The Powers That Be



Jethro awoke with a start. 

What the hell was that racket? he thought to himself. Another one of them damn trees collapse?

He glanced at the cheap digital alarm clock in the corner of his mobile home. It read 4:45. Grabbing the shotgun he kept under the mattress, he put on his red Budweiser hat and trusty leather boots.

As soon as Jethro exited his abode, he let out a shrill whistle. Within 30 seconds, Skoal was bounding toward him, barking loudly. The brown-furred mutt wagged his tail, pacing quickly back and forth through the ankle-high grass.

“C’mon boy! Let’s go check this ‘ere ruckus out.”

A faint blue glow emanated from the nearby cypress swamp. Jethro picked his way across the edge of the swamp, feeling the cool water seep through his jeans. Is that the sheriff’s car? he wondered. The hell’s he doin’ out at this hour?

When only a few dozen trees separated the duo from the crash site, it became clear to Jethro that this wasn’t the sheriff. Trudging through the last grove of standing trees, he pushed aside the final strand of soft green cypress and beheld an awe-inspiring sight.

A small black ship sat smoldering on a cluster of fallen cypress trunks. Tiny blue lights glowed faintly at the ends of what appeared to be wings. The wings jutted away from the triangular cockpit at a 90-degree angle before gently curving away and ending in engines connected by a metal beams.

Faint glimmers of light portended the impending sunrise and gave Jethro just enough light to make out the helmeted head of an alien outlined in the open pilot’s cabin. He swung first his right leg, then his left, over a scraggly tree trunk. Finally reaching the craft, he clamored up.

Skoal tried following, but his paws failed to find purchase on the smooth metal surface, and he began barking.

“Hush boy,” Jethro muttered, creeping closer to the cockpit.

Arriving at his destination, Jethro took a deep breath. Flashing red lights cast an eerie glow on the motionless figure before him. The body appeared to be roughly human-shaped. He reached a trembling hand toward the helmet, eager to get a glimpse of the alien’s face. Prying the helmet off, his first impression was of a mop of thick brown fur. Making sure the safety was off on the shotgun, Jethro used the barrel to slowly turn the creature’s head toward him.

Jethro jerked back in shock. A human face stared blankly back at him. Forcing his eyes away from the dead man’s glassy stare, Jethro noticed a tattoo on his neck. It was hard to make out in the dark, but it seemed to be a capital “G” with angular shapes above and below. Grabbing a fistful of clothing, Jethro struggled to decipher the embroidering on the man’s uniform.

“Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth” the words on the right breast read. Jethro leaned in to read the other side.

“Free and Accepted Masons.”

While pondering the meaning of the words, Jethro heard the dull whistle of a silenced bullet and a soft grunt from Skoal.

Grabbing his shotgun, he whirled around, but it was far too late. Two more whistles left Jethro gasping for breath on the wing of the ship. As he slid into the murky waters of the swamp, his last sensation was a clear, deep voice.

“Sorry, but we can’t have anyone knowing about our projects,” it said. “This has been our world for years, and it’s going to stay that way.”