Every morning, before the sun peeked over the mountains, Carpenter Harris would wake herself up and go for an early morning run. At first, she woke up begrudgingly. No one should have to wake up so early, she thought, but something within her pushed her to do it. It only took her a few weeks to get used to waking up at this early hour. Before long, she longed for that liberating, almost animalistic feeling the trek would provide. There’s something so primitive about running in a pitch black trail, weaving through the dense, mysterious forest.
Some mornings, the first rays of morning light would filter through the tall trees a few minutes after she started on her journey. Other times, the light wouldn’t appear until she was already 15 or 20 minutes in. On mornings when the sun took its time, Carpenter was forced to face the forest as it was: dark, ominous, uncertain. At first, she stumbled over exposed roots. One morning, she tripped and fell hard, scraping her knee. She was forced to limp home. When the sun peeked over that day, she felt as if it was mocking her for getting injured. After enough attempts, however, Carpenter Harris had memorized the trail. She believed she could complete it with her eyes closed, if she tried. The trail weaved through the forest, getting steeper and steeper every few yards. Once the path plateaued, she could hear the creek below, about 20 to 30 feet on the right side of the trail. The valley which led to the creek was at a sharp incline. A few times, Carpenter miscalculated the distance of her foot’s trajectory and lost her balance, stumbling for a moment and almost tumbling down the valley’s incline. Thankfully, she caught herself before plummeting into the icy creek below.
As the only human on this side of the woods, she could focus completely on the nature that surrounded her. The babbling creek, the chirping birds, and the sounds of twigs breaking under her running shoes became her personal symphony.
On this particular morning, Carpenter Harris had worked up a sweat as she weaved through the cool forest path. The brisk, clean air enveloped her with each step. The deeper she trekked into the forest, the further her mind wandered into the shadows. The forest was completely silent, save for the sounds of twigs breaking beneath her running shoes or her syncopated breathing. The silence seemed a bit odd to Carpenter but she didn’t question it, she just kept running. It’s necessary to maintain a certain routine, after all. She couldn’t turn back now; giving up would ruin the entire trajectory of her day.
Carpenter’s routine came to a swift halt when she noticed an odd shape on the trail’s embankment. Her eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness but the forest trail looked different than before. The odd shape transfixed her. Although it was lodged precariously on the edge of the embankment, she decided to go investigate. Slowly and steadily, Carpenter bound over to the shape. The steep incline was difficult to navigate, yet she persevered. She used her hands to keep herself steady, grabbing onto exposed roots and dry branches for further stabilization. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Carpenter arrived at the odd shape.
As she approached it, Carpenter was able to ascertain more details of the mysterious mound. It was much larger than she first realized. At first, from up above, it looked like an odd shadow, about four feet in length. Now that she was close enough to touch it, she was astounded by its magnificent size. It was an unnatural dome shape. Moss, thin twigs, and seeds were haphazardly strewn across its surface. Even in the pitch black darkness, the shape shined ever so slightly, like a precious stone refracting light. Something in the back of Carpenter’s mind assured her that whatever she was looking at wasn’t of this earth.
Carpenter adjusted herself by resting her left side on the embankment’s steep incline. She maintained her stability by holding on to an exposed tree root. She reached out her free hand towards the shape when she noticed it was rising and falling, as if it were breathing. Carpenter carefully brushed away the leaves and twigs. Now that the shape was completely exposed, she was able to see it as it was. There, beneath the underbrush, rested a luminous, metallic dome. Half of it was stuck beneath the ground of the embankment while the other half was completely exposed. Carpenter had ran past this particular spot every single morning but she had never noticed the shape until today. Carpenter wanted to push herself up on her feet to get a better look at the dome but the dome began to radiate light. Naturally, Carpenter froze. It appeared as if her touch activated something within the dome. Within the brilliant, opalescent surface, she could see a grayish outline, a faded silhouette.
A deep hum emanated from the shape; the vibrations risked the surrounding underbrush. The shape began to rise up from the ground, dislodging itself. It was egg-shaped, about eight feet long by six feet wide. It hovered perpendicularly to the embankment. Carpenter realized it was a vessel of some sort. Before she could gather any more information, a bright flash of light burst from within, blinding Carpenter in the process. She shielded her eyes but remained sturdy, holding on to the exposed branch with all her might. Once she felt the light fade, she slowly uncovered her eyes. There, floating casually in front of her, was this perfect, seamless vessel. The silhouette from within looked like that of a human with long hair in the fetal position. She promptly passed out.
Carpenter awoke in her bed a few hours later.
The sunlight woke her up. For a few moments, she believed what had transpired was nothing more than a dream. That is until she noticed her running shoes were still tied to her feet, her knees and hands were dirty and scraped, dirt under her fingernails. She got out from bed, trying to parse what she’d seen when she heard noises coming from down the hall. Carpenter stood up, as quietly as possible, and inches towards the sound. The old wooden floorboards creaked with each step. She realized the noise was coming from the kitchen. Someone was opening cabinets, clanging dishes and glasses. Whoever was in there was not very conspicuous. She rested her back on the corridor, breathing deeply in an attempt to regain her composure. With one quick movement, she turned and ran into the kitchen, yelling.
There, in her small ramshackle, stood an old man with a long white beard that reached the floor. The man had not noticed Carpenter or her shriek. He was drinking from the faucet, placing his mouth on the running water. Gulping, gargling, and spitting like a person who hasn’t had water in days. He was wearing a ragged white linen as a tunic, his feet were bare and his toenails were so long they curled. Carpenter stood in shock. After he seemingly had his fill, the man lifted his head from the sink and stood up straight. He was small, almost gnome-like. Carpenter mustered up as much courage as she could and shouted at the man.
“Hey!” She said. “What are you doing?”
The man froze and turned his head slowly towards Carpenter. His white beard was speckled with water. His lips moved but no sound came, as if he’d forgotten how to speak.
“I asked you a question!” Carpenter shouted again. She’d never talked to anyone this way but, seeing as there was a mysterious intruder in her home, she figured it was the best path to take.
The man continued to mumble. His clear blue eyes welled up with tears before he fell to his knees and began to cry. Unsure as to what she should do, Carpenter inched towards the phone—keeping her eyes on the man as she moved—and dialed 911. Once an operator picked up, Carpenter told her everything she knew. As she spoke, the man sobbed and wept louder and louder.