Condensed from the book Fire in the Sky
Image courtesy Michael H. Rogers ©1996
Consciousness returned to me on the night I awoke to find myself on the cold pavement west of Heber, Arizona. I was lying on my stomach, my head on my right forearm. Cold air brought me instantly awake. I looked up in time to see a light turn off on the bottom of a curved, gleaming hull. As I'd raised my head up, a white light caught my eye just before it blinked off. Either a light had been turned off or a hatch had closed, cutting off the light from inside. I only caught a glimpse as I raised my head; I could not be sure which it was.
Then I saw the mirrored outline of a rounded, silvery disc hovering four feet above the paved surface of the road. It must have been about forty feet in diameter because it extended several feet off the left side of the road. It was too large for the highway and it extended past the roadside to my left to clear a cutaway rock embankment on the other side of the highway. It appeared to be about fourteen feet high in the center.
For an instant it floated silently above the road, a dozen yards away. I could see the night sky, the surrounding trees, and the highway center line reflected in the curving mirror of its hull. I noticed a faint warmth radiating onto my face. Then, abruptly, it shot vertically into the sky, creating a strong breeze that stirred the nearby pine boughs and rustled the dry oak leaves that lay in the dry grass beside the road. It gave off no light; and it was almost instantly lost from sight.
The most striking thing about its departure was its quietness. It seemed impossible that something so large, moving through the atmosphere at such speed, would not have shrieked through the air, or even broken the sound barrier with a sonic boom. Yet it had been totally silent!
I scrambled shakily to my feet. My legs felt rubbery. I swayed, then caught my balance. I looked around and recognized the deserted stretch of curving road as the highway that wound down the canyon into Heber from the west.
I ran wildly down the deserted highway, across the bridge into Heber, stopping at the new building across from the Union 76 service station. No one answered my desperate knocking. No cars passed by.
I ran down the highway, over the second bridge, to the row of telephone booths at the Exxon station. I dialed the operator — a dime was not required to reach an operator in our part of the country — and panted out the number of my sister. She was the only nearby relative with a telephone.
My brother-in-law Grant answered. It was 12:05 A.M.
I was in an incredible mental state, difficult to describe. As best I can remember, I shouted something like: "They brought me back!" Then I babbled, "I'm out here in Heber, please get somebody to come and get me!" My hand shook as I held the cold receiver.
Grant was not amused. He took this call to be another cruel joke. "Uh, I think you have the wrong number," he replied sarcastically, starting to hang up.
"Wait! It's me, Travis!" I screamed hysterically into the receiver.
"Where are you?" he asked, still suspicious of a joke.
"I'm at the Heber Exxon station."
"Okay," he replied, almost apologetically, yet still cautious of a prank. "Stay right there. I'll come and get you. Just hang on."
Grant drove the three miles from Taylor over to Snowflake and found my brother Duane at Mom's house. He told Duane about the call, and of his doubts it was really me. Duane, too, thought the call might have been yet another example of someone's idiotic concept of humor. But they decided they couldn't risk not investigating. They set out for Heber, thirty-three miles away.
Lights suddenly shone into the phone booth. Relief flooded over me when I raised my head and saw the headlights of Duane's pickup. Duane and Grant got out and came to where I was still slumped in the phone booth. Duane opened the glass door of the booth and helped me to my feet.
"Am I ever glad to see you!" Grant said.
Duane helped me into the warm truck and asked Grant to drive. On the way to Snowflake I tried to tell them about what happened to me, but I just couldn't get it all out.
"They were awful — white skin — great big eyes . . ." I sobbed in horror.
"Take it easy, Travis, you're all right now. They didn't harm you, did they?"
"No . . . but those eyes, those horrible eyes! They just kept looking at me!"
"Just so you're okay, that's all that counts," Duane said. "Everyone has been worried sick about you."
"If it's already after midnight, I must have been unconscious for a couple of hours," I replied shakily. "Because I only remember about an hour or an hour and a half inside that thing."
Duane and Grant looked at me strangely.
"Travis, feel your face," Duane said.
"Good hell, I just shaved this morning and it feels like a week's growth!" I exclaimed, still not comprehending.
"Travis," Duane said gently, "you've been missing for five days!"
Copyright ©1999 by Travis Walton. All rights reserved.