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Fifteen seconds—In this heat that’s what stood between life and death. Hunger drove him from the shadows. That and a dull spec protruding from volcanic sand ten yards away. He was starving for the same reason the world withered—unrelenting drought.

Everything came down to calories. Stay in the shade, and he'd conserve energy. But if the glinting object was a harvestable sprout, he’d survive for days, perhaps until rain.

Something clicked into place and the decision was made. In a blur, he brushed past his mate and bolted into the oven of the earth. One eye searched the searing sky for any sign of death that might descend from above. The other eye was on the object. Sixty sprints, but erratic so as to make a poor target, and he was there.

Ten fingers dug with blinding speed. Scorching soil immediately blistered his palms. The object was unearthed. Not trusting his eyes, his long nose sniffed to make identification. The alien smell shocked his senses and he darted back to the hole and his mate.

Could he read, he’d have read Marlboro on the object’s burnt end. Had he language, he would have told his mate, “We are not alone!”

by Jay Archer David

Jay Archer David lives in the greater southwest with his wife. He explores, experiences, and creates stories in this land of enchantment where ancient Anasazi pueblos are layered with the children of Hispanic settlers, the old-West, and modern America.

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