This an old story that was published many years ago in a now defunct print magazine. It was fun to write and has a good amount of laughs in the story.
Copyright © 1995
Have you ever driven across Alligator Alley? It runs from Miami to Naples across the tip of Florida, right through the middle of the Everglades. You get to see some interesting towns, like Frog City and Ochopee and the ever-famous Fortymile Bend. Basically, it’s a hundred or so miles of pretty good road running through a huge swamp. For reasons of pure tourism, Interstate 75 is called Alligator Alley officially, but the locals usually mean US Highway 41 when they use the term.
I drove Alligator Alley one evening. I was on my way from Key West to Tampa when, for some stupid reason, I decided to take Alligator Alley instead of the interstate like the travel service suggested. I had a brand new—at the time—1987 Honda Super Magna 700 and I thought the open road of Alligator Alley would be more fun than the interstate, so, when US Highway 1 met Highway 41, I hooked a left and proceeded out into the swamp.
The highpoint of the early trip was when I passed a place called The Everglades Correctional Institution. What sort of sick fuck would put a prison in a swamp along a road called Alligator Alley? Especially when the road had that name for a very good reason.
At various places along the road, whoever was in charge of the Florida parks had put up rest area places where you could stop and walk out on a deck to overlook the swamp. Since the front tire of the Magna was a little out of balance and was about to beat me to death, I decided to stop at one of these places just before it closed at sundown. Besides, I’d been on the bike for more than three hours by then.
As I walked along the wooden decking taking in the wonderful smells of stagnant water and rotting vegetation, an old black man approached me. With curly white hair and a face lined with years, the old man could’ve been any where from sixty years to two hundred. He walked with a slight limp, and he drug his left leg a little, his shoe making a faint scraping sound on the wood. He leaned on the railing near me and I knew I shouldn’t have looked at him, but I did it anyway and, as I did, I mumbled something stupid like, “How ya doin’?”
The old man smiled a toothless grin. “Got a buck ya can spare?”
As I stood watching the egrets feeding in the swamps, I found I was stuck on stupid, so I reached in my pocket and gave the old man a dollar bill.
The old man took the bill and stuffed it in his pocket. He then turned to look where I was looking. “Gotta watch ’em.”
“Gotta watch who?”
He pointed out towards the white birds wading in the swamp. “Dem iggerts. Gotta watch ’em. Dey bite, dem iggerts do.”
Thankfully, the park ranger came along to run us all off because the park was closing. He took the old man by the arm. “Go on, Lloyd, and leave these folks alone.”
By the time I was suited up, I pulled out of the little park just as darkness fell.
I remember passing through a little hole-in-the-wall town called Trail Center. Maybe fifteen or so miles farther along, I saw what looked like headlights on my side of the road, so I slowed down and moved closer to the gravel shoulder of the road and the swamp not more than twenty feet beyond. The lights didn’t seem to move so I thought someone must have pulled off with car trouble or something.
I was much closer when I saw the blue and red and yellow and green lights flashing around the thing with the headlights.
When I woke up I thought I was in a hospital. The thought of being in a hospital in the middle of a swamp bothered me. The place was the proverbial white room you see in the movies with a special effects budget of about $25.00. Everything was white. The floor, the ceiling, the walls, the bed I was laying on, and the gown I was wearing were all pure white. And I couldn’t tell where the light was coming from. It was just there.
So, I says to myself, “Self,” said I, “we’re in deep shit. I told you not to buy that motorcycle. Now you’ve gone and got us both killed! You know, I didn’t really care about you killing your own stupid self, but now you’ve got me killed, too, and that really pisses me off!”
I said to myself, “Self, shut up so I can think.”
I swung myself up to a sitting position and took inventory…two arms, two legs, five appendages on each of the above. That was a close thing, though. I have relatives in Little Rock. One head with the right number of ears, eyes, lips, and noses. Without looking, I reached down—yep, a bat and two balls. Everything important was still there. I didn’t feel bad or hurt anyplace and there was no blood on the white gown or on the bed.
I looked around the room a little better and there were no windows and no doors. Looking back now, I should’ve wondered how I was going to get out of there, but the first thing that came to my mind was how the fuck did I get in there. I stood and the legs seemed to work OK, so I did a little walk-about, as they say Down Under. The room was maybe twenty feet square, but I really couldn’t tell how tall it was because there was no contrast. I couldn’t reach the ceiling, even standing on my toes. I even went as far as standing on the bed and I still couldn’t reach the ceiling.
I tapped on the wall in a few places. The wall made a solid sound under my knuckles, like it was concrete, but it had a soft feel to it. Maybe some kind of foam covered the wall. Myself said, “Hey, dumb-fuck, maybe we’re not dead but they’ve locked your ass up for buying a motorcycle at forty-five years old and riding it to Florida all the way from Chicago.”
“Shut up, Self,” I said. The floor was of the same strange material.
I went back to sit on the bed and think. I couldn’t remember anything after seeing the colored lights on the highway. Had I rammed a cop car? Maybe I was in a prison hospital. That would explain the missing windows and hidden door and, maybe, the padded walls and floor. But how did the guards keep an eye on me? I’d read someplace guards in prisons were supposed to watch inmates and account for them every thirty minutes or so and I guessed that was even more often in a hospital, but there were no cameras I could see.
And, when I thought about it and actually looked for them, there was no sink or toilet in the room, either. I didn’t need either one right now, but the idea of crapping in the corner of my cell bothered me more than the idea I might be in some hospital in the middle of a swamp.
As I sat pondering both my condition and my fate, a place on the white wall that looked no different from any other place on the white wall slid open and a…well, a something walked in.
The thing was small, maybe four and half feet tall and had long arms and legs. The head was sort of triangular shaped and the eyes were very large and black. There was just sort of a pair of lines for a nose and the mouth was a tiny slit. He wasn’t wearing any clothing I could see and, for that matter, I still don’t know why I assumed it to be a he. How could I tell?
And the little dude had my driver’s license!
“Hey! That’s mine! Where’s the rest of my stuff?” Looking back, I guess I should have been scared of him, but I was pissed off.
When he spoke, I could just see his slit of a mouth move. “Hello, Mr. Rogers.” He studied my license for a moment. “May I call you Dave?” He tilted his head to one side. “Any relation to Fred?”
“I don’t care what you call me, so long as it’s a cab to take me out of here!”
“Now, Dave, just relax. You’re perfectly safe here and we just want to ask you a few questions. Please, sit down and try to calm yourself a little. Can I get you something to drink? I believe we have beer and Jack Daniels.”
“Black or green?”
“We’re all out of green label, but would you care for some Jack black?”
“Yeah, I need a drink.” It was beginning to sink in on me that the little guy looked like the aliens you see in the movies and who show up every few weeks on the covers of the tabloids at the grocery store checkout lines that are meeting with the President and JFK to make world peace a reality. I preferred the stories about the Bat Boy myself.
He turned back from the wall and handed me a tall glass of ice and amber fluid that was indeed Jack Daniels. “Now, you probably have a few questions for me before we begin.”
“Ya really think so? First, where the hell are we?”
“We’re in a spacecraft, Dave, sitting alongside the road you were traveling on.”
“A spacecraft? From where? I know you NASA boys run Florida. Well, you and the AARP.”
“Where I’m from really doesn’t matter, Dave. But we’re not from NASA or the AARP.”
Myself said to me, “Self, this just keeps getting’ better and better.”
I said to myself, “Shut up, I’m workin’ here.” I said to the little guy, “So, are you, like, an alien?”
“No, Dave, I’m not like an alien. I am an alien.” He tilted his head again. “I hope you’re not a Republican, because I’m an illegal alien.”
Just what I needed—an alien who thinks he’s a comedian. “So, what are you going to do with me? I’ve heard about you guys and your anal probing and all.”
“We could do that, if you’d like us to. I think we still have the machine that goes up your nose and into your brain, too.”
“You’re not going to anal probe me or make me have sex with your women or put little implants in me?”
Again with the head tilt. “Not unless you want us to. Well, all but the having sex part. It doesn’t work very well. You earthlings must think we’re perverts or something.”
I didn’t know if he was a pervert or not, but I decided I needed to change the subject. “So what happens now?”
“I ask you some questions and we put you back on the road.”
“What about my clothes? What’d you do with them?”
“That cow skin you were wearing looked hot and, Dave, it smelled bad, so we’re having it cleaned for you.”
“Oh. And my other stuff?”
“Just outside the door here.” He pointed to the white wall.
“And what did you do with my bike?”
He tilted his head. “We’re balancing the front tire, tightening the chain, and changing the oil. Valvoline 10W30 all right?”
I blinked a few times. “Uh, sure.” Myself said, “Why are they here?” I asked the little guy. “Why are you here?”
“We’re just studying developing societies and we thought we’d better do you folks before you do something stupid, like go extinct.”
“You’re not even going to do a physical exam on me?”
“Why? Do you think we’re incompetent? We’ve been doing the snatch and grab on you people for nearly a hundred years now and don’t you think we’d have your biology figured out yet?” He tilted his head. “You’re looking forward to the anal probe, aren’t you?”
“No! I’m not! Really! I pay good money for my doctor to do that once a year, so I don’t need you to do it!”
“On the house, Dave, just like the drink.”
“No! Just ask your damn questions!”
“OK, Dave.” He consulted a clipboard. “How ya doin’?”
“I asked how you’re doing.”
“I heard what you said. What do you mean?”
“How’s the wife and kids? How’s work treating you?”
I couldn’t believe this guy. “My wife ran off with a rock musician and my daughter married a lawyer who works for the ACLU. Work’s the pits and I’m probably going to get canned when we downsize.”
He tilted his head. “Sucks to be you.”
“Tell me about it. And then I get picked up by alien refugees from the Comedy Channel.”
“Tough stuff. How’s the IRA doing?”
I laughed at him, right to his face. “What IRA? How do you think I bought that bike?”
“I heard you humans have a thing that you should try getting, Dave. It’s called a life.”
“Stuff it, shorty.”
“Don’t be so hostile, Dave. I’m not the one who screwed up your life.”
I just sneered at him. “No, but you will be. I’ve read the books and magazines and I’ve seen the movies. Now I’ll have all kinds of problems with lost time and having my memory wiped and flashbacks and all the crap that drove Betty and Barney crazy! And that other guy who wrote all the books…anyway, crazy as a pet coon, that’s what I’ll be after you get done messing with my mind!”
“Why would we mess with your mind? We don’t do that, Dave. Those folks who say we do are just trying to turn a buck on the publicity gig. We pay you for your time.”
Now he had my attention. “Pay me?”
“Sure. You’re providing a service to us, just like when the guy comes out to the ship to drop off the new bottles of water and take away the empties. We pay him, so why shouldn’t we pay you? It’s only fair.”
“We’ll give you thirty grand a year for the rest of your life. Tax free, by the way. We have a deal with the IRS.”
I remember my eyes narrowing. “How do I know you’re not feeding me a line?”
“I give you my word of honor, Dave.” He held his small hand out for me to shake.
As I shook his hand, the last thing I remember was that he leaned over and bit the back of my hand.
When I opened my eyes, I was sitting on a bench in one of the little parks along Alligator Alley and Lloyd was kicking my feet. “Got a buck ya can spare?”
As I sleepily pulled a dollar bill from my pocket and handed it to him, he nodded at the teeth marks on my hand. “See? Dem iggerts bite!”
I guess it’s a good thing that the IRS has never asked about it, because I sure can’t explain where the thirty thousand dollars in cash I find under my pillow every nineteenth of June comes from.