“It don’t look like anything I’ve ever seen,” said Ty. “Least not in Oklahoma. What do you think, Will?” Ty didn’t think Willard would have any idea, but he was a timid sort, so he liked to encourage him. In sweltering heat, the two ranch hands stared at a silver bullet the size of a house sticking out of the ground in the middle of nowhere.
“I think we should get Doc out here to check it out,” said Will.
Ty slid off his horse and patted her neck. “Doc’s a long way away. We might as well explore it a little first.”
“I don’t like the looks of it,” said Will.
“It’s got an other worldly character, doesn’t it?” said Ty. He put his hand on the surface. “Hell, Will. This thing’s cool.”
“Well, that ain’t likely,” said Will. “You taking fever?”
“No. Come on and give her a test.”
Will dismounted and joined him. “Gol’darn, you’re right.”
“Let’s count paces around it,” said Ty.
“Two bits say it’s even,” said Will.
Ty stepped around it’s edge, counting out to thirty-six. He fished in his pocket and handed Will a quarter. “Double or nothing says it’s from the railroad.”
“Yeah, all right,” said Will.
They knocked at the object and jiggled anything that stuck out until a panel popped out with a hiss. They pulled on it, but it wouldn’t budge, so they tied a rope to a projection and hitched the other end to Willard’s horse, pulling it open that way.
Inside was just strange. Blocks and tubes of more sizes and shapes than Ty could mentally catalogue going every which way. “The railroad’s getting into some mighty peculiar stuff these days.”
“This ain’t no railroad equipment,” said Will.
“Hold on, eager beaver. I’m not parting with my money yet.”
The compartment was shallow, so they fiddled with more objects on the outside and another panel opened, this one easily pried loose by the two men. It was big enough for them to walk through if it hadn’t been five or so feet off the ground.
They climbed into a chamber as silvery as the outside, but inside there was a strange glow.
“This ain’t the rail—”
“Hold on,” said Ty. He looked around, then looked up. “Well, I’ll be…” He pointed above. There was a perplexing creature, for all appearances a dead one, strapped into a cradle of sorts, surrounded by levers, spinners, and such. It had a face like the moon, four eyes, no ears, slits for nostrils—maybe—and something like a mouth that stuck out like a bird beak. The hands on its stubby arms had six long fingers and big round pads at the end of each one. There were no discernible legs.
Ty fished in his pocket and handed Will another quarter.
“Where do you suppose it’s from?” asked Will.
“Not from around here.”
“I guess there’s no God after all,” said Will.
“How do you figure?”
“God’s an earth notion. This gent here is Columbus, about to purge the heathens of their ways. God and intelligent off-earths don’t fit.”
Ty punched him in the chest. “You dumb cow. Whose to say this gent didn’t come here on account of some prophecy showing him where to find the Messiah?”
Will laughed. “That’s a bigger stretch than Hawthorne’s farmstead.”
“Even so,” said Ty. “I figure a big part of superior intelligence is allowing oneself to be informed.”
“You’re a deranged one, Ty.”
“Ten times again or nothing says these fellows are open to Jesus.”
Will shook his head. “Ty. You even have five dollars?”