Touched
By: Dawn DeBraal

Jeb Mason hopped onto the tractor, driving out into his grazing field. He'd seen the cow from a distance, at the crest of a knoll. Cow #647 identified by the tag of her one remaining ear had been laid wide open like she was on an operating table. No blood in or around the carcass. It appeared the other ear was removed with surgical precision. All that remained was the best part of her, the meat and hide left to rot in the sun. Jeb had heard about these cow mutilations. They started happening after the Roswell incident. He was about fifty miles from where they claimed to have hauled away an unidentified flying object from a ranch in Roswell, NM. Everything strange that happened was attributed to that fateful night back in June of '47. That had been six years ago. Jeb's first thought was to bury her but decided he would report this to the Sheriff first, to make a case against the aliens who were suspected, of doing these horrific things. The government tried to cover it up, which made things worse. Jeb had heard stories of alien abductions or sightings. Things seemed to have calmed down to the point where you were about to forget the story, and they come and excise the ear and genitalia from your cow. The Sheriff took his time in getting there. He held a handkerchief over his face when he came upon #647.

"How'd you know it's a heifer?" he asked Jeb. Jeb sighed, pointing to the number on the one remaining ear.

"Records, on #647." He produced a sheet from a folder that had the entire history of this cow. Date of Birth, when she was wormed, who her parents were. The Sheriff was impressed.

"Do you think this could be kids from the veterinarian school?" Jeb could not believe such a stupid question would be coming from the Sheriff's mouth.

"Sheriff, haven't you read any of the stories in the newspapers?" Sheriff Thompson was still taking pictures and walking around the carcass.

"We could get someone here, from the Air Force base. I put in a call earlier. Can you leave her above ground another day?" The buzzards were circling above them. Jeb pulled the canvas back over the heifer.

"I can give it one more day, after that, I gotta get in her the ground. It's spooking the other cows. I want to talk to someone who has had this happen to them, is there some way I can get in touch with another victim?" Sheriff Thompson said he'd look for another farmer willing to talk.

Jeb received a phone call early the next morning from a farmer nearby, Sam Tucker. Jeb and Sam decided to meet in the middle. Jeb drove to Elida. Darcy wanted to shop, so he left her off at the five and dime continuing to the restaurant. He ordered a cup of coffee as he waited for Sam Tucker to arrive. Sam arrived on time to share his story.

"About a year ago. I had two heifers found in the field. There wasn't a footprint, a tire print, not a sign in the dirt. They were about 20 yards apart and had been cut open. Whoever did this, knew what they were looking for." Sam reported.

"Blood, did you find any blood?" Jeb asked.

"Nope. Nor did I ever get anything for damages. The Air Force base laughed at me, and the Sheriff put it down to mischief of kids. Do you think it has something to do with that alien crash from a few years back?" Jeb was thoughtful before he answered.

"If I say yes, I come off as a kook. I will be walking my property with a rifle for the next few weeks. It ain't going to happen to me again, that's for sure." When they finished, they shook hands exchanging addresses promising to keep in touch if they'd heard any more of these incidents. Jeb picked up Darcy, and they started back home when a black car pushed them off the road. A man in a suit got out of the vehicle and approached Jeb.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Mr.?" Jeb shouted.

"Mr. Mason, you need to keep your eyes on the road, and your mouth shut. We don't want to hear anything from your mouth talking about Roswell or cattle cutting. If we do, we will make sure that you to keep your mouth shut permanently. Do I make myself clear?" Darcy started to cry.

"Please Jeb, tell him nothing happened. Mr., as far as we know, coyotes got our heifer the other night." Jeb looked at his wife like she was an alien. He wasn't going to win, not when he was fighting the government and aliens. All he had for his defense was a Savage model 99 and a hand full of shells. Jeb let out a big sigh.

"Nope, nothing unusual happened. A heifer got ate by some coyotes on my farm. I am keeping a closer eye on my cattle, carrying a gun with me at all, times. You never know when those coyotes will come calling." Jeb's threat lost on the man in the suit who went back to his car and drove off. Jeb hadn't been this scared in all his life. He put his arm around his wife, telling her it would be alright.

He wore a rag soaked in liniment oil tied around his face. That heifer was so far into the stages of decay he nearly lost his lunch. The tractor and bucket dug a deep hole alongside the cow. Jeb tied a rope around her hooves and dragged her to the grave with the John Deere. He got #647 to the edge, pulled enough that the heifer rolled in. Jeb covered the carcass. When he got back to the house, he and Darcy looked at one another. They were together in this thing. He was glad not to have to carry the burden alone. He wondered about Sam Tucker. Had Sam suffered the same fate on the way home? Jeb lit Sam Tucker's address on fire in a cast–iron frying pan. He wouldn't be talking with Sam or anyone.

For a while, Jeb and Darcy were able to go on with their lives. Things started to feel normal again. Darcy was expecting their first child. Excited, Jeb took her out to celebrate. Darcy glowed with the life she was carrying. Jeb never saw her look more beautiful. Months later, Darcy delivered a healthy baby girl. They named her Leona. She had her mother's dark hair and her father's blue eyes.

Late at night on Leona's fifth birthday, Jeb was awakened by hearing Leona talk. Was she dreaming? He wondered. He quietly got out of bed, tiptoed down the hall. He could hear Leona chattering away. Jeb could see a bright light coming from under the locked door. A kind of light that couldn't be produced from a lamp, he was sure. He put his ear to the door he could still hear Leona talking.

"Where are we going?" she asked in her innocent five–year–old voice. Jeb didn't listen anymore. He put his shoulder to the door with the first ram, popped open the flimsy lock. Darcy called out from the bedroom.

"What's happening?" Jeb called her to come, not believing his eyes. Their daughter enveloped in bright light was being lifted from her bed and carried out through an open window. Jeb tried to grab Leona, but some invisible force pushed him to the floor. He screamed for Darcy to come. Darcy was there in a flash, seeing their daughter float out of the second–story window. Darcy tried to grasp the last thing going out but was also violently repelled. They both hit the stairs running, following the strange light out into the field, near the spot where the heifer lay six years before. A strange orb glowed in the sky, making pulsing sounds. The bright light that emanated from it held their daughter, who disappeared into the ship. In two seconds, the spaceship vanished.

"Oh, my God!" Darcy screamed. "Leona!"

"Call the Sheriff!" Jeb shouted. Darcy ran for the house, screaming her daughter's name all the way. Jeb searched to see if by some miracle Leona was on the ground somewhere close by.

Jeb could see by the look on the Sheriff's face. He didn't believe their story. Sheriff Thompson found the broken lock on Leona's bedroom door, the second story window open. There didn't seem to be a disturbance in the room. Sheriff Thompson knew Jeb. He was the crazy guy with the cow mutilation six years ago. Thompson called in the missing child but had little to go on. She was barefoot, wearing a pink nightgown, brunette, blue eyes approximately forty–three pounds. Jeb Mason gave Leona's picture to him.

A search party quickly formed. The property did not produce Leona. Jeb and Darcy knew that the government was hiding a massive secret from their citizens. They had a small taste of it, years ago but now their daughter had been taken. This incident wasn't some nondescript heifer in the field anymore.

The little town of Artesia, NM, had a population of just under 12,000. The morning after the abduction, Darcy called every person she could think of alerting them to Leona's disappearance. The nightly news carried the story of the missing girl. Jeb offered a reward. At night Jeb sat on the back porch searching the sky, while Darcy sat in front. They didn't know how to contact the aliens. They would be willing to give them everything they, had for the safe return of their daughter. Another week went by before the suited man came to their house. He knocked. Jeb flew out of the screen door, grabbing him by the collar holding him up to the side of the house.

"Where is she?" he screamed in the man's face as the suited man tried to extricate himself from Jeb's big hands. Darcy shouted to Jeb to let the man talk! Jeb pushed away from him.

"Mr. Mason, I don't know where your daughter is, but you must stop talking about alien abduction. People from higher up are quite upset at the attention you are bringing back to the Roswell incident. You were warned a few years ago about this." Jeb pushed the suit back up against the house.

"This ain't no heifer we're talking about, this time it is my daughter!" When he said my daughter, he slammed the suits head into the house twice, trying to drill this into his head. The man stepped back.

"I can assure you my department will do what it can. We are asking you to tone down the alien part of the abduction. You know if this an alien abduction no one is going to find your daughter through normal channels. If you have any hope of getting her back, let us do our job, leave the press out of it." With that said, the suit drove off. Jeb punched a hole in the screen door. He wished it was the guys face.

For whatever reason, that evening Jeb told Darcy he was taking a drive to clear his mind. Not to wait up, not to worry. He put a flashlight in the pickup truck glove compartment and headed away from his farm. He didn't know where he was going, his subconscious mind did. He drove to Roswell, ending up at the ranch where the spaceship crashed. The spot was where it all started. A small sign identifying the crash site had been shot up. Jeb pulled the Savage 99 off the back window of the truck, putting a handful of shells in his pocket. He pulled the flashlight out of the glove box, turning it on. Crossing over the fence, Jeb started to walk the field. His gun broke apart, laying over his left arm while he held the flashlight in his right.

Heat lightning rose up in the distance. It was hot and humid. Jeb walked a few steeps shining the light around searching. He didn't know what he was searching for, just that he needed to find something of "theirs." Perhaps a bargaining chip. The humidity was near one hundred percent. Jeb was breathing hard as he walked through the brush and the sand, tripping now and then. He fell over something. The Savage smashed into his chest, knocking the wind out of him. He lay in the dirt and started to cry, something he hadn't been able to do for the past two weeks. Where was Leona? Was she alright? Were they taking care of her? Was she being used for experiments, as they had done to heifer #647?

Jeb kicked and screamed, having a tantrum right there on the ground. Exhausted, he lay there, trying to catch his breath. What had he tripped on? The glint of metal reflected in the light from his flashlight. A long cylindrical piece of metal came out of the ground, smooth and shiny. Was this the reason he came looking? He pulled it from the field, observing it under the scrutiny of the flashlight, turning it over in his hand. This object had to be part of the ship. He'd found his bartering chip. Standing there holding the object up in the air in victory, Jeb struck by heat lighting, cried out as the charge traveled through the metal object down through his body. He was being transported through a bright light until he found himself in a well–lit room.

"Daddy!" Leona came rushing to him. She was still barefoot, dressed in her nightie.

"Leona!" Jeb grabbed his daughter and held her tight.

"Daddy, how did you get here?" Leona clung to him. He had picked her up still holding the piece of metal in his right hand.

"I don't know baby, but it's going to be alright, I'm here to take you home." Leona buried her head in her father's neck.

"I'm so glad you found me, Daddy, they said you would."

"Who said honey, who said I would come for you?" Leona pointed to a pale humanoid form with dark eyes. Jeb jumped back holding the metal in front of him with his daughter on his hip.

"Let us go!" he shouted, threatening with the metal shard in his hand. The alien did not speak to him. At least not in a sense he could see it talking, he could hear it in his mind. It was thanking him for finding the piece of their missing ship. He wondered what the object was. A weapon? A door to another dimension? Did, they need this to get back to where they had come? He knew once he turned it over, he would lose the bargaining power.

"I want safe passage for me and my daughter and the promise you will leave us alone. I won't say anything to anyone. I swear to you." A bright light surrounded both. Jeb felt he and Leona were traveling within the light. Leona, still on his hip. Jeb found himself back on the ranch where the crash happened, with his daughter. The metal shard no longer in his hand, but the Savage 99 lay at his feet. Jeb picked up his gun and ran for the truck.

"Where are we going, Daddy?" Leona asked.

"To get mommy, honey." Jeb drove fast. When he reached the ranch, he called out to Darcy. Darcy came flying out of the house. Upon seeing her daughter, she jerked open the passenger side door grabbing Leona saying her name over, and over again. Jeb told Darcy to get in the truck. He ran into the house taking the sugar bowl from the cupboard, all the cash they had. Jumping back into the truck, Jeb drove through the night as far as they could, to get away from Artesia, and from Roswell, New Mexico. Jeb was done being a rancher he would sell the ranch off. He was going to go into business for himself. The aliens were grateful to get that piece of metal back. So grateful they let Leona and Jeb to go and gave him a headful of ideas that he felt he could make a living. The farther they were from Roswell, the better Jeb felt.

"I got ideas on how to make us some money. The aliens put these ideas in my head, Darcy. They let me take Leona and rewarded me for finding a missing piece to their ship."

"Jeb, where are we going?" Darcy asked. Leona lay in her lap, asleep. The truck cruised along heat lightning flashed in the night sky all around them.

"Racheal, Nevada. It's near the Ellis Air–force Base, I have a feeling we'll be far enough away from the aliens. We won't be bothered by them, ever.

THE END

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