Beyond the Western
It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple chicken eater; and it looked pretty weird to me. I had never seen one before so I thought I might try to capture this one; unfortunately, it thought the same thing about me. That’s just one of the perils of being an alien hunter.
I had been contacted by a farmer in Arkansas to see if I could help stop the mysterious raids on his chicken houses. He had reported the problem to the local authorities but all they had done was come out to look at the scene, jot down a few notes and head back to the donut shop. The raids continued, and the reports continued to pile up at the local sheriff’s office, until the farmer’s daughter was surfing the net and happened upon my web site. The web site was my only advertisement. It boasted the headline: STRANGE AND UNUSUAL OCCURANCES? YOU MIGHT NEED THE SERVICES OF JEFF POWERS, ALIEN HUNTER! I kept pretty busy with the business generated by that web site. You would be surprised by the number of people who have crossed paths with an alien of some kind.
I followed the directions I had been given over the phone and turned off the pavement onto a gravel road. Farmer Jones lived about three miles off the highway near the end of the dusty road. I’ll call him Farmer Jones instead of using his real name in order to protect his privacy. Also, if any of the kook alien hunters got wind of where he lived, they would show up trampling his crops, breaking down his fences and being a general nuisance. What I really worried about was a group of amateurs showing up and taking a shot at an alien with a .22 rifle. Think about it. These aliens travel light years to get to our planet and we blast them with a squirrel gun. All that’s going to do is make them mad as all get out, and then we would all be in for it.
I was glad I was driving a truck because the road was a washboard of rocks and red clay with potholes big enough to swallow an overweight elephant. When I came to the end of the road I pulled into the drive of an older white house in bad need of a new coat of paint, Farmer Jones was in the front yard waiting for me. His wife was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. She didn’t look real happy as she was frowning from ear to ear. The old man came forward and shook my hand, “Glad you’re here, young man. We need your help.” I introduced myself and gathered my supplies from the truck.
“Let’s see what we have,” I said, ready to get started.
As we passed the front porch the farmers’ wife was rocking the chair at top speed. Farmer Jones stopped in front of her. “Lucy, this is Jeff Powers, the alien hunter.”
“For God’s sake, Amos. Don’t tell anyone he’s an alien hunter. Tell them he’s from the agriculture department. We don’t want people to think we’ve gone completely nuts!”
“The cops haven’t helped us a bit. We need someone who knows what they are doing,” the old man grumped in reply.
“It was bad enough when we switched from the Baptist church to become Holy Rollers. Now with this alien business everyone will really think we’ve completely gone off the deep end!” She continued her railing against my presence as we rounded the corner of the house and headed for a series of large buildings which held the chickens.
“Don’t pay any attention to her,” laughed the old man as we came to a stop in front of the first chicken house. “She doesn’t believe in aliens.”
Apparently, I had arrived at a good time. There had been another mysterious raid the night before. The first chicken house had a large hole torn in the side. I took a tape measure from my pocket and measured the opening. It was about five-foot-high and nearly four foot wide. There were about thirty dead chickens lying in a pile a few feet from the opening. All the chickens were missing their heads, which were lying scattered in all directions. I took several pictures of the scene. The heads seem to have been torn off and thrown at random.
“Is this pretty much what happened before?”
“Yeah. It’s always the same. Whatever it is; it always rips a hole in the wall, takes thirty or forty chickens and tears their heads off.”
I walked around the area taking pictures and making notes. “Are there any kind of wild animals in this area that could do something like this?” I asked, as I surveyed the stack of lifeless chickens.
“No, the critters around here would just kill the chickens and make a meal out of them. Whatever this is rips their heads off and leaves them in a stack. Also, do you notice anything unusual about the chickens?”
I squatted down in front of the little headless corpses and picked up one of the chickens and examined it. Then it struck me.
“Right,” replied the farmer. “They have all been drained of blood. Not a drop left.”
I nodded, now understanding what had happened. “Whatever it was, it tore their heads off, and sucked the blood right out of their necks.”
“Right,” the old farmer nodded, in agreement.
“How many times has this happened?”
“Six times, it started about six weeks ago. Always at night and about a week between raids.”
“Did you see anything unusual on the nights of the attacks? Any strange lights, sounds, noises?”
“The dogs go wild, barking, yelping and carrying on. Different from what they usually do when strangers or possums come around.”
I had noticed that the old farmer had two big Golden Retrievers that had greeted me when I pulled into the drive. They had been pretty friendly and the most hostile action I had seen from them was when they ran out to greet me and peed on my tires even before my truck had rolled to a complete stop.
“So, the dogs act differently. Anything else?”
“After the first raid I started paying closer attention to the dogs. When they started the funny yelping, I grabbed my gun and headed outside. A couple of times I could have sworn that I saw a giant bat flying away. Lucy doesn’t like for me to tell people about that.”
“How big was the bat?”
“Its’ body was probably a good five feet long, and it’s wingspan must have been at least ten feet.”
I whistled in awe at the size of the bat, “Sounds like a bat on steroids. Has anyone else seen it?”
“Not that I know of. My guess is that most people would just keep quiet about it.”
“Have you told anyone about it?”
“Just Lucy. She told me to keep my mouth shut or I would end up back in the nut house again.”
“I spent a couple of weeks in the nut ward about ten years ago. I made the mistake of telling people about a bunch of flying saucers that hovered over my back pasture for five nights in a row. Everyone thought I had lost it. The doctor thought I was hallucinating. He figured two weeks at Happy Acres and a ton of medication would get me back on the right track again. But I know what I saw.”
I wondered how things always worked out that way. I bet about ninety-eight percent of my clients had spent time in some sort of mental facility. Stranger still was the fact that I usually believed what they had to say.
I believed the old farmer. I thought we had a legitimate case here. Exactly what kind I was a little unsure of. Obviously, a bloodsucker of some type. I hadn’t crossed paths with any blood sucking aliens before, so this was a new one on me. Alien vampire?
I decided that I would need to stakeout the chicken houses at night to wait for the bloodsucking creature to show up for its next meal. I found a good spot in the bushes where I could settle in for the night without being seen. After I had plotted strategy, I checked into the local one-star motel where I could sleep during the day since I was keeping watch all night.
The first three nights were uneventful. Typical night creatures were on the prowl, possums, owls and an occasional raccoon would meander by. I did get a start as I was kicked back looking at the stars when I noticed a skunk about a foot away from the tree I was leaning against. It wandered on past and didn’t even seem to notice I was there. It seemed to be headed somewhere with a purpose in mind. I didn’t see any snakes, thank goodness. My friends always give me a hard time over the snake issue. “You don’t mind hand-to-hand combat with a space alien that has six hands, but you set the world’s record in the 100-meter dash to get away from a little garden snake.” I don’t deny it. Snakes and my second ex-wife are about the only things in life that are guaranteed to make me turn and run for it.
After three days (and nights) on the job things had been pretty slow. I usually stopped at Betty Mays’ Diner for breakfast after a long night on stakeout duty. It was a little greasy spoon place across the street from the motel I was staying at. Betty Mays’ was the only restaurant in town, and they had great pancakes. They also had a cute little blonde waitress by the name of Sarah. When she walked across the room it looked like a couple of bobcats fighting in a gunnysack. I mean, there was some action when that girl moved. Every guy in town would have been there for breakfast even if the pancakes had been awful.
Sarah always made a point to stop by my table to flirt and giggle while she made sure my coffee cup was full. I was starting to envision her as my fifth ex-wife, until she giggled and said, “You really remind me of my daddy.” Well, so much for that idea, but at least the pancakes were good.
That night the action picked up in a big way. A little before midnight I was leaning back against my favorite oak tree and if the truth be told I might have been dozing just a little. From out of nowhere a bright light zipped across the horizon and before I knew it a bright round, space craft was slowly descending into the meadow that separated my spot in the underbrush from the chicken houses.
Before I could get to my equipment the spaceship had settled to a stop in the meadow and all lights had powered off. I got out the high-powered camera and quietly began snapping pictures like crazy. Suddenly, there was a soft humming sound and an opening appeared in the side of the craft. A walkway silently lowered to the ground. Dull green light came from the opening and provided a dim view of the meadow. I had the camera at the ready for whatever came out of the craft.
Slowly, it came walking down the ramp; the dull green light caused it to cast a long menacing shadow onto the clearing. I was starting to think I might be in over my head on this one, but the shadow was scarier than what came strolling down the entrance ramp. Because what came down the ramp was a short green alien about four feet tall. As best I could tell in the poor lighting it had an extra-large head and two very large eyes.
It was a Green. They were usually not anything to be afraid of. The worst thing they did would be to use a memory eraser on you if they caught you spying on them. I think I had it used on me about five years ago. I found myself wandering through the woods at daybreak and my only memory from the night before was the feeling of a burning pain in my head. It hurt like a son-of-a-gun and I had a headache for the next few days. But that was about it. The Grays were another story. They weren’t as smart as the Greens, but they were a whole lot meaner. The Greens might use the memory eraser on you, but the Grays would fry your butt with a space cannon.
The alien quickly walked to the side of the craft and tinkered around with something for minute or two. Then a long metal rod, like a car radio antenna rose from the top of the craft. The rod began making a high-pitched humming sound as four more aliens came out of the craft. Two of them were much smaller, like children. They looked toward the clear moonlit sky and began making shrill yelping sounds. In a way it kind of sounded like my second ex-wife when she was telling me what a worthless bum I was. They seemed to be hunting for something.
I was so intent on what was happening with the craft that I nearly had a heart attack when a loud swishing noise went right over the top of my head. I dropped my camera and rolled into a clump of bushes. After I saw I wasn’t about to have my head torn off and the blood sucked from my body I cautiously peeked out from my hiding spot.
A large, purple creature that resembled a cross between a bat and a dragon slowly flew around the meadow near the spacecraft. The little green guys were yelling and chasing after the giant bat as it circled the meadow. They were trying to catch it! The bat landed about fifty feet in front of the craft and the biggest alien made a beeline toward it. He was carrying a long metal rod that glowed a dim blue color. As he neared the creature a beam of light streaked from the metal rod. The bat took to the air just in time to miss being zapped by the light beam. The bat dropped to the ground on the far side of the field. The big alien changed direction quicker than an NFL running back and headed for the bat’s new location. He was joined by the rest of the aliens who seemed to be trying to coax the bat to follow them back to the ship. It reminded me of the time I took my dog Barney for walk in the park. He somehow got off his leash and I spent the afternoon trying to catch him. It was fun and games to him and he seemed to enjoy himself. Then it struck me; they were trying to catch their pet. This was an alien dog. Ol’ Rover, the space dog. They weren’t having any better luck with Rover than I had with Barney.
Rover would wait until they were almost to where he was sitting then he would take to the air again. The aliens were becoming frustrated. They were shaking their fists at the bat and the big guy put his thumb and the first of his three fingers together and brought his hand up in front of his eye and began yelling at the top of his lungs. He did that several times. As best I could figure that gesture was the alien equivalent to flipping off someone.
Nobody was going to believe this. I needed my camera. It was lying at the edge of the clearing where I had dropped it earlier when I had dived into the underbrush. The aliens were busy chasing Rover, so I figured I was safe in snatching the camera from the clearing. I hadn’t counted on the bat seeing me, but he spotted me from the far side of the meadow and bounded through the air and landed right in front of me. That thing was scary from a distance, but up close and personal it was downright terrifying. He reared up on his back legs and stared at me with his large eye that was at the center of his forehead. He had a long silver horn that protruded from the center of his purple, scaly snout. There were three bright green spots on the underside of his purple body. To top it off he stank to high heaven.
I didn’t like the way he was looking at me. I think he was planning on taking me prisoner. I figured I would try to do the same with him. I had a rope in my supply stash under a nearby tree. I began backing away from Rover, moving in the general direction of my rope. I thought that if I could get to the rope, I would use it as a lariat to lasso the purple beast, tie him to a tree, and then make a run for it. I figured that the aliens would haul out of there as soon as they found out they had been spotted. Once they left, I would come back and try to figure out what to do with Rover the space dog.
That was one of those ideas that we all get from time to time where we look back on it and say, “Man, what were you thinking?” Fortunately, I didn’t have a chance to put that plan into action. Gunshots sliced through the night air. Farmer Jones had heard the racket and had come running with his trusty shotgun. He peppered the meadow, spaceship and surrounding underbrush with a hailstorm of twelve-gauge buckshot.
The aliens had been so busy chasing their pet that the old farmer had caught them off guard. The gunfire and resulting commotion had confused the space dog as he swiveled his head around so his eye could take in all the action. That was the break the aliens were looking for; the big green guy shot a bolt of light from the metal rod that hit the bat. It was a tractor beam. A leash made of light to lead the reluctant Rover.
I made another play for my camera at the same time buckshot began raining down on my position. I dove face first into the ground as the farmer kept up the barrage. Finally, a break in the gunfire gave me the chance to look up to see what was happening. Just as I raised my head, the big alien came tearing through the underbrush at full speed, tripped over me and plowed headfirst into a large oak tree. He sat up and rubbed his head, as he did, he noticed my camera on the ground. He snatched it with his long scaly green fingers, jumped to his feet and was gone before I had a chance to react.
In the distance, I could hear the farmer yelling, “Lucy, bring me some more ammo! There’s little green men everywhere! Eat my chickens! By God, I’ll fix ‘em!”
I looked toward the spacecraft. The two little aliens had the tractor beam and were pulling Rover onto the craft. The big guy stopped momentarily as he bounded up the walkway into the ship. He rubbed his head and looked at me. As I stared at him, he put his thumb and his first finger together and brought his hand up to his eye and yelled something. He flipped me off! Flipped off by an alien! Nobody’s gonna believe this; especially since that green sucker swiped my camera. As the walkway began pulling back into the spaceship the big alien continued to stare at me. He rubbed his head again and gave me the alien finger again. There was only one thing to do; I flipped him off, Earth style. He didn’t get a chance to respond because Farmer Jones had reloaded and had cut loose with another volley of buckshot. The alien spacecraft leaped into the air and was gone in a flash of light. Within seconds it was just a tiny speck on the far horizon.
Farmer Jones, Lucy and I spent the rest of the night drinking coffee and reliving the wild events of the night. He was tickled pink that Lucy had actually seen the aliens. She was a believer now. “Lord, have mercy! There were little green men running around all over the place; and that spaceship just moved so fast.”
The old man just cackled, “I told you there were aliens. You’ll listen to me next time, won’t you?”
“Yes, dear,” sighed Lucy. “Amos, I’m sorry I doubted you.”
I headed out that next morning after one last stop at Betty Mays for the best pancakes in town, and one last chance to flirt with Sarah. As I drove out of town I smiled as I thought of the old farmer blazing away with the shotgun, and the aliens on the run. They may have technology light years ahead of ours but an old man with a twelve-gauge won this skirmish. I smiled and headed back to my office to see where my next case would lead.