Through his bedroom window, Hank had been watching the UFO for about twenty minutes as it moved in what seemed a random path across the night sky. It was a sphere, its color shifting yellow to orange when it moved fast, and then back to yellow as it slowed.
Hank was happy to see it. He had seen it before and there was never any harm. Moreover, he was an avid fan of science fiction and quite comfortable with the notion that “we are not alone”.
Some years back the UFO’s visits had been frequent, sometimes twice a week during the summers. That had attracted a good number of tourists to Inwood, bringing their cameras and hiking across his farm and the neighboring farms. Finding a comfortable spot, they would set down chairs and hope for a sighting. Typically they did no major damage to his fields.
His house had a spare bedroom occupied by Steve, a recently hired farmhand. Back when that bedroom was available and the UFO sightings were generating excitement, Hank earned some extra cash letting his farmhouse serve as a bed and breakfast for a tourist or two.
There had been word of a university professor on his way to Inwood, a physicist determined to explain the UFO as a simple weather effect, ball lightning, or some such thing. Before he arrived, though, the UFO made what turned out to be its final appearance, and that was in midsummer as Hank remembered it. The tourists already there were happy enough with the last sightings. Tourists after that were disappointed and left disgruntled.
Seeing it again now, Hank thought it to be a beautiful thing, with colors shifting and its motion captivating as he watched. Suddenly though, the UFO dropped to a spot close to his farmhouse. It hovered just above the nearest of his two silos, about three hundred feet away. The silo was illuminated as the UFO approached.
Hank had only a few seconds to worry about that before the night was lit by a burst of light from the silo itself, so extreme it had the appearance of an incendiary device having detonated.
He pulled on overalls and boots. Had he thought more clearly, he would have taken the time to rouse Steve, but instead just ran past the farmhand’s bedroom and down the stairs. He did grab a flashlight on the way and seconds later was racing down the gravel path toward the silo.
As he got closer, his running became a jog and then just a rapid walk, as he saw the silo was dark, no smoke in evidence and no apparent effects of explosion and fire. The UFO had vanished, too.
The large door of the silo was not closed as he had left it but had somehow been slid aside. It was through its opening that he had seen the burst of light. Standing there now, in the dark of it, he shined his flashlight inside.
There was nothing there. Remarkably there was no sign of damage, but also no wheat. Not a speck of the grain was to be seen. One might have thought the silo had been vacuumed and then gone over with a tweezers, so thoroughly had it been emptied.
The day before it had in fact been filled with a very special wheat, grown from genetically modified seed. The neighboring farms would have nothing to do with such experimental stuff, but Hank had been through a rough year and, with some misgivings also, accepted a government contract to plant two acres.
Hank had to think that something else in the universe wanted the grain or at least did not want anyone else to have it, and then for a moment he dwelled on the prospect of his financial loss.
Only for a moment, as suddenly he remembered the loaf of whole wheat bread on his kitchen table. At first reluctant but then persuaded by Steve, Hank had ground some of the new grain and baked the bread the evening before. He followed a recipe that had been his late wife’s favorite.
Terrified but not sure why, he headed back to the house. Hurrying, he tripped once and scraped a knee, but he was quickly on his feet again.
The wheat bread was still there.
As he looked at it now, clearly one slice had been cut from it. That had to have been Steve’s doing, before turning in.
He found himself at the door to Steve’s bedroom, hardly remembering running up the stairs, focused as he was on the hope of finding nothing amiss. The door was slightly ajar, and he pushed it open.
What had been Steve was sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at him.
The light was dim but sufficed to show a body bloated within the stretched pajama fabric. Steve’s head was expanded, too, almost too big for the neck, and the flesh of his face had the sheen of a freshly peeled hard-boiled egg. Eyes, nose, and mouth were no longer properly positioned, making for a distorted caricature.
It seemed to Hank that the arms, stretched out toward him, were just finishing some transformation to appendages more like tentacles. At each tip there was a mass of writhing tendrils tipped with talons.
Hank was transfixed by the horror as the grotesquerie, suddenly up and upon him with surprising agility, did quick work of him. It lingered a few minutes to eat its fill of a portion of the corpse, then headed downstairs and out of the house. On its way, it grabbed what was left of the wheat bread.
A few minutes later, the thing that had been Steve disappeared into the heavily treed nature reserve that bordered the fields.
In the days that followed, the Medical Examiner would report that what had killed Hank was certainly not human.
There would soon be sightings, always just before dark, of something quite strange roaming the edge of the reserve. Dead animals and damage to farm property would be attributed to it.
Stories about the thing began to spread. Once again, tourists were returning to Inwood.