The Truth Out There

Summary: Martin Maxson freaks out about his sister's engagement, driving deep into the deserts of the American southwest. After a strange encounter, he reevaluates his position.

Martin Maxson floored the gas as his future brother in law's pickup truck bounded down the lonely road. The sun was an orange ball sinking beneath the golden horizon, darkening the desert sky. The distant mountains and mesas were a line of silhouetted shadows, harbingers of the coming dark. As it sank, the temperature declined with it. His eyes shifted towards the fuel display as the needle moved towards "Empty."

Martin pulled off to the side of the road. The events of the last few hours were fresh in his mind, before he began his monotonous flight from home. He'd long been afraid of his sister's boyfriend Jim, a former Air Force officer. For someone who'd feared government coverups his entire life, he felt it was an attempt to monitor him.

As the sun sank low, Martin realized how alone he truly was. He had no food. He had no water. He had no phone. He had only himself, and the consequences of his rash actions, to confront him. As negative emotions spiraled, he found himself trying to blame someone else for his current predicament. His twisting guts refused to comply with the self-deception.

As the sun set, Martin looked into the desert night sky. Nebula and stars crept across the sky like a brilliant plague. The dethroned sun had its glory usurped by a thousand distant stars, the light of dead eons coming to rest upon Earth. As he wondered how isolated he was, he reflected about how small Earth was in the grand cosmic scheme of things.

Something crossed the heavens, and Martin gulped. He thought it was a shooting star, until it flew back from whence it came. Another object with a light blue contrail came in perpendicular to crossing its trajectory at the exact same time. He stared dumbfounded and slack-jawed at the sky. Then, he looked behind him.

At first, Martin thought the sun had not fully set. The colors welling up from the horizon were similar to those of a typical sunset: purple, orange, and gold. The sequence was reversed, as something rose over the distant horizon. It was a massive, dire object, a red star with black spots pockmarking it like plague sores.

Martin turned around, but the desert spun around him. The empty plain was now a line of long, thin plants, which angled sinuous branches upwards. He blinked, and the surreal forest turned their limbs on him. He screamed, but no sound left his mouth. He smelled the ozone stench of lightning strikes, and they closed in on him.

Martin staggered backwards, covering his face with his hands. He gasped, or would have, had any air left his lungs. The sky above him was abject black, devoid of the rich nebulae of prior moments. The ground beneath him vanished, and he tumbled alone through infinity. Something cold reached into his lungs, and everything went black.

Martin woke up with someone tapping his shoe. He saw Jim crouching above him, a first aid kit in his hands. "Hey, are you okay?"

Martin said nothing, but blinked in disbelief. "I-I'm sorry-y," he said, stammering an apology. "I-I"

"Don't worry about it," Jim said, helping him to his feet. "You're okay, and that's what matters."

"How'd you find me so fast?"

"The road you took only has one direction, until you hit the state border," he said. "You have a bruise on your head."

"I probably hit my head falling out of the truck," Martin said. "I saw a lot of strange things."

"Yeah, tell me about it. I used to work at Groom Lake."

"Area 51? That's awesome!"

"Yeah. Lara says you're a conspiracy buff, so I've got some real good stories for you."

Martin limped back to the truck, reaching for the spare fuel tank. It would be a long drive back, but he no longer felt so alone. Perhaps the truths he sought were not so otherworldly.