
“It’s a piece of metal…or something, from the crash. It isn’t hot. In fact, it’s quite cool.”
She had a disappointed face, and she put her hands on her hips. “Decatur, are you thinking about mailing that to…”
“Shhhh!” I snapped, but then nodded.
Yellow fire trucks were passing the house and headed towards our back pasture, lights on and sirens wailing. I took in a deep breath and the distinct aroma of fresh cornbread. Leaning to see over Cindy’s shoulder, I spied it on the counter.
“If anyone asks, I went to get diesel for the tractor. I’ll be back before Jacob gets home from school.”
I walked past her and lifted a large slice of steamy yellow cornbread from the glass dish, and placed it on a paper towel.
“Decatur…please be careful. Don’t do anything stupid.”
I smiled a stupid grin. “Would I do anything stupid?”
“Ha! Right. Seriously Decatur, this could be a big deal. Be safe.” She walked up to me. “I love you.” Then she kissed me.
“I’ll be ok. Love you.” And I dashed through the laundry room and out the side door.
My mind was racing, I had to focus. I sprinted through the carport and climbed into my green Ford pickup.
“Easy Decatur, just be cool.” I told myself. I started calmly, but quickly, down the gravel driveway, then turned towards town once I reached the black top. I could make it to Great Falls in about ten minutes, if I hurried. Both sides of the road were a flat open expanse of mildly undulating fields of dry wheat. The summer sun was scorching them into nothingness, but the yellow fields waved with each gentle gust of wind. Inside the truck, it was like the surface of the sun. The a/c wasn’t doing much good, so I had the windows down too. I pulled out my cell phone and searched for the contact info of a friend who did research at the University of Montana.
I’d used my phone a thousand times while driving, but I kept fumbling and bumbling this time. Just then, about a dozen black Chevy Tahoe’s zipped by me going the other direction. I felt them buffet my truck as they passed, just as my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t help but devote half my driving attention to watching them in the rear-view mirror, as they disappeared around a curve. I turned off the road into the little town of Belt, just a few miles before Great Falls. I tried to stay calm as I parked in front of the small post office. Retrieving one of the envelopes, I scrawled a familiar address on it, placed a small sliver of the crash metal inside it, and sealed it shut.
I tried to act normal as I walked inside the post office. A little bell over the door jingled and announced my presence. A wave of cool air met me, but it smelled like old paper. There were only two people inside, one was the postal employee, behind the counter, wearing a light blue shirt. The other was an overall-clad man with a tan ball cap and a gray mustache. They didn’t appear to be transacting business, but merely chit-chatting.
The mustached man was telling a story. “Then there was a loud ‘BOOM’ and the house just shook. I went outside and looked around, but didn’t find a thing. Sure scared the hell out of my dogs though. They went to baying and howling like a…well, HELLO, Mr. Decatur Brogden, sir. What are you out doing today, young man?”
“Just running some errands. Got too hot to stay on the tractor. I had to take a break.” I instinctively wiped my brow. “What about you, Mr. Lawrence?”
“Haha! No, no. You’re a grown man now, Decatur. I’m not your science teacher any more. Ralph…please.” He slipped his hands into the open gaps on the sides of his overalls as if they were coat pockets.
“Ok…Ralph.” I smiled, but suddenly became aware of my task at hand. I looked at the person behind the counter. “A roll of stamps please.”
As he busied himself, Ralph continued. “I heard you’d moved into your grandma’s old place. How are you doing out there?”
I was getting nervous, but did my best to sound gregarious. “Yeah, we’re giving this farming thing a try.”
“I bet it makes you wish you were back in the navy, eh?” He had a mischievous smile.
What I wanted to say was, “No…hell no. I’d rather stare at my butthole in a mirror all day than spend one more minute working for the government. No, no, no! I’ve been screwed over too many times by jackasses who got promoted beyond their abilities, and I’ve seen too many cover-ups and lies…all in the name of national security. No, I never want to work for the Navy, or any part of the federal government ever again.”
But, what actually came out of my mouth was, “Sometimes…sure.” I smiled.
I paid for my stamps, placed one on the envelope, bid them both goodbye, and slipped the letter in the mail slot on my way out the door. When I got back in my pickup, I took out another envelope, addressed it to my friend at the U of M and placed a stamp on it. I slowly drove down the street for a block. Belt wasn’t very big, probably less than five hundred people…but, enough to stay somewhat anonymous. I eased over to the other side of the street, opened a random mailbox, raised their red flag, slid the addressed envelope into it, closed the door quietly, and drove away.
I got back on the highway and sped towards Great Falls.
I was giddy again…like I was about to stick it to the ‘man’ somehow. Trying to rein it in, I checked my gauges, fuel, mirrors, etc. I even tuned the radio to the local news, but it was just weather and country music…like normal. My cell phone buzzed. The screen said it was Cindy.
“Hey babe!” I answered the phone.
“Decatur, where are you?” She whispered, nervously.
“I’m getting fuel, like I said I would. What’s the matter?” Again, not divulging anything through the tone of my voice to anyone else who may be listening.
“There are people from the government here. They’ve locked us in the bedroom. They are scattering that yellow police tape all around the yard. I told them you were getting fuel, but they’ll probably press me for more information soon. What should I tell them? Should I tell them about the— “
“No! Um…no. Don’t tell them about the illegal pond I dug last month. If they want to fine me for it, they’ll have to find it on their own.”
There was a long pause. “Ok. Well, Jacob is here with me. We’re watching the news together. You wanna talk to him?”
“No, it’s ok. Just tell him I love him. I’ll be home soon…after I fill up the diesel cans.”
“Mrs. Brogden, I have to confiscate your phone. Who are you talking to?” A distant voice asked.
“Me? Um…my…my husband. I was talking to my husband. That’s all.”
I heard some muffled noises, then the call ended.
“Oh Shit!” I whispered out loud to myself.
For an agonizing few moments, I considered turning around. But, I decided to continue towards the city. Surely, they wouldn’t actually hurt my family. I went straight to the Loading Zone. It was a bar…catering mostly to guys on motorcycles. Most importantly, one of my navy buddies owned it. I parked in the rear of the bar, and went to the convenience store next door first. I purchased water, some beef jerky, and a disposable cell phone. As I went into the Loading Zone, I quickly transferred the alien spacecraft pictures to the new phone.
A large guy with curly hair and a sheepish grin greeted me at the door.
“Hey, man. You doing alright?” He asked, friendly.
“I’m doing ok.” I answered. “Is Shawn here?”
“Yeah, he’s in the office. We’re slow right now, so just walk on in there.”
“Thanks.” I nodded to him and went inside. A blast of smoke-filled air and classic rock music immediately assaulted me. Without any delay, I turned down the narrow hallway and knocked on the door to the office.
“Yeah!” A raspy voice replied.
I pushed the door ajar slightly and poked my head inside. “Hey, Shawn, you got a minute?”
“Yes, come on in dude!” He beamed and pushed a chair around for me to sit. “You wanna beer? On the house?” He said with a wink.
I laughed a little. “No, thanks though. I have to show you something.”
I closed the door and locked it. Shawn looked confused. I roughly pulled the chair around and sat in it as I withdrew my cell phone from my pocket. I thumbed to the pictures of the crash and handed it to him.
“Look at this. It crashed in my back pasture about an hour ago. What do you think it is?” I said, anticipating his answer.
He swiped the screen and his eyes popped open.
“Are you messing with me?” He furrowed his brow.
“No, I’m not. It’s for real. That thing crashed in my field today…while I was raking hay about a hundred yards from it. When it crashed, there were no flames, or heat, or anything like that.” I had my hands out, gesticulating the story. “When I walked towards it, the grass crunched under my feet…because it was FROZEN!”
“What? How?” He shook his head. “Wait, back up. Tell me from the beginning. What am I looking at?”
“I think it’s an alien ship, or it’s a secret military plane. I don’t know which.”
He handed the phone back to me. “So…an alien space ship crashes in your field, and you decide to take pictures of it?”
“Kinda…I got this too.” I took out a piece of the metal from my pocket and held it up at eye level.
“How do you know that isn’t radioactive?” He worried.
“I don’t know. But, Cindy called 911. The fire department showed up as I was leaving. And…there are feds crawling all over my house now too.” I said very matter-of-fact like.
“Are you SERIOUS?!”
“Yeah.” I said, excited.
“No, Decatur…this is bad. What the hell are you going to do with this?
“I want to show it to the world. I’ve already posted the pictures on my Facebook, Instagram, and my Twitter account. Then I emailed the pics to every single contact I have in my phone.”
Shawn picked up his phone and scrolled through his emails. “Sure as shit, here it is.” He held up the pictures on his phone.
“I thought, maybe I could leave a piece of the metal here.” I said, sheepishly.
“You have more than one piece of it?” He shook his head. “It’s like you’re involving me in a crime…and I let you.” He smiled and held out his hand.
I placed a small shard in his palm. He stood and went to a large black gun safe in the corner of his disordered office. It made a heavy ‘clunk’ and he placed the metal inside of it. As he walked back to his chair, my phone rang. It wasn’t a number I knew.
“Hello?” I answered, trying to disguise my nervousness. “This is Decatur.”
“Mr. Brogden?” An unfamiliar voice asked.
“Yes, this is Decatur Brogden. How can I help you?”
“Mr. Brogden, I am special agent Zeke, and I need to speak with you.”
“Me? About what?”
“I need to ask you some questions about what happened on your property today.”
“If it’s about the pond I dug last month, I can explain.”
“No, Mr. Brogden. It’s not about your pond, I assure you. I think you know what it’s about.” There was a touch of sinister in his voice.
“Um…ok. Well, I’m just here at the gas station filling up my diesel cans. Where do you want to meet me?”
“You’re getting fuel?”
“Mr. Brogden, I’ll meet you at the fuel station where you are now. Will that be ok?”
I paused. “Sure. I’m at the Cenex in Belt.”
“The Cenex in Belt. Would that be the one with the beer stacked outside on pallets, and with the creek and the bridge next to it?”
“Yep, that’s the one.” I said, trying to sound positive.
“Well, Mr. Brogden, that’s where I am right now, and I don’t see you anywhere.”
I quickly placed my hand over the microphone and looked at Shawn, my eyes as big as hub caps. I mouthed a few cuss words and tried to regain my composer.
“Did Cindy send you out to look for me? Look, I don’t want her to know where I am right now. We can meet and talk, but please keep it between us. I’m at the bar in Great Falls. Cindy would freak out if you told her. Hell, she’d probably want to divorce me. I’m sorry I…I lied to you about it.”
There was a pause. “Very well, Mr. Brogden. Please tell me the name of the establishment and I will drive there.”
I looked at Shawn, who was waving his hands in an inaudible “NO!”
“I’m at the Beacon. It’s on the west side of town.” I answered, keeping my eyes on Shawn. He was relieved and slumped down into his leather chair.
“Very well. I will meet you there in twenty minutes.” The phone clicked off.
“What the HELL dude?!” Shawn snapped at me.
I looked at him, but didn’t know what to say.
He continued. “I’ll keep your piece of metal here man, but don’t drag me into any bullshit with the government. I know you have some sort of beef with them, but this is crazy. What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know. I’ll think of something.” I was staring at some photos on his wall of different bands.
“I gotta hand it to you though, that was some quick thinking, saying you didn’t want Cindy to know.” He sighed heavily.
“Thanks. Ok, I’m gonna get outta here. Thanks for your help. I’ll— “
“How long do you plan to leave that metal here?”
“I’m not sure. Not long.”
We gave each other a bro hug, and went back to my truck.
The Beacon Bar was only five minutes away, even if I drove the speed limit. So, I started the truck and drove downtown. Normally this time of year, there would be people out in their shorts and tank tops, but there was nobody. It was just too scorching hot. Folks were inside, enjoying the a/c. I turned onto Central Avenue and parked a block down from the UPS store. The sidewalks were vacant, and I could feel the sweltering heat radiating upwards from its surface. Ahead, I saw the tree-lined street as it dead-ended at the civic center. Like everywhere else, the UPS store had their a/c cranked up, and it was pleasantly cool inside. A young woman behind the counter greeted me, and provided me with a small flat-rate box and some bubble wrap. With my back to her, I powered down my cell phone and placed it inside the box, along with a slip of paper. I shipped it overnight to CNN’s offices in New York with a note reading:
To whom it may concern: I took these pictures and videos in my pasture near Belt, Montana. I am now being questioned by federal agents. Please send any correspondence to 4696 Willow Creek Rd. Belt, MT 59412. My phone password is 1066.
When I got back to my truck, I sat there in the driver’s seat, panting. I rubbed my forehead, as I silently questioned myself. I blew out a breath and started the truck. Three minutes later, I was at the Beacon. As I pulled into the parking lot, two black SUVs blocked me at the front and rear. Men and women in black and gray suits jumped out, guns in hand. I rolled down my window, but kept my hands on top of the steering wheel. One exceptionally fit-looking man came to me and removed his sunglasses. His chin looked like it had been sculpted with a hammer and chisel, and his eyes were intense.
“Mr. Decatur Brodgen?” He asked, in a familiar voice.
He opened the door and held it for me. “I am agent Zeke. Please step out of your truck.”
I slowly unbuckled my seat belt and slid off the gray leather seat with my hands slightly raised.
“Mr. Brogden, you are not under arrest. You don’t have to hold your hands up. We just want to talk to you.” He said.
I said nothing, but I slowly lowered my arms. He gestured towards one of the SUVs, and a tall woman with jet-black hair opened the door for me. As I was getting in, I saw Cindy and Jacob, both sitting in the back, looking terrified. I turned and looked at agent Zeke, but he had a smug and careless look on his face, which bade me to enter the vehicle. Not knowing what else I could do, I climbed in and sat next to Cindy.
“Are you ok?” I asked quietly.
“Where have you been?” She shouted in a whisper.
Agent Zeke and the tall woman got in the back with us and closed the door.
“Mr. Brogden, one of our agents will drive your truck home for you. Let’s start with the same question Mrs. Brogden asked you: where have you been?”
“I already told you where I was.”
“No, Mr. Brogden, you told me you were at this bar, the Beacon. Yet, when we arrived, you were nowhere to be seen.”
I tried not to sound defensive. “Yes, but you said you wouldn’t be here for twenty minutes. I figured I had time to go to the gas station to take a leak.”
He looked incredulous. “They don’t have a toilet at the Beacon?”
“Well, yeah, they do, but have you seen it? I didn’t want to use it. It’s awful.” Maybe I hammed it up a bit much.
“So…you chose to use the toilet at a gas station instead?” He asked, but I said nothing. He continued, “Mr. Brogden, a couple hours ago, one of our aircraft crashed on your property. Luckily it was unmanned. Mrs. Brogden told us that you took photographs of the craft with your cell phone. May we see them?” He held out his hand.
“It wasn’t a military craft, no way.”
“All the same, we cannot let military secrets be divulged to the enemy. This is a matter of national security, Mr. Brogden.” He held out his hand more forcefully.
“If I don’t give you my phone, what then?”
“No, you don’t understand. You’re going to give me your phone.” He snapped a nod at another agent sitting across from Jacob. The agent pressed his hand gun right against my son’s forehead.
“What the HELL are you doing?” I bellowed. I started to lean in, to do…something, but the tall woman pointed her gun at me. “Jacob, look at me. Look at ME! It’s ok. It’s ok.”
I turned to look at agent Zeke, then I slowly removed the disposable phone from my shirt pocket and handed it to him. “Please tell your man to lower his gun. That’s my son for God’s sake.”
Agent Zeke nodded, and the man holstered his gun. But, as agent Zeke thumbed through the phone, he seemed to get angrier and angrier.
“Who have you shown these to?”
“I showed them to Cindy, and now to you.” I said, trying to sound honest.
Agent Zeke nodded at the other man again, and he re-pointed his gun at my son.
“Why do you keep lying to me Mr. Brogden?”
“Ok, ok. I’ve shown them to some other people.” I admitted, vaguely.
“And…this is NOT your cell phone!” He held up the burner and pointed at it with an angry finger.
He grabbed his gun and cracked me on the right side of my head with so much force that it nocked my left side into the window.
“TELL US WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” He leaned forward and shouted at me.
I leaned back, breathing heavily. My head was throbbing, and I felt blood on the side of it. I looked at my hand for a moment to confirm it.
“That was no…HUMAN…air craft. You know it…I know it.”
“So, what are you trying to do? Tell your little friends in Great Fall, Montana?” He snapped at me.
“No, not just in Great Falls, Montana. I shared the pictures on all my social media sites, and I— “
“Yes, yes, yes. We already know about that. We’ve had your online profiles blocked and we have already tracked all the emails you sent with the pictures. Why are you doing this, Mr. Brogden? Do you not care about the security of our nation?” He raised an eyebrow.
“I spent my time worrying about that. Fifteen years in the Navy. Here I am, stuck in an SUV with my family while government agents beat me. We aren’t answering any more of your questions, until we can speak to a lawyer.” I looked at the blood on my hand again.
Agent Zeke pursed his lips. Then, he pressed the tip of his gun on Cindy’s thigh.
The back of the SUV was filled with the smell of gunpowder and with the sound of Cindy’s screams. I lunged forward, but all three agents pointed their guns at me.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You can’t just shoot my wife.” I shouted towards the driver, “Take us to the hospital.”
I placed my hands on Cindy’s thigh to slow the bleeding. Red was everywhere, and it was squirting out of her leg. I looked at her as she gradually leaned back. All expression was draining from her face, along with any color. I unbuckled my leather belt and wrapped it around her leg, just above the wound.
“It’s ok babe. It’s ok. I stopped the bleeding. Just hang on. We’ll get to the hospital.” I slowly turned back towards agent Zeke. “Ok, I’ll give you my cell phone.”
“Good. I’m sorry it had to come to this, Mr. Brogden.” He said as the three of them again holstered their guns.
“Take my phone, delete the pictures, crush it, melt it down, I don’t care.”
I leaned forward to reach into the back of my pants. In one swift motion, I ratcheted the top of the gun, swung it around my hip, and planted a bullet in agent Zeke’s chest.
Another in the tall woman’s head.
And a third bullet in the man’s neck.
I scrambled over agent Zeke’s body and held my gun to the driver’s head.
“Take us to the hospital, NOW!” I blasted in his ear. “And don’t do anything stupid!”
I craned my neck to see the bloody mess in the back of the SUV. Jacob was just sitting there, seemingly numb or shell-shocked.
He looked at me.
“Talk to you mom. She needs to stay awake. Can you do that?”
“Yes daddy.” He said in a squeak and nodded.
We arrived at Benefis Hospital a few minutes later.
“Park the truck at the ER entrance. I’ll take my family inside. After that, you drive away, and never come back. Do you understand?” I chastised him.
He nodded, “I understand.”
When the sliding glass doors opened, we were met with a small army of medical people, who seemed calm until they had a moment to look at us. They brought a wheelchair for Cindy, and I gently placed her in it. They whisked her away to a treatment room. Jacob and I followed.
As we entered, I leaned down and whispered to Jacob, “Stay with your mom, no matter what. Do you understand?”
“Daddy has to take care of some things. Ok?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
“Ok, Daddy. I’ll protect mom from the bad men.”
I lightly rubbed him on his blonde head and went to Cindy. She’d maintained her consciousness, and she reached her hand out towards me. There was a brief lull in the activity around her, so I held her hand. She pulled me in close where she could whisper into my ear.
“You go get those bastards. Don’t worry about me.” Her voice trembled with anger. She looked at Jacob. “I’ll be fine. Jacob will protect me, won’t you?”
Our son nodded seriously.
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” I said, then kissed her softly on her lips.
I excused myself and went to the bathroom around the corner. I had blood all over. Bits of skin and gore were stuck in my hair. A minute later, I was relatively clean, and I tried to seem calm and normal as I walked out of the hospital and into the parking lot. Despite the heat, there were loads of people here. Heat-related injuries I figured. I started towards the bus station. When I got there, the lines were short. The building smelled like diesel fumes and body odor. I bought a ticket to Billings, in the hopes of staying with a friend for a couple days. While I waited, I used the vending machine and watched the news. It was on FoxNews, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the news headlines would be in a couple days, after my package was received.
The bus ride to Billings was uneventful. But, the problem was that I didn’t know my friend’s phone number, nor did I know his address. I Googled his name on a computer kiosk, but had no luck. I looked up the number to the hospital back in Great Falls and called it from what was probably the only operable phone booth left in Montana.
A man answered the phone, introduced himself at the receptionist, and asked how to direct my call.
“I want to speak with Cindy Brogdan. I don’t know what room she’s in. She came in a few hours ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, she isn’t allowed to have calls right now.” He sounded worried.
“No calls? Why? Is she ok?”
“She’s stable, but there are cops everywhere. And they said no patients can receive calls until further notice. I think they’re looking for someone.” He slightly whispered.
“Ok, thank you.” I said, and hung up.
I leaned back against the dirty glass of the phone booth and looked outside at the streets of Billings. While I was on the phone, the bus station had gotten much busier. It seemed like a shuttle had arrived from the nearby airport, as there were many varied looking travelers in line for a bus ticket now. I weighed my options, and decided to go to Denver. I actually knew where a friend lived there. I didn’t know the mailing address, but I knew how to find it.
I got in line and waited. More people came in. The room was turning into a buzzing and busied scene. At once, there were several “shushing” sounds and everyone faced the television.
“Turn it up!” Someone shouted from the back of the crowded room.
“…near the small town of Belt, just east of Great Falls, Montana. Federal agents, after many months of surveillance, and executing a lawful search warrant, raided Mr. Brogden’s home earlier today. There, they found several tons of commercial fertilizer and explosives. Agents found his wife and son locked in a small room in the basement, both exhibiting signs of sexual abuse. Mr. Brogden is wanted for a terror attack last week in Seattle that killed twenty-two military personnel who had just returned from serving their country in Afghanistan. He was not at his farm when the agents arrived, but they tried to apprehend him at a gas station, where he was getting diesel fuel to go with his explosives. He murdered three federal agents and is now on the run. He is armed, and is considered very dangerous. If you see him, please contact authorities immediately.”
The screen pasted my face on it.
The room was silent when I said, “WHAT!?”
Everyone looked at me. My eyes betrayed my worry.
“Hey that’s him!” Someone barked from a corner of the waiting room.
“Yeah, that’s him!”
There was nowhere to run. A mob of righteously indignant people stood between me and the way out.
I shouted, “That’s not what happened! It’s a lie. A LIE!”
Someone pushed me from behind and I stumbled into the arms of two men. They instantly shoved me to the floor, their faces full of disgust.
“He’s a terrorist!”
The air left my lungs as I felt a solid kick in my groin. I let out an audible, ‘oof’. It started a frenzy. More people kicked me. More and more. I rolled to my side in an attempt to stop them, but it was no good. I reached back to the gun in my pants and pulled it out. It was like throwing gasoline on a flame. The beating intensified, and the gun was wrenched from my hands.
“My brother fought in Iraq!”
“United we STAND, traitor!”
Everything went dark.
The darkness around me was swirling and tumbling. It was agonizing. Slowly, the black turned to gray and I opened my eyes. There was a tube in my throat, and I vomited it out. I wretched, but I couldn’t move. I looked around the scene, with one eye. The other was still just black. My arms were strapped to the sides of a hospital bed. I hurt all over…or did I? Maybe I hurt nowhere. I became aware of a distant chatter…of someone talking rapidly and with much excitement. The sound was coming from the television in this little hospital room. It was CNN. They were showing pictures of an alien spacecraft, the pictures I’d sent them. There was the one of the entire ship, one close-up, and one of a small blue humanoid, slumped over the controls. Then they showed the video of how the grass was frozen around the ship. Next, they interviewed scientists from the University of Montana, discussing the impossible nature of the metal they’d received in the mail from the crash.
I looked down at my hand. The remote controller for the tv was in it, seemingly taped to my wrist. It took all my will to push the buttons, but I scanned through the channels. Everyone was talking about the crashed alien spacecraft. I stopped on one channel where they were interviewing Cindy.
She was in the recliner at our home, seemingly comfortable, as the reporter asked her a series of questions about the incident. Lastly, Cindy looked straight at the camera and said, “Wherever you are out there, Decatur…come home. I love you.” She held up the envelope I’d placed in a random mailbox in Belt. It contained one of the metal fragments.
Another station interviewed Shawn, after he’d come forward with a small piece of the ship I’d left with him. My heart was leaping with joy and satisfaction. My eyes flashed towards the door, where I saw a guard, dressed in blue, with his back to the glass. It caused me to tug against the restraints on my wrists. Just then, I felt a shuddering over my entire body. The machines at the head of the hospital bed started beeping and wailing. Two nurses rushed in. They couldn’t help but recoil slightly at the sight of me. I felt all sensation leave me. Moments later, despite my eye being wide open, my vision went blank.