Hawks circled the sky. Some swooped down to get a better look at Earl lying lifelessly. One hawk pecked at his boots while another perched on his shoulder. He twitched and the hawks flew away. Earl’s movement stirred life. Scorpions crept from holes in the dirt. Lizards scurried from under one rock to another. Snakes slithered in the brush.
Suddenly a large shadow loomed over Earl’s sleeping body. He opened his eyes to find a man of Neanderthal stature standing above. The man’s square head blocked out the sun like a solar eclipse. Earl widened his eyes when large hands extended toward him. Earl quickly rolled onto his stomach and tried to squirm away from the giant, but it was no use. The large hands grasped around Earl’s hips and hoisted him upward.
The man set Earl squarely on his feet. “Why, you sure are quick for an old man. Ya almost got away, but I gotcha.”
Studying the man Earl guessed his age to be about forty from the streaks of grey around the man’s temple. Despite the heat of the desert, the man wore a long-sleeved red and black plaid flannel shirt and brown corduroys.
“I thought you was dead.” He extended his hand. “My name’s Ned. This here territory is mine.”
Earl gazed around the desert. “You own this land?”
Ned laughed. “Oh no, I cover this territory.” He pointed to a pale green painted van with an alien logo on the side. “I work for the South Nevada A.R.S.”
Earl scratched his chin “A.R.S.?”
“Alien Recovery Service,” Ned bowed before Earl, “at your service.”
“Aliens, you say?” Earl questioned.
“Yes, sir. Have you seen any?” asked Ned.
Ned demonstrated with his hands. “Ya know, short skinny little dudes—grayish-green skin, big heads with bulging eyes.”
Earl wiped his tired eyes. He gave brief thought to yesterday’s journey and gazed upward at the sky. “No. I haven’t seen aliens.”
“Smart little devils. Ever since we started looking they got better at hiding.” Ned eyed Earl’s aviator cap. “Say, how you get here anyway?” He leaned in toward Earl. “You didn’t come from the sky did ya? You ain’t an alien are ya?”
Earl smoothed his beard. He never thought about it, but the sky was where he felt most comfortable. He looked around the desert and pointed in an uncertain direction. “I think I came from over there.”
Ned folded his arms over his barrel chest. “So what’s your story fella? What are ya doin’ out here?”
Glancing at the ground, he was grateful for the first lucid thought of the morning. “I’m going home.”
“Where’s your home?”
“Not sure. I was looking for signs and wound up here.”
Ned glanced around. “You’re not going to find any signs out here. You need to be on the freeway. That’s where all the signs are. I can take you there.”