On the cusp of dusk, and not quite fall. The woods were still warm. Braxton County, West Virginia. Near four hours from the big city, and Fork Mountain just below. The tobacco was almost finished; only four million pounds of it this year.
The brothers had their friend Tommy and a bushel of Golden Delicious in the bed of the blue truck. Flatwoods would soon overflow with pie. Apple, of course, and peach cream. Shoofly, too, pie oozing sticky molasses, attracting every gnat under the sun. Goes down nice with a cold beer, Fred thought. They usually settled for iced tea. It was hard to get your hands on the stuff in this county, and none of them were old enough for whatever it was their uncle made under the moon. Maybe next year.
Ed rolled a smoke from a pouch of Yellow Orinoco, steered with his other hand. Shadows danced in the near dark. He drove slower near the trestle so they could take in the last copper slice of sun. That’s when they saw the sky falling into the road ahead of them.
Fred braked. They heard Tommy yelp, felt the staccato thuds of rolling Goldens. Jagged fragments of black and silver ice on fire, crashing through the stars and spilling like coins on either side of road.
What was that?!?!? Ed’s voice was an octave higher than it had been at the last bend. Tommy frogged over the edge of the truck, scrambled into the cabin. Ed was thinking his heart was about to beat a hole through his rib cage when everything went cold. There was a strange hollow moment and then, there it was, the extraterrestrial. The thing had small hands like claws. It was oddly huddled, hunched to fit into the woods, and still it towered over the treetops. It wore a huge hood and long robe, made from the night from where it came. There was a fetid stink on its hissing breath. Its eyes were red embers like the Sweet Roanoke burning a hole through Tommy’s pocket.
They’d never seen a devil like this, not even inside the coal mines, where there was all manner of wicked, scuddling things.
Tommy lit a cigarette, passed it around.
In fifty years, official word from the Air Force would be the boys had seen a meteor crash, an aircraft navigation and hazard beacon, and a barn owl. Combined with their fear and their particular latitude, the phantom of the Flatwoods, population 257, briefly appeared.
Reporters would cling to the flying saucer story, and so would film-makers. The Shoney’s on the other side of the hills would sell Flatwoods Monster figurines. Video game enthusiasts would spin games and graphic novels from what skeptics dismissed as hick folklore.
But for now, there were just three boys, and an empty sky over the silent woods.
Jesus Christ, said Fred, first to speak, and stepped on the gas.
—From the author’s forthcoming collection, Winter in June
is from Toronto, Canada. Her prose poetry and flash fiction are widely published in literary journals and anthologies, with recent or forthcoming appearances in Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash, Club Plum, Red Eft, and Indelible. A recent story won first place in a contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly, and her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent of five poetry collections is Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems. Some of her works have been translated into Urdu.
Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 25 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca
A Review of Pretty Time Machine: Ekphrastic Prose Poems
by Jenene Ravesloot (4 February 2020) on Facebook
Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem in KYSO Flash
(Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize