Creepy tale of a lost couple who stumbles across a bizarre “Alien Artifact Museum” in rural Georgia. Written by Harris Tobias
“Did you see that?” Arnold asked. Ida, busy with the map, was trying to find out where in the hell they were. Somewhere in northern Georgia, that much at least was certain. Lost on a road that stubbornly defied identifying itself.
“See what, dear?” she said absently.
“That sign we just passed.”
“No. I was busy trying to find us on the map. Did you see a road sign?”
“No. There was a sign outside that last cabin we past.” Arnold was already slowing down and looking for a place to turn around. “I’m going back. At the very least we can ask them directions.” Arnold found a logging road and managed to make a 3-point turn without getting them stuck in a ditch.
Ida folded the useless map and asked, “What did the sign say?”
“Here it comes, read it for yourself.” The hand lettered sign sat beside the weedy drive. It read “Alien Artifacts” in six-inch high letters. That’s all it said. Two words that held the promise of great wonder and mystery. How could anyone pass up a sign like that?
“Oh come on, Arnold. It has to be some kind of joke.”
“Who puts up a joke sign in the middle of nowhere? Even if it is a joke, I bet the guy knows where we are and can help us get back to the Interstate.”
Ida saw the logic in this argument. They had been lost all day, one wrong turn leading to another. Deeper and deeper into a maze of back roads. That sign was the first bit of civilization they’d seen in more than an hour.
The driveway was little more than two streaks of bare earth leading into the scrub. They bumped and scraped along for about a mile until a house and barn appeared before them. Another hand lettered sign said parking. There were no other cars. The house was dilapidated and weather-beaten to a uniform dull gray. The barn was in the same depressed condition. A large faded sign over the barn indicated the entrance to the exhibit.
“Come on, Ida, I think it’s open.”
“I don’t like the looks of this place, Arnold, I think we ought to leave.”
“Oh come on, Ida, don’t be a stick in the mud. This could be fun.”
“I thought you said we would get directions.”
“We will, honey, just as soon as we find somebody to ask.”
Ida shook her head. It was useless arguing with Arnold when his mind was made up. Indeed, Arnold was already out of the car and walking up to the barn. He turned and motioned Ida to follow. Afraid of being left alone, she reluctantly joined him on the path.
Arnold peeked inside the dim barn. There was a small collection box by the door that said admission was free but donations were gratefully accepted. Arnold stuffed in a ten-dollar bill in the slot and he and Ida entered the barn. As soon as they cleared the threshold the overhead lights blinked a few times then stayed on.
The first exhibit was a poster sized aerial photograph of an empty field. The sign said that the field was the crash site of an extra-terrestrial spacecraft that plowed to the earth and burned on August 23rd 1956 on the old Henderson Farm. There was a copy of a faded newspaper article showing an eager young Henderson shaking hands with an Air Force General. The headline read, “Military examines mystery object.” The caption under the photo said, “Air Force General William C. Bankhurst congratulates Phoebe, Georgia, resident, Hiram Henderson on his amazing find.”
“I guess we’re in Phoebe, Georgia,” said Arnold. “See, this stop’s already paying off.”
“Great, can we go now?” Ida didn’t like the feel of the place.
“A few more minutes. Lets look at the wreckage.”
The barn was divided into aisles with tables filled with charred hunks of twisted metal, which signs proclaimed were pieces of the craft’s fuselage. The salvaged pieces looked for all the world like rusted car parts and melted Tupperware containers. One table contained a jumble of bits and pieces the sign said were the remains of the cockpit, the highlight of which was a half melted computer keyboard with weird symbols in place of the familiar alphabet. A sign claimed that the keyboard was proof of the alien’s advanced technology as there were no Earthly computers in 1956.
“Pretty hokey,” Arnold stage whispered to Ida.
“It all looks so fake,” Ida whispered back.
The next table was filled with what the sign claimed was “The Crew’s Personal Effects” the centerpiece of which was a spacesuit which looked very much like a ratty old wet suit and scuba tanks paired up with a WW II Army Surplus gas mask. When Arnold saw it he burst out laughing. The sign said that the tanks contained an unbreathable mixture of methane and helium and was proof that the aliens did indeed come from another world. Also on the table was an item that looked like a television remote painted green and funny symbols applied to the keys. A few dented and burnt tuna fish cans identified as rations concluded the exhibit.
The last object before the exit was a large glass cylinder labeled “Alien Transporter Booth, Take your picture inside.”
“That would make a perfect souvenir. Ida, you have the camera?” Arnold opened the door to the enclosure and stepped inside. Ida fished around in her bag for the digital camera she always carried. When she looked up to snap the photo, Arnold was gone. The air smelled faintly of ozone and the cylinder door was closed.
“Arnold, this is not funny,” Ida looked under the tables expecting to see him hiding there. When he didn’t show up, she began to panic. “Arnold. Arnold.” She called and ran from the barn. She ran to the house and pounded on the front door. It dawned on her how silent and alone they had been the whole time never seeing another person. She pounded on the door with more urgency. No one answered so she tried the knob. To her surprise, the door opened upon a rather conventional looking living room with old-fashioned furniture on a faded oriental rug.
“Hello. Is anyone home?” Ida stepped into the room. “Anyone? I need help.” She heard a sound at the back of the house where she expected the kitchen was. “Hello? Can someone help me?” She didn’t notice the door had closed behind her. The last thing she did notice was several tall figures wearing what looked like ratty old wet suits topped with World War Two era gas masks. As they advanced on her she fainted.
Several space-suited aliens carried Ida upstairs and laid her on a gurney where she was probed and examined with a series of curious instruments. When they were finished with Ida, they did similar things to Arnold.
Some hours later, they came to their senses. They were back in their car at a rest stop fifty miles North of Phoebe. Both had only vague memories of what happened and disturbing dreams for years after. But at least they knew where they were!
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of The Greer Agency , A Felony of Birds and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and many other publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/
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7 Responses to “Alien Artifacts”
Traveling across the United States on a dark endless road many years ago on the way to Minnesota, after reading a story by a well known author of Sci-Fi, I was thinking about this exact kind of scene. Your details and story are so well written, although I haven’t much time today to read, I was captured by this story and truly enjoyed all of it. Another great tale by Harris Tobias!
It was somewhat interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That’s a lot of exclamation points for just being “somewhat” interesting, LOL!
So who was around to see what happened while one was passed out and the other missing? lol