A Short Story by Alan Walsh
Black ice brought on by fresh rain and freezing night air made driving conditions dangerous & tiring for the Deputy Sheriff making his mountain rounds; so he decided to stop at his favorite turnout for a rest & smoke. He lit up while gazing down into the valley at the village that was his next stop. The contrast of bright village lights against the dark valley floor, and the towering mountains all around, touched a part of his soul. The air was crisp, dead-still, and rain-sweet in the aftermath of the storm.
Long before his conscious mind kicked in, his subconscious detected a subtle change. Slowly the valley took on a blue hue that crept part-way up the surrounding mountainsides. It had an eerie “electric” quality about it, but there was no sound emitted and no detectable sparking or movement in the valley. It brightened in intensity to the point of being uncomfortable to watch. As he turned away and reached for his shades, the light suddenly blinked out; like someone had thrown a switch. The valley was immediately plunged into cave-black darkness. No blue hue.. no village lights.. no nothin’. Only faint moonlight painted the upper slopes of the surrounding mountains.
The Deputy assumed a power outage, and headed down the mountain to see if they needed assistance. The village was utterly pitch-black. Only his headlights provided illumination. Not a soul in sight. Given the time of night, this didn’t surprise him too much; but then a realization came to him. No light anywhere. Not even candlelight. Most people would be asleep and blissfully unaware, but every burg has it’s night crawlers; and they were nowhere to be seen. Cruising around, he searched out likely places for people to congregate. The local diner, which he knew stayed open for night workers, was dark and silent. The door was unlocked, and there were signs of recent activity, but no one was home. The tiny city hall, the school, the town auditorium.. all deserted. He found an unlocked car and tried the horn & headlights.. nothing. Not a soul to be seen anywhere. He stopped and banged on a couple of doors. He drove around cranking his siren and “Mickey Mouse” lights. No response. Everything looked perfectly in order; except for no light.. no power.. and no people. The hair on his neck & arms stood on end, and a creep settled into his soul.
Things were getting over his pay-grade fast, so he jumped on his radio to call in. No response. The repeater up-mountain apparently wasn’t working. At this point, there was only one thing to do. He headed out to the nearest Forest Service fire lookout station.
Relief at last.. lights and people! No one there knew a thing. A mountain sat between the village and their locale. A couple Rangers tried to call places they knew in the village, and got busy signals. Using their phone to call his headquarters, the Deputy reached a bored desk sergeant who listened to his story and then said “damn transformer probably blew.. would explain the weird blue light. These are tough mountain folk. They’ll be okay. Move on and finish your patrol. We’ll check on ‘em in the morning”.
The next day, a Ranger rolled into the village for an early breakfast.. and soon found himself rushing out to the lookout post with his skin crawling. A phone call later, Sheriffs were rushing up the mountain. They found the town intact and untouched.. with no one home. No bodies.. no indications of a mass exodus.. no nothin’. State and federal officials were called.. searches conducted.. tests done.. no answers.. not a single clue. The village was cordoned off, and everyone sat outside the newly-established “danger zone” scratching their heads in shock and disbelief. Drivers were rerouted by the excuse of a landslide, and the whole matter was hushed up tight.
A private pilot crossing the mountains next spotted an eerie blue light below that suddenly brightened and blinked out. It was broad daylight, so a light of that size & intensity had to be really significant; especially in the largely vacant mountains. A post-landing call was made, and he next found himself locked in an interrogation room at the regional Air Force base. The GPS position of the sighting was determined, and once again authorities descended on an uninhabited mountain village. At this point, the response escalated rapidly
An overall Area Army Commander was assigned, who set up shop at the sizeable regional Sheriff’s headquarters down in the flats overlooking the mountains; with connections to the Air Force, National Guard, Police, and other civic assets of surrounding towns. The entire mountain range was emptied and cordoned off. Every conceivable asset was utilized to observe and search for answers; intelligence satellites repositioned.. electronic assets scanning the skies.. aircraft, military, and police personnel scouring the mountains.
No one observed a thing.. until the night a satellite sensed simultaneous blue lights across three mountain locales. There had been police and military observers in those three villages. No one heard from them, and they were gone along with all the villagers. Their equipment sat where they left it; lifeless.
There was no hiding the events from the press anymore. The Area Commander put out a public call for help from anyone who might have observed anything even remotely useful. Hours & hours were wasted taking calls from nut-cases. Front page headlines screamed for answers. Politicians pressured. Family & friends of the missing congregated and held vigils; when not pressuring the authorities. National media pitched camp and interviewed everyone in sight. Self-proclaimed experts put out “end-of-the-world” warnings. UFO nuts held signs up to the sky inviting “ET” down. A wide array of personnel, equipment, and weapons sat on alert. Nerves were heavily frayed.
Two weeks passed without event, so tensions eased a bit. The alert level was lowered. Assets were slowly pulled off for other needs. Politicians complained about the cost. Searches wound down. Local leaders commiserated about the pressure they were under, and their utter inability to provide any answers whatsoever. Everyone held their breath, praying that the bizarre horror was over.
The Area Commander made his daily update call to the President. “No, Mr. President, I’m sorry but we have no answers. Not a clue. Every conceivable asset has been brought to bear, and we’re no further ahead than we were at the beginning..” As he spoke, the Commander’s aid was pulling on his arm. At first he ignored it, but it was getting rougher and he eventually covered the phone receiver with his hand to deliver a sharp rebuke. His eyes turned to the aid, and he saw the man looking out the window.. white as a ghost. His eyes followed to where the aid was looking.. out the window.. toward the mountains.. and after a momentary pause for recognition, he dropped the phone.
The entire mountain range was bathed in blue light. It was brightening, and expanding rapidly.. spilling over the local foothills.. down into the flatlands.. straight toward them.
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