On The Way To Phoenix
By Marie LeClaire
The ship landed in Phoenix of all places. Initially the global conversation centered around whether it was intentional or not and whether it was an indication of intelligent life. While barbs were fired off by late night TV hosts, heads of states around the world fired up every security protocol they had and then some. International allegiances were quickly becoming apparent.
Meanwhile the ship had done nothing more than land. It had made no attempt at contact that anyone on earth could identify. It simply sat there for going on forty-eight hours.
By the end of the first day, the temperature in Phoenix was noticeably colder than normal. Overnight the temps continued to drop and the usual warming after sunrise was not recorded anywhere in a hundred-mile radius. As the city got colder, clouds started coming in from the north and, to the shock of all its residents, it began to snow. And snow. And snow. By noontime of day two, there were twelve inches of snow on the ground and it was still falling. Panicked locals took to the streets, heading out of town on the only road that headed south, Interstate 10.
The backup was worse than anything in current memory. Cars were left abandoned when they ran out of gas waiting to move three feet down the road. Others got stuck in snowbanks or slid into guardrails. Some could be seen with occupants frozen solid at the wheel.
In the midst of all this, a lone car headed the other way, north into the city, battling the blizzard conditions. Its driver, Jessica Bronstien, was a materials engineer from Los Alamos National Lab just north of Santa Fe. Her passenger, Manny Ortega, ran The Real Alien Artifacts Museum in Roswell.
Jessica glanced down at the laptop on the console between them showing a graphic of the bizarre weather pattern.
“I don’t know, Manny. This snow is way more than I expected. Even for the Humvee.”
“I know. I’m thinking the same thing. And this cold spot just keeps getting colder.” Manny pointed to the reading on the vehicle dashboard. “Minus five and still dropping. But we don’t have a Plan B – or do we?” Sudden hope filled Manny’s voice. Maybe the Lab had some miracle up their sleeve.
“No Plan B, at least that would benefit us. There might be a plan to blow Phoenix off the map.”
“Really?” Manny was incredulous.
Jessica was silent.
“Okay, then. I guess we’d better make it to the airport.”
Manny opened the box on his lap to check on their third passenger. He peeled back a colorful Mexican blanket to reveal an oval orb about twenty-four inches across its longest axis. It was pulsating a dim light.
“I think it’s pulsing faster now. Maybe as we get closer to the ship?”
“Could be. Everything’s up for guessing at this point.”
The orb had been sitting in Manny’s museum since the sixties when a hippie wandering through town had sold it to his father. He had called the Lab when it suddenly started glowing.
They passed a sign that read Leaving Gila River Indian Reservation.
“Alright Manny. Just nine miles to the airport.”
“Yeah, but if this weather keeps getting worse, we won’t make it. Hey, look.”
Manny tilted the box for Jessica’s inspection. The orb was now a solid glow.
“Okay, Manny. I’m going out on a limb here, but put your hands on it and think to it that we need safer passage if it wants to get to the ship.”
“What! You want me to talk to it?”
“Unless you have a better idea.”
“What if it kills me or gives me cancer or something?”
“Our survival’s not looking good either way, Manny. Put your hands on the damn thing.” Jessica was out of patience.
“Okay. Okay.” Manny gingerly laid both hands on the orb and spoke out loud as he though. “If you want this thing back, you have to let up on the weather. We need clear roads and heat to get it there.” He jerked his hands back as soon as he completed the thought.
Jessica was wrestling with the steering wheel when the clouds over the roadway began to part. A strip of sunlight beamed through the opening, hitting only the road. Invisible walls along the shoulders prevented more snow from accumulating.
“Well, Manny. It looks like they want it.”
Manny sat with his jaw open and eyes wide.
“Tell it we need the road cleared.”
“What? What do you think? They have some kind of snow plow?”
“Just do it.”
Manny placed his hands on the orb. “We need clear blacktop.”
Quickly, the snow on the road surface began to melt, turning to slush, then water running into the snowbanks on either side.
“Holy Mother of God, protect us and deliver us from evil,” Manny prayed as he blessed himself with the sign of the cross.
“From your lips to God’s ear,” Jessica said as she floored the gas pedal.