Nestled in a northern Rocky Mountain valley was a small town in Idaho called Stoneshore. It was founded in the late 1800’s as a water stop on the way to California and Oregon, beginning as a collection of four buildings at a dirt crossroads, waxing to a population of four thousand before waning to fifteen hundred. Electricity came, the prospectors and their descendants left, and at some point it became the seat of Shoctwana County. The town was fitted with a federal appointed judge alongside its official postage route. This route was fitted with the most advanced infrastructure 1960’s America had to offer, a blue collections box, and a single mail truck that came once a week from Coeur d’Alene.
It was May of 1967, and a perfectly clear night. The precipitation from the Pacific Ocean had just stopped and the town was just now starting to enjoy the cool dry of spring. As the snow melted off the mountains the nearby creek flooded over the banks often refreezing the ground overnight.
Walking late one night was a man named Andrew Kent, a twenty five year old lifelong resident of Stoneshore. He was a medium height man well built from work in the silver mine. He kept his face clean and shaven, and his hair neatly kept at medium length. He was making his way from his home on the outskirts of the town to the drop box on the corner of the municipal building, only two miles from his home. Usually he would drive where he needed to go but decided he could do well with a walk.
In all directions the mountains blocked any view further than a mile. Where he walked was completely barren of human development aside from Stoneshore which he could see as a bright glow in the near distance. The pine trees near the road were thick and full of life, giving the night the sounds of rustling leaves and hooting owls.
Andrew carried a small parcel with him. It was no bigger than a jewelry box and wrapped in delicate brown paper with a small white string tying it together. He was in no rush, taking his time to get to town, kicking a stone as he went. The road started to narrow slightly as the trees and bushes began to grow over into the road. He had to duck to avoid a stray branch as he crested a small hill.
When he did he heard greater movement in the trees behind him. He paused, worried a wolf made its way off the mountains and into town. He clutched his parcel and turned away from the noise ready to dash to Stoneshore.
A small figure walked on all fours out of the tree line, growling, and slowly growing closer. “It was a wolf…” Andrew mumbled to himself. As his eyes adjusted he saw the baring of its teeth and began to make out its features in more detail. It was the size of a particularly large dog standing at about his waist height and at least fifty pounds heavier than he was. Andrew held his hand out, as though he could placate or calm down the beast, but it kept growling and moving closer so Andrew had no choice but to run.
He jumped into the tree line and the wolf followed, close behind, but its fur got caught on stray branches and the bushes. Of course, it got itself free but Andrew was able to gain a strong lead over the wolf. He forced himself from looking back, but felt snags of his shirt rip from the jaws as the wolf nipped, as he got close.
Further into the woods he found a tree he felt he could climb to escape. He jumped with all his might grabbing a branch maybe a foot further than he could reach standing on his toes. He pulled himself up, adrenaline fueling his movement, and sat with his legs up on the thick branch while the wolf jumped and barked at him while he waited.
The wolf kept up for a long time. Long enough he saw the stars dim slightly, and the moon start to move. All the while the wolf, with seemingly infinite energy, barked, screamed, and tried to tear at his flesh. Andrew began to cry, hoping to drown out the wolf with his own cries but failed. Hoping maybe a passerby would hear but by this point in the night it was well past midnight.
As he got used to his position, feeling confident that he only need to stay up the tree until the morning when someone would be more likely to hear, he felt the branch start to crack and warp. The sudden feeling of falling froze him, firmly believing that he was going to be attacked by the wolf. The branch didn’t snap yet, but it was becoming weaker and weaker. He could feel his body sinking and he held his legs closer to his chest as he moved to the trunk of the tree away from the crack further down the branch. There was nowhere left to climb, the only branch that could hold him he was already on. His only choices were to try and outrun the wolf, or wait and hope the branch would hold. The branch was not holding. It was creaking more and more, the snap ready to tear the branch from the trunk.
He was preparing himself to run. He tucked his parcel into his waist covered by his jacket so that if he was caught no blood would stain the brown wrapping paper.
A blue light shined from his left, trailing at a violent speed until it hit the wolf at the side. The wolf whimpered and was flung against a tree. The smell of burning fur filled the air.
Andrew stared for a few moments until the branch finally snapped. He yelped, and fell on his side. He paused, unsure what condition the wolf was in, but began to crawl to it. Where the light hit the wolf, a large hole in the flesh appeared, and a faint blue glow still shined from where it was hit. He watched the light slowly dim and brighten for what felt like hours.
The bushes behind him where the light came from shook, and out came two suited figures with beams of light pointing at his face. He was blinded for a moment, before the figures each turned small dials on what seemed to be helmets, creating a less intense but wider reaching light. He could see they were both at least a foot taller than him with a shoulder width equally menacing. Their helmets were bright orange with a giant yellow visor that showed his reflection covering their faces. The orange part of the helmet looked like a sort of strong fabric while the visor seemed to be made of glass. Their suits matched the same orange fabric like substance as the helmet but were decorated with gadgets and tools that he couldn’t tell the function of. The strangest thing about them though was that they each had an extra pair of arms around the sides of their abdomens. They were significantly smaller than the other normal arms that were positioned correctly at the top sides of the torso, and seemed to rest in a strange T-rex like position. One was holding a device which had a blue hue at certain parts, burning bright near one end. The other looked Andrew once over. He got on one knee, hovering over Andrew who couldn’t move or look away. Radio static sounded from the helmet, along with what sounded like some sort of speaking but he couldn’t make out what through the helmet. The suited figure gestured to the other while he turned and walked away to where he came. The one with the blue device moved to Andrew. The young man closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, but the figure only seemed interested in the wolf. He tore off a piece of fur with a loud ripping sound, stuffed it in one of the gadgets on his suit and walked in the direction of the other figure.
Andrew waited for some time, long enough for the stars to dim even more, and moon move again. Long enough for the blue glow on the wolf to fade completely, leaving him in the complete darkness of the woods. When that happened, he picked himself up, and retraced his steps back to the road to Stoneshore.
He made it back and walked to town like nothing had happened. He was tired, he could deal with what happened in the morning. The parcel he had tucked in his waist fell to the ground and he picked it up. It was a little crinkled but seemed undamaged. He untied the string and undid the wrapping just to make sure.
It was a on the go version of chess he hand carved himself. His sister lived in Portland and got a new job that would require a lot of travel, meaning she wouldn’t be in the country all that often. She was always an avid player of chess, and he always supported her. He felt it would be a way for her to remind herself of home and bring that home wherever she went, whether that be Japan, China, or South Africa, she would have some Rocky Mountain coniferous with her. He let his hand graze the folded board, smoothed and shined, and gently shook the gift to hear the pieces rattle inside. He wrapped the gift back up, as it was also where he tied the card and wrote the address, and went back to focusing on the task at hand. Deliver the package. Ignore the wolf. Ignore the four armed men. Ignore the blue glow.
Just before reaching the town, the string of streetlights began, spanning from a hundred yards outside the town to the square. Just as he reached one of these streetlights, a man wearing a black suit with matching hat and shoes was walking opposite him a short distance away. His head was down and covered by the fedora. Andrew passed the man just as they both passed under the streetlight.
Behind him, he could hear the man’s footsteps stop. He turned seeing the man already facing Andrew, with his head down, his hat still covering his face.
“I believe you have been in direct violation of section 001-B of the revised Vladivostok Accords of 1952.” The man seemed to say. His voice was strange, very strange. It sounded like a distant echo or distant radio. As though the voice originated from a hollow metal tin in the man’s stomach, travelling through a single metal pipe to be projected as him speaking. He lifted his head now revealing his face. A pair of pitch black sunglasses covered his eyes, resting on a featureless nose. His mouth was always open, as though he was always saying “Oh” or breathing deeply, but his body never moved up and down the way it should with deep breaths. His skin was pure grey, with no features to speak of. “We have been contacted to apprehend you for witnessing a sanctioned scientific mission without the permission of the Eros Council.”
He turned to run but stopped before he could make it three yards. He dropped the gift in shock when he found five more men, each identical to the first, already waiting, weapons drawn.