"I don’t want to hear another word about it, the whole town's gone mad!"
" No buts about it Peter. UFOs, spaceships, a bunch of nonsense is all I have to say."
Peter sighed. His Mother was right in a way. For the past few days the rumors flying around the town of Soldan Flats made anything about Roswell read like a kids' story. The problem was that there were no witnesses except one - and he wasn't talking. Oh yes, people had seen the lights all right, but it was the usual old story, weather balloons, the Northern Lights, pieces of some old satellite falling into the atmosphere – but no-one had actually SEEN any UFOs. Except for Peter. And no-one knew he had been out that night.
The truth of the matter was that he had no right to be out at all, let alone driving up the old Township road at 1.00am. "My Mother will kill me!" he said to himself when he checked his watch as he left Tessa's house. "Maybe if I take the back way I can make it home without anyone noticing". He turned off the main highway and headed west on to the little used road which would bring him around to the Northside bridge. He decided to leave his car there until morning.
He first saw the lights approach from the South and judging by the formation assumed it to be some kind of night-time exercise from the Military base at Tarrington about 30 miles away. As the lights passed overhead, they were not followed by the familiar scream of a jet engine but an unearthly whine. The next thing he knew one of the vehicles broke formation and went spinning off towards the west, and disappeared from view over Gattler's Ridge. There was a brilliant flash of light and what sounded like thunder, the other vehicles banked sharply and with a burst of acceleration disappeared into the stratosphere.
The next day the town was in an uproar. Old Man Thompson was convinced that it was an invasion, the local UFOlogists had called in the TV networks and some local religious fanatics were convinced that it was a sign of the end of the world, or the Second Coming, depending on which sect they belonged to.
It was nearly a week later and feelings had been running high. There were accusations of a government cover-up, and denials of any crash sites or explosions. Any witnesses that had either seen the lights or the explosion had recanted or were refusing to talk to anyone about it. The TV people had long since left and the local newspaper had relegated the story to page 6, sandwiched between a report about repairs to local school buses and the obituaries.
Peter knew what he had seen and was convinced that there was a story. Old Tom and Frank Harrold, President of the UFO Watchers Society, did not want to let the matter go but were getting a lot of resistance from the townspeople.
"I don't know if they have been paid off or what" said Frank "I just wish we knew where to look, the crash site could be anywhere, and it could be weeks before we found anything"
"By which time they will have cleaned up the whole thing.” Old Man Thomson slammed his mug down on the table in disgust. "I know they are out there! Feds think we're a bunch of kids or idiots. It's aliens, darn it, aliens! They're going to invade us!"
"Calm down Tom, if they were going to invade us, they could have done it already. Any civilisation that can cross galaxies isn’t going to be put off by our puny weapons. No, it's our guys, they want the technology so they can blow some other nation off the planet. Hey, George, give us some more coffee!"
The owner of the restaurant refilled their mugs and shook his head. "Why you people get so wound up about things you don’t know anything about beats me. You sit around ranting and raving instead of simply going to learn the truth for yourselves."
"He's right" said Frank "I just wish we knew where to start"
Peter had been listening to the conversation from his seat at the counter. He knew where to go, but how could he tell them without being found out?
"Are you listening to me, boy?" George was standing with his hands on the counter, looking down at Peter.
"Er, yes, yes, Mr. Petrakis, I'm sorry, I was thinking!"
"That was obvious, now back to work, dishes don't wait." he paused, "I don't suppose you were listening to that conversation out there?"
"No, sir, I was thinking of something else." George Petrakis looked at the boy and wondered just what that might be. That it did have something to do with it was a pretty good bet - especially since he knew that Peter had been out that night. It was fortuitous that he and Rev. Jeffs had been enjoying one of their long discussions on the hopes and fears of mankind and the progress, albeit slow, of civilisation. He, too, had seen the lights and the flash over the mountains as he was walking home - he also saw Peter's car turn on to the back road and guessed that the boy should not have been out that night. He recognised the car because it still had the side mirror hanging down - the delivery man had hit it with a crate of bottles earlier that day and the car was booked to go in for repair the next morning.
After the restaurant closed Peter headed home, still wondering how to tell Frank and Old Tom that what they were looking for was somewhere over Gattler's Ridge. Maybe he should just go out there and take a look for himself!
"Peter, where do you think you're going?" His Mother followed him out of the kitchen. "I need you to do some things for me"
"I'm going for a ride" Peter said, "Barney needs some exercise. I thought I would head out over the Ridge and see what the searchers are doing"
"No! Absolutely not!" said his Mother "There are more important things to do here than go chasing all over the country just because other people don't have anything better to do with their time"
"Just because people are tired of talking about it doesn't mean it didn't happen" Peter said "And if I could find something out there and take some photos, I could sell them to the newspapers!"
"I don't want to hear another word about it" His Mother was not going to change her mind, just how was he going to get around it?
As he headed back into town the next morning he had an idea, this summer job for the restaurant just might have the answer!
"Good morning, Mr. Petrakis" he said as he walked into the kitchen. "Would you like me to make the Rogers delivery this morning and then go pick up the eggs?" He crossed his fingers and held his breath. George looked at him.
"Yes, but first I need you to take an order over to one of the TV crews - yes, they are back. Camped out down by the Morgue and refuse to leave, heard there was an alien autopsy going on! That's OK with me, 6 hamburgers, 4 chicken sandwiches and an order of chili, and make sure they tip you."
"Yes, sir!" Peter could hardly contain his glee as he ran out the door.
"So, we have an alien autopsy going on now, have we?" The Rev. Jeffs walked over to the counter and sat down. "How about some coffee, George, and a piece of apple pie."
"Some fool called with a tip and now they will not listen to any denials - I think they just like being out here in the country!"
"They always think of little green men from Mars or those silver skinned dwarfs - they really have no idea! But that one down at the morgue is completely human between you and me." said Jeffs.
"And how do you know, might I ask?"
"Because the poor wretch, what was left of him, wanted a priest and I'm the only one in the County!" Bob Jeffs absently reached for the ketchup and shook some on to the pie. "These people continue to amaze me. They always dream up some fantastic notion and never think of what is really going on."
"Well, they may just find out. Young Peter wants to make the Rogers delivery, of course he'll have to go down the Old Township Road to get to the Rogers place, and since I had him take the lunches over to the TV crew he'll know just where to go if he finds anything out!"
"George, you're a crafty one. Make sure you come on over later and let me know what happens." Jeffs swallowed the last piece of pie, smiled appreciatively and left the restaurant.
After meeting a frustrated TV crew and finding out what they knew, Peter was more convinced than ever that he had to find out just what did crash over the mountains. After leaving the Rogers place, he pulled off on to an old dirt road that headed towards the Ridge. He knew the road well as he and some of his friends had ridden dirt bikes out there before they were old enough to drive cars. Heading up into the rocks he heard the first sounds of heavy equipment. Parking the truck behind a large outcrop of rock he climbed up to the top of the Ridge to where he could see down into the valley on the other side. It was the crash site, that was for sure. Trucks, heavy equipment, military police - but none of the protective gear one would expect if it had been an alien aircraft. Peter assumed it would be just like in the movies with white sterile suits and breathing equipment. These guys were just all in uniform! And they were making pretty good time getting all the pieces picked up and the ground cleared - it would not be long before they had removed every trace of an accident.
"Well, it's now or never!" Peter said to himself, grabbed his camera, took some photos, and scrambled back down the hill to the truck as fast as he could. Accelerating down the dirt road he hoped he would make it back to town before any of the MPs found him. Turning on to the main highway he gave a sigh of relief, and only just in time. An army convoy was passing by, going in the other direction.
When the TV crew examined Peter's photos it was obvious that it was some type of military exercise, but there was not enough left of the wreckage to identify just what kind of vehicle had crashed. After demanding an explanation from the Air Force, a Press release was issued from Tarrington to state that there had in fact been some night-time maneuvers and that a helicopter had crashed, but there had been no injuries.
George Petrakis drove over to see Bob Jeffs as soon as the restaurant closed.
"I guess you saw it all on the News?" he said.
"Looks like Peter did just like you said he would. Good for the boy! Night-time maneuvers they say. Not so exciting for the locals as a flying saucer from Mars or some other impossible place, but I would sure like to know just what they were testing. If my guess is right their technology is finally getting on the right track."
"That means we have to keep watch more carefully than ever." Petrakis said.
"Yes - and you know, George, they would never believe we've been here all along!"
© Stephanie Hunt-Crowley
All rights reserved. Stephanie Hunt Crowley E.I.