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A Light

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Author's note: This story is originally from Something Awful

1991

It's odd that past experiences haven't really affected me today. I can look back to two of the strangest possible things that happened in my childhood, have a beer, and laugh about it - as though it either never happened, or was supposed to have happened, and my subconscious has brushed it off.

I was thirteen years old, disinterested in anything paranormal. I had also stumbled into an almost unheard-of situation: One of my best friend's parents had left town for the evening to attend a basketball game in Dallas - and he had the house to himself. This meant, of course, a night's worth of mainlining Mountain Dew and playing Techmo Bowl. We spent the evening blowing dust from the well-used innards of the Nintendo, and trading lies about non-existent hand-jobs out in back of the Whataburger with that girl from Civics class.

The bright LCD clock had just switched over from PM to AM, and I had just capped off a 12 play, clock killing drive to win my fifth straight game. My hands were sweaty, my thumbs raw, as I stood up to walk to the bathroom - ignoring the cries of "cheater!" from my friend, Andrew. I wiped my hands on my Ocean Pacific T-shirt, and casually glanced out the window. Off on the dark horizon, there was a light - to the casual observer, it would have just been another airplane - but I had grown up in an aviation family - I, myself, had been flying for two years at that point - and I knew that there was no airplane that emitted a bright orange beam as it flew. I kicked the bean bag chair closer to the window, and knelt down, hoping to get a better view over the distant treetops.

"Hey Drew, come here..." I whispered. He put the game on pause, and started with a pathetic attempt of "Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named..."

"Shut the hell up and come here..." I cut him off. He looked up from the NWA CD that he was wiping on his shirt, and looked out the window.

"What?"

"Over there..." I pointed at the orange light in the distance. I wasn't sure if it was moving, or if the flutter was some distortion of the hot Texas air.

"The airplane?" he asked.

"It's not..." I replied, and he looked at me quizzically. Andrew fell into position beside me, and we gazed out over the swaying oaks, at that ball of light in the distance.

"What the hell is it?"

"I don't know..." and I really didn't. All the analytical parts of my mind had failed - I was looking at a streetlight suspended over a backwoods Texas forest, silently shining at 1208 AM.

"It's getting bigger..." Andrew whispered, his voice betraying alarm.

"No", I answered, my voice creaking, "It's coming towards us."

We sat in stunned silence as the light came closer, closer... so close that it appeared to be a police searchlight, shining directly on the two young faces staring blankly out of the second floor window of a Texas farmhouse - all the while, the only noise disturbing the peaceful night was the steady cadence of thousands of crickets in the damp grass below. The light crested over the roof of the house, and it was only in that second's blocking of the blinding light that we were able to see the object - no more than thirty feet over our house. It was a large, dark circle - blocking out the night - at least 100 feet in diameter. A single, rectangular opening in the center - accented by a faint blue light - was the only thing that disturbed the perfect uniformity of the object. We kneeled there, mouths agape, until the object silently coasted over the house and out of sight.

"Outside, now!" I yelled - impulsively springing to my feet.

"No fucking way!" Andrew screamed - yet his body betrayed his common sense and scrambled down the staircase behind me. I lept to the front door, and out over the porch railing, looking up in the sky. As Andrew came up beside me, my face sank as I realized that I was looking up to nothing more than the clear night sky - the bands of the milky way stretching from treeline to treeline. Nothing.

"What the hell?" he asked.

"I have no damn clue..." I replied, dissappointed. We remained outside for a good five more minutes, two scared boys, alone in the night - then I decided to turn around wordlessly and head inside. We both took off our now wet socks, and closed the front door.

Wait. I looked up suddenly and looked around the living room. To the casual glance, nothing was wrong - the house was just as we had left it. But there was something wrong. I glanced over at Andrew - the size of his eyes showed me that he felt it too. Something was.... off. I closed my eyes for a minute, and tried to read my senses - ignoring the rushing beat of my heart. There... and again. It was as if somebody was squelching a cheap AM radio in the house. Whiny interference, and under that... a faint murmer that was almost... a voice? The first thing that immediately sprang to mind was the Imperial Probe Droid from Empire Strikes Back - a repeating code, but almost sub-aural... like I had to feel it - and it was words. Kind of like one of those tin-can to a string experiments, I was hearing a faint voice. But was it in my head?

"You hear..." Andrew started, but he choked back the rest as I held up my hand... I had no idea what to do... the terror in my chest felt inescapable. But I summoned up enough gusto to clear my throat slightly, and call out to the house...

"Hello?"

Silence... even the crickets were no longer making their presence known. A second passed, and another. A small bead of sweat trickled into my eye...

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

It wasn't a voice... at least not in the technical definition of the word. It was as if you had taken all the car crashes from all the history of mankind, sampled them over each other, then modulated that noise to form one word of utter despair. Twisted metal, broken glass, all these sounds cascaded through the house - reverberating in the walls for what seemed like an eternity. My friend's dog - who was sleeping soundly on the living room couch - arose with a dart and began a shrill howl as it scampered for the relative safety of the basement. Then, just as suddenly as it started - it was over. Nothing but the ringing of my ears, the pounding of my heart. I looked over at Andrew, his face white with fear.

"GO!" I screamed, and started running for the kitchen. If I had to pick a place that the sound had originated from, it sounded like upstairs - and I needed to get as far away from that as possible. We arrived in the kitchen, and Andrew started for the back door.

"NO!" I yelled at him. I was not going outside at that point. But I didn't want to stay inside.

"BASEMENT!" he suggested, out of breath. I nodded, and we careened down the steps - slamming the door behind us.

So that's where we stayed that night. Huddled underneath the steps of the cellar - each trying to convince each other that we were not crazy, that what happened actually happened. A few hours later, we ventured out into the house, went upstairs, outside, everywhere possible - and there was nothing wrong. The house appeared exactly as it had been when I last savored the taste of Techmo-victory some three hours before. We even got the courage to sleep a bit - in shifts - while the other one stood guard with a Swiss-Army knife, scanning Headline News for anything abnormal in the world - and constantly glancing out the window into the rapidly brightening sky.


1993

A thousand miles and a lifetime away, I sat around a campfire - smoking a cigarette, careful to hide it from the adults that had taken us on this camping trip. I was perhaps the world's worst Boy Scout, 15 years old and rebellious. I went on camping trips because I genuinely cared about teaching the younger kids how to survive in the wild - but I loved camping, and the freedom that it afforded me

. I was one of the elders of the group - most of the other kids were 12–13 years old, and were off this cold, starry night running around in the woods, trying to scare each other to death. Myself and a few of my older friends - too cool for spooky tales and child's play - were sitting around a roaring fire - trading stolen cigarettes and a stale pouch of chewing tobacco - talking about fast girls, fast cars, and who's Dad had the finest porn collection. Life was fine, the events of just a few years before were still a very vivid memory - but pushed aside in the light of fonder thoughts.

It was roughly 11 PM when the first kid came tearing through the woods into our clearing. His face was the definition of shock as he fell down next to us, panting and whining like a whipped dog.

"There's a light in the field over there and it's CHASING US!" he screamed.

I looked up at the other two guys, who kinda snickered a bit.

I glanced back down at the kid, "It was just a possum or something... their eyes get bright..."

As I said that, three other kids came tearing out of the woods, running over to our campfire.

"No!" the kid yelled "It wasn't a possum..."

"It was in the sky!" screeched yet another child. I once more looked up at the guys. One of them rolled their eyes and made a little 'come here' gesture. I stood up and grabbed my flashlight.

"We'll look..." I said, walking over towards the treeline. My past history was not on my mind at all, but I still felt an odd chill as I walked towards the trees. My friend behind me called "You've got point..", and I nodded, holding the flashlight up and walking into the woods. Once again, it was completely silent, aside from the dried pine needles crunching beneath my sure footsteps.

Five yards into the woods, ten yards... the tree branches fell so thick in front of my face that I could scarcely see more than a nose length in front of me. I fought back one more broad branch with the flashlight's butt - and stepped into a small clearing.

The light shone into my eyes for a second, and I tried to blink away the blindness. I glanced all around - it was a moonless night, everything was hopelessly obscured. The blotches in my vision slowly faded - and I glanced directly in front of me.

I could see them there. Three people, no more than ten feet away - moving towards me... walking? It was really difficult to make them out - I had to almost look to the side to see them, bypassing the light impression still burning the front of my pupils. I then remembered the flashlight - and brought it quickly to shoulder level. But...

There was nothing there. There were three people walking directly in front of me, but there was nothing there. I could make out the intricate details of the trees surrounding them, but when the light shone directly on their "faces", it was like a shadow. No definition, no glaring eyes, no gnashing teeth - simply darkness. A blank, black, face.

My previous experiences came flooding back to me as I stared into the face of nothing... my heart began to pound, the blood cascading past my eardrums in a sickening staccatto. Three shadows stood silently in front of me, each one moving slightly, so as to give the impression that they were alive - intelligent. Yet featureless, like a spectre, a void of light and contour staring blankly at me. For the second time in my life, I stood in terror and forced out a question.

"Hello?"

Then I heard it... the beating of my heart was replaced with short bursts of... speech.

"I... remember..." I swore I was going crazy, that it was a figment of my imagination. The voice wasn't aural, but I felt it throughout my body, repeating in time with the beat of my heart.

"I... remember... you..."

I froze in fear. From behind me, I heard the shuffling of feet. My friend who had accompanied me had fled. I stood alone in the clearing. Then, just as soon as it began, the voice stopped. The three entities slowly started backing away... travelling silently, passing through tree branches, clipping through a large trunk, but never slowing - just floating away, through anything and everything - until I was the only thing left, standing in the woods, a tear forming in my eye - too scared to do anything but just stand there and listen.

The ending is boring. I ended up walking back to the campsite, and we all just huddled around the campfire, not talking, not enjoying ourselves - just freaking out. I was the only one who heard the words - but my other friend had heard something . Come a few years later, he would deny it ever happened - a horrible memory that his brain decided it was better off without.

But I still tell the story - normally in the company of many friends. This is about the first time I've ever thought about it alone, and it made me shudder as I sat here writing it out.

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