Something bad happened. I awoke to a woman’s shrill scream, then silence, as if someone had put a pillow over her face. I went to my motel room door and peeked up and down the hallway, but no one was there. I closed the door then checked out the window into the parking lot. All was still, so I returned to bed and listened. But here were no more screams.At six I awoke to a tapping on the wall and I could hear a muffled voice. My first reaction was to put the pillow over my head, but then I remembered the scream. I sat up and cautiously put my ear to the wall. The tapping was from the room next to mine and as I listened I heard a woman’s faint voice: ‘Help me. Please…help me.”
Dressing quickly I went out in the hall and tapped on the next room door, asking if she needed assistance. There was silence. I was ready to go to the front desk when I heard a light tapping and a voice. I put my ear to the door and heard a woman’s panicky voice: “My husband’s gone. Something’s wrong with me. I feel so weak.”
I banged on the door and asked her to open it, but she said she could not get up. She had no strength. I turned away and ran to the front desk, looking for the receptionist who had checked me in late last night. But the desk was empty; no one was around.
Looking into the spacious, western-motif breakfast area I saw no one was there. I thought about my cell phone and turned to go back to my room when I saw a group of maid’s carts assembled for the morning room cleaning. A key card was hanging from one. I grabbed the key card and ran back to my neighbor’s room. I quickly opened the door and called out, but there was no response. I propped the door open and cautiously went in. The bed was in disarray; on the fold-out lugged holders were two suitcases. I checked the bathroom where there were male and female toiletries. But the room was empty; the distressed woman had disappeared.
Returning to the front desk, I found no one. I went into the office and found it empty. I returned to the breakfast room where the flat screen was blaring. Fox was reporting on a police chase of illegals doing 100 on the Los Angeles Freeway. I got some juice and coffee and thought about calling 911. But what to say?
I finished my coffee, got a paper cup refill and went outside, greeted by a clear, chilly Nevada fall day. The Best Western Motel was on the corner of main and a side road. The parking lot was full, which reinforced my fear that something was dreadfully wrong. My heart skipped a beat as I noted it was now past seven thirty and there was no traffic in sight. The small town of Ely was dead.
Where was everyone?
I began to have the queasy feeling I was the only one around. Was there some kind of emergency and I had missed the evacuation call? Had everyone left town in the middle of the night and I been left behind? But what about the woman in the room next to mine? She said her husband was gone. Gone where? When I finally got into her room, she had disappeared.
As I focused, I recalled my drive into Ely. I had driven in from the east and passed the usual fast-food joints, hair cut salons, cleaners, even a car dealer. But now they were not there. The motel was on the corner and east of the motel this morning was nothing except the desert. Had I been that tired when I arrived that I was wrong in my recall? But I was positive the motel had not been on the edge of the desert. It was time for me to return to my room and get my cell phone and call 911, find out what was happening in Ely.
The wind whistled and I shivered in the morning chill. I was about to turn back to the motel when suddenly, I heard a voice and down the block I could see a young woman, cradling a small child. She was waving and calling. She was distant, and I could not make out what she was yelling. But she was gesturing frantically at me.
I waved back at her and started jogging toward her. She waved again, yelled something, then turned to her left and vanished around the corner. I ran as fast as I could to where she was standing and looked for her. But she was gone.
Walking slowly down the sidewalk, I peered into the line of stores, looking for the girl with the child. There was a breakfast coffee shop with an open sign. I went in and found a cozy setting, but it was empty. Country music was playing, a mournful song of too many cups of coffee and a love gone wrong. A few tables were set with unfinished coffee; one had a plate of half eaten scrambled eggs and bacon. But no one was about. I called and looked into the kitchen, but the place was deserted.
I retraced my steps, stopping and looking up and down the empty streets. I made my way back to the Best Western. Suddenly I saw a black SUV heading toward the motel from the west. It slowed and pulled into the parking lot. There were three men in the SUV, two in the front and one in the back. They were dressed in suits, ties and white shirts. All three were wearing plaid Route 66 porkpie hats. The tall man in the front passenger seat stepped out and stared at me
Waving to them, I called: “Hey, what’s happening here? Everybody has disappeared. Where are you guys from?”
“We are from Area 51.” But the man did not speak; I heard his words in my head.
Area 51? I thought.
Again, his words sounded in my head. “Yes, Area 51.”
I gaped and a chill went down my spine. We were communicating through telepathy. They could read my thoughts, and I could read their thoughts, too.
The tall man spoke to me silently. “We came on peaceful reconnaissance, but crashed. They took us to that place over fifty years ago. We planted our seeds and slowly assumed command. Now Area 51 is our home. For the past twenty-five years we have been developing the Ray. This morning we tested the Ray, an experiment so to speak. A few glitches, we missed some people here and there, had to give it another shot. But the Ray is ready. Now we will begin start our settlement plan.”
“Ray? You have some kind of weapon? But what happened to everyone?’ I asked.
“Poof.” The man replied.
“And half the town is gone.” I said pointing to the east of the Best Western.
“Poof.” He repeated.
A light bulb went on and I turned, looking frantically up and down the deserted street. This was a joke, some kind of reality cable setup. But no one popped forward.
The man in the blue suit stood impassively, watching me. “But I don’t understand.” I spoke aloud.” How can I read your thoughts?”
There was a glimmer of a smile. “You are a sleeper.” He replied. “You are one of us.”
I took a step back as he opened the door of the black SUV and motioned for me to join them.
“Welcome to Area 51.” He said.” Welcome home.”