Condensed from the book Fire in the Sky
Image courtesy Michael H. Rogers ©1996
Mike shut off the engine. We watched, spellbound. The men on the left side of the truck leaned over so that they could see. There, a mere twenty feet above the ground, a strange, golden disc hovered silently. Our attention was riveted on that object poised in the air. Impaled by the sight, we were held transfixed for one long, silent moment that felt like an eternity.
The cold, jarring reality of what we were witnessing struck fear and awe to the core of every one of us. Suddenly beholding its vivid, magnificent structure summoned all emotions at once. You could almost hear our hearts pounding above that suspended instant of silence. Less than thirty yards away, the metallic craft hung motionless, fifteen feet above a tangled pile of logging slash.
The craft was stationary, hovering well below the treetops near the crest of the ridge. The hard, mechanical precision of the luminous vehicle was in sharp contrast to the primitive ruggedness of the dark surroundings. Its edges were clearly defined. The golden machine was starkly outlined against the deepening blue of the clear evening sky.
The soft yellow haze from the craft dimly illuminated the immediate area with an eerie glow. Under the weird light, the encircling forest took on bizarre hues that were very different from its natural colors. The trees, the brush, and the grass all reflected subtle, peculiar new shades.
I estimated the object to have an overall diameter of fifteen or twenty feet; it was eight or ten feet thick. The flattened disc had a shape like that of two gigantic pie-pans placed lip to lip, with a small round bowl turned upside down on the top. Barely visible at our angle of sight, the white dome peaked over the upper outline of the ship. We could see darker stripes of a dull silver sheen that divided the glowing areas into panel-like sections. The dim yellowish light given off by the surface had the luster of hot metal, fresh from a blast furnace.
There were no visible antennae or protrusions of any kind. Nothing that resembled a hatch, ports, or window-like structures could be seen. There was no motion and no sound from the craft. It almost appeared to be dead in the air.
I glanced from one to another stricken face. Turning back to that impelling spectacle in the air, I was suddenly seized with the urgency to see the craft at close range. I was afraid it would fly away and I would miss the chance of a lifetime to satisfy my curiosity about it. I hurriedly got out of the truck and started toward the hovering ship.
The men were alarmed by my sudden action.
"What do you think you're doing?" Mike demanded in a loud, harsh whisper.
Placing my feet quietly, I quickly stalked closer to the mysterious vehicle. Stepping over a low-leaning fir sapling, I carefully picked my way through the opening in the trees. I put my hands in my pockets in response to the cooler twilight air outside the truck.
"Hey, Travis!" the men warned insistently.
I stopped walking for a long, hesitant moment. I paused and turned to look back at the six men staring questioningly at me from the truck. The sober realization of what I was doing abruptly heightened the doubt I was already wrestling with. What should I do? I asked myself. Maybe I'm being foolhardy, I told myself. I won't get too close . . . but what if there's somebody inside that thing? I faltered. Finally I reassured myself with: I can always run away.
I was committed. Without replying to the guys, I resolutely turned and continued my brazen approach. I moved more slowly, cautiously covering the remaining distance in a half-crouch. I straightened up as I entered the dim circular halo of light softly reflecting onto the ground under the craft. I was about six feet from being directly beneath the machine. Bathed in the yellow aura, I stared up at the unbelievably smooth, unblemished surface of the curving hull. I was filled with a tremendous sense of awe and curiosity as I pondered the incomprehensible mysteries possible within it.
I had become aware of a barely audible sound coming from the ship. I could detect a strange blend of low- and high-pitched mechanical sounds. There were intermittent high, piercing, beeping points overlaid on the distant, low rumbling sound of heavy machinery. The strange tones were so mixed that it was impossible to compare them to any sound I could remember ever hearing.
"Travis! Get away from there!" Mike yelled to me.
I shot a fleeting look at the pickup parked in the road, then turned my attention back to studying the incredible ship.
Suddenly I was startled by a powerful, thunderous swell in the volume of the vibrations from the craft. I jumped at the sound, like that of a multitude of turbine generators starting up. I saw the saucer start wobbling on its axis with a quickening motion, in a pattern like the erratic spin of an unstabilized top. The same side continued to face me as the craft remained hovering at approximately the same height while it wobbled.
I ducked into a crouch when a tremendously bright, blue-green ray shot from the bottom of the craft. I saw and heard nothing. All I felt was the numbing force of a blow that felt like a high-voltage electrocution. The intense bolt made a sharp cracking, or popping, sound. The stunning concussion of the foot-wide beam struck me full in the head and chest. My mind sank quickly into unfeeling blackness. I didn't even see what hit me; but from the instant I felt that paralyzing blow, I did not see, hear, or feel anything more.
The men in the truck saw my body arch backward, arms and legs outstretched, as the force of the blow lifted me off the ground. I was hurled backward through the air ten feet. They saw my right shoulder hit the hard rocky earth of the ridgetop. My body landed limply and lay motionless, spread out on the ground.
"It got him!" Steve yelled.
Dwayne screamed: "Let's get out of here!"
"Get this son of a bitch moving!" Allen shrieked hysterically.
Image courtesy Michael H. Rogers ©1996
Mike did not need to be asked. He was already desperately groping, fumbling around for the ignition switch. His shaking fingers finally seized the key. The engine roared to life. Mike gunned the truck up the boulder-strewn track. He frantically spun the steering wheel one way, then the other, navigating the tortuous road.
"Is it following us?" he yelled over his shoulder. Nobody answered.
"Is it after us?" he shouted again.
When again no reply came, he turned to see the looks of stupefied shock on the faces of his crew. Their pale faces stared straight ahead, blankly. In reaction to the unbelievable horror of what they had witnessed, six hardened woodsmen were reduced to mindless terror.
Mike was fearful that the saucer was pursuing them. He put his head out the open window to try to see behind and was stung in the face by the sharp pine needles of a passing limb. He kept hitting boulders and other obstacles in his attempts to look behind. The erratically vibrating rearview mirrors only produced a blurred, flickering image, a faint yellow glow in the blackness. Goaded by a surge of terror, he stomped on the gas pedal.
The rattling truck shot forward at thirty-five miles an hour — far too fast for the condition of that road. A passing limb slammed into the right rearview mirror, bending it uselessly to the side of the truck. The old International went flying through the air over the dirt ramp of a high water-bar. As it landed, the pickup smashed down destructively on its weakened springs with a terrible crash.
The powerful jolt of metal on metal brought Mike to his senses. He was gripped by a sudden icy realization. If the truck broke down, they would be stranded and at the mercy of the unknown threat they were fleeing. He slowed the truck down to ten miles an hour. He was grateful to find the truck still working, capable of carrying them away.
The truck passed behind dense thickets of pine saplings, and the ship was once more lost from sight. In diverting his attention from his driving, Mike made the wrong approach to a water-bar in the road. It was the largest of them, and the last one before the Rim Road, a hundred feet farther on. Mike stopped the truck to back up and make another run at it.
"It doesn't look like it's after us," Mike shuddered as he shoved the gearshift into reverse.
The pause broke the men out of their shocked silence. They began to jabber hysterically. Instead of continuing over the obstacle, they sat there with the engine running. They struggled to collect themselves and decide what to do. Everyone was yelling at once, in a confusion of high-pitched shouting.
Mike anxiously asked: "I saw him falling back, but what happened to him?"
"Man, a blue ray just shot out of the bottom of that thing and hit him all over! It just seemed to engulf him." Ken's voice was solemn with awe.
"Good hell! It looked like he disintegrated!" Dwayne exclaimed.
"No, he was in one piece," Steve contradicted. "I saw him hit the ground."
"I do know one thing. It sure looked like he got hit by lightening or something!" Dwayne returned. "I heard a zap — like as if he touched a live wire!"
"Hey, men, we better go back!" someone said.
"No way, man. I ain't going back there!" said someone else.
As the men argued, Mike interjected. "Let's build a fire so the guys who don't want to go can stay here in the clearing while the rest of us go back there."
Just as Mike was about to get the gas out of the back, they were startled by the sudden approach of headlights coming west on the Rim Road. The dim outline of a camper-pickup could be seen passing in the dark.
"Let's go catch that pickup and get help!" John yelped excitedly.
Everyone piled in the right side of the truck. As Mike went around the driver's side of the truck, he exclaimed: "Look! Did you see that?"
The men scrambled to look. One of the men ran to the front of the pickup. "What was it?" he asked.
Mike told them he thought he had briefly seen the outline of the golden disc through the trees to the south. It had raised itself vertically to treetop level and streaked away toward the northeast at incredible speed.
They got in the truck. Mike angled the forgiving old pickup over the high water-bar and pulled out onto the Rim Road, heading west. The men argued on, rehashing what had happened. They were still arguing a mile down the road, where they reached the turnoff that went north to Heber. There, they finally worked their way around to the inevitable conclusion.
Mike turned the truck around at the turnoff. He said firmly: "This truck is going back. Anybody who doesn't want to come can get out right here and now, and wait! We've been acting like a bunch of cowards. We're all scared, there's no denying that, but we've got to do what we should've done in the first place!"
The embarrassed men no longer protested returning to the site. Even if any were still reluctant, they were ashamed to say so. Also, the prospect of waiting alone at the turnoff in the dark was much worse than going back together.
Their courage had been reinforced by the time and distance away from the site. However, as they turned left, off the Rim Road toward the original scene, their apprehension began steadily to rebuild. They began speculating on the dreadful possibilities of what they might find when they returned. The nearer they got, the more anxious they became.
"Hold it! It was right back there!" Ken exclaimed.
Somebody suggested pulling the truck around and pointing the headlights toward the log pile above which they had seen the hovering ship. They backed up and pulled in, driving over the fir sapling leaning in the way. Their eyes searched the area illuminated by headlights.
They found nothing.
"We're just going to have to get out and look around," said Mike.
They searched first in the security of the headlights. Everybody stayed together, huddling close to Mike, who carried the only flashlight. The flashlight beam probed into the night, examining every dark shape. They searched behind every log, bush, and stump. They called repeatedly: "Travis! . . . TRAVIS!!" Except for their calls, the woods were deathly quiet. They searched farther north, as Allen had suggested. They searched beyond the crest of the ridge and farther south. They found no sign anywhere — no foreign objects or unusual markings. No burns, pad impressions, or disturbed ground. Not a trace of tracks and no evidence of a struggle.
The longer they continued, the more worried Mike became, more overcome with emotion. He stumbled, then stood, looking down struggling to control his feelings. The loss of his friend, his guilt at driving away, and the pressure of the leadership being demanded of him all became too much to bear for a moment. Finally, Mike managed to regain his composure. "Okay, you guys, we're not doing any good here. Let's go!"
They got in the truck and began the long drive back to Heber. The memory of what they had so recently witnessed left them with a spectrum of strong emotional reactions.
Then Ken voiced the one thought they had all avoided so far. "We're gonna have to tell the authorities about this."
Copyright ©1999 by Travis Walton. All rights reserved.