Edge of Civilization
Ned opened the passenger side door. Earl hesitated. “Come on man, I’m a licensed professional.”
Earl looked up and down the road. “I’ll walk.”
“Hey old man, you’re gonna die out here all on your lonesome. Let me at least take ya to the next town.” He reached inside his van and pulled out a plastic bottle of water. “Here, have some water. It’ll make you feel better.”
Earl sniffed the water. It needed a little something—whiskey.
“Are you going to drink it or study it? It’s water. Ya know the essence of life.”
Earl took a large swig of water. Now that’s refreshment. The liquid ran through his body bringing more mental clarity.
“Man you are thirsty. I’d give you another, but you seez I gotta keep up my storage. Never know where one of them alien’s gonna lead me to. Once I was trailing a Sephalthon through the Muddy Mountains. Lost up there for a day and night. ”
“Did you catch it?” Earl asked.
“Oh no! The Sephalthons are well known for their shape-shifter ability, but I did find this.” Ned reached into the van and presented Earl with a colorful pottery ray gun.
Earl studied the pottery gun, mesmerized. “Wow! That’s a very impressive find.”
“Exactly,” Ned said as he climbed into the van behind the wheel. “Get in. I’ll give you a lift to civilization.”
Earl climbed in and adjusted his seatbelt. He looked into the back and saw various types of ropes, guns, knives and metal cages. “Say Ned, what do you do with the aliens when you get them?”
“Dissect them of course.” Ned tapped his large square noggin. “Ya know, to see what makes them tick.” Glancing sideways, he noticed Earl’s discomfort. “Hey, ya know they’d dissect us in an instant! And then! And then have sex with us to have their alien babies! That is if they don’t suck out our brains first!”
Earl’s eyes widened with fear—not so much of aliens but of Ned. He clung tightly to his satchel in his lap. “Uh-huh, I see.”
Ned looked curious. “Answer me this old timer.” He leaned in dangerously close. “Are you a believer? Do you believe life exists elsewhere?”
He paused before answering. From the corner of his eye, he saw flashes of an ancient ghost of an Indian warrior, and when he looked around again there was nothing. “I believe life exists everywhere even if we can’t see it.”
Ned nodded with a great wide smile. “All right then.” He laughed boisterously and inserted a cassette into the dashboard. The Monkee’s "I’m a Believer” blared as Earl bounced along in Ned’s old jalopy.
After a mile of bouncing in the hot vinyl seat, Earl finally relaxed and settled in for the ride. So much to see; he could not take his eyes off the scenery. His gray eyes widened noticing Indian carvings on the red rocks.
As Ned drove the car along Earl watched wild burros stalk along the roadside seeking handouts from passing cars and then he saw a sign, “Don’t feed the burros.”
“You know something,” Ned said to Earl, “what goes up must come down.”
Earl tore his focus away from the scenery and looked to Ned. “What’s that you say?”
Ned shook his head confidently. “It’s true. All the spacecraft dump their trash on us. Imagine polluting our Earth.” He shook his head in disgust. “All that trash will come down here. Those inconsiderate slobs are polluting our planet with their alien waste. I see it all over the roads. I saw a show once. They found rocks out here that are extraterrestrial.” He pointed to the sky. “Alien rocks. Alien trash. All around us.”
Ned slowed the van and parked alongside the road. “Wait!” He reached in the back for a 1965 Hoover vacuum cleaner. He glanced at Earl. “You’re about to experience an alien sighting.”
Peeking out the window Earl watched Ned leap through the tall dry grass alongside the road. He was not sure if he should follow or wait in the van. Caution told him to stay put.
“Come on!” Ned urged.
Earl climbed out of the van and followed Ned to the roadside. Ned surveyed the ground carefully with the suction tube of the vacuum cleaner. His beady eyes shifted back and forth in search of something precious. With the reflexes of an alley cat, he set the tube opening over a melted twisted piece of plastic and pretended to suck up the trash “Gotcha!” He admired the object. “Now would you look at this?” He held the piece of garbage against the light of the sky for a better look. “What a beaut!”
Ned displayed the piece in his hand. “She sure is a beaut. Well worth it.” He twisted the object to get another view. “See these fine etchings here that are counter to the twist. This is consistent with the Zeithian race of Spectradoids of Quadrant Five.” Ned rubbed his wrinkled chin. “Ya don’t see much of the Zeithian’s in this region. They’re homebodies, like to stay close to home.”
Earl studied what looked to him like a melted twisted piece of plastic, but he was not going to question Ned. He wondered if the Zeithians Ned described were homebodies what they were doing so far from home? The Zeithians must have some reason for straying from their home planet. Is their planet in peril or are they simply seeking knowledge? Strange he found himself relating to an alien race.