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  • Writer's pictureShanti Hershenson

Read the first chapter of LITTLE GREEN MAN!

Below you will find a sneak-peak of my upcoming novel, Little Green Man, releasing on April 29, 2023.

Do you know what caused the Big Bang?

I sure don’t.

But as I sit here, legs crossed, the stars dappled above me and the town rolling out below me, I can’t help but think. My gaze is fixed on the sky. Binoculars dangle from my neck, clashing against the pins—mostly of little green men and imaginary planets—that decorate my fraying jean jacket.

I feel small. Painfully, unbelievably small.

I don’t come to the trails and cliffs of my town, Mount Pifork, Colorado, to sit and stargaze and ponder my existence.

I come for aliens.

I’ve had my encounters and I’ve secured my beliefs—that somewhere, out there, in our ordinary galaxy, there is life other than us. Whether that life presents itself as little green men with oval-shaped heads, or shape-shifting creatures with sharp claws, it exists.

And I’m going to be the one to prove it.

About an hour into my peculiar stargazing, footsteps rustle from behind me. I tear my eyes from the marvelously sprinkled sky, from the minimal lights speckling the town below, and veer around.

My heart races, if only a little.

“Oh!” I stand, lips parting in surprise. “Mr. Harkins. Such a beautiful night, right? What brings you here?” Beginning to sputter, I continue, “May I help you, Sir?”

Mr. Harkins is my boss, the park ranger of Harley National Forest, which is where Mount Pifork is located. I earn under minimum wage closing the park, however, given that the park closed an hour ago and I still remain, I’m in trouble.

“Birdie.” Mr. Harkins looks down upon me. I can already feel the words coming. “You are aware that the park closed an hour ago. Correct?”

“Uh…correct, sir,” I stammer. “I was just…finding my way out.”

“Are you not on the simplest trail in Mount Pifork?”

I sheepishly grin. “I thought I heard a rattlesnake and decided it would be best to sit in one spot—near the cliff—until the sound passed.”

“For an hour?” Mr. Harkins narrows his eyes. “Really?”

“Yeah, really.” I nod. “Didn’t want to get bit.”

Mr. Harkins lets out an exasperated sigh and says, “Well, I no longer hear your apparent rattlesnake, so I believe it’s clear to go.” He begins to head back down the trail, but quickly stops himself. “Turn right at the trail’s fork and head down towards the parking lot, okay?”

“Okay,” I reply.

“Also, rattlesnakes are diurnal.”

Oops. I’ve always fashioned myself to be a terrible liar.

Once the final remnants of Mr. Harkins’s footsteps vanish into the night, I begin to shimmy my way through the brush-covered trail that connects the path to the cliff, and I head back to the main trail.

I arrive at the fork in the path about ten seconds later. “Turn right near the trail’s fork and head to the parking lot,” I whisper to myself.

But I turn left.

The path on the left begins a new trail. This one is steeper, complex, and definitely not safe to stumble up at night.

Do I care? Most certainly not.

The second trail, dubbed Cobweb Trail for reasons that are nothing but obvious, is accompanied by dagger-like rocks and thickened brush. The brush scrapes lightly against my Converse sneakers, and the branches of the few, smaller-scale trees that are studded along the trail brush against my jean-covered arms.

The difficulty of this trail does not concern me. After twenty-five minutes (I counted) of walking, it leads to a narrow peak—Dublin Peak—which the very tip of Mount Pifork looks over from even higher up. This hike, despite being steep and rocky, does not compare to the labyrinth that is Mount Pifork. But I know not to attempt to brave such terrain when the sky is pitch black and the only lights come from the thin sliver of the moon.

For now, Dublin Peak will do. Not to mention, it should be free from nosy park rangers who wish to kick me out of the trails after dark.

Breaking the law doesn’t concern me nearly as much as it should.

I begin setting up parallel to how I was before which, thankfully, Mr. Harkins was not able to see. My binoculars are hanging loosely on my neck, while my camera weighs on my lap. Beside me is an unopened bag of Doritos in case my stomach begins to rumble.

I don’t commonly get hungry while doing this. I don’t notice the ebbing in my stomach as my attention turns towards the sky—each time, a snack is my last priority.

This night is no different.

I first raise the binoculars to my eyes and press them there lightly. It is then that I focus my gaze on the peak diagonal to the town, which conveniently looms right over Lake Pifork. Even with the night vision mode flicked on, it is nearly impossible to see anything through the binoculars.

Still, my vision remains there.

The lake is blurry, and the peak above it is even more so. The faint lights from the town (also known as Mount Pifork), drown mostly everything out. Not to mention, the spring fog creates layers over the view.

Another ten minutes later, and I’m ready to give up for tonight.

I will be forced to attend school in the morning. Given that it is nearly midnight, my exhaustion is creeping in.

As I lower my binoculars with an exhale of defeat, I stop. Out past the lake, where what is usually a field of rolling, grass hills and frequent trees, is the hum of light. It bleeds from the edge of the terrain, where like most of this part of Colorado, mountains spike from the ground.

“Hm…” I mumble to myself, focusing my binoculars on said light.

I tap a few buttons to zoom in, turn on night vision, increase the light in the lenses, and I see…

From the tip of the light, floats a speck of a color that I can’t grasp. It has the appearance of an orb, so tiny and so faint, it hardly looks like anything at all. It rises in the sky, grows a little bigger, and vanishes promptly after.

I drop my binoculars, collecting a few rub-burns on my neck. My eyes nearly bug out at the sight for, despite the fact that I may be a little eccentric, I cannot think of anything else it can possibly be.

I scramble to grasp my camera, but by the time I do so, the glowing orb is already gone.

“Could’ve been a firefly,” I talk to myself, my voice uneven. I do this only to feel less alone, because, in the mountains where people have certainly gone missing, I begin to panic.

Turning my attention back to the thought of aliens, I gaze at the screen of the camera and focus it on the light. I snap one photo of the light, unsure as to whether or not it’s visible, and I wait.

Sure enough, I hear a faint sound in the distance. It doesn’t rumble like an airplane—it’s far too natural to be that. It sounds like a faint swoosh, a small hum resonating from the sky. I look up and nearly pass out.

An object similar to a shooting star, only larger, streaks across the sky in a hue that can only be described as a deep blue, laced with pure white. My jaw hangs open, and in an astounded frenzy, I take as many photos as humanly possible.

The object fades from the sky almost instantly, leaving a small imprint on the sky for the remaining seconds. I snap one more photo before proceeding to look at what I’ve caught.

Nothing. I’ve actually caught nothing.

Each of the twenty-seven photos I took is washed out, the sky blank, the stars vanished. It isn’t easy to take a photo of the sky, however, as my heart races with the rush of the unknown, I find this absolutely odd.

The only remnant that there was anything there at all is a line painted across the sky—so faint, that it looks like nothing at all.

So, either I’m going crazy, my camera is broken, or there is something out there that doesn’t want to be found.

“Interesting,” I mumble with a smirk.

This sighting, this phenomenon—whatever it is—secures itself a spot on my top five list.

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