by Cherie Ann Turpin
Two o’clock A.M. on I-95, somewhere between Exit 67-80, southbound, the highway is a parking lot. Twenty Maryland State Police cars, plus fire-trucks, ambulances, and various unmarked “official” vehicles shut down all traffic moving towards Baltimore, Maryland. Northbound traffic slowly crawls past the miles and miles of cars and trucks idling on the other side, and drivers were briefly distracted by the swoosh of air surrounding large, black helicopters hovering near the median dividing north and south.
Free of the crush of the hundreds of 40 ton trucks that usually pushed to move past the Weigh Stations before morning call, the highway was peppered with what seemed to be hundreds of clothes, phones, laptops, iPads, toiletries, wigs, and shoes from the numerous suitcases, gym bags, and plastic bags that were scattered among the four lanes and shoulders now alit like a stage with hot fluorescent bulbs from varying emergency vehicles and helicopters. A bright blue Megabus with its distinct yellow script and dark tinted windows now blown out rested on its side on highway’s right shoulder near shadowy oak trees shielding the night sky. The windowless openings gave the crippled bus an appearance of a hollowed-out Easter egg with its crushed frame. State troopers and emergency responders swarmed the scene, looking for survivors, bodies, any sign of life. Men and women wearing dark jackets, latex gloves, and nondescript federal IDs began to place each piece of the items now covering the pavement into paper bags with numbered labels and bar codes.
Two MD troopers who were being treated for what would be later diagnosed as radiation burns to their faces, chests, and arms, sat on the side of an ambulance detailing what they could recall of the impossibly large aircraft with the white-hot light that bore down on the bus, lifting it like a helium balloon, then dropping it on its side. The windows of the bus and both police cars blew out as the air pressure inexplicably shifted with a loud release. Both men were visibly shaken to their core, and ghastly pale in the glare of the vehicle lights. The faces of the men and women of the unnamed federal agencies headed by DHS who scoured the gravel and grass for evidence were grim and tight with fear: there were no known survivors, and more importantly, there were no bodies, no body parts, no traces of humanity from the broken bus. The disappeared would be missed, and since the incident involved a commercial bus packed with tourists and shoppers from New York, it could not be easily attributed to carjacking or kidnapping like the earlier incidents.
The extraterrestrial presence was to no longer be a question of if, but of WHEN and WHO. As in who would be next, and when would they next strike?
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