Writing prompt: Write a destination story.

(This story won its challenge on the Prose.)


I was on I-40 crossing the northern Arizona desert, on my way to the Barringer Meteor Crater. Thirty-seven miles east of Flagstaff, it was endless flat ground miles from nowhere, but it was still one of the area’s great tourist attractions. It had even been a training spot for the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s and 1970s. I’d been there a couple of times before, but somehow it always drew me back. Something about our surviving an impact that left a half-mile-wide hole in the ground from a meteor strike revved up my adrenaline a bit.

The sun was just peeking over the horizon as I drove, drenching the sky in light pinks and oranges. I wanted to get an early start so there wouldn’t be a crowd of tourists mobbing the viewing platform and chattering away into what would otherwise be glorious silence. I loved the sound of the silence as you stood perched on the crater’s rim – no other sound could rival its utter perfection. As I drove, I marveled, too, at the profusion of napolitos that lined the highway. They charged about $2.50 per napolito, or cactus pear, in the grocery stores, while here they were growing wild, ripe and ready for picking – all you had to do was get out of your car. I made a note to myself to grab a bagful on my return trip.

I was about a mile from Exit 233, which would take me the remaining 11 miles to the site, when I saw a large vehicle blocking the road a half-mile or so in front of me. I couldn’t make out the details since the sun was in my eyes, but it was probably a truck out of water in the desert (what a novelty – ha!) or maybe out of gas. I braked and pulled over onto the shoulder about 200 yards from it. No, it definitely wasn’t a truck. It was large – larger than I had originally thought – but it was roundish, with a dome on top. I slid out of the car onto the pavement and carefully made my way toward it.

As I walked, a five-note tone suddenly started playing through my head, and I couldn’t get it to stop. I knew it. I knew I knew it, but I just couldn’t place it. Then suddenly it hit me – “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Oh, yeah, right, these were extraterrestrials that just happened to end up in the Arizona desert in front of me, probably on their way to the crater as well. Still, I stopped and considered the metallic object. It didn’t look at all familiar except like what you saw in every UFO movie that had ever been made – round, domed, extraterrestrial. Man, I was losing it.

“Hello,” I called out. “Anybody there? Do you need help?”

Two high-pitched whistles suddenly screeched at the upper limit of my hearing range, and I clapped my hands over my ears. When I looked up, I could see two squat figures waddling and rushing from behind the object to a door that had opened in its side. As they ran, they flung something quickly behind them. The door closed the moment they were inside, there was the whine of engines coming to life, and the craft lifted up from the ground, first gaining altitude, then scooting over to the west.

“No, you’re not crazy,” I told myself out loud, glad to hear comprehensible words coming out of my mouth. “No, there’s no such thing as extraterrestials on Earth – you’ve just seen too many sci-fi movies.”

Still, I was curious – what had the pair of whatever they were thrown behind them? What didn’t they want to be caught with? I followed the extra-wide footprints from where the craft had been to where I had seen them toss it away. There were two smoldering objects lying in a shallow ditch. I got down on my hands and knees and looked at what seemed to be two cigarette butts. Then I smelled it. Not cigarettes – marijuana. And it all came together, the craft, the figures, the butts, the crater. Two teenagers out on a jaunt, probably in a jacked spaceship, high and looking at the Earther’s cute little sites.

“Damn tourists,” I muttered, stomping out the butts. “Don’t you know pot and littering are illegal here? No, I guess not.”

I walked back to my car and turned it around; I had had enough excitement for one day, I decided.

(c) 2017 Miriam Ruff All Rights Reserved