Episode 2: Elliott
The lights were seen above the quarry. Three of them. They floated over the rocks down-below for several minutes, as still as a star against a black backdrop, and could have been mistaken for the fixed and expected canvas of the cosmos, the maps of constellations clearly in view out there away from the invasion of light pollution. The quarry at night, the stars gleamed, as did the three others.
The lights were much lower than the stars, which was hard to tell from a distance when they were perfectly still. It was only when, without warning, they darted in all directions, the three intersecting and flying apart, a chaotic sky choreography that lasted for nearly an hour and ended with the finale to a magician’s act. They just disappeared.
The show happened three or four times a year at night, the only predictable aspect of the show. The dates and times changed, the seasons changed. One year they appeared in the summer all four times, another year in the fall, many years hitting all four seasons. They could appear as soon as the sun set, or at any point during the night up until just before dawn.
The witness record on sightings was sketchy. There were plenty to tell the tale, that was a fact. Was there a witness every time to confirm there were always four appearances every year, no more, no less? Hard to tell. Still, that was the narrative, consistent with anyone versed on the subject, witness or not.
The sightings record went back to the early 1900s when miners first embarked on the area, before there was a town. They had followed a legend of rare gems never seen before with unusual characteristics or properties.
For most of the town, the lights were a normal part of their lives, an accepted anomaly as old as the forest that hugged the quarry. For the students of the nearby college, and the few high school kids with access to a car, the lights were an unexplained digression at a place where they gathered to party in groups or be car intimate, and watch the show. Outside of the region, with the exception of obscure books on the subject, the quarry lights were untraveled territory. Not like the Brown Mountain Lights, one of the most well known anomalies of its kind in the country.
The paranormal theories about the lights were of course the most popular. There were other explanations like ball lightning and tectonic shifts. Whatever the answer to the origin, their existence was hard to deny. Witnesses, photographs, film and video footage, all of which amounted to hours upon hours of evidence, made for a compelling case.
The night Elliott rolled back into town, he drove by the college, down Main Street and toward the forest like he was just passing through. He didn’t stop to drop off his things and take a moment to get settled. He went straight to the abandoned quarry, the steep climb on the winding road through the dense trees. The memories of being a teenager and borrowing his parent’s car to park with the others, mostly college students, some from his high school, and look out across the quarry. The winding road was a path to freedom, an escape from the rules, responsibilities and expectations down below. Some of the last memories that felt real to him, leading up to the night at the carnival, when the real seemed to get swept away and he became something different.
Elliott pulled to the edge within a safe distance, kept the car running and turned off the headlights. Living in cities for most of his adult life, he could almost forget what the night’s sky was supposed to look like. The impenetrable black background dusted with a magical shimmering, as if someone spilled a jar of a few thousand tiny diamonds.
The other lights, the non-stars that masked themselves with the other shimmering before surprising the onlookers and making the deep dark their racetrack, were not there that night. In fact, they were never there for Elliott. All of the times he climbed that hill in the station wagon, the hours he spent staring into the cosmos, not once did he see the show. Friends had supposedly witnessed the lights, even some older relatives, and neighbors. It was as if most of the town got a view of the mystery. Not him. He wasn’t expecting to see what had managed to avoid him all those years ago. He only wanted to be in that free place and go through the motions of looking for the lights.
Elliott inadvertently glanced at the reflection in the rearview mirror as he adjusted the driver seat. He always said the reflection within an internal dialogue, because the reflection he saw was something else. The middle aged man with that skin and those lines, was a face he did not recognize as the one called Elliott.