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A Cydonian Mission

While the space vehicle that carried Raymond was being maneuvered into a parking orbit around Mars, his attention had focused upon a glowing red light that blinked several times and then faded out. The unsteady glow of the flickering lamp appeared to fade into darkness, reminding him of a burning schoolhouse in Missouri he had once watched as glimmering flames consumed it to ashes in the fire of 1945. The ghosts of those glowing embers ignited strange and terrible memories that often haunted his recurring daydreams and frequent nightmares. Meanwhile, staccato sounds of small steering rockets being ignited hyphenated the hum of the space shuttle’s main engine and created the effect of a musical soundtrack that dramatized these childhood memories. Memories of his home at the end of the war.
The war itself had been an adult game, of little concern to a seven-year-old boy whose only politics involved reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance each morning at school. And although his heart puffed up with pride and loyalty whenever his lips uttered the words of the Pledge, it is doubtful he had any concept of what they really meant. In those days he only knew that, for some obscure reason, he was lucky to be an American.


In 1945 life was mostly dull in the small farming district called Pleasant Valley, near the town of Liberty, and folks there gave little thought to anything outside of their community that didn’t concern the war—esecially things like space ships! It would be several more years before the pilot, Kenneth Arnold, would report seeing saucer-shaped disks flying in formation over Mt. Rainer, Washington, or before the U.S. Air Force would announce that they had captured one of those “flying saucers” in Roswell, New Mexico. But Raymond had clear memories of a special day that year when a strange circular craft had come to land in the schoolyard. He also recalled the mysterious fact that nearly everyone in the village seemed to anticipate its coming and had rehearsed how they should prepare for the visit.

Everyone, that is, except for Raymond!

During that event, for some reason Ray felt like an outsider, completely alone and excluded from the rest of the community. It seemed like he was the only person in Pleasant Valley who feared the visitors or was surprised by their coming. In awe and unexplainable fear, he had watched the saucer hover in the sky on his way to school that day. When he arrived he was surprised that everyone was already gathered in the schoolyard anticipating the vehicle’s landing and were actually planning to board it. Mrs. Reese, the principal was assuring the residents that once they boarded the craft, they were going to “learn something new and wonderful.”

Everyone was eager and expectant, but it seemed to Raymond that they also were emotionless and robot-like. That scared Ray as much as when he had first seen the UFO hovering in the sky over the school. He knew in his heart that, whatever anyone else did, He would never enter the unusual craft under any circumstance. He couldn’t explain it, but as much as it is possible for a seven-year old child to do so, he felt an awesome sense of terrible evil. To little Raymond, this was “the boogeyman” and it was just about to “get him.” He knew that he couldn’t let this happen. He knew he had to run away and hide, but he didn’t know where to go.

Finally the UFO landed.

It landed right there in the schoolyard. Everyone formed a line and one-by-one entered the disk-shaped craft, remained a few moments, and then exited the UFO to enter the schoolhouse. All of this was done in a ritualistic rhythm and in complete silence. No one was talking, not even in whispers. This silence also caused Raymond fear. He could actually feel the hairs standing up on the back of his neck. He realized that his last chance to get away had finally come and this time he knew where he would go.


Instead of entering the saucer, Ray went into the front door of the schoolhouse, mimicking the mannerisms of others who had already been aboard the craft. They would leave the craft walking in a trance like a sleepwalker, with a sense of purpose and in complete silence. It was easy for Raymond to step into place between two of them without being noticed. He passed through the front classroom, where Mrs. Todd taught first, second and third grade students. Then he passed through the middle room, where Mrs. Duncan taught the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. He continued on through the back classroom, where Mrs. Reese taught the upper grades. From there, he exited the school through the back door and quickly hid under the enclosed stairwell.

The sides of the staircase were enclosed, preventing any view beneath them. He had discovered the hideout last spring and he felt completely safe, knowing that once he had made it through his secret crawl space, no one would think to look for him in there. But then a sudden gnawing fear came as Raymond remembered seeing a tall, skinny, ghost-like figure inside one of the classrooms he had passed through. It was one of the creatures from the saucer—one of “them”—and it had lifted its huge mantis eyes to observe Ray walking through the room.

“What if the thing followed after me to see where I went?” Raymond wondered. Then it occurred to him that, if the creature looked from the doorway, it would only see the little patch of woods lying a few feet from the back porch of the schoolhouse. Surely it would think that Raymond had run into the protection of the trees. Ray decided that he could stay hid in his safe spot all day if necessary. But somehow he knew that the visitors would leave after just a few hours. After all, they had only come to teach and to prepare the folks for something. It was something evil, Raymond was sure of that, but he was also sure that they wouldn’t be staying in the old schoolhouse for very long.

Suddenly he heard footsteps as the alien teacher slowly walked across the classroom floor overhead. Raymond peeked through a tiny crack in his hiding place and could see the alien thing standing at the back door, looking towards the woods. Ray felt safe, almost happy that he could see the alien but could not be seen himself. And then the incredible happened. The visitor bent its body in a manner that no human could ever duplicate. It was like the creature was two-dimensional; because it sort of folded itself at the waist like you can fold a piece of paper. The ghostly being stretched its upper torso down, until it was able to peer at Ray through his personal peek-hole in the stairwell. Its huge insect-like eyes looked at Raymond through the only window into what, until now, he had thought of as his “safe place.” It stared into Raymond’s eyes for at least a minute—and then it smiled. The evil that Ray sensed in that smile was beyond his ability to describe.

Raymond had no recollection of what happened immediately after that. In a few hours the UFO was gone and the teachers were letting the children out of school. When Raymond got home no one mentioned what had occurred that day and he never brought it up to his parents either. Sometimes, when he felt he wanted to talk about it, he was overcome with the memory of the absolute terror he had felt when he stared face to face, into those eyes. Sometimes he found himself wondering what had happened during the hours that were missing from his memory after he looked into them. He realized that this was his darkest secret and a mystery he would probably never be able to answer completely, even to himself.


Ray was abruptly awakened from his revelry by an announcement from the intercom that the men should prepare to disembark from the shuttle in ten minutes. There was a change in the background noises, when the shuttle bus adjusted its steering jets to abandon orbit and enter into the Martian atmosphere. Twelve other men were aboard with Lieutenant Raymond Fielding. They all knew that their destination was the Cydonia region of the red planet. But in his own mind Raymond wondered if any of the others knew the things that he knew, or if they were here for the same reason that he was. He suspected, however, that once again he was excluded from the norm and was the only person aboard the shuttle with his own personal agenda.

NASA had discovered the nest of extra-terrestrial life forms on the Cydonia region of Mars years ago, while photographing the planet from its Viking spacecrafts. At that time Ray had made a secret commitment to himself and he volunteered to be among the first settlers from Earth to inhabit the planet. Even though decades had passed, he had fought hard and won the right to remain part of this mission despite his age. After years of planning and premeditation, nothing was of more importance to him. He could still sense their evil and it permeated all his thoughts of them.

Casually he checked his weapon!

A final image of a burning schoolhouse flashed through his mind!

Sixty years ago Raymond Fielding had received an unwelcome visit from the citizens of Cydonia—a visit, which he was determined that today he would repay. He checked his weapon once more and he departed the shuttle. By Londis Carpenter
70710-L13 Elkhart Road, Edwardsburg, MI 49112 USA
(269) 663-2561
1411 words (7 pages)
A Cydonian Mission
A short story
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