“Sure. I seen a UFO. Just t’other day.”
Markus’ face lit up. He raised his clipboard and poised his pen over a fresh UFOSR-214 form to record the old woman’s testimony.
“What time was it?”
“Oh, right about ten o’clock. Maybe a little after.”
“And where was this?”
“Down the green.”
Markus looked up. “A golf course?”
“No, the green. Big meadow off the highway, end o’ town. Lowest point in the area. Water collects. Grows the grass green.”
“Uh-huh.” Markus scribbled his notes as fast as he could and still read them.
“Is this a common UFO sighting area?”
“Well, has anyone else seen UFOs at the green?” Markus tried to keep the impatience out of his voice.
“Sure. Jim down the street saw one last year. Young Lawrence saw somethin’ as a boy. Long time ago now.”
Markus nodded as he wrote. The gnarled old woman squinted up at him from her front-porch rocking chair.
“You a reporter?”
“No, ma’am,” Markus assured her. “Just a believer.”
The woman leaned forward. The chair followed her movement on its skids. “You seen one of them things?”
Markus hesitated. “Yes.”
“Don’t seem too sure yerself.”
“It was a long time ago.”
Markus gazed at the old woman. Her knowing, crinkled eyes. He swallowed convulsively.
“I was just a kid,” he said. “Seven years old.”
“How old you now?”
“Mmm. That is a long time ago.”
“When you saw the UFO. Somethin’ happened.”
“Nothing,” he lied.
The old woman knew it. The two of them stared at each other while the breeze rustled the aspen leaves on the far side of the wooden porch. After an age, the woman leaned back in her chair and started rocking. Markus blinked a few times. His head felt fuzzy in the heat of the day.
“I wouldn’t go down the green, I were you.”
“I have to investigate,” Markus said politely. “Can you tell me what you saw?”
The woman scowled. “I’ll talk. If you promise not to go lookin’. Ain’t safe.”
Markus looked at her, brow furrowed. She still sat back in her chair, still rocked gently, but there was a subtle shift in the air between them. Something he couldn’t define. He nodded slowly.
“Yes, ma’am. I promise.”
“I’ll know if you break it,” she warned, two arthritis-curled fingers pointing at him.
She lowered her hand. “Lights,” she said. “Lots o’ lights. Bright lights. Six or seven of ’em. All white. Made a sorta circle, ’bout twenty feet ’round, I’d say. And steam. Couldn’t see the ground ’neath my feet.”
“What about sound?” Markus asked, eager. “Or smell?”
“Sounded like wind and waterfall,” the woman answered, her eyes losing focus at the memory. “I fell right over. Then it rushed away. Lights in the sky going farther, farther. Then nothin’.”
“Not a scent.”
Markus nodded, disappointed. “No smell.”
“None. Least, none that I know of.”
“You think there was a smell and you just didn’t notice?”
The woman shrugged. “I been sick. Can’t hardly smell my roses if I put my face in ’em.”
Markus smiled to show he wasn’t upset, but uncertainty gnawed at him. The tangy, tinny smell of the air around the craft was his strongest memory.
“Anything else you can remember, ma’am?”
“Nope. I told you everything.”
Markus hooked his pen on the metal bar of his clipboard and lowered the apparatus to his side. “Thank you so much, ma’am. I appreciate your willingness to talk about it.”
“Don’t go down to that green,” she warned, grasping his wrist with a bony hand in an uncomfortable grip. “Don’t go down there.”
“I won’t,” Markus promised. He wasn’t totally lying — he wasn’t going to the green. Not yet. First he’d interview Jim and Young Lawrence. He obtained their addresses from the old woman and drove off in his pickup, waving to her as he pulled onto the road. She didn’t wave back.
Markus focused on the road ahead. The interview had unnerved him, even the warning. But he was so close. He was so close to figuring out where the next landing would be. He already knew when. In fifty-six hours, there would be a landing. In fifty-six hours, if he could just get to the right place, he would smell that tang on the air, be blinded by the bright, white lights, and maybe — maybe — he’d find his family. He’d been tracking the sightings since he was seven. He’d weeded out the delusions and secret military aircraft and other UFOs. Then he’d cross-referenced every real sighting of the specific craft that had flown away with his parents and sister all those years ago.
He adjusted his grip on the steering wheel and eased his foot off the gas to drop back down in the neighborhood of the speed limit. He was close. He was so, so close to going home.
Rachel Lulich is a writer, freelance editor, and Air Force veteran. She has been published in GateWorld, Clarinet News magazine, Short and Sweet: A Different Beat, and The Upper Room. Lulich has a Master’s Degree in Book Publishing and has edited a number of award-winning novels and memoirs. In 2019, she independently released her first science fiction novel, Random Walk. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Lulich now makes her home in Indiana, where she lives with her many books and LEGOs.