Author : Kraig Conkin

“The dogs are barking,” Hannah whispers. We scurry to the cabin window.
“What are they barking at?” I ask.
“Something’s coming up the path.”

***

We’d been playing “Life.” We always play stupid board games when we come to the cabin. Hannah was winning. Hannah always wins, usually by cheating. That’s why, when she pointed out the picture window, I thought it was one of her tricks to get me to look away from the board.
“What the heck is that?” Dad said, getting up from his chair.
Knowing Dad wouldn’t help Hannah trick me, I turned and saw it too- a bright, blue light hovering above the tree tops. We all stood at the window and watched the light pulse a few times then change to pure white.
I heard Dad get his camera. Dad was always taking pictures. That’s what he did for his job- working for magazines and newspapers.
The light changed color, this time to orange, and pulsed so bright it looked like the sun had come up.
When the light went dark, the ship, now just a dark circle, slid through the sky, paused and descended into the treetops.
“It’s landing,” Dad said between camera clicks.
“What is it?”
“Spacemen, dummy,” Hannah explained.
Dad moved to the hall closet, checking the batteries in the flashlight. “Now, Hannah,” he warned, “what have I told you about jumping to conclusions?”
Hannah looked at him like he was crazy. “It’s totally spacemen, Dad.”
Dad whistled for Nanook and Honey, who rose from where they were sleeping in the mud room. “I’m going to get a better look… at whatever it might be. You girls stay put. I’ll lock the door behind me.”
He slid the silver keys from the hook next to the door.
“Keep the lights off while I’m gone,” he said, giving us his serious look.
We heard the key in the lock and the deadbolt slide home, then we watched from the window as Dad and the dogs walked toward the woods.
But when Dad passed the kennel, he called the dogs back. He patted their heads before putting them inside, then turned on the flashlight and followed the beam into the trees.

***

The dogs are barking worse, jumping against the fence.
“I see something,” Hannah whispers.
A figure emerges into the moonlight.
“It’s Dad,” Hannah says.
“It can’t be,” I shake my head. “The dogs wouldn’t bark at Dad.”
But I’m wrong. It is Dad. I feel a rush of relief.
“Why isn’t he using the flashlight?” Hannah asks.
When Dad passes the kennel, he stops and looks at Nanook and Honey, who are still snarling and growling, going crazy.
Dad has a strange look. It’s like he doesn’t recognize the dogs- almost like he hasn’t ever seen a dog before at all.
Then he looks away from the kennel and at the cabin. His eyes find Hannah and I in the window.
The relief I felt when I saw him step from the woods evaporates completely as I watch Dad, or whatever it is, fish the key to the cabin from his pocket and walk toward the porch.

 

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