Weird - Chapter Read
end,” Roger said, lowering his HD video camera.
“My ass,” Kristina Slater
countered immediately, hooking her fingers through the chain-link fence.
“I’m trying very hard not to
think about your ass right now,” Mark said, standing next to her at the base of
the rattling, metal mesh.
She punched him in the
shoulder. Her swing was strong, her fist hard and bony. It hurt. All in good
“Ouch,” Mark hissed. “Easy, I
was just kidding.”
“No you weren’t,” she
Mark was guilty as charged. He
thought about her most of the time, which made it a challenge to work so close
to her. Kristina was lean, athletic and strong. Queen of the tomboys. He could
imagine her climbing big trees somewhere as a kid growing up, racing the boys
on bikes and skateboards. Judging by the muscles in her back, Mark also
hypothesized that she at one point swam. She was categorically, in his book,
hot off the scales.
“Wait, let me go first—get a
reverse shot of you guys climbing over and then dropping on the other side,” he
Roger groaned. “Easy, there,
Spielberg. This is run-and-gun, not a feature. Oh yeah, and it’s trespass, just
like all the other times.” On that note, he glared at Kristina who narrowed her
electric blue eyes at him.
“Roger, what the hell,” she
He nodded toward a sign hanging
on the fence just three feet above them. In bold black and red letters: FEDERAL
LAND – NO TRESPASSING. NO EXCEPTIONS. USE OF LETHAL FORCE BEYOND THIS POINT.
Kristina huffed, “You knew the
risk all along. Comes with the job.”
“Look, if it’s all the same to
you, I’d rather stay here. Maybe I can get us some more B-Roll or who knows…
maybe I’ll catch a UFO on camera. You know, those things we keep chasing but
never seem to find.”
Kristina glared at him, and
despite the predawn darkness, Roger could see the anger in her eyes. She
grabbed her radio and keyed it.
“Kris for basecamp.”
Moments passed, then a reply
came. “Go for basecamp.”
“Mouse, FYI, Roger is being a
complete puss right now and will be waiting here by the point of entry. Me and
Mark are going in—try to find that runway and the back tunnel entrance our
friend in Gilbert told us about. Over.”
She slapped the radio back on
her hip, over her belt and the top of her jeans, and climbed the fence. She
clawed her way up like an angry cat. Booming expertly between loops of
barbwire, she cleared the top and spidered down the other side, landing neatly
on her feet. Slower, and more carefully, Mark lowered himself until he was
standing next to her, both of them facing Roger through the fence. Mark readied
his camera, framing Kristina up for a shot.
“There’s a million sensors in
the ground, Kris. They already know we’re here and in a few minutes we’re gonna
have unmarked vans loaded with big guys with big guns rolling in to blow us
apart,” Roger said.
“You finished?” Kristina asked,
“Because we got a TV show to produce.”
“There’s no back entrance to
Area 51, Kris,” he said.
“Area 51 is at Groom Lake,
dumbass. This is Arizona.”
And she took off into the
predawn gloom with Mark at her side.
“That’s a rumor, Kris,” Roger
shouted after her. Not that he expected it to do any good. It didn’t. She was
gone, absorbed by the October desert.
# # #
the radio off her hip and keyed the talk button.
“Kris for basecamp.”
The reply came, dotted with static.
“Go… fo… ase… amp.”
“Mouse? Mouse, if you can hear me… if we’re not back in
twenty-five minutes… seriously, start packing up the gear.”
“Mouse, you copy?”
“Ro… tha… Kri… opy that.”
Good enough, she thought and pressed on, glancing back at Mark
who was filming everything. She lowered her voice.
“You rolling?” she asked him.
“Good. Okay.” She took a long pause, still forging through the
terrain, heading toward a looming dark ridge out in front of them.
“Watch the cacti,” she said as Mark fumbled behind her, trying
to keep her framed in camera, trying not to fall and die.
“Okay,” she began, narrating for the camera, “So we are in the
desert outside of Phoenix where there is a suspected underground facility
that’s involved with reverse engineering of alien technology. Some say that the
Phoenix Lights UFO incident back in ninety-seven was what triggered the
official launch of this installation out here as some sort of alien technology
research hub. And I happen to have some insider information that tells us
there’s a tunnel, or some remote point of entry to an annex out here as well as
a runway for aircraft.”
Kristina hurried onward and Mark lost the shot of her. He
dropped his sights, and carefully needled his way around rocks, cacti and
“There scorpions out here?” he asked.
“It’s a desert,” she answered, not looking back. She crab
crawled up a pile of massive stones that created a natural transition from the
desert floor to the incline of the ridge. Mark hemmed his way in behind her,
awkward with the camera on his shoulder. He was out of breath. Out of shape.
Kristina was in great shape and he was having a hell of a time keeping up with
her. He’d sworn it before, but did so again—he would get himself back into the
gym no matter what and start exercising. No way in hell he was going to
“Whoa… light! There’s light!” She pointed northeast from their
location. Mark slammed his HD camera into a ready position, searching for the
target with his zoom lens. “Can you see it, Mark?”
His POV swung clumsily around the sky, lobbing this way and
that, eventually capturing a very bright target in the sky far away.
“Can you see what it is?” she asked.
Mark said, “I can’t make it out. Looks like some non-ballistic
motion. Maybe a plane. Not sure. It’s hovering.”
He fingered the focus ring, carefully dialing in the image.
Dialing… it… in.
“Shit,” he said. “It’s a bird. Chopper… possibly military! Oh
Kristina wheeled her eyes back the way they came, considering
everything—mostly the fact that there was nowhere to hide out here. She craned
her head toward the top of the ridge. It was only a few hundred feet if they
could clear it. But the light, the chopper, was getting brighter. Closing.
Kristina yelled, “If we can get over that ridge, we can cut down
the other side into the tunnel—”
“What if there is no tunnel?” Mark hissed loudly. “We don’t even
know if it’s there, we’re just taking someone’s word for it—”
“He’s former military! He’s a reliable witness,” she countered.
She knew it then, in that moment—Mark would stand there like a
landed fish gulping for air while a military helicopter blasted him into a
million pieces. The investigation was lost.
“Damnit! Let’s go back. Now,” she said, quietly furious.
Together they ran back through the desert, hearing in the distance behind them
the ever-so gradual rise of thumping rotor blades.
“Go, go, go!”
# # #
Scott Hamilton, better known by his
nickname ‘Mouse,’ sat hunched over a portable bank of TV monitors, each one
receiving signals from strategically positioned cameras in the field.
Everything was glowing green from night vision mode. So far, there was nothing
of interest on any of the screens. Mouse earned his nickname when he managed to
flatten his already pipe-cleaner frame through a narrow gap in a jammed door at
an abandoned air hanger they’d investigated the year before. That and because
Mouse had facial features not unlike a mischievous rodent.
Nearby, Jeremy shifted on his feet uncomfortably. The team
medic, he by default took on the role of nervous-hysterical parent. Injuries in
the documentary field were pretty negligible, at least with the other crews
he’d worked for. But with Kristina and her ‘UFO Busters,’ they’d managed to
break the record along with bones. When it came to risk, Kristina didn’t just
push the envelope, she tore it apart and spat on it.
“How long did they say before we lost contact?” he asked.
Mouse bristled, keeping his eyes laser-locked on the monitors,
looking for even the slightest sign of disturbance or strange lights in the
“Dunno. Fifteen, I guess.”
“You guess? You don’t remember, Mouse? Because I remember
precisely. It was twenty five minutes.”
They heard a faint clacking of stones nearby, and Mouse shot a
narrow beam from his Maglite toward it. Resolving through the sharp beam was
Roger, trudging in toward camp, his head hung low. Pissed off.
“Did you leave them behind, Roger?” Jeremy pressed.
“I didn’t leave them anywhere, okay. They took off. I told her
it was stupid.”
“You didn’t try hard enough,” Jeremy scolded him.
“Really,” he said. “You going to be the one to tell Kristina
what she can and can’t do? I’d love to hear that conversation.”
Roger placed his camera on the ground and fished around in his
jacket pocket. He pulled out an e-cigarette and drew hard on it, the tiny LED
end lighting momentarily. He exhaled a long, vaporous cloud.
Jeremy said, “You know those things aren’t safe, right?”
Not looking at him, Roger said, “Whatever you say… mom.”
“Dude! Would you guys shut up, I’m trying to think here,” Mouse
hissed. He was tracking a cluster of glowing pixels on monitor number one—a
moving, brilliant target in the distance. Growing larger.
“Got something on camera one,” he said, his voice amped.
From nearby in the brush, Blake Richards uncrouched and fumbled
with his audio gear.
“Shit, I can hear it! It’s a copter. Incoming,” he yelled,
tearing the noise canceling headphones from his ears. He pulled the three-pin
connector from the microphone in the parabolic dish, disabling it. Quickly he
began packing the rest of his equipment into a foam padded Pelican case.
“We can’t leave without Kristina and Mark,” Jeremy said firmly.
Andrew Haynes, the team driver, fumbled for the keys to their
van which was parked nearby. He called out and waved them all in.
“Come on! Come on! We gotta go!”
Jeremy began a frantic scan of the horizon with the infrared and
thermal camera, the desert landscape becoming a patchwork of pink-purple and
orange highlights, warmer to cooler surface temperatures measured in real time.
No sign of Kristina or Mark.
Mouse began powering off his monitors, unhooking his cables,
snatching nearby cameras, slamming everything back into cases. He spooled in
coax cable like a fisherman landing a marlin.
“Dude, I’m not gettin’ nuked by a government missile!”
“Shut up, Mouse!”
Jeremy panned the thermal camera back toward the east, only then
seeing them in the frame—mottled white-orange running human forms. Kristina and
Mark. Hauling ass toward them.
“I see them! There they are!”
Andrew stabbed the ignition with his key and fired up the
engine, his hands vibrating with adrenaline on the steering wheel.
“Come on! Come on! We gotta go now,” he shouted from the
driver’s side window.
One by one they piled into the vehicle. Jeremy held a few meters
away, waiting for Kristina and Mark as they barreled toward him.
“Get in the goddamn van,” she bellowed, never breaking stride.
Jeremy hollered, “Are you okay? Any injuries?”
Mouse screamed from the van, “We’re all going to die if you
don’t get your ass in here now, Jeremy!”
Mark shot by Jeremy and as Kristina passed him, she hooked her
fingers into his jacket, towing him with her to the vehicle.
Mark, Jeremy and Kristina spilled into the van, slamming against
Mouse, Blake and Roger, sending their equipment cases tumbling into the back.
“Careful,” Mouse yelled, “That’s my personal shit!”
“Shut up, Mouse,” Kristina bellowed. “Drive, Andrew!”
Thirty yards out, from the dead quiet desert, a beam exploded on
the ground, a blinding white-blue cylinder of light. Andrew craned his view out
the front window, glancing skyward. All at once came the terrible
whump-whump-whump of rotor blades, the spray of desert sand from the awesome
force of the prop wash. An Apache Helicopter loomed above them in the predawn
sky like a locust from The Book of Revelation.
Andrew pulled on the wheel and stomped the gas too hard, the van
spinning in a wild roaring pivot. Kristina and the others tumbled into each
other, smashing into the hard cases of all the gear—a cyclone of bodies and
equipment unleashed as the world outside the windshield tilted and spun.
“Ouch! Goddamnit, Andrew—just take it slow,” Kristina screamed.
“Hey, I’ve seen these things in action over there, so don’t tell
me what to do!”
Doubling back on the steering wheel, he righted the van and
punched the hammer down, blasting straight ahead. Not looking back—not having
to—the spotlight of the Apache scorched them like the midday sun, tracking them
as they barreled dangerously over a disheveled roadbed of sand and gravel.
Unable to adequately absorb the impacts of all the rocks and small pits in the
road ahead, the van shuddered, jackhammering all of them.
“I’m gonna lose a filling,” Mouse screamed.
“Ahhh… my spine,” someone else yelled.
Kristina righted herself and stumble-climbed to the rear window
where she caught of glimpse of the terrible, insectile shape of the chopper. It
all too easily stayed with them—an effortless chase.
“We’re dead! We’re all friggin’ dead,” Roger cried.
“Shut up, Roger,” Kristina growled. “They’re toying with us! The
spotlight’s just for show! If they wanted us dead, it would have happened ten
minutes ago with their night vision before we even saw them coming!”
The rear of the van clanged loudly from flying stones spit
randomly from the roaring tires as they bombed onward over tortuous ground.
Kristina thought hard for a moment then piled over the others toward the
sliding side door. She grabbed the handle, preparing to open it. Jeremy grabbed
her wrist firmly.
“What the hell are you doing?” he bellowed.
She wrenched her hand free of his grasp easily.
“I’m gonna give them a piece of my mind. And by mind, I mean
Before he could protest, Kristina slid the side door open, the
howl of fast moving desert air shrill against the doorframe. She swiveled
herself into position.
“Don’t let me fall,” she said, and gave Jeremy an impish grin.
“You are unbelievable,” he said.
Adroitly she unfastened her jeans and in one deft move, slid
them down to her knees along with her panties. She wagged her bare tail back
and forth, giving it a good slap as the spotlight from the copter painted her
like a dancer in a strip club.
“That’s right! Kiss my ass you Nazis,” she screamed. “Kiss it!”
“All right, Kris,” Mouse howled like a loon, a delirious grin on
The van bucked left and Kristina lost her balance, arms
pinwheeling, legs cuffed by her own sagging jeans. She tumbled backward, toward
open, rushing desert terrain and a million cacti needles. A pair of hands
rifled out, seizing her wrists, pulling her back inside just as the vehicle hit
another pit in the road, the frame rattling violently.
“Could you possibly try not to hit every single hole,”
Mouse yelled at Andrew. Keeping one hand on the wheel, Andrew flipped him off.
Kristina found herself planked half-naked on top of Mark who stared directly
into her eyes, his pupils supernovas of shock. Despite the life-and-death
moment they were in, the feel of Kris’ half-naked body on top of his was
exhilarating. “Was it as good for you as it was me?” she asked, winking at him.
It was a quick exit from a moment she found wholly awkward. She climbed off him
and pulled her pants back up, refastening them.
“Like to see how they’re going to word that in the official
report,” she snickered.
They rocketed onward, pitching right onto a larger dirt road
that weaved for miles through the desert, back toward gravel and paved roads.
Back toward the world.
Blake piled to the back window, taking a long stare into the
“It’s gone! Hey, it’s gone!”
Andrew checked his mirrors and ducked for a view above the front
windshield. Nothing there. He emptied a long-held breath and eased off the gas.
The van steadied, the roar and rumble of the road simmering to a dull murmur.
Jeremy glared at Kristina. “I can’t believe you did that.”
Mouse put his hand in the air and high-fived Kristina.
“Hell, yes! You’re my hero,” he said.
Mark lifted the flat of his palm. Bam—she slapped him back. One
by one they paid tribute. Kristina held her palm out for Jeremy. He hesitated.
“Don’t be a douche,” Mouse said, glaring at him.
Jeremy shook his head, cracking an unexpected smile. He
flattened his hand and tapped hers. Kristina pivoted toward Roger. He lifted
his hand, his palm hovering. But instead he stuffed it into his pocket, fishing
his e-cigarette free, carefully placing it between his lips. His eyes were
vacant, polished stones, and Kristina found it immediately unsettling.
Roger was mostly reliable, but disaffected and more than a tad
cynical. He always seemed to get the job done despite his charm deficit. But
this was different. Something changed—a switch thrown inside him. Kristina let
her palm float in open air another moment, then dropped it, turning her
attention back toward the road ahead.
Andrew asked, “Where to?”
Kristina’s eyes were pinioned on the murky road ahead and the
bleeding gradient of an impending sunrise softly wrapping the horizon.
“Just keep driving,” she said.