While not flash fiction, this story is still quite short, only 2,561 words long.
was published many years ago under a name I no longer use by a
SF/Fantasy magazine that went the way of the dinosaurs. It was fun to
write and, I think, still fun to read.
By way of a disclaimer,
remember that there are some geographical elements that have changed
over the more than twenty years since this story was written. I haven't
heard anyone, even locals, call US 41 Alligator Alley for a very long
The tourist agencies finally won.
Copyright © 1987-2011
All rights Reserved
Have you ever driven across Alligator Alley? It runs from Miami to
Naples across the tip of Florida, right through the middle of the
Everglades. You get to see some interesting towns, like Frog City and
Ochopee and the ever-famous Fortymile Bend. Basically, it's a hundred
or so miles of pretty good road running through a huge swamp. For
reasons of pure tourism, Interstate 75 is called Alligator Alley
officially, but the locals usually mean US Highway 41 when they use the
I drove Alligator Alley one evening. I was on my way from Key West to
Tampa when, for some stupid reason, I decided to take Alligator Alley
instead of the interstate like the travel service suggested. I had a
brand new—at the time—1987 Honda Super Magna 700 and I thought the open
road of Alligator Alley would be more fun than the interstate, so, when
US Highway 1 met Highway 41, I hooked a left and proceeded out into the
The highpoint of the early trip was when I passed a place called The
Everglades Correctional Institution. What sort of sick fuck would put a
prison in a swamp along a road called Alligator Alley? Especially when
the road had that name for a very good reason.
At various places along the road, whoever was in charge of the Florida
parks had put up rest area places where you could stop and walk out on
a deck to overlook the swamp. Since the front tire of the Magna was a
little out of balance and was about to beat me to death, I decided to
stop at one of these places just before it closed at sundown. Besides,
I'd been on the bike for more than three hours by then.
As I walked along the wooden decking taking in the wonderful smells of
stagnant water and rotting vegetation, an old black man approached me.
With curly white hair and a face lined with years, the old man could've
been any where from sixty years to two hundred. He walked with a slight
limp, and he drug his left leg a little, his shoe making a faint
scraping sound on the wood. He leaned on the railing near me and I knew
I shouldn't have looked at him, but I did it anyway and, as I did, I
mumbled something stupid like, "How ya doin'?"
The old man smiled a toothless grin. "Got a buck ya can spare?"
As I stood watching the egrets feeding in the swamps, I found I was
stuck on stupid, so I reached in my pocket and gave the old man a
The old man took the bill and stuffed it in his pocket. He then turned to look where I was looking. "Gotta watch 'em."
"Gotta watch who?"
He pointed out towards the white birds wading in the swamp. "Dem iggerts. Gotta watch 'em. Dey bite, dem iggerts do."
Thankfully, the park ranger came along to run us all off because the
park was closing. He took the old man by the arm. "Go on, Lloyd, and
leave these folks alone."
By the time I was suited up, I pulled out of the little park just as darkness fell.
I remember passing through a little hole-in-the-wall town called Trail
Center. Maybe fifteen or so miles farther along, I saw what looked like
headlights on my side of the road, so I slowed down and moved closer to
the gravel shoulder of the road and the swamp not more than twenty feet
beyond. The lights didn't seem to move so I thought someone must have
pulled off with car trouble or something.
I was much closer when I saw the blue and red and yellow and green lights flashing around the thing with the headlights.
* * * *
When I woke up I thought I was in a hospital. The thought of being in a
hospital in the middle of a swamp bothered me. The place was the
proverbial white room you see in the movies with a special effects
budget of about $25.00. Everything was white. The floor, the ceiling,
the walls, the bed I was laying on, and the gown I was wearing were all
pure white. And I couldn't tell where the light was coming from. It was
So, I says to myself, "Self," said I, "we're in deep shit. I told you
not to buy that motorcycle. Now you've gone and got us both killed! You
know, I didn't really care about you killing your own stupid self, but
now you've got me killed, too, and that really pisses me off!"
I said to myself, "Self, shut up so I can think."
I swung myself up to a sitting position and took inventory...two arms,
two legs, five appendages on each of the above. That was a close thing,
though. I have relatives in Little Rock. One head with the right number
of ears, eyes, lips, and noses. Without looking, I reached down—yep, a
bat and two balls. Everything important was still there. I didn't feel
bad or hurt anyplace and there was no blood on the white gown or on the
I looked around the room a little better and there were no windows and
no doors. Looking back now, I should've wondered how I was going to get
out of there, but the first thing that came to my mind was how the fuck
did I get in there. I stood and the legs seemed to work OK, so I did a
little walk-about, as they say Down Under. The room was maybe twenty
feet square, but I really couldn't tell how tall it was because there
was no contrast. I couldn't reach the ceiling, even standing on my
toes. I even went as far as standing on the bed and I still couldn't
reach the ceiling.
I tapped on the wall in a few places. The wall made a solid sound under
my knuckles, like it was concrete, but it had a soft feel to it. Maybe
some kind of foam covered the wall. Myself said, "Hey, dumb-fuck, maybe
we're not dead but they've locked your ass up for buying a motorcycle
at forty-five years old and riding it to Florida all the way from
"Shut up, Self," I said. The floor was of the same strange material.
I went back to sit on the bed and think. I couldn't remember anything
after seeing the colored lights on the highway. Had I rammed a cop car?
Maybe I was in a prison hospital. That would explain the missing
windows and hidden door and, maybe, the padded walls and floor. But how
did the guards keep an eye on me? I'd read someplace guards in prisons
were supposed to watch inmates and account for them every thirty
minutes or so and I guessed that was even more often in a hospital, but
there were no cameras I could see.
And, when I thought about it and actually looked for them, there was no
sink or toilet in the room, either. I didn't need either one right now,
but the idea of crapping in the corner of my cell bothered me more than
the idea I might be in some hospital in the middle of a swamp.
As I sat pondering both my condition and my fate, a place on the white
wall that looked no different from any other place on the white wall
slid open and a...well, a something walked in.
The thing was small, maybe four and half feet tall and had long arms
and legs. The head was sort of triangular shaped and the eyes were very
large and black. There was just sort of a pair of lines for a nose and
the mouth was a tiny slit. He wasn't wearing any clothing I could see
and, for that matter, I still don't know why I assumed it to be a he.
How could I tell?
And the little dude had my driver's license!
"Hey! That's mine! Where's the rest of my stuff?" Looking back, I guess I should have been scared of him, but I was pissed off.
When he spoke, I could just see his slit of a mouth move. "Hello, Mr.
Rogers." He studied my license for a moment. "May I call you Dave?" He
tilted his head to one side. "Any relation to Fred?"
"I don't care what you call me, so long as it's a cab to take me out of here!"
"Now, Dave, just relax. You're perfectly safe here and we just want to
ask you a few questions. Please, sit down and try to calm yourself a
little. Can I get you something to drink? I believe we have beer and
"Black or green?"
"We're all out of green label, but would you care for some Jack black?"
"Yeah, I need a drink." It was beginning to sink in on me that the
little guy looked like the aliens you see in the movies and who show up
every few weeks on the covers of the tabloids at the grocery store
checkout lines that are meeting with the President and JFK to make
world peace a reality. I preferred the stories about the Bat Boy myself.
He turned back from the wall and handed me a tall glass of ice and
amber fluid that was indeed Jack Daniels. "Now, you probably have a few
questions for me before we begin."
"Ya really think so? First, where the hell are we?"
"We're in a spacecraft, Dave, sitting alongside the road you were traveling on."
"A spacecraft? From where? I know you NASA boys run Florida. Well, you and the AARP."
"Where I'm from really doesn't matter, Dave. But we're not from NASA or the AARP."
Myself said to me, "Self, this just keeps getting' better and better."
I said to myself, "Shut up, I'm workin' here." I said to the little guy, "So, are you, like, an alien?"
"No, Dave, I'm not like an alien. I am an alien." He tilted his head
again. "I hope you're not a Republican, because I'm an illegal alien."
Just what I needed—an alien who thinks he's a comedian. "So, what are
you going to do with me? I've heard about you guys and your anal
probing and all."
"We could do that, if you'd like us to. I think we still have the machine that goes up your nose and into your brain, too."
"You're not going to anal probe me or make me have sex with your women or put little implants in me?"
Again with the head tilt. "Not unless you want us to. Well, all but the
having sex part. It doesn't work very well. You earthlings must think
we're perverts or something."
I didn't know if he was a pervert or not, but I decided I needed to change the subject. "So what happens now?"
"I ask you some questions and we put you back on the road."
"What about my clothes? What'd you do with them?"
"That cow skin you were wearing looked hot and, Dave, it smelled bad, so we're having it cleaned for you."
"Oh. And my other stuff?"
"Just outside the door here." He pointed to the white wall.
"And what did you do with my bike?"
He tilted his head. "We're balancing the front tire, tightening the chain, and changing the oil. Valvoline 10W30 all right?"
I blinked a few times. "Uh, sure." Myself said, "Why are they here?" I asked the little guy. "Why are you here?"
"We're just studying developing societies and we thought we'd better do
you folks before you do something stupid, like go extinct."
"You're not even going to do a physical exam on me?"
"Why? Do you think we're incompetent? We've been doing the snatch and
grab on you people for nearly a hundred years now and don't you think
we'd have your biology figured out yet?" He tilted his head. "You're
looking forward to the anal probe, aren't you?"
"No! I'm not! Really! I pay good money for my doctor to do that once a year, so I don't need you to do it!"
"On the house, Dave, just like the drink."
"No! Just ask your damn questions!"
"OK, Dave." He consulted a clipboard. "How ya doin'?"
"I asked how you're doing."
"I heard what you said. What do you mean?"
"How's the wife and kids? How's work treating you?"
I couldn't believe this guy. "My wife ran off with a rock musician and
my daughter married a lawyer who works for the ACLU. Work's the pits
and I'm probably going to get canned when we downsize."
He tilted his head. "Sucks to be you."
"Tell me about it. And then I get picked up by alien refugees from the Comedy Channel."
"Tough stuff. How's the IRA doing?"
I laughed at him, right to his face. "What IRA? How do you think I bought that bike?"
"I heard you humans have a thing that you should try getting, Dave. It's called a life."
"Stuff it, shorty."
"Don't be so hostile, Dave. I'm not the one who screwed up your life."
I just sneered at him. "No, but you will be. I've read the books and
magazines and I've seen the movies. Now I'll have all kinds of problems
with lost time and having my memory wiped and flashbacks and all the
crap that drove Betty and Barney crazy! And that other guy who wrote
all the books...anyway, crazy as a pet coon, that's what I'll be after
you get done messing with my mind!"
"Why would we mess with your mind? We don't do that, Dave. Those folks
who say we do are just trying to turn a buck on the publicity gig. We
pay you for your time."
Now he had my attention. "Pay me?"
"Sure. You're providing a service to us, just like when the guy comes
out to the ship to drop off the new bottles of water and take away the
empties. We pay him, so why shouldn't we pay you? It's only fair."
"We'll give you thirty grand a year for the rest of your life. Tax free, by the way. We have a deal with the IRS."
I remember my eyes narrowing. "How do I know you're not feeding me a line?"
"I give you my word of honor, Dave." He held his small hand out for me to shake.
As I shook his hand, the last thing I remember was that he leaned over and bit the back of my hand.
* * * *
When I opened my eyes, I was sitting on a bench in one of the little
parks along Alligator Alley and Lloyd was kicking my feet. "Got a buck
ya can spare?"
As I sleepily pulled a dollar bill from my pocket and handed it to him,
he nodded at the teeth marks on my hand. "See? Dem iggerts bite!"
I guess it's a good thing that the IRS has never asked about it,
because I sure can't explain where the thirty thousand dollars in cash
I find under my pillow every nineteenth of June comes from.