At last, there was the site. They pulled in and started unloading gear. The site selected was in the middle of a pine tree clearing. The site had two tables set up in a loose L-shape, split by a barbecue grill set on a pedestal. Fifty yards to their front, through a gap in the trees, they could see a small creek lazily meandering through the park. They could faintly hear the soothing sound of running water. "This is a nice site Grandpa," Thomas gave him an approving smile.
"I like it too Thomas." Grandpa was stacking the last few pieces of wood he brought for a fire later that evening. "Is there anything left in the car?""Nope," Thomas called from the car. "That looks like all of it." They spent the rest of the morning organizing and getting ready for the rest of the family to arrive. They finished early, which left some time for the two to explore a little ways down the creek. Thomas was amazed by the clear water, allowing him to see salamander and small fish going about their business in the creek. Before long, the morning cool had burned off giving way to late-spring warmth and soon Thomas heard cars making their way up the short dirt road that accessed the site.
Thomas’ mom, Grandma, Ally, and Molly were in one car. The other held Aunt Alice, Uncle Sean, and Dad along with the rest of the food. Once all were reunited, the kids moved toward the creek to start exploring. “Stay in sight of the picnic area,” Thomas' mom yelled in a serious tone. Aunt Alice seconded the comment and with that, the brood slipped into their own kids' world.
They walked up and down the creek. “Look at these!” Ally squealed, pointing to a group of salamander. She splashed in the water and they darted off in all directions to her amusement.
“I know! There’s a bunch of stuff in here,” Thomas replied. “Grandpa and me looked around for a while before you all got here.” He jumped over the creek where it narrowed going into a slight corner. “Woo Hoo! Made it!”
“Grandpa and I,” Ally corrected. She was two years older than Thomas was and did much better in school. She enjoyed showcasing her intellect on occasion.Ralph let out a snort and tried to jump the creek too, but at a wider point, and he did not make it. He shorted the landing by about eight inches and fell backwards with a splash. “Dang it! I missed!” He started giggling, which got everyone giggling.
Before it was all said and done, the four of them were wet over a good percentage of their bodies. It was cold at first, but they dried off quickly in the late spring warmth. By the time they were dry, they had already moved on to a new activity. They had paired up for war: Thomas and Ralph versus Ally and Molly. The boys' and the girls' squad each established a base in the tree cover on opposite sides of the picnic site. The boys were the first to attack. "I can see them between those two trees," Ralph pointed and whispered from a crouch position.
Thomas nodded and moved silently toward the girls’ position using trees as cover. "I will go in from the left and you go from the front to distract them."
"Okay." They were both low to the ground and whispering their plan. They maneuvered toward the girls’ position until they were about 50 meters away, then all hell broke loose. On signal, the boys separated and Ralph ran up the middle screaming like a banshee. Thomas kept a bit more quiet and came in from the side. He didn't let out his blood curdling scream until he was right on top of the girls' HQ.
"No fair!" Ally cried foul. "We weren't ready yet. You said we had half an hour to prep our base." She scowled at Thomas.
"It has been half an hour." Thomas wondered why girls always took so long to 'prepare' things.
"No it hasn't," Molly replied, entering the fray.
Ralph tried to keep the peace, "Okay, we’ll reset and look at our watches this time. It's 3:30 right now so the next attack can't start until 4:00."
The attacks went off according to the new schedule published by Ralph and they lasted until Grandpa rang the dinner bell at 6:00. The kids had eaten sandwiches with dirty hands while they were on the run at around noon, so they were famished. They agreed to a peace treaty so they could eat the hamburgers and hot dogs Grandpa had grilled. Thomas was so busy playing that he hadn't noticed the smell of the barbecue, but was acutely aware of it now, which got his mouth watering. They washed up, and sat down for a delicious picnic dinner.
After dinner, Grandpa built a fire and everyone pulled up a seat to bask in its warmth while digesting the big meal. All the kids were there too, full and tired from the day of nonstop play. Thomas sat and looked at every one's faces dancing in the glow of the fire. He contemplated how good it was to be out of school, and in the company of those who accepted him for who he was.
The gallons of soda worked their magic on Thomas and he got up to heed the call of nature. "I'll be right back," he told Mom and started toward the edge of the picnic site for some privacy. Thomas looked back at the fire from a cluster of pines and could hardly see the group. "This'll do," he said quietly to himself, and took care of business. When he finished, he looked up at the stars and pondered the view, which was much better than viewing the night sky from the city. That was when he saw it.
He watched as the object approached from the far horizon, moving silently toward him in the night sky. It was a large, maybe three or four football fields across, dark brown disc that was slowly rotating as it executed its trajectory toward Thomas. The craft was not overtly illuminated, but had an ambient glow around its edge as if it was lit up on its top, producing a soft ring of light around it’s circumference. The object was almost overhead and Thomas could not believe what he was seeing. It steadily continued on its flight path, which was a large arc that went directly overhead, never veering from course or altering speed. Thomas watched, amazed by its size and the lack of sound from the craft as it flew. He searched his vast eight-year old data bank to try and identify the craft but came up with nothing. The object did not scare him though, rather, he was curious as to what it was, and was taken aback by its beauty as it grew smaller and was eventually swallowed by the darkness of the night sky on the opposite horizon.
Thomas stood there for a few moments, gathering his thoughts, before he ran back to the group by the fire. "Did you see that?!" Thomas asked excitedly. No one by the fire looked very excited. "Did you see that thing?" he was quickly getting agitated.
"What thing tard?" Ally took the opportunity to attack.
"THE THING IN THE SKY!!!"
Mom chimed in, "What are you talking about honey?"
"The giant thing that just flew overhead," Thomas was beginning to suspect they, in fact, had not seen it. "It was a big, brownish, flying...thing!"
Dad picked up the ball. "Calm down Thomas. Tell us what you saw," he used his 'you'd better relax' voice.
"A thing," Thomas was still keyed up. "It flew across the sky. It was big. None of you saw it?"
Thomas was known as somewhat of a joker and, to the rest of the family, this seemed like just the sort of story he could cook up as a gag. "None of us saw it tard," Ally continued the attack on her brother. "Because there was nothing to see." He and Ally got along most of the time, but each had their own mean streak, which reared its ugly head occasionally.
Thomas ignored her. "Ralph?" he pleaded, "You honestly didn't see it?"
"I don't know what you are talking about," Ralph was trying to stay out of the line of fire. "I thought you just went over there to pee."
"I did!" Thomas was yelling again. "The thing flew overhead after I was done. It went from there to there," he pointed and made a long arc with his arm. "Come on! I'll show you where I was standing!" He started walking back toward the trees but no one followed.
Mom tried to calm him down, "I'm sure you saw a plane or something," she patronized, "but I don't think anyone else saw it."
Thomas took a step back, trying to process. It had seemed like a big deal to him and he hadn't the foggiest idea how they could have missed it. Maybe the light from the fire drowned it out, after all, it wasn't very bright and it didn't make a sound. Maybe they were engrossed in their own conversations and just did not notice. It did happen though, of this Thomas was sure. He throttled back the emotion, "I did see something."
Ally was relentless, "Sure you did tard. We believe you." She pointed toward her head and made a circular motion with her finger.
"Shut up Ally!" Thomas knew he wasn't going to win this battle but he wasn't about to simply surrender.
"That's enough! Both of you!" Dad put his foot down. "I think you are both tired and it is time to start packing up." He got up to get things ready to go and the rest of the family followed suit.
Thomas brooded while he helped and eventually they were all ready to go home. He took another look skyward in hopes of seeing the craft again to prove his sanity. No such luck though, and he got in the car to head for Grandma and Grandpa's house. Another family picnic down, and this was one for the books, he thought during the drive. He knew what he had seen, he just could not prove it.
The experience faded into the background the following week as he started enjoying his summer freedom. He played with his sister and cousins until Uncle Sean’s family left. Back at home, Abraham was visiting his cousins for the week so Thomas was left to his own devices. On the next Saturday, one week after the sighting, Thomas was playing quietly in his room while reflecting on what he witnessed in the Santa Fe' Forest. Thomas thought that maybe he was the only one given that fantastic, sublime gift. None of his family members had seen the object and they were at the picnic. As such, no one from school could have seen it either, especially Ryan or Victor. He thought of what Grandpa had told him during their drive into the forest, which brought a smile to Thomas' face because the experience of sighting the extraordinary craft certainly made him unique and special too.