by Kelli A. Wilkins
“They all claim to have been abducted by aliens?” Carl turned and stared at the crowd. Everywhere he looked, people sat cross-legged on blankets chanting, meditating, and shaking tiny bells on green strings.
“Not claim, and not abducted.” Jim brushed a lock of black hair away from his face. “These experiences are real. And we use the term visited. After all, these ‘aliens’ as you call them, have enlightened us, not kidnapped us.”
“Right.” Carl nodded. As a reporter for the weekly tabloid The Investigator, he had no choice but to cover the latest, most bizarre “newsworthy event” if he liked his job.
Over the last three years, he’d been to every Bigfoot sighting, UFO abduction site, and haunted house in the country. He was used to keeping a straight face and “getting the facts” when dealing with crackpots, but something about this story didn’t sit right in his gut.
For the past six months, people claiming to have been abducted by aliens were flocking to Jim Karcher’s isolated ranch in the Nevada desert. They all said the same thing – they were waiting for a UFO to whisk them away into space before the world ended.
“I know people don’t believe me, Carl. They think I’m a hoaxster trying to make a profit—or worse, some kind of radical cult leader who’s going to wipe out everyone here.” Jim leaned back in his chair and shook his head.
“None of that is true. Trust me, I’m a peaceful man. I invited the media here for this spectacular event, and you, from that little supermarket newspaper, are the only one who came.” Jim frowned. “Why can’t the world see this is serious? Things are changing. Tonight—”
“—is the big … ascent?”
“Yes.” Jim turned and spoke directly into the video cameras recording his every word. “The world has not taken my predictions seriously. After we’re gone, remember I tried to warn you, and you laughed.”
Carl’s skin prickled. There was no mistaking the grave tone in Jim’s voice. Was he crazy? Most people thought so. How could anyone with a rational mind believe all this UFO nonsense?
He flipped the page in his notebook and glanced over his shoulder. The “abductees” were sitting on their blankets, humming and chanting. None of them had moved in the hour he’d been here. He cleared his throat and turned on his concerned, “incredibly interested” reporter voice.
“Jim, I’m here to get your side of the story. Let me make sure I understand everything correctly. According to you, the world will end in six months, and your group was chosen to escape in a UFO, right?” He held his breath, amazed he was able to say all that with a straight face.
“It’s a spaceship,” Jim corrected. “Not a UFO. UFOs are unidentified. We know who we’re going with and where we’re going.”
“And where exactly is that?”
“To another dimension.”
Carl bit the inside of his mouth to keep from smirking. “I see. And how did you choose this group of followers?”
“They’re not my followers. I didn’t pick them. I don’t even know most of them. These people are a cross-section of the human race, a representation of Earthlings. Each one of them was selected through an alien encounter. We all received psychic messages to assemble here and wait for the ascent.”
Carl glanced at the video camera. Not satisfied with the meager turnout from the media, Jim had decided to make a video diary leading up to the big event. What was Jim hoping for, to be the latest Internet sensation? Or maybe he’d made a deal with some wacky producer to film this as a serious sci-fi documentary, like that alien autopsy.
“I’m sure my readers would like to know … how can you be so sure of something like this? Other groups have claimed the world was ending and then the next day—”
“You’ll see for yourself tonight when they come for us,” Jim said, rising. “This explains it all.”
Jim handed him a thick box. “These are my journals. After we’re gone, publish them. People need to be prepared for the end.”
“Sure. I understand,” Carl said. It didn’t matter what he really thought, just as long as he brought back a good story. But what would happen when the spaceship didn’t show? How quickly would Jim recant his prediction? Or did he have something else planned?
Carl gazed around at the hundreds of followers. They sat on blankets with their suitcases next to them, waiting. According to Jim, they had each written letters home saying good-bye and explaining why they were leaving.
After years of investigating freaks and fakes, he was used to hoaxes, but something about this situation felt different. He’d had a nagging feeling about it all day. Before dark, he placed a call to the local sheriff to get his comment on the situation. The sheriff said that “a bunch of weirdoes sitting in the desert waiting for a UFO” wasn’t against the law and hung up.
Carl checked his watch. 11:58. A warm breeze blew across the desert. Everyone looked skyward at the same time. He shot Jim a nervous glance. “What if they scoop me up, too?”
Jim chuckled. “Don’t worry. They won’t. If they wanted you, you’d know it.”
“They’re coming!” someone shouted.
Carl looked where several people pointed. A faint blue-white dot streaked across the sky. The group rose in unison. A large silver ship came closer, hovering over the crowd.
The hairs on Carl’s arms stood on end. “This can’t be real,” he whispered.
“Take the journals. Play the video. Learn the truth,” Jim said, as a brilliant white light beamed down on him.
The next thing Carl knew, he was sitting on the ground. There was no sign of the spaceship—or anyone else. He scrambled to his feet and ran back to the ranch house. It was deserted. “It’s like a bus came by and picked them all up. They disappeared.”
His knees wobbled, and he flopped into Jim’s chair. He sat there, stunned by the realization that Jim wasn’t crazy after all. He’d been right about the UFO, and if he’d been telling the truth about that … what else did he know?
Carl spotted one of Jim’s journals lying on the table. He picked it up and flipped to the first page. He had a lot of reading to do—and six months wasn’t much time.
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 90 short stories, seventeen romance novels, and four non-fiction books. Her speculative fiction has appeared in The Sun, Weird Tales, Dark Moon Digest, The First Line, and in several anthologies, including: Wrapped in White, Mistresses of the Macabre, Haunted, The Four Horsemen: An Anthology of Conquest, War, Famine & Death, Frightmares: A Fistful of Flash Fiction Horror, What If…, Dark Things II: Cat Crimes: Tales of Feline Mayhem and Murder, The Best of the First Line, and more.
Kelli publishes a blog (http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/) filled with excerpts, interviews, writing prompts, and whatever else pops into her head. She also writes a monthly newsletter, Kelli’s Quill. She invites readers to visit her website, www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings.
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