Dark Night in Mississippi
A Dark Night in Mississppi
This is a true story that happened to me and my father when I was a young boy. It really happened and this is the first time I have ever written about it. I don't know if you will find it spooky or not, but all these years later I still remember the look on my fathers face, and it gives me chills.
Photo credit to my beautiful and talented sister Sherrie Hurd
Late Night Drive
Call it late night or early morning, whichever you choose, but my father and I left Memphis around 3 AM in the morning. We were headed to Sardis Lake in North Mississippi. My father always wanted to be on the water when the sun came up, so leaving early was nothing new. We actually lived in North Mississippi, but we had driven to Memphis to visit relatives, and were going from there to Sardis.
I was just a young boy, maybe 12 years old at the most, probably younger. I loved to go fishing, but I wasn't crazy about the early mornings. That was the price for fishing trips with my father. It was about an hour and a half drive, and along the way I fell asleep, I had been fishing with my father many times but I had never been in this route. We were far off the main highway, and there was little traffic, so there was little to keep me occupied and sleep overtook me.
When my father woke me up I thought he was playing a trick on me at first.
"Wake up, I just saw something" I struggled awake, and looked at my fathers face "This big flaming ball just crossed the sky over the truck" I really wanted to think he was joking, but the look of fear on his face told me he wasn't.
My father didn't scare easy. He was a Mississippi farm boy who had served in Korea, and never backed down from a fight. I can't remember ever seeing him scared like that before or after. I saw him break down and cry when he found out my mother was dying from cancer, but even then, he never looked scared.
I quizzed him about what it was. Was it an airplane? A meteor. No, he told me, it was something else. It was a ball of flame that moved silently over head and into the distance where it disappeared. He told me he wanted me to stay awake in case it came back. By this time I was scared, and I could tell my father was too. We were in the middle of nowhere, on a small two lane blacktop road. No lights in sight except a few stars and the headlights of the truck.
Then the truck lights started to dim and go dark
A Deeper Darkness
It was already dark even with the truck headlights, so when they began to dim, it really got dark. There were no houses in sight, no stores, no other cars, just the starlight and the rapidly dimming headlights. "It's the battery" my father assured me and he actually seemed to break out of his fear. To me though, this was right out of a horror story or possibly the Twilight Zone. In the middle of nowhere, mysterious lights in the sky, and the lights rapidly going out. What could be scarier for a young boy who was maybe a bit too fond of horror stories.
My father however, was not a superstitious man. He didn't believe in ghosts, monster, aliens, or democrats. So his fear at the lights overhead amplified my fear. Now his fear was slipping away, but mine was growing. Could the dying battery be connected to the mysterious ball of fire? How could it not be?
My mind was in a near panic. My father assured me everything would be ok. He was even now trying to explain away the ball of fire as natural. Maybe ball lightning, or a plane, basically everything he had denied it could be earlier. While he was concerned about our dying battery, this was in his realm. He could handle a mechanical problem. If we could just find a spot to pull over. Hopefully a well lit place to pull over, although that seemed far fetched at the moment.
Then we topped a small hill and saw a light in the distance, as our lights went out.
By the pricking of my thumb.....
It was a gas station. Not a gas station like we see today, this was the late 1970s, and we were on the back roads of North Mississippi. It was just a small building with two rusty pumps out front. And worst of all it was closed. But it did have an outside night light that was on, so it provided a haven of light as we approached. The lights were gone on the truck, and I knew as well as my dad, that when we stopped, we might not start again for some time.
Still we couldn't keep driving in the dark. As empty as the roads were it was an accident waiting to happen, and we would almost certainly miss a turn at some point and end up lost. Or we would end up stalled on the road who knows where.
My father got out and under the hood. I sat in the truck for a while, then got out to stretch my legs. It was really creepy, no noise except a buzz from the over head lights and an occasional curse from my father. He was totally wrapped up in trying to fix the truck, and hoping the battery still had some juice. But I was still terrified. Surely I had seen this scenario play out in multiple films and television shows. Lost in the middle of nowhere, lights in the sky, and a dead truck battery.
I don't know how long we stayed there. It seemed like an eternity, but it couldn't have been long because the sky was still dark. I was so wound up and scared if someone had touched me or said boo, I probably would have died of a heart attack.
At some point I began to notice a strange noise in the distance, a high pitched whine that was slowly growing in volume. My father was busy and didn't seem to notice, but my mind was racing over what was coming. My mind never even considered it might be something natural. No, this was too much like an episode of Twilight Zone, or possibly The Outer Limits. Then a light appeared in the distance. This was it. I would finally lay eyes on the alien menace coming to snatch me away from my father, or possible to zap us both with a death ray.
Then as the noise grew ever louder, and the light grew in intensity, I saw it. It was a truck. Or maybe a car, honestly over thirty years later, I don't remember for sure. All I do know is that it was a perfectly normal automobile, and as it passed, my father turned the key, and our truck started. The lights were still dim, but he had gotten the alternator working and assured me the battery would slowly charge as we drove.
All the tension, ok not all, but most of the tension melted away. We drove on to Sardis, and other than a killer sunburn, it was an uneventful day on the lake. I didn't think about what happened very much that day, but it has never fully left my mind.
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And now for the rest of the story
So that's it. Scary? Maybe not so much in a day of zombies and emo vampires, but at the time it happened, it scared a young Mississippi boy. The same boy who grew up to write this lens. So what was the flaming ball that passed overhead? I don't have a clue. I asked my father about it several times over the years, and his answer was always different. It was probably just an airplane, he told me once. Later he told me he didn't remember any of that happening. Another time he told me it was just lightning, and another he said he didn't have a clue. Mostly he just seemed to not want to talk about it.
But he never told me he was joking, never said it was a prank to keep a young boy awake, and I remember that look on his face. A look that told me he was scared, and had saw something he didn't understand. Something that he shouldn't have seen.
Everything else that happened that night was just a coincidence. Just a random set of things, amplified and linked together by an overactive imagination in the darkness. My father is gone now. I wish I could ask him one more time, what was it? Was it really ball lightning,or an airplane? I don't know what he would tell me if he were alive, if could ask him just one more time. I don't think he would tell me it was all a joke, but I'd rather hear that, than to see that look on his face again. I miss you dad, and I miss those fishing trips, even the scary ones
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