I found a hollow between a boulder and tree and nestled there, panting. My heart thumped. My legs trembled. My mind raced. My ears rang, but I heard stealthy movement approaching. I burrowed deeper, felt safer, then I thought of the Professor and felt the tension drain away. “Think, Ace, think!” he'd say, and probably rap his knuckles on my head. So I thought. Luuna was the big bad guy, yes? Yes. She just tried to kill me, yes? Yes. Someone just shot her, yes?
Oh! I'd just been rescued, hadn't I? And I'd run away like a little kid scared by the noise. Shouldn't I just announce myself?
Think, Ace, think... No. It would be stupid to just expose myself. There were too many things happening. Luuna, the mind-controlling alien, could have jumped into her assailant, couldn't she? That could be Luuna sneaking around there now, looking for me.
If it was, she was moving away, back toward the cars. I waited, began to feel like myself again. Why did this terrify me, anyway? I'd seen people die and I'd had my life threatened, but it had all been from weird, outer-space menaces. Frightening, yes, but just like Smokey in the temple, so strange that they didn't seem real. But this was a gun, a bullet, a spray of blood. Very real. Well, Ace, time to face reality.
Time's brief visit to the Illuminated Disciples of the Benevolent Space Brothers draws to an end. Jack Kraft accompanies us to our car. The air is crisp and clean, the night sky is breathtaking. Kraft offers us his hand.
"Thanks for dropping by, fellows," he says, "I hope we get the cover."
He is silent for a moment.
"I know all this outer space stuff sounds nutty to you. Imagine hearing it from your wife. But I have to tell you, the boys that leave here? They're better for it. They come here broken but when they leave they're fixed. That's all that matters, right?"
When pressed about his wife's eccentric cosmology and philosophy, Jack Kraft grins.
"I just run the office. You'll have to take that up with Gladys," he points to the star-filled sky, "and the boys upstairs."
from, 'Good News from the Saucer-Men of Mount Shasta?' (Time Magazine, 8/24/59)
I inched back toward the road, being as quiet as I could, intent on the scene below. Someone was dragging Luuna's body to the second car. I carefully eased myself into the ditch, inched forward, and put my hand on what was, unmistakably, someone's bum.
It jumped and I snatched my hand away.
'Ace? Is that you?' came a whisper.
'Peace?' I could see her now, the dim light reflecting tear tracks on her face, 'What are you doing here? There's a nutter with a gun running around and Luuna's been shot.'
'I know. It's her,' Peace said, 'watch!'
I heard the a car door open. There was a soft grunt of effort and then a figure, rifle slung on it's back, entered the saucer glow. It was Sally, Peace's mum. She leaned into the Caddy; the engine quit and the saucer blinked off. Then she went back to her car, returned with a spray can and a rag, and cleaned the blood off the back. We lay there and watched, Peace gripping my arm.
Finally, Sally was done. She gazed around once, started the car, then did a u-turn away from town. We watched the tail lights shrink in the distance. I was standing up when Peace said, 'Wait. She's stopped at the bridge.'
'She's coming back. Down, Ace!'
Sally's car sped past without slowing. It turned the corner into town.
Peace sobbed, her body shaking. I kept my distance. I wasn't very good with other people's emotions, back then.
'Peace, I know how it looks, but Luuna tried to kill me. Your mum saved me.'
She stopped shaking and was quiet for a moment. She murmured something I didn't catch.
'What?' I said.
'I said, that's a lie!' Peace drew away from me, raw anger in her voice, 'Luuna is the greatest person alive! How dare you say she tried to kill you!'
I was taken aback. Where had this come from? Wait! She was calling me a liar? I was on my feet in a second, fists balled.
'It's true! She had this wand thing and she said I'd be found beaten to death!'
'You must have deserved it then! What did you do, Ace?'
'I didn't do anything and you can't say I did! You didn't see her! I almost died!'
We glared. Peace blinked first, turned her back.
'A trick, then. She was pretending. She wouldn't have killed you. Not Luuna.'
She swayed on her feet, then sat heavily on the edge of the ditch.
'I grew up with her, Ace, do you understand? I never had a dad. I love my mom, but she's always been the boss and she knows me too well. Luuna was my Aunt Luuna, you know? She was the one with the stories and the toys, always smiling and laughing, even when she was training me.'
I felt my anger ebbing away. A cloud drifted over the moon and in the dark our voices were disembodied.
'I remember. Your mum said you were training to be the new high priestess.'
She snorted softly, 'That's what she thought, yeah.'
Her face was an unfocused pale oval.
'I was in training, all right, but not to be high priestess. I was in training to be the new Luuna.'
The moon reappeared. Peace turned her face to the light and she rose, 'In fact, I guess,' she said, 'I am Luuna.'
A million miles away there are lights, and movement, and shouts, but I am not there.
'Open your eyes, Ace. Look at me and tell me what happened yesterday.'
'I searched the temple but there wasn't a third floor but then I came down and you were busy flirting with Sally Spenser so I explored and met Luuna but she wasn't really Luuna she was Gladys and Jack was coming so I hid in the closet but there was a secret door and it led to the third floor and there was a big head named Smokey the lemur up there who was weird but nice and then Jack came in and he was sort of sad.'
'Then those weirdos showed up and they were aliens using the pilgrims to visit Earth and Smokey helped me escape and told me to tell you what happened but I ended up outside town and Luuna tried to kill me but Sally shot her and then Peace showed up and started acting creepy and then... you showed up? and I fell asleep in the car? and now I'm in the hotel and it's morning and... Hey! Did you undress me? Professor!'