On the outskirts of Diamond City, above Evergreen Campground, a bright light exploded in the glittery sky and fell to the surrounding wilderness. The white streak was unobserved, however, because most of the younger children were glued to various board games, and the older kids were huddled together sharing spooky after-dark fairy tales. Having completed a full day of outdoor activities, a little bit of fun was a welcomed reprieve for everyone at the camp.
Over the years, Evergreen had experienced a rapid decline in visitors, and a final decision was made to close the doors forever. Heralded as the last hoorah, the campground experienced a higher-than-normal turnout which exhausted the already stressed-out staff. The camp counselors had their hands full with hyperactive kids eager to experience nature and everything it had to offer.
Evergreen was a picturesque wilderness landscape surrounded by log cabins, a colossal volleyball court, obstacle courses, and the beautiful Tygart Valley River. The Evergreen Forest cradled the campground in its loving arms and was a sight to behold during the day. At night, the surrounding terrain was treacherous because of the wildlife.
Kodiak bears were known to wander about the hiking trail looking for scraps of food that visitors may or may not have tossed aside. After a few close calls, no one was allowed to go outside after dark when the animals were most active.
The falling white streak plowed into the soil about five hundred feet from the beaten path, leaving an enormous crater. When the dust settled, a small cylindrical metal spacecraft was left protruding from the topsoil. The startling discovery would no doubt disturb even the bravest of warriors, so thank goodness none of them were around to witness the horrific scene.
After a few minutes of silence, a small hatchway sprung open, revealing a dark silhouette basking in a blinding light. A silver ramp extended from the opening with a low hum, creating a bridge from the ship to the soil. The ship was steaming in the cool summer air, and the wildlife stood frozen with eyes wide open, not knowing what to expect.
Stepping away from the warm light was a tiny green organism with four legs and two arms attached to an oval-shaped body. Its egg-shaped head included what most of us would call a mouth and nose, but the peculiar thing was the creature’s one giant eyeball. One might assume the alien was naked, but alas, it wasn’t. The green figure wore a purple space uniform with white dots and four S-Nikes – a popular sneaker from its homeworld.
The alien lifeform frantically looked around the terrain and saw several animals staring. At first, the extraterrestrial didn’t know what to feel, scared, embarrassed, excited. Coming to this planet was an all-new experience. The creature threw away those puzzling emotions, curved its mouth upward, and briskly walked down the ramp like an eager child rushing towards a candy machine.
Having four legs gave the creature a strange stride, and some of the animals were a little timid. The deer remained frozen, not sure what to think, and the squirrels and rabbits stood on their hind legs for a better look. Nearing the end of the ramp, the alien looked at the surrounding soil and stuck its orange tongue out to taste the air. Bouncing in glee at the wonderful tastes, it took a giant leap forward. The wildlife flinched for a moment, but only a moment.
With the peaceful tranquility of innocence, the creature greeted, “Hello… my name is Uzzu, and I come from the planet Guzzalage, which is about five-hundred-billion light-years from here. My ship malfunctioned, and I had to make a crash landing. Can you help me?”
The animals cocked their heads but remained still. Uzzu took a step forward and asked, “Would you all like to be my friends?”
Startled, the animals ran away, leaving Uzzu blinking alone in confusion. Before he could process the stampede, a bush rattled in the distance. Uzzu bounced up and down, clapping his hands, thinking the critters had a change of heart. He shuffled over to the thicket for a closer look.
“My friends,” beamed Uzzu. “Why did you run away?”
Emerging from the vegetation was a big growling bear. Uzzu blinked his eye, grinned, and uttered, “Wanna be friends?”
The bear lunged forward and swatted at Uzzu ripping his space uniform. Uzzu’s smile quickly faded, and he screamed, not knowing what he had done to cause such anger. He used his four legs to maximize his running speed and easily outran the hungry beast.
After running for several miles, Uzzu had to stop to catch his breath. His lungs were not accustomed to Earth’s atmosphere, so his breathing was deep and heavy. He sat down beneath an oak tree and whispered, “This place doesn’t seem so friendly. Oh, I wish I didn’t crash here!”
At that moment of uncertainty, a sound of laughter echoed through the forest and pierced Uzzu’s ears like a sharp dagger. He slowed his breathing to focus his concentration and saw a string of log cabins lit up like stars just beyond the trees.
Such joyous sounds could only come from friendly people, Uzzu thought.
Uzzu rose from his slumped position and trotted off toward the campground. His spirits were lifted, thinking he might meet a special friend to help him repair his broken ship. As Uzzu approached one of the log cabins, an image of the dreadful bear flashed through his mind.
I know nothing of these creatures, so I better use caution.
Creeping like a thief in the night, Uzzu approached the nearest cabin and peeked through the window. His eye immediately focused on a group of younglings who were setting up groups of plastic soldiers on a piece of cardboard.
“Wow… skinless apes!” Uzzu gasped.
The young ones used the plastic army pieces to act out a great battle in some make-believe war, complete with sound effects. Uzzu slowly blinked his quivering eye and quickly ducked down.
How barbaric!! Losing their hair must have made these apes crazy!
The sound of laughter once again caught Uzzu’s attention. The jolly sounds were coming from another cabin a few feet away. Making his way towards the clatter, Uzzu peeked through the window.
Uzzu witnessed another group of younglings roasting what he could only assume to be white flesh on sticks in the open fireplace. That alone would have been enough to cause Uzzu to run away, but he remained still, ever watchful. Further into the room, Uzzu saw a small group of children huddled together, focused on one speaker, and listened intently.
“The big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew their house down! Ha, ha, ha, ha!!”
Oh, no. NO! These hairless talking apes are monsters beyond comprehension! I must run away, there are no friends here!!
With his three hearts pounding like a galactic symphony, Uzzu abruptly turned and ran. His two brains were clouded with unpleasant thoughts of what the skinless apes would do to him should he be captured.
Uzzu unexpectedly collided with what we humans call a metal trash can and fell to the ground. This one, in particular, was different because it had a big yellow smiley face sticker firmly attached to the outside surface. No doubt, one of the kids had placed it there for fun. Seeing double, Uzzu waited until his vision was clear and saw the smiling face staring back at him.
Blinking three times, Uzzu rejoiced. “FRIEND?!”
There was no reply from the trash can.
Without warning, Uzzu heard one of the cabin doors open, so he quickly hid behind the trash can. His small size was a blessing in disguise because the approaching assassin did not see him. Uzzu heard a loud clang as the hairless ape tossed a strange contraption into his new friend.
“Phewie!” the savage shouted. “Something stinks out here!”
Shaking like a leaf, Uzzu found the courage to peak around the trash can to see the youngling return to the cabin. Cautiously stepping away from his hiding place, Uzzu stared at his new friend’s smiling face and asked, “What did they call you? Stuey?!”
“I see…” Uzzu prattled. “The strong and silent type, eh?”
Looking at the trash can, Uzzu gasped, “Those barbarians! No wonder you won’t say anything. They removed your arms and legs!”
The non-response inspired Uzzu. “You must be a strong warrior to have had so many painful wounds and still maintain that glorious smile!”
“Ugh… they must have removed your tongue! Not to worry, my friend. I will drag you back to my ship before those hairless apes can take anything else from you!”
Uzzu grabbed the metal handle and drugged the trash can. He was determined to rescue this poor creature no matter the cost. He knew they would be safe in his spaceship even though he couldn’t take off. After all, being a space explorer, Uzzu’s spacecraft had all the latest weapons of mass destruction, but he was a timid creature and never had to use them.
The return journey was slow but steady. Along the way, Uzzu would glance behind at his new friend to see how he was holding up. That smiling face gave Uzzu a sense of pride and lifted his spirits. He was glad that he found a happy face in this hostile world.
Traveling at a brisk pace, Uzzu’s ship was now in sight. “There it is, my friend! I bet you’re thirsty. I’ll whip us up some hot oil with toad sauce. That will make you feel better!”
Stepping onto the ramp to enter his ship, Uzzu moved Stuey in front, so he could place him inside first. It was the proper thing to do, after all.
Before they could enter, the mighty bear exploded from the opening, ready to finish the fight from earlier. The beast swatted the trash can away with its sharp claws and lunged at Uzzu.
“NO!” Uzzu shouted, ducking the flying attack. “You hurt Stuey!!”
The bear snarled, showing his sharp teeth, and Uzzu saw warm saliva dripping from its maw. The monster was hungry and wanted to feed.
Taking a stance, Uzzu balled his fists, ready to fight. He was tired of running away, and he knew that sooner or later, he was going to have to fight.
The hairy beast clawed the ground, ready for war.
Uzzu screamed, “Come get some!”
The fifteen-hundred-pound beast stood on its hind legs and towered ten feet above Uzzu. The bear snarled at the moon, breath steaming in the air, yet Uzzu remained firm.
At that moment, a loud growling noise boomed from within the trash can. The hollow tube amplified the sound causing the bear to shake his head in pain. Uzzu covered his ears and watched the mighty beast drop to all fours and run away, yelping in the night.
Uzzu quickly ran to Stuey and looked within to find a battery-operated vacuum cleaner. The collision must have turned the unit on.
“My, my… what do we have here?”
Turning the vacuum off, Uzzu quickly inspected the unit and found that the belt had broken, but the motor was perfectly intact.
Uzzu looked at Stuey’s smiling face and gushed, “Oh, you are a true friend, indeed! Not only did you save me from that monster, but with this motor…” he paused and threw his arms around Stuey for a solid hug. “I can fix my ship!”
It took Uzzu a few hours to install the new motor, but that time was well worth the effort because the ship was now fully operational.
“Would you like to come with me to my home planet?” Uzzu asked.
“Well, I’ll take that big smile as a yes!” giggled Uzzu. “I can promise you that no one will ever hurt you again, and I bet you’ll be glad to leave this hateful planet!”
Blue flames ignited, and the spacecraft hovered in the air. Uzzu took one last look at planet Earth and sped away. This was one planet he would never return to.
“Stuey, you’re going to love my home planet, Guzzalage! I can’t wait for my family and friends to meet you!”
Daniel R. Hayes