October 3rd 1953
The summer heat still lingered late into the afternoon even though it was now early October but as soon as the sun had begun to set, the evenings quickly grew cold. With just half an hour or so of light left before the darkness made tracking in the woods impossible, Jimmy and Buck decided to set up camp for the night. As they walked through the woods looking for somewhere to put up their tents the last rays of the low sun were slanting through the trees as the fiery crimson orb fell afire behind the Guyandotte mountains that lay to the West.
Jimmy scouted around the trail they had been hunting along and saw a small clearing with enough room for them to pitch their two tents set between a stand of the massive poplars, oaks, red spruce, Virginia pine and pitch pine that flourished in the hills of West Virginia.
“ Looks like a good spot over their buck”, he shouted out to his companion who was crunching his way through the trees a hundreds yards or so to his left also looking for a potential campsite.
Buck looked up and saw his friend pointing towards the right and he began to walk slowly hill towards him. The rucksack on his back was beginning to chafe his shoulders and the backs of his legs were stiffening from all the hill climbing they had done during the day. He was looking forward to a fire, coffee, food and a good night sleep. Every year the hunting trip he and Jimmy had been undertaking since their early teens grew harder. Either the hills were growing higher or else he was growing older. He suspected the latter unfortunately. Though he loved the hunting, the hiking was less enjoyable now they were both getting older. Physically he was not the man he used to be, though he would never admit that to Jimmy. Since they were fifteen years old he and Jimmy had been on regular hunting trips their whole lives. These were the years when both he and Jimmy had been overseas fighting in the war.
Both men were now feeling their age. Jimmy was also beginning to feel that the days were longer, the hills higher and his back weaker. The fragments of the German mortar shell that had exploded and peppered his shoulders and back at the siege of Bastogne in late December 1945 were now beginning to hurt again from the days exertion of climbing the hills. The straps of the rucksack sat right where the scars were deepest and the pain lay as a dull ache deep within the torn and ruptured muscle of his upper back.
He slipped the safety catch back on the pump action Remington shotgun and slung it back over his left shoulder. There would be no more hunting today.
Looking down at left his hip he surveyed the days total kill. Three small quail that he had shot on the trail were hanging from the army belt around his waist, their delicate pale grey feathers smeared with streaks of blood where the shotgun pellets had pierced the flesh. They would taste lovely he thought to himself, cooked slowly over a camp fire of maple and pine wood. His mouth already ran with the thought of the delicate smoked game taste.
By the time Buck had walked up the hill to where Jimmy was putting up his tent the first stars had already begun to appear in the sky.
A glorious scarlet sunset lay across the sky from east to west illuminated the little clusters of towns that hugged the hills of Raleigh County, whose little lights could be seen twinkling gently in the distance.
Guyandotte mountain range where they had set up camp climbs to a height of around 2,461 feet above sea level and is located within the Allegheny Plateau of southern West Virginia. The range is bordered on the east by the small town of Bolt and to the west the city of Beckley. Whilst Paint Creek Watershed lays to the north, Slab Fork Mountain lies to the south west, Coal River Mountain lays to the northeast and Guyandotte River runs along the western edge of the mountain range.
Jimmy and Buck had lived in Raleigh County all their lives and they knew every path and trail along the mountain range. The hills of the area were thick with maples, hickories, box elder and intermingled among the red spruce were massive oaks that had littered the ground beneath them with plump acorns. The trees were in their beautiful fall blush of colour and the woods resembled a vibrant psychedelic painted patchwork quilt of scarlets, russets, browns and gold. Game to hunt was always plentiful in the hills with quail, deer, pheasant, chukar and wild turkey all available for the determined hunter to track and kill.
Every early October when the weather was fine, he and Buck would set off for three days of hunting, trapping and living off the land. With the wives and kids left behind they would pack Bucks truck with their hunting gear and set off from the their homes in the suburbs of Beckley and head for the hills. With a few bottles of wild turkey whisky and cheap cigars in their rucksacks the hunting frequently had to wait until the early afternoon when the hangovers would ease, but even with a trembling hand gripping the shotgun the game was usually easy to bring down.
Buck took the rucksack off of his shoulders and threw it down on the ground with a loud groan.
Jimmy looked up from banging in the tent pegs on his tent and smiled at his old friend, “ Whats up Buck, getting a bit too much for you is it “.
With a sardonic grin Buck reached into the interior pocket of his green and brown camouflage hunting jacket and pulled out a cigar, bit the end off it and lit it with his zippo lighter. He inhaled deeply and replied, “ I am only tired because I was up early this morning, whilst you lay in bed being sick, you lightweight”.
“ The only reason I was sick Buck”, said Jimmy, “ was because of that goddamn cheap whisky you keep bringing up here with you and making me drink. If you bought some decent whisky instead of the rot gut then I would not have to lay in bed sleeping off the effects of its poison on my system”.
Buck snorted, “ That’s goddamn mans whisky that boy, no wonder your being sick on it when you drink that fancy single malt scotch all the time”.
“ What the hell do you know about good whisky jimmy, you buy the stuff by the gallon in a drum”.
Jimmy smiled, “ That’s because I actually drink whisky instead of sipping it like some old lady at a tea party. You drink like a sparrow from a bird bath, a sip at a time. That aint how you drink boy ! “.
“ No doubt you will be showing me again tonight eh Buck “.
Buck chewed on the cigar and smiled, “ That I will, that I will”.
Within ten minutes both the tents had been put up, the mosquito nets fixed in place within the tents and both Jimmy and Buck were collecting wood for the camp fire. A large pile of logs and brushwood had been deposited in the centre of the clearing and a patch of earth swept free of leaves so as to ensure no stray sparks could set the ground litter alight during the night.
With well practised skill Jimmy built a small pile of twigs and leaves and then set fire to it with his lighter. The thin grey black tendrils of wood smoke that began drifting up from the fire chased away a few of the hovering bugs that buzzed around the clearing eager for a feast of blood from any exposed skin, and after a few minutes the fire was roaring away nicely. The spit of sparks from the red hot embers and the crackle of burning wood was loud in the twilight, and as the flames were safely built upon a carpet of red hot embers, Buck threw a log of pine wood still wet with sap and allowed the smoke to bellow forth clearing the last of the mosquitoes out of the clearing.
Jimmy sat by the fire stripping the feathers from the quail in preparation for gutting and cleaning the birds ready for cooking. He had cut three branches about an inch thick and three feet long from an oak at the edge of the clearing and sharpened one end of the sticks. These were ready for the cleaned quail to be spitted on and hung over the fire. With a dash of wild turkey whisky to baste the skin and a side dish of tinned potatoes and beans, the perfect hunters feast was about to be commenced.
Buck walked over and offered Jimmy the bottle of wild turkey whisky, and jimmy wiped the blood and feathers from his fingers over his jacket, gripped the bottle and took a long swig.
He coughed and his eyes watered, “Jesus Buck “, he said with a hoarse voice, “ how can you drink that stuff ”, and carried on cleaning the guts out of the last quail carcass.
Buck stood up and stared into the fire and smiled. The cold night air had now settled in the woods and the sky above was a wondrous landscape of crystal stars that glittered through the branches of the trees that surrounded the clearing.
Buck looked down at his old friend and realised that he was in a lot of pain. He saw that Jimmy had been taking more of the prescription painkillers than usual during the day and he realised that the years, and the injuries Jimmy had sustained during the war were beginning to catch up with him.
He sat down next to Jimmy and put the bottle down.
“ Give me that Jim, I can finish that off. You go and rest for a bit”, and reached over to pick up the quail corpses.
Jimmy yawned and struggled unsteadily to his feet, wincing as the pain in his back grinded into his muscle, “ Thanks. I need to go and siphon the python anyway”, and walked stiffly into the darkness that surrounded the clearing.
Pushing a sharpened stick vertically through the length of each quail Buck positioned them carefully above the fire. He reached over and threw more maple and pine logs onto the fire and let the smoke and flame tickle the underneath of the birds, so as to gently roast them over the fire. He picked up the bottle of wild turkey and splashed it over the birds, the run off being instantly ignited by the fire with a flush of bright blue flame. The smell of the sizzling meat, skin and the aroma of the burning pine was making his stomach grumble with anticipation, and he opened his rucksack and withdrew two tins of potatoes and a large tin of beans. He opened both tins and tipped the contents into a large saucepan that he balanced on a log on the edge of the fire. Within a couple of seconds one side of the saucepan the beans had already begun to bubble and blister, throwing a hiss of steam into the air.
From out of the darkness Jimmy staggered back to the fire and sat down. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the bottle of painkillers, twisted the lid off, tipped two into his hand, threw them into his mouth and took a large swig of whisky to gulp them down.
Buck turned away from him and faced the fire. No point asking him if he was okay as he already knew the answer. The flames from the fire were leaping high into the air and illuminating the trees with a warm red glow. The smoke from the smouldering pine log lifted through the tree canopy and drifted gently downwind into the valley below. A barn owl hooted in the forest depths whilst nearby whilst a wary fox could be heard sniffing and snorting through the trees scenting prey not far from the clearing. The cold was now beginning to set in and both men moved closer to the fire to hug the warmth cast off by the flames.
The woods were now totally dark, the only light from the crescent moon that sat to the south, silvering the misty mountain tops with its effulgent moonbeams. Buck stared into the darkness of the night as Saturn, a scintillating spark of gold, rose slowly to its throne overhead. At the center of the great Winter Circle of stars was the orange star Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion, the hunter whilst Jupiter lay to the south. The lack of artifical street lighting meant that the whole night sky was fantastically clear and he never tired of gazing at the beauty of the night.
It took him a couple of seconds before he realised he was staring at the same point in the sky, just beneath the seat of Orion, his eyes instinctively picking up on something that his conscious mind had not yet fully recognised. A small red star was moving to the south, too slow for a shooting star and too high for it to be a plane. It appeared to be moving in a straight line across the sky, at what must have been an incredible speed.
What the hell is it, Buck thought to himself. He looked over at Jimmy who was sipping again at the wild turkey bottle, he called over to him.
“ Jimmy come and have a look at this”.
Jimmy laughed, “ No thanks Buck. I saw you naked in the shower once and trust me its nothing to brag about”.
Buck laughed and said, “ Good one. No, really, come and look at this”.
With a deep groan Jimmy hauled himself to his feet and stood up then walked over to where Buck stood staring into the night sky.
Buck pointed to Orion, “ Just beneath Orion there, that red star is moving “.
Jimmy stared at the spot where Buck was pointing and saw what appeared to be a shooting star streaking across the sky. He waited for a few moments for the star to flicker and die as it fell to its doom into the Earths atmosphere but it kept moving and growing brighter.
Then with a sudden streak of speed the red star dropped straight down from the sky rushing towards the ground and then vanished behind the peak of Coal River mountain to the northeast.
“ What the hell was that “, Jimmy said in a low hushed voice.
Buck shook his head, “ Damned if I know. It weren’t no plane that’s for sure. There isn’t anything that we have that can fly like that and I doubt the Russians have anything that can do that sort of manouevere either. I flew one of the Grumman F9F Panther’s just before I left the air force in ‘49 and not even the Panther can fly like that. “
As he spoke the red star that fallen from the sky lifted straight up from behind Coal River mountain, casting a dull red light on the sharp edges of the peak and down its rocky shoulders. It now appeared to be hovering a few hundred feet above the top of the mountain itself, absolutely still. The light it was casting on the scree was almost like flame, and the object seemed to pulsate and flicker.
“ Christ, that is getting closer”, Buck spoke, real fear in his voice.
The light was now moving across the tree tops of the forest that separated the two mountains, a distance of about ten miles, its light illuminating the canopy of the trees that it was slowly passing over.
He heard Jimmy move away from him, unzip his tent and then return to stand by his side. Then he heard the click of the safety catch on Jimmys pump action shotgun and the sound of a cartridge being pumped into the chamber.
The light was now less than a mile away, the red light bright enough to hurt the eyes. As it moved closer he could see the shadows of the trees sliding across the ground as the object moved forwards over them.
Buck reached into his hunting jacket, unclipped the leather shoulder holster he wore underneath it and pulled out his fathers .45 Colt automatic pistol 1911 model that he always carried with him when they went out hunting in case of encounters with black bears in the forest. He cocked the pistol, chambered a round and slipped the safety catch off.
The object was now less than a few hundred feet away and he could begin to make out more of its shape.
It was about the size of a 1950 ford truck, oval shaped with a pulsating red light at its centre. It appeared to be made of a translucent silver metal that was inlaid with dozens of small white lights. It had no cockpit nor did it appear to have any doors or entrances on the exterior of the object. The red light it was casting forth was now so bright it lit up the trees for approximately a hundred feet all around and bathed the clearing in a strange blood like glow. As it approached the clearing at a height of about fifty feet, it began to slow down until it hovered silently directly overhead.
Jimmy raised the shotgun to his shoulder, pointed it at the object and shouted out to Buck, “ What the hell is it Buck ? “.
Buck just stood there speechless, the pistol in his right hand pointed straight at the object.
Suddenly a red light, as thin as a pencil, shone out of the bottom of the object and began to move towards both Buck and Jimmy. At that exact moment both of them started firing at the thing. The bark of the shotgun firing echoed in the clearing and Buck could hear the metallic clang as the pellets impacted upon the object. His pistol recoiled in his hand and he could see the .45 slugs spark off and ricochet off of the thing. Both men continued to fire in unison as the object hung impassively in the air, seemingly impervious to the enfilade of fire directed at it. Buck emptied all seven rounds from the clip at the object and watched as Jimmy fired off all five shotgun rounds at the object.
The thin red light disappeared in an instant and the object waited in the air, hovering over the clearing at an elevation of around fifty feet. Jimmy lowered the shotgun from his shoulder and was chambering fresh rounds into it, when a small round hole appeared in the bottom of the craft and a small, round silver metal object about the size of a football fell through the air to the ground.
As it hit the ground it emitted a flash of white light and instantly both men were blown off their feet and thrown across the clearing by the impact of an explosion.
Jimmy had been thrown about ten feet and lay unconscious by the fire, blood running from his forehead, his right foot laying in the fire. Buck was thrown backwards by the blast, landed on his belly next to Jimmy and groaned as the impact knocked the air from his lungs. He rolled over onto his back and saw that Jimmy was unconscious , his head lolling and drool dripping from his open mouth. Buck pulled himself onto his knees, grabbed hold of Jimmy foot and pulled it from the fire and then rolled towards his left side and away from the flames.
As he went to stand up, his ears ringing from the explosion, he saw a small figure flit past him in the darkness on the edge of the clearing. Buck looked down to his right hand and saw that he was still somehow clutching the pistol. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a fresh clip, loaded it into the butt of the pistol and started firing at the figure moving in the darkness.
As the second round was loaded into the chamber, the gun was snatched from his hand and thrown across the clearing, landing about four feet from where he was kneeling.
Buck looked up. Before him stood a small, naked, grey humanoid like creature with dark almond shaped eyes. About four feet tall it had long arms, hands with five fingers, short legs and large feet with five toes, wrinkled grey skin that appeared foetid and damp and an oval, oversized bald head. As he gazed into its blank, black eyes it suddenly leaned forward, then hissed like a snake straight into his face. It raised its right hand in the air and smashed a small, but powerful fist straight into his mouth. The impact knocked three of his front teeth out and threw him onto his back. The warm blood ran down his throat and he gagged as he choked on the salty liquid.
All of a sudden another small figure similar to the first rushed out of the darkness and grabbed him by his feet and began to drag him over the ground. The first creature moved away to the right and headed back to the fire. The rocks and twigs were slicing into his skin as the creature ran back towards the craft, and he could do nothing but scream as he was dragged like a child drags a doll across the rocks, roots and stones. He turned his head for a moment and saw Jimmy laying on his back by the fire. The creature that had hit him a few moments ago was sitting on Jimmy’s chest savagely tearing away the clothes from his prostate body with its hands. It carried on until Jimmy lay totally naked on the ground surrounded by the shredded rags that were once his clothes.
From the object still hovering above the clearing a long, thin, flexible silver metal tube with what appeared to be a suction cup on the end of it appeared out of a small hole and began to snake down to the ground, moving towards where Jimmy lay. The creature grasped the tube and then placed the cup over Jimmy’s crotch as another smaller metal tube appeared from the craft and slithered swiftly like a serpent across the ground towards where his friend lay. The second tube then slid between his friends buttocks and vanished into his body.
The creature that had been dragging turned round and looked down at him. Buck closed his eyes and pretended to be unconscious. It seemed to be enjoying this he thought, as its mouth curled into a vicious rictus that mimicked a smile.
Buck felt the fingers of the creature loosen around his legs and he squinted his eyes open a little and looked back at Jimmy for a moment. The two tubes had been withdrawn from Jimmy’s body and were now slithering across the clearing heading towards him. The other creature that had been holding Jimmy down was now walking slowly towards him, a malevolent grin on its evil features. As the creature holding onto his legs eased its grip on his flesh, perhaps thinking its prey was immobilised Buck slid his hand quickly into his right trouser pocket and pulled out the hunting knife he always carried on him. He pulled it out and slashed with his right hand at the creatures face, the skin of which suddenly slid apart as the razored edge of the blade sliced down its face. A black substance that reeked of decay squirted out over his face and it screamed as it let go of his feet and clutched at its bleeding face. Buck leant forward and rammed the knife straight into its right eye which popped and squirted a clear liquid over his face and neck, withdrew the knife then plunged it into the right hand side of its throat.The creature opened its small mouth revealing a row of tiny yellow teeth, screamed loudly, fell back, twitched twice and then laid still.
He saw that the creature had dragged him to where it had thrown the pistol which now lay next to him and as he grasped it the other creature ran hissing across the clearing, jumped over the fire and headed straight towards him. Buck rolled onto his belly, aimed the pistol at the creatures midriff and fired twice. The first bullet knocked the creature back three feet into the air, whilst the second sliced along the skin of its belly as it twisted in the air and disembowelled it. As it fell to the ground, a pile of steaming black viscera tumbled out of its lower body cavity and pulsated on the grass.
The metal tubes immediately stopped moving towards him and began to retract back into the craft. He stood up, lowered the pistol and fired once into the face of the creature he had stabbed that lay on the ground. Its skull exploded sending shards of pale bone splattering onto the ground, then he turned and started to run to where jimmy still lay. As he passed the second creature that he had just shot out of the air, it opened its eyes and went to clutch at his feet with its right hand whilst holding onto the guts that had spilled from its body with its left hand. Buck leant down and pressed the pistol against its left forehead and pulled the trigger. As its head was thrown back by the impact of the bullet Buck ran forward, stuffed the pistol into his right pocket, picked Jimmy up and threw his unconscious form over his right shoulder. Jimmy groaned as he lifted him and then fell straight back into unconsciousness. A deep wound was cut into his forehead and the blood was beginning to congeal and crust over it.
The andrenaline was pumping through his entire body as he ran through the trees. He could not even feel the branches that slashed at his face and neck, nor the pain from his damaged mouth. He just needed to get away and take care of Jimmy. He looked behind him and saw that the metallic tubes which had been writhing on the ground were now were lifting the two dead creatures in the air back into the craft. As he watched from behind a tree about a hundred yards away from the clearing, a hole about three feet wide appeared in the side of the object and the creatures were lifted up from the clearing and pulled into the craft.
As the hole sealed up in the hull of the object it began to move upwards away from the clearing, and then with a sudden burst of acceleration shot straight up into the sky punching a hole in the clouds above the clearing, and vanished into the darkness.
Jimmy groaned on the floor beside him and Buck took his hunting jacket off and carefully wrapped him in it to keep him warm. He lifted him gently from the ground and headed slowly back to the clearing.