Saturday, October 28, 2006
Now I was the one who laughed, "Well, you aren't going to scare me to death so you'd better try something else." Not until I said that did it occur to me that the man might be armed. That could be a problem.
"No hurry," the man answered, "you seem like a decent sort. The least I can do is to tell you first why you have to die."
"The very least," I agreed dryly.
"Well then, let's talk," the man said. With that, he began walking toward me. I braced for him to kick or try to shove me off, but he turned and stepped outside of the hand rail and then just stepped off the tower into space as though he hadn't seen the edge. I watched in shock as the odd stranger plummeted into the fog.
The only sounds were me saying "Oh, crap," and then a thump so faint with distance that I wasn't sure I heard it at all. I admit to hesitating for only a moment and then I sat down on the top step, looped my arm around the safety rail, and dialed 911 on my cell phone. I was going to be caught trespassing after all, but that would be better than getting caught not reporting immediately a death that happened right in front of me.
Friday, October 27, 2006
"Not a wound in the earth," the man said behind me, "but a wound in space itself."
I snorted. "And you convicted me of a heavy-handed metaphor," I said, turning back to face him.
"But my metaphor is apt," the man said, now appearing as a mere shadow against the starlit sky. "What you witnessed is the light of a foreign sun, a red sun, shining through a sort of rift between universes. And it was shining on red dust that also came through the rift."
"Well, that was my other guess," I answered flatly. "Diffraction or an alternate universe."
"But I'm quite serious," the man said. "Further, the rift is why I am here tonight; I bear the responsibility of ensuring that the post-solar glow remains a secret."
"So now that I've seen it, I suppose you have to kill me?"
"You are way ahead of me," the man said.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
"What do you think causes the red streak?" the man asked. I declined to answer.
"You think it has something to do with refraction, or with particles in the air filtering the sun's light?" he persisted.
"Of course," I answered finally.
"The sun is gone now," he observed, "yet look behind you." I kept looking right at him.
"I'll step back," the man offered with a chuckle, and he took three long steps back, offering me a buffer of safety. "Look behind you where the red streak was."
Soon curiosity got the better of me and I looked back toward where I had seen the crimson fan glowing in the last rays of the sun, expecting now to see nothing more remarkable than a grey bank of fog. Yet there it was, a crimson fan still glowing faintly in the dusk as though lit by an invisible sun.
Startled, I looked to the west, and there was nothing left in the sky but the faintest residue of a withering sunset. The sun itself was long gone and there was not enough light to illuminate anything. I looked back toward the glowing fan which was noticeably brighter than the sky, and far too large to be the result of man-made lights. Then as I watched, the fan began to fade suddenly as though the sun were setting again, long after it had already set. In a moment it was nothing but a subtly darker smear in the sea of dark grey fog.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
It's funny, I never before thought of myself as the kind of person who needs lines.
The sun died behind the figure just as he reached the handrails of the ladder. In the twilight I was able to see a very tall, wraith-thin figure wearing a sort of monkish robe and a hood that hid his face in deep shadow. The figure reached up to its face with a bony hand and pulled back the hood to reveal the face of skeleton.
The man was so emaciated that it seemed he should be on his death bed, with skin that lay tight over bone and eyes sunken deep within the sockets. He was not old, or so I guessed, for his face bore an odd neutral quality that made it impossible to be certain of his age. The man's voice boomed, "Are you frightened, little blogger?"
"I'm concerned about your intentions," I said quietly, "but I'm pretty sure I can take out a someone as frail as you." I'm normally courteous to a fault, but have this rule that when someone is deliberately trying to scare me, they forfeit the right to courtesy.
The man responded to my defensive rudeness with a loud and apparently sincere laugh, "You might be surprised, at how sturdy I am." he told me.
I shrugged and remained silent because, truth to tell, I was angry and my throat closes up when I'm angry making it a struggle to speak. After a moment of waiting for a reply, the man continued, "I'll tell you what, blogger, how about if I give you a real story? A story so extraordinary that it would turn you overnight into the most famous blogger in the world, if only people believed you? I said nothing, not particularly curious about his story. It was obvious by now that the man was a blowhard of the sort I'd met too often before.
The light was fading quickly and I thought about starting down the ladder. Which is more dangerous? To share the roof with a crazy guy in the dark or to be climbing down a ladder into deep fog with a crazy guy above you?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Democrat Held Seats
(CO-03): John Salazar
(GA-03): Jim Marshall
(GA-12): John Barrow
(IA-03): Leonard Boswell
(IL-08): Melissa Bean
(IL-17): Phil Hare
(IN-07): Julia Carson
(NC-13): Brad Miller
(PA-12): John Murtha
(WV-01): Alan Mollohan
Republican Held Seats
(AZ-08): Gabrielle Giffords
(CT-04): Diane Farrell
(CT-05): Chris Murphy
(CO-07): Ed Perlmutter
(IA-01): Bruce Braley
(IL-06): Tammy Duckworth
(IN-02): Joe Donnelly
(IN-08): Brad Ellsworth
(IN-09): Baron Hill
(FL-13): Christine Jennings
(FL-16): Tim Mahoney
(FL-22): Ron Klein
(KY-03): John Yarmuth
(NC-01): Heath Shuler
(MN-06): Patty Wetterling
(NM-01): Patricia Madrid
(NY-20): Kirsten Gillibrand
(NY-24): Michael Arcuri
(NY-26): Jack Davis
(OH-15): Mary Jo Kilroy
(OH-18): Zack Space
(PA-06): Lois Murphy
(PA-08): Patrick Murphy
(PA-07): Joe Sestak
(PA-10): Chris Carney
(VA-02): Phil Kellam
(WI-08): Steve Kagen
The stainless steel bars of the ladder were cold and slippery with condensation. In my younger days I would have thought nothing of it, but this day I climbed carefully, never lifting more than one hand or one foot at a time. The clouds hit an abrupt ceiling some ten feet below the top of the tower and I climbed from the murky underworld into the glorious clear air, gleaming with the horizontal rays of the setting sun. To the west, the sky shown with streaks of sangria and gold and I had to hurry to catch the last of the light. I clambered up the rest of the way and turned to sit at the top of the latter, grasping the hand rails for safety as I enjoyed the rolling ocean of mist beneath me. It glowed white at first, but then, quickly, the dying sun lent it a brilliant array of colors and then the spot of bright crimson appeared; starting out small and growing outward in the shape of a fan as though spraying from the mountain.
I was so mesmerized by the sight that I almost leapt from the tower when the voice behind me spoke: "What are you looking for?"
I spun around to behold a tall, lean shape standing dangerously close to the unguarded edge of the tower. I tried to see if he were wearing a uniform or the coverall of a workman who might have business here, but the man was between me and the sun, and I could make out almost nothing. "I'm just enjoying the scenery, I answered."
"You came to see the red streak." the man said.
"I didn't know the red streak would be here today," I corrected him, "but it is spectacular. I can imagine that it is a patch of Earth's own blood welling up, perhaps, from the great wound of the San Andreas fault just below us."
"What, you're a poet?" The man didn't seem impressed with my wordsmithing.
"No," I said, a bit defensively, "I'm a blogger and I was thinking about how I would describe this on my blog."
"The metaphor is heavy-handed and contrived."
"I suppose you could do better?"
I was actually hoping he could, but he didn't seem inclined to help, "Oh, no, I wouldn't presume to offer writing advice to a blogger."
OK, that was kind of cold, so I turned back to the beauty instead of letting myself get involved in a pointless exercise in chest thumping.
The shadow moved and I turned my head far enough to see the man coming toward me from the corner of my eye. I felt threatened so I quickly stood up and turned around to face him, my feet on the last step of the ladder, my hands grasping the rail firmly. As the figure slowly approached, its movement seemed timed to go with the setting of the sun.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Sunday, October 22, 2006
It was a cool and breezy Sunday, the day after a very warm and still Saturday and the mist was thick on Highway 1 where it mounts the final dregs of the Santa Cruz range to briefly meet Skyline Boulevard and then cross over to join with Highway 280. Such conditions are ideal for fog-watching; so I noted as I cruised over the pass late one autumn afternoon. I was feeling burnt-out from my third 80-hour week in a row as my company came up on a major release deadline and told myself that I needed a break. On impulse, I jerked the wheel over at the last instant to exit onto Skyline south, provoking an angry drawn-out honk from a car that I had cut off. I slowed to fifteen at the peak of the overpass where the fog was so thick that I could barely see the guard rails five feet away even with my lights shining directly on them. I relied on the taillights of the car ahead of me to get me through the worst of it and soon I was southbound on Skyline, driving through a ghostly world of swirling mist under the threatening branches of shadow trees, all color and detail washed out by the fog in the faltering afternoon light. I always loved this drive.
As I was about to pass the water tower, I hit the breaks on another impulse, drawing another furious blast from the same car that had honked at me before. I turned onto the access road for the tower and watched the angry car pass in my rear-view mirror. The driver was probably flipping me off invisibly in the fog, but the poor soul could now console himself that since I turned off I was out of his life forever, never to startle him again. Most likely.
I had never actually been on top before but I had stopped by a couple of times in daylight to case the joint in case I ever felt the need to climb the tower --always be prepared and all that. The tower was fenced, but I drove right up to a tree that I had scoped out before and parked. I checked my cell-phone battery in case I fell and broke a leg, then hopped up onto the hood of my car and into the crotch of the tree. From there it was an easy crawl along a branch that passed over the fence where I slid off onto the roof of a low shed. I dropped from the roof of the shed humming the theme music from Mission Impossible: "BUMbum. BUMbumBUMbum. Dadada. Dadada. Dadada."
Straightening up I began walking across the flat ground to the ladder attached to the side of the tower, all the while rehearsing what I would say if I got caught, "What!? You mean I can't climb over a fence to ..." No, that wouldn't work. How about, "I thought that fence was just to keep out kids, not respectable acrophilic members of the community like me." I decided I'd just better not get caught.