I stopped Frank to open his backpack and pull out two flashlights. I gave them to both of my friends. Betty switched hers on to try it, which whitened her face.
“What’s our plan here?” I asked.
Frank pointed at the edge of the nearby forest that we had explored many times, but that usually didn’t contain aliens.
“We walk in there, and if nothing happens, we leave.”
I disliked the implication that we wouldn’t leave the forest if something happened. I narrowed my eyes at Frank, but he gave me an impish grin.
“If nothing else,” Frank added, “I’m hoping to find out how many aliens were in that ship.”
“Yeah, I guess that’d be nice. To know exactly how much trouble we are in.”
When we approached the edge of the forest, I realized how dim the space between the tree trunks, and under the canopy, was already; the sun would hide in less than an hour. I pointed my flashlight at the space between the two trunks that acted as our doorway, and I switched the light on. My heart was pounding with excitement.
As soon as the canopy covered us, the air felt moist, and it smelled like fresh earth and leaves. We picked up the pace while we kept shining our lights in all directions. Betty was jogging next to me. I glanced at her, and as usual it disturbed me how much she had grown in this last year.
“You’ve become so beautiful, Betty,” comes out of my mouth.
I wanted to punch myself in the teeth, but she replied in a sarcastic tone.
“Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”
Our flashlights flickered over the trees and the undergrowth. We were getting anxious; so far into the forest, the trees were large and the foliage so dense that anything, or I guess anyone, could hide in there. The path we followed was made by people walking through this area for decades, or hundreds of years, and it was lined with tall bushes. What little remained of sunlight barely poured down the holes in the canopy, so we mainly relied on the flashlights to follow the path.
I heard wheezing coming from somewhere behind us, and the hairs on my arms stood up until I realized that it was Betty. She coughed in her hand as quietly as she could. Frank and I stopped so she could reach us.
“I’m sorry,” Betty said in a raspy voice, “but my asthma is acting up.”
I patted her on the shoulder.
“It’s okay, Betty. We understand.”
As Betty catched her breath, Frank pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his backpack, then held the cigarette between his lips as he lit it with a match, which he snapped in half and threw in the mud. He took a long drag, and blew smoke towards the trees.
“What are you doing?” Betty asked.
“Nothing. I’m going to smoke.”
“I thought you quit.”
Frank checked his pulse.
“It’s just one fucking cigarette.”
Afterwards we barely spoke as the trees grew thinner and the forest floor became more open. We came across the small stream we knew, and after crossing over it, we could see the clearing through the gaps in the foliage. It was a wide open field with tall grasses all around, a couple of ancient fallen trunks, some scattered leaves and twigs, and more importantly for our purposes, a huge otherworldly spaceship that looked like a flattened pyramid. It was bigger than any truck or bus we’d seen. I could tell that its lights must have come from the surface that was now touching the ground. Although the three of us crouched behind some bushes, and made sure to avoid touching that ship with our flashlights, the faint sunrays reflected off the metallic surface.
We listened in silence for a few seconds as we held our breaths. I shook my head.
“That looks like a huge coffin,” I whispered, “for transporting dead people.”
“It’s huge,” Frank said, too loudly for my tastes. “I think it may be indeed a cargo carrier of some sort.”
Betty put her hands on both my left and Frank’s right shoulders, and almost pushed us down.
“It’s far too small to be a cargo carrier, stupid,” she said nervously. “It’s probably full of aliens, and we should be careful with the unknown. We might get abducted by those people, and we’ll never be able to return home!”
“Well, we are already here, Betty,” I said, although I was doubting myself.
“What if we return and tell the police that an alien spaceship landed in our neighborhood? Then maybe we wouldn’t have to worry anymore, because they’ll send a team of experts to investigate. That’d be a lot safer than us sneaking up to the ship. Besides, we haven’t explored the entire forest yet! I’m sure there are lots of more interesting things to find than a spaceship.”
Frank’s nose kept running, but the handkerchief he brought from home was already wet.
“Yeah, and who knows what kind of dangerous creatures live in these woods. Aliens, monsters and ghosts… There’s no telling what could happen. But what about your asthma, Betty?”
“You don’t know anything about asthmatic people, do you?” she replied annoyed. “They can go anywhere and do whatever they want.”
I patted Betty on the shoulder to calm her down, because she was shuddering, but I was getting annoyed as well: I remained the only one who didn’t want to waste the opportunity to explore an alien spaceship.
“Frank, look over there, at those footsteps,” I whispered.
The three of us stared in that direction. Some of the grass of the clearing had been trampled by odd footsteps scattered as if the aliens had walked around while inspecting the area, but a trail of footsteps leads out of the clearing and into the depths of the enclosing forest.
“If they are advanced enough to build a spaceship and travel to Earth with it, they must already know we are here,” I said confidently. “Whether or not we get into their ship, we are going to end up seeing them. One of those choices ends up with us having explored an alien spaceship. So we already know what we have to do, don’t we?”
Betty nodded nervously. I smiled, hoping she would relax her stance. Frank pulled out his camera.
“Alright, I can’t argue with that. Let’s get going then.”
It took us about ten seconds for the three of us to regain full mobility. We advanced carefully towards the treeline; once we would pass it, we’d stand exposed in the clearing. I stayed close to Betty, as much as possible. If the aliens ended up ambushing us, I didn’t want them to target Betty with their captivating powers, so it only made sense to stay this tight to each other’s side. As it had been happening for the last few months, whenever my bare skin brushed hers, I shivered warmly. I didn’t know why nor what to do with that.
Frank was leading us. He was covered in sweat and holding his nose. His eyes kept darting around, searching for the next place of concealment. The sun was already setting behind us and the moon would soon rise. The air felt colder. My heart pounded on my chest as I realized how close to the mysterious ship we were getting.
After we hid ourselves behind one of the thickest tree trunks in the edge of the clearing, the first one of us to speak was Frank: he had found something interesting between our feet. He gasped.
“Let’s check it! Quick!” Frank exclaimed excitedly.
The three of us crouched to check out the spot. Frank lifted the object. It was a stone, and our friend was inspecting the color pattern underneath.
“Holy cow! It’s a fossil! It looks like a jawbone too, of a carnivorous species!” He ran his fingers over its grooves. “It must be thousands of years old!”
I wasn’t as enthusiastic. The chances of finding a real dinosaur fossil in these woods were pretty slim, and we had aliens to worry about.
“It’s just an ordinary rock, Frank,” Betty said in a quavering voice.
He twisted his torso to reach for the backpack, likely to store his finding. I moved faster, snatched the stone and threw it behind us. It landed in the dirt that had accumulated under the roots of a bush.
“Sam!” Frank complained.
“Don’t yell, damn it. That wasn’t a dinosaur, and this spaceship isn’t going to wait around forever.”
I looked at Betty for support, but my friend’s face had gone pale. She was trembling and squeezing her thighs together while she stared with her eyes unfocused through the trunk we were hiding behind.
“Betty, what’s wrong?” I asked.
“I need to pee. I already had to go when we were playing ball.”
“Shit, then just go,” I pointed at the nearby bushes. “We won’t take a peek, I swear.”
Betty looked around frantically.
“B-but what about the aliens?”
Frank, still frowning, wiped his nose with his sleeve.
“Unless you resemble a female alien, I wouldn’t worry about it. They are unlikely to want to mate with you.”
Betty’s face brightened as she anticipated emptying her bladder. She duckwalked awkwardly until a thick bush hid her, and I heard a long sigh as well as splashing sounds.
I addressed Frank, mostly to distract myself.
“Don’t you want to check out what’s inside that thing? The spaceship, I mean. I wanna know, for sure.”
“I don’t know, man. Betty had a point there. It’s possible the aliens plan to capture us and use us as hostages.”
“They are just a bunch of stupid people from another planet. It’s no big deal.”
I wondered whether I was trying to convince Frank or myself. I had read many books about aliens and UFOs, and I knew how dangerous they were.
“Besides, we already went through that nightmare on the aircraft carrier, right? And the army of robots, the space station, and the giant monster that’s still chasing us.”
Frank looked to the side as if trying to remember.
“I’m not sure if any of that ever happened…”
“Sure it did, Frank. We’ve been chased by a giant robot before, haven’t we?”
My friend nodded.
“Yeah, and it was really scary. But now I think of those things as being more like movies than real life.”
“No, it’s real. It’s all real, I’m afraid.”
Something was telling me that the aliens would try to do us harm. I hoped to find some weapons that would help us fight them off, if it came to that.
When Betty duckwalked back to us while fixing the skirt of her dress, it was clear that her relief made her forget all about aliens, but then she realized I was holding like a baseball bat the biggest branch I had found.
“What are you going to do with that?” she asked, concerned.
“Just in case I have to knock on their door.”
The three of us stood up and slowly walked towards the spaceship. When we crossed the border into the clearing, I felt we were going to get zapped by laser guns at any moment, but we could only hear birdsongs and our faint sounds as we stepped on the tall grass.
The oval windows of the spaceship were blackened glass. From up close the hull looked dirty, scratched and dented in places, and with large patches of a rust-like substance. It reminded me of some kid’s first car which originally belonged to someone’s grandpa.
“If we hadn’t witnessed it descending, I could have sworn this ship has been abandoned for decades,” I said, disappointed.
As the three of us stood in front of a part of the hull where I would have installed a hatch, because they hadn’t put a window there, we looked at each other, confused about how to proceed. My heart was beating fast with excitement.
“Well, I’m going to touch it.”
As soon as I pressed my fingertips against the metallic surface, which felt like any other cool metal, in less than a second, an oval hole the size of an adult opened silently in the hull as if it had been cut with scissors. Both Betty and Frank jumped back, but I was mesmerized by the eerie, soft blue glow that filled the interior. The air smelled like something was burning.
The three of us stepped cautiously inside, then we were cut off from the remaining sunlight when the oval entry turned into solid hull, this time with a loud clunk. I realized that Frank was about to panic, so I chuckled.
“That’s probably how alien spaceship hatches close. It doesn’t mean we are trapped here.”
We forgot about our worry quickly, because we were standing in the dimly lit interior of a spaceship with four seats, but plenty more room for several other people standing up. One of the seats was smaller than the other three, to fit someone of the size of a tween, and it was facing a small control panel along the wall.
Betty kept looking around as if searching for something.
“Where is the bathroom?”
“What, you need to go again?” I asked as I rested my big stick against a wall.
“No, idiot. The aliens need to pee as well, don’t they?”
“You have pee in your brain,” Frank said. “Maybe they don’t do that stuff. We have no clue about alien anatomy.”
Betty narrowed her eyes at Frank, but then she seemed to reach a satisfying conclusion, because she smirked and tilted her waist.
“Maybe they landed so they could take a leak.”
I was impressed, and didn’t know what to say. She had come up with the most absurd idea I’d heard yet.
A sudden flash startled me, and I realized that Frank had snapped a picture. Now that the novelty of having entered an alien spaceship was fading quickly, I felt as if I had sneaked into the cockpit of a plane, but no cooler than that. We had done crazier stuff, in the grand scheme of things.
Betty and I started looking around for anything that could give us a hint about the aliens. The control panel was inscribed with weird characters that we knew in advance we wouldn’t comprehend, and other than that, a few wires and cables were attached to the walls and ran to the back of the craft, where they sank into the floor.
“So what’s the deal with this ship? It looks like it was designed by a teenager who wasn’t very good at building things. There’s not much to see in it.”
Frank must had snapped about five pictures, likely having documented everything there was to see. As he stored his camera in the backpack, I plumped down on the pilot’s seat, or at least the one that was in front of the control panel. The cushion was made of a material harder than I would have expected. It reminded me of sitting on a rock, but I guess I couldn’t complain after having walked all the way here.
I looked up. The soft, blue glow that bathed the interior came out of nowhere, and made this cavity look as if it were a cave, but instead of stalactites hanging from the roof, there were wires that looked like old spider webs. The silence inside the spaceship was eerie; the hull cut us off from even the birdsongs outside.
The three of us sat around for a while, but as the minutes ticked by, nothing happened.
“I’m bored,” Betty said.
I groaned. I was also getting impatient.
“I guess exploring alien spaceships is pretty boring compared to exploring forests and caves. Why bother with a spaceship?” I got up. “Let’s just go home.”
Betty smiled at me.
“Don’t forget to take your baseball bat!”
“They can keep it.”
Although the three of us stood in front of the section of the hull that had opened before, and that I was pressing my fingertips and palm against the cool metal, it wasn’t reacting.
“Shit, we may actually be trapped in this boring ship,” I mutter. “Let’s look for buttons or some sort of control panel for the hatch.”
The three of us ran our hands over the wall, and Betty ended up finding an indentation that, when pressed, opened a controller cabinet. It looked like a breaker box. Before I could say anything, Frank grabbed a handle inside and attempted to twist it.
“This panel is too close to the hatch to be unrelated. And we need to get home, man, my dad is seriously going to call the cops.”
The handle didn’t budge until Frank pulled it, and the oval entrance appeared suddenly. The three of us let out sighs of relief, but when we switched on our flashlights to brighten the darkened clearing, our beams revealed that two humanoid beings were stepping on the tall grass, heading towards us.
The one on the left was a chubby alien shorter than me. His head was bald and bulbous and his nostrils large and pointing downwards. He was wearing thick goggles, like those of an aviator. He had red lips with white lines around them that resembled the stripes of a feline, and his long, thin fingers, four in each hand, ended in black claws. His skin color reminded me of Frank’s dad. The alien on the right was as tall as an adult. He was covered in thick, matted fur, and his head was egg-shaped and mostly featureless, lacking ears and a nose, except for two circular eyes that reminded me of coins, and big, sharp teeth that peeked out from under his lips. He had an odd mane that resembled snakes, and he had been born with double the usual amount of legs. Both were wearing identical black jumpsuits without insignias.
When they saw us standing like idiots at the entrance of their spaceship, they stopped, startled. The bald, shorter alien looked up at his pal and let out a series of clicks and chirps.
Frank grabbed my shoulder, which almost made me drop my flashlight.
“Sam, these guys are not human.”
I stopped Frank to open his backpack and pull out two flashlights. I gave them to both of my friends. Betty switched hers on to try it, which whitened her face.