by Cindy Borgne
Lightning streaked through the dense clouds. Strong gusts blew the snow straight across the woods as I drove my snowmobile through the trails behind my house. The sky boomed. I had never seen anything like it. Even stranger, it was the third of April. Unusual, but not impossible weather for Lower Michigan.
By afternoon, we had a couple feet of snow. My snowmobile floated over the powdery fluff. My friend, Lauri, followed me on her snowmobile. I signaled with my hand for a right turn. She followed me down a winding trail. Leafless narrow trees filled the forest.
Through the blur of the snow, I saw a flash of pinkish-white skin. It appeared to be bare legs running, yet the fast-falling snow decreased visibility. I wanted to see for sure. My right thumb pushed on the gas.
My eyes widened. “Lauri!” I yelled. “Oh my God.” I squeezed the brake tight and came to a sudden halt.
Lauri stopped right behind me and jumped off her snowmobile. “Marla! What are you doing?” she screeched and flung up her visor. “I almost rear-ended you.”
I flipped up my visor and leaped off the seat. “You won’t believe what I saw!”
“What?” Her big, blue eyes widened as snowflakes fell onto her black helmet. Her blond hair stuck out around the sides.
“I saw a naked man running in the snow.”
Lauri burst out laughing.
“But I did!” I pointed. “He ran into that kid’s fort up ahead.”
“Yikes!” She headed for her snowmobile. “Let’s get out of here.”
I grabbed her arm. “What if he needs help?”
“What if he’s a psycho?”
“Look, you stay on your snowmobile. I’m going to go have a peek.”
She laughed. “You would want to look.”
I shoved her. “Give me a break!”
Lauri laughed and sat on her snowmobile.
Weather-beaten wood pieced together formed the small fort. A thick layer of snow covered the roof. I lifted my boots high in the deep snow and pushed my way past some leafless, pricker-filled brush. Uneasiness stirred my stomach. I mean, what do you say to some naked nut?
I froze at a strange sound and listened hard to figure it out. A sorrowful whimper came from the fort. I took another step. It sounded human.
The fort had no door, just a space for going in and out. I peered inside. A naked man lay curled in a ball, shivering with drops of water covering him. He had his arms wrapped around himself.
“What are you doing out here?”
The man flinched and his shivering worsened.
“Don’t ya know you could freeze to death? Not to mention streaking is illegal.”
“Who are you?” he asked.
“A person enjoying the snow. Are you trying to kill yourself?”
“No! I didn’t realize a human body would be so vulnerable to the weather.”
I paused a moment and thought about telling him off, but somehow felt sorry for him. “Obviously you’re delirious. I have some extra clothes. I’ll let you borrow them for now.” I hurried back to my sled.
“Is a guy in there?” Lauri asked.
“Yeah, I think he’s half frozen, possibly drunk or both.” I opened one of the leather bags strapped to the back of the seat and took out an old spare snowmobile suit.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to let him wear this and then I’ll drive him to the hospital.”
Lauri sighed. “The last time you tried to help someone they took off with your cell phone and ten dollars.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Not only that, you can’t drive in this weather.”
“I’ll take the truck. It has four-wheel drive; besides, I don’t see a choice. It would bother me to walk away.”
* * * * *
It took a lot of doing, but we got him into the pickup truck and blasted the heat. He shivered in the passenger seat. His blue eyes darted around under thick, messy brown hair. I figured he was about twenty years old.
Lauri hopped in the backseat. I backed up and headed down the snow-covered dirt road. I lived out in the country and had a long way to go.
“I’m Marla and this is Lauri.”
He nodded. “I’m Halenusoper.”
I blinked. “I’ll never remember that. I’ll just call you Hal.”
For several miles, we remained silent, even though Lauri and I exchanged a few confused glances.
Lauri sighed. “So why were you out there?”
“M-m-my friend and I w-w-were p-p-playing with the dimensional shifter. W-w-when I saw Earth, I d-d-decided to visit. B-b-but after I c-c-came, my hands got c-c-cold and I dropped my t-t-transfer-unit.”
My eyes slid toward him. He didn’t look intoxicated. “I was nice enough to help you. At least tell us the truth.”
“I am, I-I had never seen snow and thunder on Earth at the same time and became interested.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I know I s-s-should have researched h-humans better. I’m s-s-sorry.”
“You speak our language well enough.”
“I had time for that.”
Lauri and I burst out laughing.
He jumped and bumped his head on the window. “Ow!” He hollered and covered his head and tears fell.
I pulled over and slammed on the brakes. “Whoa! Stop!”
He let out a small whimper. “I had no idea pain could feel so… so bad.” His eyes slowly met mine. “What was that noise you made?”
“It’s called laughing.”
His tears had fallen onto his hands. “I’m leaking.”
I almost burst out laughing again, but covered my mouth. “No, hun… that’s normal.”
“Oh?” he asked, with big innocent eyes.
“Am I going to live?”
“Will the hospital transfer me back home?”
I dropped my head onto the stirring wheel.
Lauri laughed. “He means he wants his people to beam him up.” She paused. “Either that or we’re on one of those prank video shows.”
“Instead of the hospital, how about I just take you home?”
His eyes lit up. “That would be wonderful. Do you have a transfer unit?”
“C’mon, I need to know where you live.” I stepped on the gas.
The wheels spun and the truck didn’t budge. “Damn!” An inch of snow sat on the hood of the truck already.
“You’re stuck!” Lauri said.
“No, I’m not.” I slammed it into reverse, gave it some gas and moved only a foot. I put it in forward. I repeated; reverse—forward—reverse—forward. No matter what I did, the truck crept closer and closer to the ditch on the side of the road.
“This is crazy!” I complained. “What good is four-wheel drive anyway?” After another reverse, the back tire became stuck in a rut at the edge of the ditch. I pounded on the steering wheel. The young man looked at me bewildered. I unzipped my snowmobile suit halfway to release an excess of heat.
“Why is your face red?” he asked.
I smirked. My husband’s truck, his pride and joy, couldn’t get us out of this mess. He was out of town and couldn’t help me.
“Why don’t you try your cell phone?” Lauri asked.
Three-foot drifts covered the road. “Even if I reached someone, who could come to help us? I should have listened to you.” I admitted with dread.
“So now you realize,” Lauri grumbled.
“Maybe if we get out and push I could at least get the back wheel out of the rut.”
“Push?” Lauri said bleakly.
“Yeah, Hal can help me push and you drive.”
“Me? But I don’t drive trucks.”
“It’s not that big of a deal. Just rock it the way I did.”
“Are you up to it, Hal?”
He nodded. We got out and Lauri sat in the driver’s seat. She kept the window down a little so I could yell to her.
She rocked it back and forth. Hal and I pushed as the spinning tire sprayed snow at us. The wheel reached the other side of the rut.
In an eerie moment, I realized she didn’t hear me. The engine revved.
“Stop!” I screamed.
The tire raced back through the rut toward the ditch and us. Hal stood there, clueless, as the back of the truck lurched toward him. I shoved him out of the way and fell into the road. I scrambled toward him, but slipped on ice.
Metal slammed down on my ankle and ground it into the dirt road. I yanked it out of the way before the bottom frame of the truck crashed on it. Pain radiated from my ankle as I lay in the snow.
The ditch’s magnetic powers had succeeded. The entire back end of the truck was in the ditch. The front end stuck out toward the road, tilted up at a slight angle. The muffler hung out the back, where it didn’t belong. I didn’t want to explain this to my husband.
I rolled back and forth moaning in pain. Lauri and Hal kneeled beside me.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Lauri said.
“It’s not your fault,” I said through gritted teeth.
“What happened?” Hal asked.
“My ankle’s busted.”
“Let’s get her into the truck,” Lauri said.
They helped me up. A wave of dizziness hit me. Before I could stop it from happening, everything went dark.
* * * * *
I opened my eyes and found myself lying in the backseat. The dome light lit up the inside of the truck. Outside it was dark.
“Hal? Lauri?” I asked.
“I’m here,” Hal said.
I endured the pain and pushed myself up. Hal sat in the front seat. He had my cell phone taken apart. Wires and tools lay all over the front seat. The front of the radio had been opened and wires dangled from it. I could see my husband’s angry face when he got home.
“Hal, what are you doing?”
“I’m trying to contact home.”
“She went to get help.”
“But it’s seven miles to the nearest house. Why didn’t you call on my cell phone?”
“Lauri tried. She said there was no signal.”
There was only one cell phone tower in the area. Maybe lightning hit it. Hal attached the phone to the wires.
“Where did you get those wires?”
“I took them from one of the headlights.”
I cringed and feared there would be nothing left of the truck by the time I got it home. If I got it home.
“You’re hurt. You need to rest,” Hal said.
“How can I rest when you’re taking the truck apart?”
Hal pressed the buttons on my cell phone. I feared what may have become of Lauri in this weather. Lightning streaked through the sky again. A loud boom followed it. I shut my eyes, but could still see the flashes. I counted for the thunder. Each time my count was shorter.
“The storm is getting closer,” I said, “and I’m freezing.”
Hal turned the key and the truck started. “I’ve been conserving the fuel.”
Snow covered the front windshield.
“Hal, turn on the windshield wipers for a moment.”
He did and the wipers flung the snow off. Large white flakes took their place. Some of them slid down and melted. Wind gusted and rocked the truck. Hal turned on the remaining headlight.
“Hal, why is it you know how to do some things and not others?”
“My research of humans isn’t complete.”
“Have you considered seeing a psychiatrist?”
“What’s a psychiatrist?” He continued to press the buttons on the cell phone.
The truck rocked from another gust of wind. The wind continued to increase. The snow started to blow in a swirl pattern. It whirled until it formed what looked like a small dust devil.
“What is going on out there?” I asked.
Hal looked up. “It’s working.”
The size of the dust devil quickly increased to the size of a tornado.
“Look!” I yelled.
The tornado crept closer. My heart pounded. “What are we going to do?”
“Wait here.” He opened the door. “I’ll be right back.”
The lunatic went outside and walked toward the swirling menace.
I pressed the button and rolled down the window behind my head. “Hal! Hal! Get back here!”
He ignored me. For some strange reason, the tornado wasn’t sucking him inside. A blue shiny arm came out of the funnel. The hand held what looked like a large glowing pearl. Hal took the pearl. His body lit up. Hal’s human form disappeared. He turned into a bluish-silver being and hovered above the snow. Hal handed the pearl back to the being inside the tornado. He floated through the darkness over to the truck and opened the door. Why did I ever get involved?
I trembled and pushed myself up against the door furthest away from him. “What are you?”
“It’s hard to explain in your language. This is my true form, but I have changed it to look a little human still.” He raised his arms. “Do I look pleasing to you?”
“I don’t know, just go away!”
“Let me help you.” His blue arms grew in toward me.
I flinched. “Leave me alone!”
“Don’t be afraid,” he said in a soft voice. “I would not hurt the one who saved me. We are peaceful beings.”
He lifted me out of the truck. I shivered as the cold wind hit me. It blew my hair across my face as he carried me toward the vortex.
“What is that thing?”
“It’s a door to my world.”
I paused. “What does your kind want?”
“We are only explorers.”
“But why are you taking me in there?”
“To help you.”
He started to take me inside. I covered my eyes with my hands. The sound of rushing wind surrounded me.
“Hal! Take me out of here!”
“It’s okay, take a look,” he said.
The pain in my ankle gradually disappeared. I felt warm and my fear started to fade. I put my hands down and opened my eyes. The cyclone had a calming effect. More blue beings circled in the white swirling snow. One of them, a larger one, came toward me.
“Thank you for helping my son. He can be impulsive at times,” he said in a deep-echoing voice.
“You’re welcome,” I said, lying in Hal’s arms. I didn’t know why, but I felt happy swirling around with the blue people.
Another blue being with long flowing blue hair floated over. “We are impressed with the kindness of humans,” she said in a higher voice.
“But who are you?” I asked.
“We’re celestial dimensional shifters that can cross the astral plane if we so choose,” she explained.
The spinning of the vortex had a hypnotic effect on me. Nothing mattered.
“It’s beautiful in here.” I gazed up at the top of the cyclone and could see a clear night sky filled with stars.
The swirling made me yawn. My eyes wanted to shut.
“You never said what I looked like,” Hal said.
“Your blue face reminds me of what an angel might look like.”
Hal smiled at me. “One day we’ll meet again.”
* * * * *
I woke up warm and comfortable in my bed. Lauri sat on the edge. She looked down at me with worried eyes.
“What happened?” I asked, drowsy.
“You’ve been sleeping for a long time and I don’t get this, but your ankle isn’t broken anymore.”
I wiggled my foot. She was right. A bird chirped outside the window. I was still in the same clothes. I stood up and looked out the window. Melting piles of snow covered everything. More birds came and landed on the tree branches. The buds on the trees had started to emerge. Spring had finally decided to kick winter out.
“Not only that, but the truck is parked in the garage,” Lauri said, “and nothing’s wrong with it.”
“How did you get back here?” I asked.
“I was walking along the side of the road when a white tornado picked me up. It scared me so bad I think I passed out. Then I woke up here in one of the beds.”
“I feel bad for teasing Hal. He was telling the truth,” I said, “and he said he would be back.”
“After all this, I believe you.”
“It’s a good thing I didn’t walk away when he needed help. I feel honored that he let me see his people. Let me tell you what he looked like…”