He stumbled out across the rough terrain, his heart beating fast. It was difficult to get his bearings but he knew he had to run, to get away. He did not want to turn around – dared not. He did not want to see them again, did not want to think about why they had chosen to let him go. He just had to run and get back home.
A hour or so later, he found himself surrounded by a sea of concerned faces.
‘Are you sure, Joey?’
‘I have never been so sure in my life. It was just like everyone says it is. ‘
Joey took a breath, ‘I was abducted: abducted by aliens.’
A gasp went around the group. Their eyes remained fixed on him, as if half expecting him to change shape and assume a new form.
‘Can you tell us about it?’ one asked.
There had been stories, of course, rumours that aliens operated in the area and abducted members of the community. They were never seen by anyone other than the victims, one of the reasons that some found it difficult to credit the stories. Some felt it was hysteria, others scaremongering, but there were believers and now it had happened here, in outback Australia.
‘I don’t even know how long they had me,’ began Joey, ‘I’ve lost all sense of time. All I know is that I was out on the highway. It was night. I remember how clear the sky was – the smell of eucalyptus still hanging in the air. It had been a hot day and the heat was still rising out of the earth.’
‘Seems abduction has turned him into a bloody poet,’ said a voice from the back. Joey ignored him.
‘All of a sudden, I see this bright light – brighter than anything I have ever seen before. It heads towards me. I don’t know what to do, it is like I am planted. All I can do is watch it getting closer and closer – then I hear this massive humming as it approaches, then POW – nothing.’
‘What? It disappeared?’
‘No! Everything goes black. The next thing I know, I wake up and I am in some sort of cage.’
‘Did you know where you were?’
‘No idea, but I guessed it must have been some sort of craft. I could hear the humming of motors, there were lights – and rows of cages. This is an operation on a big scale.’
The crowd fell silent as they listened in awe.
‘There were a few of us in there, but they never let us communicate. They just used to take us out when they wanted to conduct experiments.’
‘What kind of experiments, Joey?’
‘Medical experiments,’ he replied, ‘I can show you the scars. They would take me away and – do things to me.’ He shuddered at the memory.
‘Did you get a look at them?’
‘Yeah – they were big -huge. Their faces were weird – eyes stuck in the middle, all bunched up. I couldn’t see their mouths. They seem to be communicating, but it was no language I knew.’
‘How did you get away, Joey?’
‘They let me go. One day they just took me out of the cage and put me in a box. They shook it around a bit and then I was dropped in the middle of the nowhere. I managed to follow my nose and get back. I guess they had finished doing what they wanted to do to me and decided to let me go. I was one of the lucky ones. There were others there, in the cages. I don’t know if they will get out.’
‘Jeez, Joey, you were lucky, mate.’
‘I was. If it had not happened to me, I would never have believed it, but it did.’
Twenty-five kilometres back up the road, the 4×4 turned off the highway and pulled up outside the building.
The young woman behind the desk looked up as the driver walked in.
‘How did it go, Billy?’
‘Beautiful. The little fella just hopped out of the crate and he was away.’
‘Awww,’ said Rosie, ‘It’s so nice when we can make a difference.’
‘Yup – he was pretty knocked about when he arrived, poor bugger. He was lucky, the car must have just glanced him, but to see him bounce off, you would think nothing had happened.’
‘Lucky you spotted him on the road when you did, Billy.’
The phone on the desk rang. Rosie picked up the receiver.
‘Outback animal rescue, can I help you?’