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  • Tom Deaderick


Six years ago an alien flightsuit exploded in the atmosphere dropping fragments into a long-abandoned iron-mining camp in Bumpas Cove, Tennessee. Appalachian Trail hikers found one small artifact with inexplicable properties. The rest scattered around the deserted camp, until 14 year-old Leo and a uniquely isolated man uncover it. Government agents, a man bent by his own objectives, Leo and his mysterious protector converge on a high cliff face in the mountains along with the alien, who isn't quite dead.


Life wasn't always lonely and isolated for 14 year-old Leo. He remembers sitting in his mother's warm lap with heavy snow falling outside as she read stories he already knew by heart. He drank in her unconditional love, never realizing how rare it was.

Standing outside the little knots of children at school, always outside, his young mind never rests its search for something he can do or say that will make a place for him. But he is failing and beginning to lose hope. The other children's interests exist in a virtual world of posts and games. It is a world that is inaccessible to Leo. He and his mother have little more than necessities.

Denied a virtual world, he has only the real one. Miles from his little house in Bumpas Cove, Tennessee a chain hangs across an asphalt road crumbled by grass and trees. Beyond the chain, deeper into the wilderness lies an abandoned village where Iron Mountain's mine workers once lived. Leo spends his days exploring the houses and mine works hidden deep in thousands of acres of mountain forest.

Wading a stream in search of a shortcut, he discovers a white glass-metal sleeve. He slides his arm in but cannot remove it. Leo is forced to recover other scattered pieces that assemble themselves into a full flightsuit, programmed to rescue its alien pilot. Now restored, it prepares for a thousand light-year return trip with Leo trapped inside as it waits for the alien to be restored into Leo's mind.

Ultimately, Leo stands atop a high cliff, held helpless with the alien casting out his memories one by one, making room for itself. He is prisoner in mind and body.

But others have been drawn to the cliff, each with lives that have set them apart. The outcome will be shaped by their decisions and their own experiences as they face an alien entity that has no regard for their lives.

The story's setting

I wanted a real setting that would give me the advantage of describing surroundings I know well. The road into Bumpas Cove is a too-narrow two lane cramped between mountain walls and either the sparkling clear or raging brown Nolichucky River, as determined by rainfall. The families that live there don't have cable or Internet, but their backyard is a mountain expanse with interesting history, including the abandoned iron mines and nearby Appalachian Trail. I've hiked many times to the Lost Cove where eleven families lived with access only by train until the 50's. I've hiked in each spring to see the daffodils blooming where the villagers planted them all around the village.


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