File #001

Mitchell rubbed his eyes. Yang adjusted her shades. The black and white Ford Explorer rolled down the county road -- “Grayson County Sheriff” stamped across its side.

Yang winced as gravel pelted the undercarriage.

Mitchell caught it. “Yeah, I know,” He grinned out the side of his mouth, “You like your city roads.”    

Yang rolled her eyes, “Like this is a picnic for you.”    

“Sure is,” he drawled. “These old country roads are the best.”      

Yang’s eyes slid to the side. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am — the best places in the world are hidden at the end.” He said.    

“End of what,” she snarked.    

“End of the road, Darlin’, End of the … “Mitchell slammed the brakes.    

Set against the long, empty road, a variety of SUVs and window-tinted sedans lay lined in the cedar-shade. The very last vehicle shone in the sunshine: one large, cherry red, Chevy Silverado.    

Mitchell let his Ford crawl forward. It edged down the country lane, squeezing past the red behemoth.    

Yang caught it first. “Isn’t that Platt’s truck?”    

Mitchel shook his head. “Oh, Yang,” he said. “That ain’t a truck.” Mitchell sighed. “That there’s a Chevy Silverado 3500 LTZ dually with leather seats, an extra-long bed, and a 445 horsepower V8 engine. That’s not a truck,” he grinned, “That’s a friend.” A long drowsy drool drew across his face.

“Ok, Ok — I get it. But isn’t that deputy Platt’s truck?”

Mitchell sighed and crept their SUV by the Chevy, nice and slow. “Yeah ... yeah, it is.” He sighed. “Platt let me sit in her once.”

“What?” Yang said.

The dream still lingered in his eyes. “It was sweet ... real sweet.” Mitchel’s lips swung to the side.

“But he wouldn’t leave it by the side of the road.”

Mitchell focused. “No. He wouldn’t do that. “Look at the hood. The road dust has watermarks on it. It’s been here all night.”

“So, where’s Platt?”

“Well,” Mitchell said, “Let’s go find out.” He gunned the black and white Explorer, sweeping down a long lane towards an old two-story farmhouse. Vast rolling pastures painted the horizon from end to end.

Mitchell parked the Ford in front of the farmhouse. Dust settled in their wake.

The land was quiet. The air was ominous. Neither of them left the car.

“So, Platt … “Yang twisted in her seat to get her bearings.

“Yeah,” Mitchell said. He scanned the farmhouse. “I asked him to pop by yesterday on his way home.”

“That was yesterday.” Yang’s eyes rolled over the empty fields.

“Yes, it was, Yang … Yes, it was,” Mitchell rubbed his neck. “Ranch this size ... we should be seeing something: people, animals, chickens, goats, dogs ...”

Yang pointed to the East lawn. “What the heck is that?”

A haphazard shanty of corrugated aluminum sheets peeped over the top of long grasses.

Mitchell spared it a glance, “Don’t know, Yang.” He pointed to the side of the house, “But I think we’re about to find out.”

A lean-looking man came sputtering up; tin-foil hat plastered to his head. “Go on!” He shouted, “Get!”

Mitchell and Yang exited the car, exchanging glances.

“You gotta go!” He squawked.

“Sir, I’m Sheriff Mitchell.” He waved towards his partner. “This is deputy Yang.”

“I see ya!” The rancher growled; stray hairs fluttered from his tin hat.

Mitchell and Yang exchanged more looks.

Yang plucked her ebony notebook from her back pocket. “Sir, are you Mr. Peter Langrin?”

“You know I am.” he scowled. “But that ain’t the important thing, now is it?”

“It’s not?” Mitchell asked.

“Nope.” The rancher crossed his arms. “You be lookin’ for them folks!

“Yes, actually,” Yang started, “We’re looking for ...”

“Well, I told them! I did!” Langrin’s voice began to roll. “I said: ‘Run for the East lawn!’ But did they listen? No! Do they ever listen? No!”

Yang stared at Mitchell in disbelief.

Mitchell shrugged.

Langrin continued. “Now here ya are — a couple more cops ...”

“Couple?” Yang mouthed the question at Mitchell, who shrugged.

“... You be thinkin’ you have it all handled — You got it all figured out.” Langrin leaned in on Yang. “I see you all calm and cool like … like … Langrin spun on Mitchell, “Hey! Hey, You!” His tin hat flopped on his head.

Mitchell crossed his arms to contain his laughter.

“... Yeah, You ...” Langrin pointed at him. “I see that smirk. It’s smeared across your lip like a lazy fish.”

Mitchell tried to fix his face. But the tin-foil hat kept bouncing like a bird atop the old man’s head.

“You think I’m crazy. You think I’ve lost it ...”

Yang began to take notes.

“... You think I’m some harmless old coot to be patronized and patted on the back ...” Langrin surged towards Mitchell, “... But I’m tellin’ you ... You don’t know nothin’!”

Mitchell looked away to keep from laughing at the hat.

The rancher spun back around towards Yang. “Yeah, yeah ... Write it all down in that little book of yours ...” He towered into her, arms flailing, “... Heck, draw some wild-eyed squiggles and crazy hair ...”

Looking at his face, Yang restrained the urge to do just that.

“... I know what you think you’re seein’... And man, you don’t have a clue!”

Mitchell stood his ground, arms crossed.

Langrin changed tactics. “Well,” he said. He pulled his lanky frame tall, “If you don’t get, all I can say is — They’ll get ya!”

Mitchell raised an eyebrow.

The rancher crouched, peering over his shoulder. “They’ll come up like this,” he bounced on the balls of his feet, “All cute like, rollin’ round like some furry ball ...”

Mitchell caught Yang mouthing the word: “Cute?”

Langrin crossed his arms, mocking Mitchell “... And then you’ll say,” his voice pitched falsetto: “Oh, how sweet. Oh, how lovely”.

Mitchell frowned.

“And just when you let your guard down — BAM! They got you!”

Mitchell and Yang exchanged glances again.

Langrin continued. “They got my wife. They got my dawg. I done called my son over for some help — BAM! They got him too!

Mitchell moved in. “Look, Mr. Langrin, I happen to be the Grayson County Sherriff …”

“I don’t care if you’re the Po-lice.” Langrin crossed his arms. “...Or the FBI, or the CIA, or even those nosey snobs at the NSA.

“The Cars?” Yang mouthed at Mitchell.

Mitchell shrugged.

Yang pointed two fingers from her eyes and swept them over the property. “I’m going to start looking around.”

Mitchell nodded.

Yang strode off towards the side of the house.

“Heck,” Langrin droned on, “I’ve even had those weird fellas out.”

Mitchell crossed his arms again and sighed.

“You know who I’m talkin’ ’bout...”

“No, Mr. Langrin, I ...”

“They wear them fancy black suits and talk all strange-like.” Langrin scowled. “Guess what?”

“What’s that, Mr. Langrin,” Mitchell asked drolly.

“Got them too — BAM! BAM! BAM!”

“Mr. Langrin, honestly,” Mitchell said.

“No, really!” Langrin’s face flushed. “Their car’s parked ’round the corner. For security, they said.” Langrin waved his rough hands towards the worn lane. His eye caught Yang striding towards the back.

Left to himself, Mitchell headed towards the aluminum shanty.

Langrin’s long legs lunged to catch up with Yang. He loomed over her. “Go ahead,” he said. “Look ’round. Look over here and looky-loo over there. You won’t find ’em.” He kicked a scruff of grass. “You can look where’s ya want, but I’d stay away from the West pasture.” The old man’s eyes rolled over a nearby field.

“Why ... just last week, I had a good herd of twenty-three longhorns in there.” He nodded towards the empty pasture.

Yang picked through the bins at the back of the house.

“You know how many I got now — I ain’t got Jack!”

Yang looked at him sideways.

“Well, that’s not true.” He confessed. “I do have Jack.” Yang rolled her eyes as she strolled to the barn.

Langrin droned on, “He’s my stud. And Betty-Lou, she’s my best breeder. And then I got ’bout five more in my neighbor’s field.” He held the door open for Yang as she popped her head inside. “That makes seven! I got seven steers left!

Her critical eye roved over Langrin’s empty barn.

“Go ahead. Ask me.” He pouted. “Ask ole Peter where his herd is.”

Peter Langrin bowed his head. “Where’s the cows?” He muttered,

“Where’s my wife?” He sniffed.

“How ’bout my son?”

Yang watched, worried, as his face twisted in angst.

“And my dawg,” He wailed. “Oh my Gawd — They got my dawg! Who knows what those little bastards are doin’ to my precious little Buelah!”

“Mr. Langrin,” Yang stepped close. “Are you ok?”

“Yeah,” he snuffled, “I’m alright.”

Yang led him out of the empty barn. “I hate to ask ... “she started.

“I know what you’re gonna say,” He cut in.

“I was actually ...”

“You were gonna ask if the little bastards ate ’em — ate em all.”

Yang sighed and played along. “So, have they?” She asked. “Been eaten, I mean?”

“Naw, I don’t think they been ate.” He wiped his face with his well-weathered hands. “I think they been taken!


“Yes, Siree — If I can just find where they been taken to — I think I can put it all right again.”

“Maybe you could, Mr. Langrin.” Yang patted him on the back. “Maybe you could ...”

Langrin’s face softened. “Ya know, if you’re gonna stay … I figured you would.” He leaned in, “All y’all official types be stubborn like that. “He met Yang’s amber eyes. “Well,” he scratched his head, making his tin hat tilt. “I made these for ya.”

Like a small child offering up a dandelion, Peter Langrin placed a folded bit of tin foil from his back pocket into Yang’s hands.

Yang tried not to think about the tin’s warmth and previous proximity to Langrin’s rear end. “Thanks,” she said, her nose crinkled at the slight lingering scent.

“I know it looks a might strange.” Langrin fingered the edges of his own hat before chuckling. “I pro’lly look a might strange myself. All I can say is — it works.”

Yang turned the warm, folded tin over in her hands. “What works, Mr. Langrin?” She peered into his large, weary eyes and placed her small hand on his. “Can you tell me what’s going on?”

The old man paused.

Yang watched him struggle with words that tripped towards the tip of his tongue.

He sighed, his eyes landing on Yang’s head. “Here,” he said. “Lemme give ya a hand.” Langrin took the tin, his rough hands flexing the thin material like putty.

Mitchel caught Yang’s eye, signaling as he surged across the yard towards a large pasture.

Yang nodded.

Langrin finished fiddling with the tin. “Here ya go.” He grinned, placing the tin hat on Yang’s head.

“So, Mr. Langrin, you were telling me about your cows,” Yang said, keeping his attention while Mitchell crossed the yard.

“Ya-huh,” he fidgeted with Yang’s hat.

“Mr. Langrin, we’re looking for a friend of ours.”

The old man sighed. “Yeah. I know,” he said. “Just pinch that there foil a little tighter, so it don’t fall off, and you’ll be ok.”

“Mr. Langrin.” Yang forced his eyes to hers. “Please tell me what happened.”

“I hear ya.” he said. His eyes wandered over Yang’s right shoulder. “Hey!” he shouted. “Hey! Don’t go in there!”

Mitchel looked back before striding through the gate and into the West pasture.

Langrin lunged past Yang. “Man, I said DON’T go near the West pasture!” He began to run in long looping strides. “Don’t you listen?” He shouted.

Mitchell continued into the field, eyes glued to the ground.

“That’s where they be hidin’!” Langrin hollered.

“Where?” Yang asked. She scanned the bright green tips of wild grasses.

“Mr. Langrin!” Yang lunged after him. “Stay put!” She surged towards the pasture gate.

Mitchell strode deeper into the field before changing direction in crazy, haphazard angles.

“Mitchel,” she shouted. “Talk to me.” Yang unhitched the gate and crept through.

The air immediately felt thicker, more electric.

Langrin hovered on the other side of the gate, staring at her in disbelief. “Come back,” he whispered.

“It’ll be fine, Mr. Langrin,” Yang said. “Stay here.”

“You Fool!” he shouted after Mitchell. “You’re just askin’ to be took!” He turned towards Yang. “Look at him! He’s got no protection, no tinny hat!” He fumbled in his back pocket. “Here — take it!”

Langrin pressed flat, warm foil into Yang’s fingers, his own hands flinching as they crossed the fence.

Grabbing the foil, Yang turned to trail after Mitchell. She froze.

Standing a good couple hundred feet in, Sheriff Mitchell had drawn his weapon.

Yang dropped to a crouch drawing her own. Her eyes scanned the field.

“You think that’s gonna help?” Langrin plucked a Winchester from the tall grasses by the gate. “Look! I got a gun! I got tons of guns!”

Yang cursed.

“I got a whole armory! You don’t think I didn’t think of that already?

Yang focused on Mitchell, who had come to a stop. She crept forward.

“C’mon,” Langrin shouted. “Get outta there!”

Yang waved for him to hush.

“Don’t look at me like that! I’m just tryin’ to help!” Langrin’s gaze turned downfield and froze.

Five feet above the grassy tips, floated a dozen soft spheres. Purple haze drifted from electric blue cores, like a ball of static, beautiful and harmless.

“Oh, no. Aww, Man. You’ve done it now!” Langrin said. “Here they come!”

Yang watched them bounce and drift like fuzzy dandelion puffs. When they suddenly surged, swarming towards Mitchell.

Yang rushed in.

Mitchell, on the other hand, stood entranced. His hands drooped, his gun tumbling into the tall grass.

“Stop standing there, Man. Run!”

Yang surged forward.

The orbs picked up speed.

Yang heard her breathe, steady and even, thrum in her ears. She felt thin static tug at the hairs on the back of her neck.

Mitchell tilted his head to the side, a drowsy drool spreading across his face: the same drool he’d had staring at Platt’s big red Chevy.

“They got spangly legs! And weird eyes!” Langrin bellowed.

Closer, Yang could see he was right. They didn’t float. They walked. But their legs were so thread-thin they were almost invisible as each orb drifted atop a multitude of willowy legs. She spun Mitchell to face her. His body flopped, empty and doll-like. “Mitchell,” she said. “Move!”

His eyes stayed fixed on the orbs, that dumb, dreamy smile stuck on his lips.

“Don’t let em touch ya!” Langrin screamed. “Don’t let em get ya!”

She saw it then. Long thin tendrils crawled through Mitchell’s buzzed hairline. She followed them back to the core of the orbs. Millions of tiny tendrils twisted in the air like feelers.

“Run!” Langrin hollered.” They’re glowin’ for Christ-sake —Glowin’!”

Once again, Langrin had it right. Stunned, Yang watched the whites of Mitchell’s eyes turn a soft violet — and glow.

“Holy crap!” she breathed. Yang fell back as the thin tendrils surged past Mitchel. She felt faint tickles near her ear, tiny zapping sparks across her tin hat. Glowing tendrils flooded her vision with light.

Yang ran blind.

“C’mon! This way!” Langrin bellowed.

Yang changed direction.

“You’re almost here!” he shouted.

Yang could just make out Langrin’s tall frame flailing by the gate. Heart crashing, static zapping, she threw herself over the gate.

Langrin hauled her upright. “I got a safe place!” he yelled. “Run — I say! Run for the East lawn!”

Post File Notes:

Following a heavy tornado surge through Oklahoma last month, a young colony of Zilphanians was dislodged from their temporary home near the Hugo Western Farmer’s Power Plant in Southern Oklahoma. The colony, however, regrouped on a remote ranch in Northern Texas with minimal losses.

Unable to communicate through organic means, the Zilphan then structured for survival. Their primary food source is electro-chemical; therefore, interaction with organic neural networks was a form of emergency sustenance.

Upon notification from Grayson County, Texas Deputy Linda Yang, ISPA teams were dispatched to engage and relocate the colony. Aside from neural over-stimulation and slight burns, all organics are expected to recover with time and therapy.

File #001: Closed