Aphelion Issue 294, Volume 28
May 2024
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The Hitchhiker in the Storm

by Jonathan Snyder

If you asked me, I would say that I am not someone who believes in ghost or goblins, of the strange lights that you sometimes hear about in tabloids or on late night talk shows. I am also not that type of person who needs to see it to believe it. That is just a stupid idea since there are many things in this world that we cannot see, but they affect our life. I am what you would call a fence sitter. I prefer to trust my eyes and my gut when it comes to the strange or unexplained. Keep that in mind as I tell you this story.

It was about two weeks ago on that night where we had the horrible storm come through and pretty much trounced the city's electric company causing rolling blackouts across the state. I had decided to go out to grab a few cases of coke and some bread while we were in the eye of the storm and now was rushing back along the heavily wooded roads and trying not to get myself killed on the twisting roads. Miniature rivers of water still rolled across the places where the roads were not flat and even with the help of the moonlight that had miraculously pierced the cloud cover, I still had a good chance of wrapping myself around a tree. That was when I saw him... her... it... I'm not sure what gender you would call it.

I had just crested the hill and had an open shot down the two lane road towards the interstate when I saw him, we'll call it a him, sitting along the side of the road on a long abandoned five gallon bucket. It... he... was slender and gray, the stereotypical oval head and skin ashen and sleek. I remember my heart trilling loudly as my brain tried to process the image I was seeing. The urge to slam on the gas and race past him was almost impossible to resist. Instead though, I inexplicably began to slow down and pulled over off the road beside the creature who, for all tense and purpose, looked rather dejected. It looked up at me through the passenger window (as even sitting on the bucket, he came to eye level of the car), I stared in to those black glassy almost shaped eyes and I was struck by an emotion I did not expect. Pity. I rolled down the window and said the first thing that came to mind.

"Need a lift?"

I was not sure if I was going to panic or laugh when the alien... yeah, I'm going to say it was an alien, stood up slowly and reached for the handle of the door. It popped open, the annoying dinging of the door ajar alarm and dome light the only sound being made. It pulled its tall frame in to the car and sat down. After fumbling with the car's seatbelt, I began to slowly drive.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. I'm sitting in a car, with a Roswell gray style alien, driving down the road towards the latter edge of the storm having no idea where I was to go. I can see how comical it is. I spent the first three minutes of the drive glancing over at the passenger seat to see if maybe I just imagined it all, but each time I found him still sitting there staring out the side window at the city lights that were trying to come back on in patches.

"So, where can I take you? I'm only going as far as the next town." I ventured politely.

The alien looked at me and he gave me a surprised look, well, I think it was surprise.

"You don't want to turn me in to your government?" he asked incredulously. "I mean, here I am, the nightmare of your people sitting in your car."

"Easy, buddy," I said to him surprised at the venom in his words. Well, he didn't really talk, I saw his thin mouth move, but I seemed to have heard it in English. Its an alien, I just trust my gut that it was what it wanted to do. "You looked lost and thought you needed a ride."

Silence reigned in the car for a few more minutes and then it spoke again as I focused on the road ahead.

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For being kind."

For being kind? What did that mean? I pretty much had thrown caution to the wind when I decided to pull over and ask E.T. if he needed a ride.

"What do you mean?"

"Humans. They have always acted horrible towards those they don't understand. I mean, I've been on your planet for only two days and my friends and I was attacked by some people you call hillbillies, and the police called on us and pretty much spit on us because we don't look the same. It's nice to experience some genuine kindness from those who seem to prefer spurning us instead."

"Well," I ventured. "I have heard some pretty scary stories about you guys. Experimentation, kidnapping, all sorts of other things."

"So you hold my whole race responsible for things that a few have done?"

"I see your point."

He did have a point. My gut told me that. I mean, I'm not going to preach to you about how mankind is cruel to each other, we need to get a long, etcetera. That's what the politicians, preachers, and activists are here for. I just know I had a rather depressed and angry alien who seemed to only want to have a peaceful visit, but instead was driven to the road sitting on a bucket in the rain.

"Well, I can't say that we'll ever change any time soon," I said after another two miles and the interstate was coming up. "But we should judge them by their actions."

"Agreed," This alien said with a finality. "Oh, are you familiar with Goldie's Cookout?"

"The one on Birkhead road?" I asked curious. "You do know that placed burned down."

"Oh, yes. That's where our ship is parked. We were supposed to meet there before morning."

So, I did it. I took the interstate, found the route I need and spent the last twenty minutes of the drive in silence. As we pulled up and he got out, four others like him seem to just appear in my vision. They looked much angrier than my friend I just dropped off, but he spoke a few words in a musical language and they quickly softened their expression. About fifty yards behind the burnt remains of Goldie's cookout, I saw a silver saucer hovering off the ground. It gave off a very faint blue glow that was not very noticeable. I rolled down my window as my hitchhiker came up to it. He leaned in the window and gave me the first smile I've seen and it was nice to see something that did not look like the scary alien movies.

"Thank you for the ride. I really appreciate it."

"Least I could do."

"Where do you live?"

"Oh, in Parkersburg. Why do you ask?"

Before I could finish my sentence, or so I thought, I found myself still sitting in my car and the warm first rays of sunlight piercing the storm clouds. I was sitting in the driveway of my house and I looked around confused. Before I could even ask myself how I got there, I heard the alien's voice in my head as if left for me to hear.

So I can return the favor.


2015 Jonathan Snyder

Bio: Mr. Snyder has been writing stories since his mother handed him a college typewriter at the age of twelve. With a love for stories and the written word, he has continued to share his work with anyone willing to hold still long enough to be caught by it. His publication credits include JukePop and Gateway Science Fiction Webzine. His last Aphelion appearance was Fear in our June 2015 issue.

E-mail: Jonathan Snyder

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