by Terry Larson
"That's spooky, Nancy. Your description is very similar to the one we heard -- let me see now...it must have been a half-year ago. Some of you listeners might remember the man who called in and said he had just seen three weird-looking men walking down the street wearing wrinkled clothes. As I remember, they had pasty faces like the man you're talking about and strangely shaped, small noses -- and get this -- without visible nostrils. I have to admit, when I heard that story I was most skeptical...but now that it matches yours closely, Nancy, I feel my hair go up on end. Now, where did this take place?"
"The corner of Las Palmas and Vine."
"That's right in the heart of Hollywood."
"I know. That's what makes it all so exciting."
Bart Tell had to smile to himself. What were the chances that an alien would be walking right smack in the middle of the famous movie center of the world? He had a choice: Get rid of the woman by hanging up on her or try to make it sound halfway feasible. Being a slow night and the description fitting in with the story of the three aliens that had aroused much interest a little over a year ago, he elected to go for the second choice.
"A couple of questions, Nancy: What was the guy wearing and did anyone else near you seem to notice him?"
"Nothing unusual -- long pants and a dark jacket. I was too amazed by his face to notice much of anything else. Like I said, he had just got out of this car that had pulled up to the curb and hurried into a building. I don't think anybody else noticed him. I wouldn't have seen his face except when I sneezed, he looked back at me just before going through the door...oh, I'll never forget that face."
Tell did not know where to go from this point, but he had less than a minute before the next commercial. He could drag it out that long. "You must have been pretty close to him that you could see he didn't have any nostrils."
"Closer than I wanted to be, once I noticed that."
Tell laughed and said, "Well, at least he doesn't have to blow his nose. Time to take a break now. Maybe afterwards we can hear from others who have had similar experiences of seeing alien-like faces."
Tell went home that evening feeling depressed and bored. "What's the matter, Bart?" his wife had asked. "Is it that stupid radio show?"
Tell, slumped in his chair and sipping on a martini, answered, "You know it is. I'm sorry, Nadine, but that show is beginning to get to me. Remember how enthusiastic I used to be talking to people about all those whacky things? Those were the days when I actually believed there might be UFO's, aliens, Loch Ness monsters, Yettis, reincarnated people. Hell, I even thought that the Earth might be hollow," he said, straightening up and smiling at his little joke.
"You've told me a hundred times, honey, that 99 percent of what you expect to hear from people on the show will be just bull, so why are you so down now?"
"I'm down because I haven't even found a fraction of one percent that I believe to be true from these people. Some call in with made-up stories just so they can be on the radio. Others are just mentally deranged -- they're paranoid or haunted by fantasies. Some are just plain ignorant and are so suggestible they twist every little thing into something bizarre or supernatural. As soon as I listen to a caller, I can place him into one of these categories. When I first started doing this I thought it was fun, and it kept me from being bored. But that doesn't work anymore. In fact, it makes me damn sick. I feel as it's just a plain waste of my time and everybody else's."
"What about your guest speakers on your show? You think they're full of BS, too?"
"Some of them, yeah. Occasionally I get a good one, an expert on spirituality, for example, or a particle physicist that is an authority on string theory. But even these people are pushing facts and theories beyond what is known. Almost all of them have a book to sell or just want to be in the limelight and are willing to sell sensationalism that begs for proof."
Nadine smiled and opened her dazzling hazel eyes to express a sudden inspiration. "What you need is a vacation, Bart. Where and when should we go?"
The next morning, Tell received a call at home requesting him to come to the studio early to talk to the program manager. This was not a surprise, as the number of his listeners had been slumping beyond belief lately. Each of the several occasions he had been called in for similar meetings, he disagreed with the recommendations of Bernard Silverton. He sensed that another confrontation would lead to even a worse relationship between the two of them. An unsympathetic and impersonal man, interested only in the statistics of show attendance, Silverton had no regard in what were the true interests of the hosts on the station. To him, a host was similar to a machine, something that should, with the best efficiency, accomplish the task at hand.
"Please have a seat, Mr. Tell," the manager said as Tell entered his office. A portly, balding man with a full brushy mustache and eyebrows to match, he remained sitting at his desk. Behind him on a wall shelf were a number of trophies and other awards for radio show performances of the station.
"Ill get right to the point: The number of listeners on the Bart Tell Show is decreasing by the week. I've a summary here of all the numbers. It's not a pretty sight. You can go over it later, but I'll just cite some of the stats to give you an idea."
After citing a boring list of numbers he remarked, "We can't make money that way."
Tell squirmed in his chair and scratched the back of his neck. "What about some of the other shows?" he asked, avoiding eye contact.
"Glad you asked, Tell. All but one of our regular talk shows have positive numbers when we compare month by month. I think that must tell you something."
Tell was beginning to think that the next thing Silverton was going to say was his show was going to be canceled. At this particular point in time, he didn't give a damn. Maybe the reason he had fewer listeners was because he was somehow transmitting his own negative thoughts about the validity of the information on the show. Canceling the show would be a service to his listeners. He almost smiled at his change in attitude from that the last time Silverton had reported to him similar results about listeners' attendance. Therefore, he thought, I'm not going to to take this lying down. He's going to fire me anyway.
"What are you saying, Mr. Silverton? Are you blaming me or the advertisers on my show?"
Looking surprised, Silverton, said, "You got to be kidding, Tell. You've had pretty much the same sponsors for your show for the last three years. Obviously, it's your show that's the problem. Now let's quit stalling around and let me tell you what changes I want to see."
I guess he's not going to fire me after all, Tell surmised.
"Our studies of your show indicate a general change in your attitude and demeanor in conducting it, Mr. Tell. At the initiation of the Bart Tell Show six years ago, you showed much enthusiasm, an almost juvenile, but sophisticated youthful fervor about everything. Now, you seem more judgmental, sometimes even sarcastic about what your guests relate. It's almost as if you are playing judge or reviewer of everything that is said. This is not what your listeners want. They want to believe in supernatural and bizarre things, things that you and I many times know are unlikely, if not impossible to happen. You should not discourage anyone's thinking about the reality or non-reality of any of the subject matter. You should act interested, sometimes amazed, but always impartial."
Tell threw up his arms and said, "What about when someone calls in and says that the world is being invaded by Martians? Am I going to say something like, 'That's exciting news and maybe we should lock our doors?'"
"Don't be fecetious, Mr. Tell."
Tell could almost see red. "Isn't the word, faaa-cetious, Mr. Silverton?"
Silverton's superior countenance turned to one of embarrassment. "Sorry about that, Tell, but let me continue," he said smoothly. "So what we want to see from you is more excitement, impartiality, and credulity. Let's hear a little more inflection in your voice, less preaching or judgmental statements and more openness, as we did six years ago."
Tell was almost sorry he wasn't going to be fired. "If that's all, I have to run, Mr. Silverton. I need to talk to one of the guests who's going to be on the show this afternoon."
"I'm not quite through, Tell. Just one more thing: I noted yesterday you had a caller who declares she saw a face that looked similar to that of an alien. You invited other callers to report of similar sightings after your station break. I did not hear one reporting even though the records show that at least six people called in wanting to relate sightings to your listeners. Why didn't you have any of them on the show?"
"In your words, I guess I was being too judgmental. How many tens of thousands or more such reportings have there been of faces who look as if they came from another planet? That's old stuff, and to tell you the truth, I'm getting sick and tired of talking to these people."
Silverton looked cross. "That may be old stuff, Tell, but it sells. There's been a dearth of UFO sightings this year and not much on alien sightings as well. Our records show these subjects are often the most popular ones for your show. You know this, and in no way should you discourage reportings and discussions of them. Do you understand?"
"I understand that in the past those subjects have been popular, but I also understand that they won't remain popular forever unless these things are proven to exist. Hence, I have to promote other sensationalism on my show."
"You have time for both, Tell. My strong recommendation for you is to stay with what works, and I didn't see that yesterday."
That evening, after Bart returned from his show, Nadine and he had their martinis at their outside pool. Nadine could tell her husband was feeling ebullient. "You're sure a different person this evening," she said, as she turned her shoulders to the last rays of the sun before it set over the Pacific. "What happened today at work to make you in such a better mood?"
Bart first told her about his conference with Silverton. "I didn't care if he fired me, I was that mad. But then after I got to the studio I began thinking maybe he was right. Why take this job seriously? Why not just have some fun with it, especially if it means losing my job otherwise. I don't know if you tuned in today or not, but almost all the time I was listening to people who called in to tell about the aliens they saw. I bet old Silverton listened to every word and would have patted himself on the back if he weren't so stiff. I bet he thinks he intimidated me."
Nadine laughed and said she hadn't tuned in, as she usually did on Tuesdays, because she was upset about how he was despondent about his job. "Maybe you are a little intimidated, Bart. After all, you don't want to lose your job. Your show is one of the top shows in the country. What would we do if you lost it?"
"I'd host another show called 'Bart Tells All' where I would expose all the nuts in this world."
The next day, Tell's show was saturated with callers declaring they had recently seen strange and bizarre faces that could belong to aliens. Bart let six of them tell their stories sandwiched in between two guest speakers, one of whom maintained there was an obvious correlation of recent mutations of higher animals to reportings of flying saucers, and the other who suggested the spirit world was comprised of the fourth through seventh dimensions.
Among these callers, another ex-CIA worker confirmed the story of the previous day about another person employed by the CIA who told him a half-dozen or more beings were under custody who resembled humans in many respects, but were alien in others. The discrepancies included the absence of nostrils and eyes, but often not together. These monstrosities were undergoing extensive physiological and mental testing. As the tests were executed under the highest security, no information for the public was expected to be forthcoming.
Twenty minutes after the show, Tell received a call from Silverton. "Well done, Tell. We estimate from our preliminary survey that we had at least twenty percent more listeners at the end of the show than we had at the beginning of it. I told you that you had to concentrate on aliens and UFO's. Your guests were all right, but just a little too technical for our listeners. I didn't even understand all that garbage about how the helix shape of DNA depends on the chemical makeup of the cell. But I was stimulated by that CIA story. You have to follow that one up. People love to hear clandestine activities of the CIA. Nothing like a cover up story."
Tell's distaste for Silverton became even more bitter after hearing this. The guy would probably sell his own mother just to increase the number of listeners on the station. "Glad you're happy, Mr. Silverton. We'll keep it going for a few days and see how it goes." He then hung up after telling him he had another call.
For the rest of the week Bart limited each show to having just one or two anxious people to relate their stories of alien-like creatures. At the end of the week Silverton gave him another call, admonishing him for deemphasizing the alien interest that had showed much promise at the beginning of the week. "I know how many people called in to offer stories about seeing alien faces, and I know how many of them you had on your program. I think I deserve an explanation for the big discrepancy in the numbers."
"I'm just trying to strike a reasonable balance. I don't want to play this thing too big all at once. If I drag it out, my listeners will stay longer."
"That's not what we're seeing, Tell. Your attendance yesterday was down thirteen percent from the day before. That shows me you're playing it down too much. I think you had better listen to me. I hate to have to remind you that your show's contract is up for renewal in a couple of months."
Bart swam an extra fifteen laps that evening in his 50-meter pool. Nadine was already on her second martini by the time he had toweled off and sat down at the table with her next to the pool.
"My, you're energetic this evening," she said.
Tell understood she knew without his saying that he had a worse than a bad day at work. Whenever he did, he swam extra laps. Five extras was indicative of a mildly bad day, ten indicative of a horrible day, fifteen...well that elicited a series of unmentionable adjectives. In as few words as possible he related to her how Silverton has admonished him for his cutting back on the number of people he had been having on the show talking about possible aliens they had seen.
"Honey, you're going to get fired if you don't play his game," Nadine said, scowling. "I thought you were going to go along with it. What's the harm? If you're right, your ratings will go down soon, and then you can do things the way you want again. Don't you see?"
"I guess I'm just being too stubborn," he replied.
Later in the evening, Bart reviewed the received show e-mail that had been screened at the studio and then sent to him. Although his radio show received hundreds of messages a day, the severe screening at the studio meant that he was limited to seeing two or three dozen of them.
Despite being tired and still somewhat bummed out from his fifteen extra laps kind of day and maybe his excessive martini drinking this evening, he skimmed through the 22 messages. One, however, got his intense attention. It was comprised of a note of few words and an attached impressive photograph. The note read: "Dear Mr. Tell, I thought you might be interested in the photo I'm sending. I took it on March 4th of this year while I was hiking alone. If you're interested in knowing more, you will have to talk to me in person. I'll call you tomorrow at the station at 12:00. If you're interested in seeing me, please say yes right away when I call, and then I'll tell you where we can meet. Thank you."
No name and the e-mail address was from a public library. The photo showed the close-up of a face of what looked like a human except it had an extremely short nose appearing to have no nostrils, eyes that seemed too low on the head and placed too close together. The hair, black and straight, appeared stiff and unruly, almost all of it sticking straight out from the skull, resembling pins in a cushion. Only the upper body was shown. It was clothed with what seemed to be a material that was neither fabric or metal. Slightly wrinkled, it was tight-fitting and long-sleeved. The being's arms seemed to be in the swing that would occur while walking. The hands were clenched, revealing the knuckles. One of the hands was positioned so he could see all of them. Making a closer inspection, he suddenly became aware that there were six of them.
Tell began laughing. He did not know that it was from the absurdity of the photo, the effects of the alcohol, or just the culmination of all the events of the day.
The first thing Tell did the next day at the station was to consult with Tim Bradley about the photo that he cleared to e-mail to him the day before. "What do you make of that thing, Tim?"
Tim smiled and said, "It's getting tougher all the time to be able to say without question that photos are counterfeits, especially with the use of digital cameras. With the better equipment and more savvy amateurs, it's making me earn my money. I must say that alien picture looked pretty authentic. I couldn't detect any touch-ups to hide those nostrils, and I suppose the rest of the features could have been real -- although those close-set eyes...I don't know."
"So what you're telling me is that picture could be authentic?"
"I'm afraid so, Bart. You're going to okay it for your website, aren't you?"
"You bet. It should be a best seller," Tell said, grinning. "Just be sure the disclaimer goes with it."
He then went to his office to review the agenda for his show that day before his caller was due to call at 12:00, still a few minutes away. Having a gut feeling that the guy would not call, he jumped when the phone rang at the top of the hour.
"What's your answer?" the voice asked in a monotone.
"Yes," Tell answered.
"Tony's Bar & Grill" in fifteen minutes at the bar."
"See you there."
Tell had been to Tony's just once in his life, five years ago when the station had an impromptu party to celebrate the engagement of Jack O'Chevsky, one of the station editors. Entering, brought back memories of the drunken party at the table in the center of the room, which would seat sixteen persons. They must have spent at least six hours eating, drinking, toasting, joking, before kissing and shaking hands -- depending on the gender of the exchange -- at that table. Now in haste he walked through the eating area and headed for the enclosed bar.
The bar was empty except for the nervous acting man, aged about forty, at the far end, who left his stool as soon as he saw Tell enter.
"Hi," he said, are you Mr. Bart Tell?"
"Yes sir, and are you the man who called me?"
The man walked to the far end of the room and sat in a booth before answering. "Have a seat. Yeah, I'm the guy who called you. My name's Ogden Stapleton. Glad to meet you."
"You guys want something to drink?" the bartender yelled from behind the bar.
"How about a beer, Mr. Tell?"
"Fine with me," Tell answered, thinking that he shouldn't be drinking beer just before going on the air.
"Two Buds, please."
Tell was studying Stapleton all the while. What he saw was a Caucasian man in his late thirties, of medium height and build, an average face, receding brown hair, casually dressed and without any body jewelry. Somebody you might see in the street and never remember again.
"Now what's this all about?" Tell asked.
"I'll make it short. Last week I was up in British Columbia hiking by myself at Radium Hot Springs. I was on this trail about to take some pictures with my camera when all of a sudden this guy comes charging around the bend just up the trail. Immediately, I could see that he looked real strange, so I snapped a picture of him. As quick as a flash, he put his hands up to his face, turned around and ran back up the trail. So help me God."
"That's it? You never saw him again?"
"Nope. Once I recovered my wits, I hurried around the bend to see if I could see him up the trail, but he was out of sight. He musta been moving faster than hell."
Before Tell could think of a question, the bartender had brought their beer. Taking a swig, he said, "Could you tell that the guy had no nostrils before you took his picture?"
"Yeah, but first I was startled by his eyes and his hair sticking out all over the place. When I saw the nose that's when I took his picture, I think."
"Why did you e-mail a copy of the picture to the station?"
"I listen to you guys all the time, and I knew you would be intrigued by it. If I had given it to anybody else, they would have just laughed at me."
Tell grinned and said, "Yeah, you're probably right. I talked to our head technician about the photo and he can't see anything fake about it. You have to remember, Mr. Stapleton, we get a lot of fake pictures sent to us."
"Is that so?"
"Did you observe anything else mysterious while you were there, Mr. Stapleton?"
"No, everything went fine. Needless to say, I soon left the area and did the rest of my sightseeing in my car."
"So that was the end of your mysterious adventure?"
Stapleton looked at Tell intently with his dull gray eyes and said, "No, I wish it was."
"What do you mean?"
"On the way home to Los Angeles I thought I saw a green Mazda following me from time to time."
Tell was beginning to place less credence on Stapleton's story. "Are you sure it wasn't just because your senses were hypersensitive from seeing that strange face?"
Stapleton looked hurt. "No, Mr. Tell, You'll find me a cool guy under pressure. I kept seeing this green Mazda every day all the way to L.A."
"Do you still see it?" Tell asked, still doubting its existence.
"No, but now I see a guy following me sometimes."
Tell was debating whether he should now excuse himself and go back to the station. Instead, he asked what he looked like.
"Not like an alien -- like a regular guy, but maybe a couple inches over six feet and a good build."
"Have you thought of telling the police about all this?"
"Are you kidding? Once I mentioned I had an alien picture, they'd lock me up."
Tell shook his head side-to-side. "You don't even have to mention the picture. Just say some guy is stalking you. They'll put a trailer on you and get the guy. If he's an alien, you'll be famous," he said as he rose from the table.
"Just a minute, Mr. Tell. Do you think I could be on your show?"
So that's it, thought Tell. This whole thing is about getting on my show. Now I'm certain that photo is a fake.
"Just call the station and they'll fix you up with a day they'll put you on. Got to go now, Mr. Stapleton. Got a show to give. Thanks for the beer."
Tell was happy he had chosen to walk to Tony's from the station, as he needed the exercise. Walking back at a brisk pace while thinking of the brief conversation he had with Stapleton, he glanced back over his shoulder without any conscious reason. He saw a solitary figure, taller than the average man, clad in a dark coat -- even though the temperature was in the seventies -- and a brimmed hat. Trailing him by about fifty feet, the man showed no sign of trouble. Continuing on, Tell was smiling at even thinking that the man could be following him. After turning the corner at 7th St. and seeing the guy do the same while maintaining the same distance behind him, his smile disappeared, replaced by a frown from the thought that there might be a remote possibility the man was following him. I know how to solve this little worry, he thought. I'll just go down the alley here instead of waiting to get to the next street to turn right.
After walking about sixty feet down the alley, he glanced back over his left shoulder. The same man had already turned into the alley and was maintaining the same approximate distance behind him. That son of a bitch is following me.
The follower was still with him when Tell arrived at the radio station. When he reached the top of the steps in front of the building, he stopped and turned around. The man kept his pace without so much as turning his head as he walked by the steps to continue his way down the sidewalk. Tell got a good look at him so as to be able to recognize him if he ever saw him again. That guy was following me, but I'd guess he has nothing to do with Stapleton.
Tell didn't have much trouble convincing himself to make the car trip to Pahrump, Nevada. If the trip turned out the way he thought, he would at least have a story to tell his listeners. If it did not, he would have the number one story of all time. Just four days ago, he received a call at the station from Max Thorpe, a well-known amateur investigator of the paranormal, extrasensory phenomena, and UFO sightings. Thorpe, a bachelor and an eccentric multi-millionaire, thanks to an inheritance, had spent his entire adulthood hopping from place to place all over the world in his private planes to investigate such things as bizarre cuttings in corn fields in Iowa to hunting werewolves in Leipzig, Germany.
According to Thorpe, he had just returned home from British Columbia where he had witnessed evidence of a UFO takeoff and landing area. What was intriguing, he said, was that it was not just a one-time access area. The evidence proved beyond the shadow of doubt -- in his own words -- that it was a takeoff and landing area for multiple operations by UFO's.
When Tell had asked him why he was inviting him to view the site, he answered, "I'm getting sick and tired of official authorities pooh poohing my findings. They're afraid of their reputations. They don't want to be considered sacrilegious, believers of supernatural activities, and accepting that intelligent life is observing us from outer space. So, since you are known as a supporter of objective investigations in these areas, I decided to convince you of the truth of my latest findings. At least you can get the word out to people who have open minds. What better way to convince you then to show you the evidence? I asked myself."
So here he was, driving himself to his place on Cherokee St. in Pahrump, which was just a short distance from Las Vegas. From his private field, just outside of the town, they would fly his airplane to Seattle, Washington to pick up another influential person interested in UFO's, and then fly to British Columbia.
Tell was not quite sure when he had reached the town. The place was that spread out -- a few houses or, more often, dilapidated mobiles here and there and maybe a gas station or a junk yard in other places -- he was beginning to wonder if there really was a town. At last he found Cherokee St. and Thorpe's house without ever seeing anything resembling a downtown section. Stopping in front of the large, but unpretentious house, he was greeted to a gust of wind blowing fine-grained dust in his face, making him wonder when was the last time it had rained in this arid wasteland.
Just as he turned to go towards the house, a small man with unnaturally pinkish skin and slits for eyes greeted him at the curb. He had on a sports shirt, slacks and, rather strangely, leather gloves. "You must be Bart Tell. I'm Max Thorpe. Please to meet you."
After shaking hands, Thorpe said, "I'd invite you in, but if you don't mind, I think we better get to my runway. Do you mind if we use your car?"
"Not at all," Tell said. "What about your luggage?"
"Already in the plane," Thorpe answered.
They must have driven fifteen miles before Thorpe had Tell turn off onto a little-used dirt road. "How come your field is so far from town, Max?"
"New zoning laws forced me to close down my field just out of town. I plan to build a hanger out here as soon as I can."
Ten minutes later, Tell could see a large airplane that was enclosed in a huge, opaque plastic cover. Pulling up to within thirty yards of it, as directed by Thorpe, two men who had been on the other side of the aircraft walked into view and met them as they exited the car. After brief introductions the two men began preparing the aircraft for takeoff, first removing the plastic cover, while Thorpe suggested they get on board.
"How come you had your airplane all covered up that way?" Tell asked.
Thorpe laughed before saying, "With no hanger and all this wind out here and blowing dust, it must be done."
The interior resembled nothing Tell had seen before. A passenger area had a dozen seats arranged in somewhat of a haphazard manner. Unusual compartments lined the walls afforded by the absence of ports with the exception of one small one on each side of the aircraft.
"What kind of airplane is this?" asked Tell, who was only familiar with commercial passenger airplanes.
"It was designed by one of my personnel. I call it the Red Alert."
"Real nice," Tell said, realizing the futility of trying to say anything more intelligent.
A few minutes later, after Tell could hear noise in the cockpit, the engines started running with little noise, making a high pitched sound. "This sounds like a jet"
"Yes, it is," Thorpe said, his pink, puckered lips appearing to be smiling.
Seconds later they were off and climbing steeply, heading north. "Who is this fellow we're going to pick up in Seattle?" Tell asked.
"A friend of mine who is a supporter of my work. I often take him on my trips. I think you two will become friends."
The two of them talked for a few more minutes before Thorpe rose and excused himself and then headed for the cockpit area. This was just after Tell had heard a rumbling noise sounding as if it were a massive structure moving on the outside of the aircraft. Tell unfastened his seat belt and headed to one of the two ports so he could look outside. Although it was too small to afford a good view either fore or aft, what he saw, or rather what he did not see, caused him great alarm. Then he was aware of another surprise: Although the day had been clear at the time of takeoff, the sky was rather dark, as if nightfall were approaching.
As he was standing there, staring in disbelief out the port, he heard Thorpe return. Turning around, he screamed when he saw him. The man with a pinkish face and slits for eyes was now a man with a darker skin, eyes set too closely together and low on the forehead, and a thin nose without evidence of nostrils.
"What, what the hell?" he screamed again.
The man, now dressed in a tight-fitting, one-piece attire and what resembled a skull cap covered with pores, was pointing at him with what resembled a thin flashlight.
"As you can see, I took off my mask. Please, Mr. Tell, I think it best for you to sit back down with your seat belt on."
"I...I don't understand. Is this some kind of joke?" Tell was hoping.
"No joke, Mr. Tell. In fifteen minutes we'll be rendezvousing with the spaceship."
Ever curious, even in the throes of an impossible scenario, Tell asked, "What happened to the wings?"
Thorpe, or whoever had been Thorpe, laughed. "Always the observer aren't you, Mr. Tell. We don't need them at these altitudes. They fold back automatically when aerodynamic control is no longer available."
"I take it you aren't Mr. Thorpe?" Tell said, trying to create some levity to lessen the stark reality of the situation. But he realized he failed when he heard the answer:
"No, I'm afraid we had to kidnap Mr. Thorpe also for the same reason that we have kidnapped you. He has been delivered to our spaceship already."
"But why are you kidnapping me?" Tell asked while he pinched himself to make certain he hadn't passed out from lack of oxygen.
"Because you are making too many people cognizant of our presence on Earth, Mr. Tell. We need people like you on our planet anyway. Our physiologists will have a field day with you, Mr. Tell. Oh, don't worry, you'll be treated with kindness. You might even be given the chance to have your own show again. Instead of raising questions about the unknown, you can describe for our people the ways and wonders of your world."
© 2008 Terry Larson
Bio: Terry Larson is a retired NASA aeronautical space engineer, now busily engaged in mostly sci-fi writing. He has self-published two novels ("House of Parrotise" and "Trail Angels and Devils") through Xlibris.com. This last year he has had ten short stories published on internet magazines, including two, A Dog's Story and Beyond Dreaming that appeared in the March and September 2008 editions of Aphelion.
E-mail: Terry Larson
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