He drove down Clinton road, at speed, frantically combing the treetops for any sign of them. The treetops flickered by like frames of film. The treetops sliced the peek-a-boo playing moon to pieces.
He saw nothing in the sky. Nothing unusual. Perhaps he had lost them. Perhaps the trees hid him. If the trees hid him from them, then they could certainly hide them from him.
For as long as he could remember, they had visited him. It didn’t matter that he moved around, it didn’t matter that he didn’t sleep nights. They would come to steal time, steal sanity, steal peace of mind, steal flesh. It didn’t matter that he drove and drove and sped and checked. They’d find him.
The radio spewed sharp noise and static. Theremin sobs up and down in frequency and pitch. He hadn’t turned the radio on.
Rounding a corner the car’s headlights hit almost instantly upon a barricade. The car stopped with a smoky screech. A tree had fallen in the middle of the road, blocking it completely. A big tree. He estimated it would have come up to about his mid-thigh if he got out of the car to investigate. But, he didn’t dare get out of the car.
A loud snap echoed through the calmness of the woods and took his mind off the obstruction in front of him. He slammed the car into reverse and began to roll back into the red brake-lit road he had only just left behind. Turned around in his seat, his right arm gripped the passenger seat headrest with talon-like intensity.
Another, larger tree fell behind the car.
Without a moment’s hesitation he unbuckled and took off into the dark woods. He didn’t bother closing the car door.
He was tucked away in the cold bosom of the woods with no guarantee of safety, never pausing, never thinking, only reacting to the slight apertures between trees which dictated his blind stumbling passage. People get lost in the woods all the time, sometimes on purpose. The woods so dark and threatening now a haven, a place of escape. The woods with its many watching eyes.
No matter where his pursuers had come from, no matter what the landscape looked like, the forest was the natural surface world of earth. This was his domain. They could not encroach upon him in this most natural of settings, the woods.
As he moved through the forest he understood the bully’s mentality: if you’re scared, the only way to neutralize the big, scary woods is to be the biggest, scariest thing in the woods. He put on his most intimidating airs and hoped against hope his body language was not lost on whatever creatures were out there. Still, he’d rather something that was natural got to him before they did, something that was supposed to be in the woods at night. At least he’d understand his fate, understand the necessity of the larger animal to take life from smaller life, then the woods themselves to take life from death. The unspoiled stoic woods whose secrets could either save or destroy him now.
But, he heard no stirring, save his own frantic rustling, pacing and breathing. Heard no hoots or howls, no grunts or crickets. He didn’t hear them scanning his now vacant car from their ship above. He hadn’t heard them land, possibly sending scouts to investigate, or hunters. Little grey hunters to take him back for more tests. He delved further into the unspoiled safety of the threatening woods.
He came upon a tree that was different from all the others. Unremarkably tree-like in all features save one: it had a door in it.
He booted the padlock, bringing his heel up repeatedly, meeting metal, getting little results, save for the satisfaction of letting off a lifetime‘s worth of steam. Kicking, kicking, kicking, booting, booting, pounding lamely away.
His mind told him to go on, forget about the door, just get out of there, keep running, go! But his instinct and his curiosity took hold of his body.
He kicked around with his now sore foot in the underbrush, looking for something to bash the lock with. A faint red glow caught his eye from deep inside the woods, burning slowly towards him.
They were coming.
He heard the faint rustling of things just out of sight between trees, they might as well have been miles away. He knew he couldn’t fight them. He always knew. But they always found him. How many nights had he run away? As many nights as they’d found him. But this time was different. This time he was in his home element, about to find a secret. The door was important, or more specifically, whatever the hell was behind it was important. Maybe the most important thing he would ever find in his life.
He found it, a great big bashing stick.
The sound of movement in the woods was moving in closer, the red glow was closer still.
It was the perfect bashing stick. A thick branch with a giant knob on one end. He took it with both hands and swung it over his head, behind his back barbarian style, and brought it down with all his strength, dead center on the padlock.
The glow, the noise, right behind him now.
He tossed the war club off to the side and stepped forward, opening the door in the tree. There were voices now, shouting voices, directly behind, calling him, calling. He dropped to his knees.
In the slight crevice of the tree, sat a limp, lifeless Grey alien, the giant insect-like black eyes concave and without their usual luster. The red glow engulfed him, now pierced through with yellow streams of luminescence. In the light he could just make out a red rectangular sign above the compartment:
He turned to look at his captors, but it was all wrong. Guns were trained on him, from all sides. Guns held by soldiers in fatigues and flak jackets. They were just kids, younger than him, but they were so serious. They were shouting. Kids playing war. They were the Cowboys, he was the Indian.
One of them was shoving the door closed, but the alien’s foot had rolled out. As the soldiers dragged him away, he noticed something on the alien’s foot: boot tread and a zipper running up the side.
Something was all wrong about this, something wasn’t quite right at all. One of the soldiers stuck him in the neck with a needle and the scene dissolved away. The soldiers dissolved into greys, their guns into probes, and their vehicle into a flying saucer.
Finally, he could believe his eyes.
That was more like it.
ONE MORE SMOKE FOR THE ROAD
9 years ago