It’s a little creepy when real life begins to reflect your writing. Especially when you’re a science fiction writer.
I don’t mean in the realm of technology, like when the news hits that scientists are actually working on the concept of a matter/antimatter space drive that could send a probe to Alpha Centauri in a mere 40 years. I mean more like “evidence” of something that looks a whole lot like alien abduction going back hundreds of years at a place right in your new backyard.
I wrote a short story last spring for a yet-to-be-published Spacefreighters Lounge anthology. In it I described aliens harvesting humans out of a rural county in West Virginia with the help of local collaborators. They regularly “took delivery” of their victims in an old hayfield on a remote mountain ridge. The evidence of their presence was the blinding light of their dematerialization beam, which must have looked like sheet lightning from a distance, or maybe something stranger from the base of the mountain.
Since it was a short story I never really investigated how folks would have interpreted those lights. I focused on the disappearances of a number of ne’er-do-wells, party girls and other less desirable members of the community and a deputy sheriff who was the only one interested in finding out what happened to them.
But imagine my reaction when I overheard someone in my new hometown of Marshall talking about very similar lights and disappearances from the top of a ridge called Brown Mountain in Burke County, North Carolina, not far from the famous tourist attraction of the Linville Gorge. From the days of the Cherokee, people have been seeing mysterious lights there, some way off across the deep ravine at the base of the mountain, some in the sky above the ridge, some even as close as an arm’s length. Some are round and softly glowing, some streak across the sky “like an angel’s crown,” in the words of an old folk song recorded by artists as divergent as The Kingston Trio and Roy Orbison.
There have been two investigations of the Brown Mountain Lights by the U.S. Geological Survey which have tried to explain them as ball lightning, airplanes, forest fires and other normal phenomena. The area also made the U.S. Air Force’s infamous Project Blue Book study of UFOs and other alleged extraterrestrial activity in the Fifties. The Blue Book investigators listed the Lights as “unexplained.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m not packing up my camera to head over to Brown Mountain. The only aliens I really want to see are the ones in my head.
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