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Sample Chapter from Return To Terra


Chapter One: Strange Encounter

     The car cruised east on I-80 exceeding 68 m.p.h. Dorothy Myers sat behind the wheel of her Toyota Celica, undisturbed by the passing vehicles to her left. Her mind was in a passive state as the car's tape player filled the air with soothing tones of Narada.

     What now, she wondered, as her thoughts skimmed over the summer events and the various places she and Ellen had visited. It had been an adventure taking three months off to tour the West. They had thrown a tent and sleeping bags in the car and saved money by roughing it. Now she had to face reality and get on with her life. Ellen had college to finish, so they were on their way home. Dorothy just wasn't sure what she was going to do. She'd had more than enough education, that was for sure. She could always go back to her work in massage therapy, but something nagged at her. She felt she should be doing something more, but what on earth could it be?

     A stir of movement from the back seat broke Dorothy's train of thought. Ellen sat up and stretched. "Oh, where are we?" She yawned.

     Dorothy glanced at the clock on the dash. The glowing digits seemed to blur. It was just past 11:30. "Grand Island's just up ahead." She glanced over her shoulder. "Go back to sleep. It's not your turn to drive."

     Ellen leaned over the seat. "I know. Gee, I must have slept. Any rest areas in sight?"

     "We passed one turnoff a while ago," Dorothy replied. "I don't know what's ahead."

     Ellen sighed. "Nebraska must be the longest state in the country."

     "That's why we're driving at night. And South Dakota's no picnic either. Plus it's the shortest route for getting home. You have only three days before classes begin."

     "You had to remind me." Ellen rode in silence for a while, then said, "But it was a fantastic summer, wasn't it?"

Dorothy agreed. "It was what we both needed, that's for sure."

     They rode in silence for a while and Dorothy thought about the ups and downs of their trip. Ellen had proven to be moody and Dorothy probably would never take another vacation with Ellen.

     "Dorothy! Stop the car," Ellen cried.

     "Why?" Dorothy took her foot off the gas. She looked at Ellen, who was pressed against the side window of the back seat.

     "I see something odd." Ellen continued to stare out the window. "Stop the car. I think you should see this thing."

     Dorothy pulled over into the shoulder of the interstate. As soon as the car rolled to a halt, Ellen opened the door and jumped out into the dark. Dorothy put on her emergency flashers and kept the engine running, then stepped out.

     The air was thick and moist but cool. A slight breeze blowing some brush next to the highway was the only sound. Dorothy took in the wide expanse of the starry sky, with foggy wisps of cloud cover scattered here and there. The moon had not risen yet.

     "Look!" cried Ellen. She pointed at the southern horizon, where Dorothy noticed a bright speck of white light. At first it resembled a bright star or planet, but as they watched it became obvious that the object was in motion.

     Dorothy stood beside Ellen. Cars whooshed past them on the road. "It's an airplane."

     "No," said Ellen. "It's not an airplane. It doesn't have any blinking lights."

     Dorothy squinted. The binoculars were in the trunk, packed beneath their sleeping bags and clothes. She didn't feel like digging them out. She watched with Ellen as the bright object made a dip in the sky, then curved upward and made a semi-circle. Suddenly it came to a stop and just seemed to be waiting.

     "Now do you still think it's an airplane?" asked Ellen.

     Dorothy knew it wasn't anything like that. "Unbelievable..." Dorothy could feel her heart beating faster. Why had she stuck her camera away? She started toward the trunk.

     "Where are you going?" Ellen sounded nervous.

     Dorothy realized her keys were still in the car, which she had left running. She turned around. Just then the object began moving in a straight line, slowly, toward the east. Dorothy and Ellen watched the object until it grew smaller and then finally disappeared behind some cloud cover.

     "Well, so much for getting a picture of it." Dorothy sighed. "Come on. Let's go before somebody hits us."

     Ellen climbed into the passenger seat in front. She began to chatter about UFOs and how she had always thought people who saw them were imagining them, or seeing airplanes or helicopters or weather balloons. Dorothy continued to drive, and after a while Ellen grew quiet and soon nodded off beside her.

     Dorothy stuck in another cassette tape. Soft relaxation music filled the car. She noticed the car's clock said 12:10. That meant they would reach Omaha sometime after 3 a.m. -- if she managed to stay awake. Dorothy approached an exit up ahead and remembered Ellen's request for a rest stop. She took the exit and glanced at her friend beside her. "Ellen, do you still need to stop?"

     There was no answer from her passenger. Dorothy turned onto a road and began looking for signs that indicated a gas station ahead. Ellen slept and Dorothy continued to drive. The music seemed to have a numbing effect on her. She hummed along so she'd stay awake.

     After a while it dawned on Dorothy that she was not headed in the right direction. There were no gas stations ahead. She was going out of her way to appease Ellen, who was sound asleep. With a sigh of frustration, Dorothy waited for a semi truck to pass her, then slowed down so she could turn the car around and head back toward the interstate.

     Suddenly something caught her eye. Out the windshield was the strange light again. It was directly ahead, just over the eastern horizon, and seemed to be staying within her line of vision.

     "Ellen, wake up." Dorothy stopped the car and reached over and nudged her friend. "It's back."

Ellen groaned but did not awaken.

     "Ellen... Ellen, wake up. Come on." After another minute Dorothy gave up. Ellen was really out of it.

     Dorothy noticed the light growing bigger. She rubbed her eyes and wondered if she was imagining it. It seemed to have acquired a tinge of red around the edges, and was definitely larger than a star by now. Before long she began to feel tired -- really groggy.

     "Ellen... wake up." Dorothy grabbed the other woman's slumping shoulder and shook her. "Come on, Ellen, it's time to wake up." When there was still no response, Dorothy pleaded, "Ellen, wake up, what's wrong with you?"

The light in the sky was brighter now -- and much closer. Dorothy grew frightened. The object was low and flying toward her. As it neared she could see its shape more clearly. It was a huge boomerang, with a red glow around the convex bottom.

     With a hammering heart, Dorothy spun the steering wheel and stepped on the accelerator. She started speeding back toward the interstate. The next moment she slammed on her brakes and skidded to a stop. Above her was the object, which was as large as a house. Its width filled the entire windshield as it descended over the highway. She could now see a single red light on the end, where the boomerang came to a point. Dorothy marveled at how Ellen could possibly sleep through this.

     Suddenly the engine killed and all of the dash lights went out, leaving them in darkness except for the brilliance from the UFO. Dorothy tried to start up the engine, but it wouldn't even turn over. In a panic, Dorothy started to shake Ellen, demanding her to wake up.

     Then a blinding yellow light flashed into the car from the left window. Dorothy gasped and covered her face. She felt sure she was going to wet her pants.

     A man's voice called out, "Roll down the window, ma'am. Roll it down."

     Dorothy huddled close to Ellen, but then noticed the alternating flash of red and blue lights behind her car. It dawned on her at that moment that the man outside her car was a policeman and he was shining a flashlight in her face.

     Ellen stirred then and began to mumble.

     Dorothy reached over and rolled down the window. The policeman lowered his light so she could see him.

     "May I see your driver's license, please?" The trooper had a husky voice. His manner was calm and collected.

Dorothy fished her billfold from her purse and managed to spill everything out onto the floor. She handed him her license as Ellen opened her eyes. "Oh no, did we get a speeding ticket?"

     "Dorothy Myers. You're a Florida resident?"

     Dorothy's voice came in uncontrollable little gasps. "Yes, but w... we're headed for De... DeKalb, Illinois. We've just been to C... California."

     The officer shone the light at Ellen, who grimaced and shielded her eyes. "Are you all right, ma'am?"

     Ellen blinked and looked around. "I'm fine."

     The policeman gave Dorothy back her license. "Do you realize your car is sitting out in the middle of the highway?"

     "Yes, but officer, I... I had to st... stop. The thing... my engine died, and then... and then... it wouldn't start. Oh my God!" Dorothy realized there was nothing hovering in the air in front of the car. The boomerang object had vanished, but she didn't remember when.

     "Just a minute," said the trooper. "What thing are you talking about?"

     Dorothy told him about Ellen spotting the UFO, and how they had stopped and watched it until it disappeared. Ellen's eyes were wide as she concurred with Dorothy's story. Then Dorothy told him how she had seen the object out the windshield and how it had come in so close that she had slammed on her brakes. Then the car had died.

Ellen said nothing.

     The officer sighed. "People who usually report these things are overtired. I suggest you get some coffee. There's a cafe just off the highway about seven miles ahead."

     Dorothy felt confused. Had she imagined the boomerang? Ellen was looking at her as though she were a freak, yet she had tried to rouse Ellen and couldn't. Dorothy felt frustration set in but decided the officer had been more than fair not to ticket her, so she politely told him she would follow his advice.

     "And if I were you, ma'am," the officer added, "I wouldn't mention this to anyone."

     Dorothy frowned as he walked back to his flashing patrol car. How could he remain so nonchalant? There had been no inflection in his voice at all, as though he were simply bored by it all. Dorothy turned to Ellen. "I don't believe this is happening."

     Ellen yawned. "When do you want me to take the wheel?"

     Dorothy had recovered from her fatigue. In fact, the blood was racing through her system with the anger she felt.      "He didn't believe me!" She started up the engine and then continued east, griping to Ellen about how it felt to be treated like some nut.

     "Hey, if you say it happened... I believe you." Ellen nodded off a short while later and Dorothy continued driving.

     The next thing Dorothy knew the light of dawn was rising up ahead. She felt a wave of relief that it was going to be daylight soon. After breakfast Ellen could drive and she could sleep.

     "Good morning, are we there yet?" Ellen sat up and frowned. "Now I've got a stiff neck."

     Dorothy asked, "Why didn't you climb into the back seat where you could stretch out?"

     "I don't know. I should have." Ellen looked right and left. "We should be close to Iowa City by now. Wait a minute. This isn't Iowa."

     "We're coming up on Lincoln," replied Dorothy.

     "Nebraska?" Ellen cringed. "What happened? We should have reached at least Des Moines by daylight."

     Dorothy shook her head. "I don't know. I don't remember stopping anywhere to sleep. I've been driving all night." She glanced at Ellen. "We only stopped twice, remember? Once when you saw that UFO, and then with the policeman."

     "What policeman?" Ellen stared blankly at Dorothy.

     "The state trooper. Ellen, don't you remember?"


     Dorothy was too stressed out from driving to sort it out. She clutched the steering wheel and drove the final stretch to Lincoln. She and Ellen did not speak of the policeman or the UFO the rest of the trip.

Order your copy of RETURN TO TERRA
The second book in The Space Trilogy by Ann Carol Ulrich
ISBN 978-0944851-06-7    Paperback $11.95  or ebook $3.99
For more information, email Earth Star

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