The Tale of Nathaniel Ravendrake
by Ljubo Popovich
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The memory of Nathaniel Ravendrake has haunted me for years. The recent increase in the number of sightings of the phenomenon known as ball lightning has prompted me to release the photographs and papers I’ve kept locked in a drawer in the basement for years. Since I am a former colleague of Mr. Ravendrake, and the only one available to straighten his affairs, the fate of his unpublished account fell to me.
It is perhaps necessary to briefly explain his situation leading up to the composition of the following report. For years. Ravendrake photographed massive thunderheads as they descended over gorges, funnel clouds touching down, and tidal waves overtaking barren cliffs. A popular nature magazine employed him until a capricious disregard for subject matter and deadlines forced him out of the position.
He was said to have a particular fondness for the anomaly of ball lightning and would go to any lengths to capture a photograph of it. It was a running gag at the office to set loose brightly colored balloons and to call out: “Quick, Nate, watch out for that ball of lightning!”
After they let him go, he drove a van for a satellite mapping company, taking rapid street-level photographs, which were then beamed up by the satellite dish mounted on the van. It was while he was coasting through back alleys and ghost town cul-de-sacs that he first glimpsed a specimen of ball lightning.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash, he later told me, that meandered toward an abandoned playground. It was his Halley’s Comet, and he was certain it was a sign that great things awaited him. He showed me the photographs he’d taken in the brief moments before the ball of energy dissipated. He panned through the dozen frames endlessly as he recounted his experience using an old projector.
It was a glowing sphere the size of a basketball, hovering four feet off the ground, fuzzy at the edges, and with a small tail. In the final shot, the orb changed color suddenly to bright red and then vanished through a brick wall. It was when he began to speak of the pungent odor of sulfur and the shadows of angels’ wings that I could see why people took him for a fool.
For a full year afterward I heard nothing from him, until one morning I heard his name on the news. Officers had entered his apartment, where he’d lived alone, after reports of noise and the smell of smoke. What they found were abandoned rooms, with the television muted and a full set of clothes draped over the couch as if his body had evaporated out of them. More peculiar still was the fact that his clothes had seemingly fused together. Mind you, they were not sewn together but fused, as if by heat.
There were no marks of fire in the room, no sign of struggle, and no electrical problems that could have caused his death. The two explanations offered were that it was staged or that he was a victim of spontaneous combustion.
I was not a little disturbed by this bulletin and proceeded to investigate on my own. Upon retrieving his papers, I could only come to the conclusion that he was either the participant in an event of cosmic significance or he was simply a madman.
The following is an account of the developments leading up to his disappearance. Though I have edited much of his rambling and sought to preserve only the essential narrative, he seemed to have recorded the incidents immediately after they occurred and to what remains I have added nothing. Perhaps what offers more credit to his account is the sudden shift in the following manuscript that could only be the result of a definitive change in his psyche.
* * *
Just when I thought I’d be driving a van for the rest of my life, I got some interesting pictures! I was on the way home when the weird thing happened.
I got out to snap a bunch of photos. Right in the middle of the road, there was a stop sign. No one was driving down the road, so I put on my hazard lights to see it up close.
At first I thought it must’ve fallen off the back of a truck, but then I noticed it was buried in the asphalt. You may be thinking I’m crazy, but I tell you, it was in the direct center of the road, on the white line, nowhere near an intersection. I’d driven over that same patch of road a hundred times, and it had never been there before.
I was thinking perhaps it fell out of the sky, like from the top of a tornado and spiked into the road. But it was so ramrod straight... I got the pictures to prove it. I would’ve stuck around to search for more paranormal stuff, but I was dead tired. It’d been a long day, and all I wanted to do was hit the sack. So I got back in my car.
But I guess I should’ve taken it for a warning since I came upon something standing in the road. It was a little like a human being, except skinny, and at least eight feet tall, with a whitish glow, pale and naked and shimmering in that flash of my headlights...
I swear it had antlers sticking out of its body every which way, and too many limbs hanging off it, and it was hunched over sort of like an ape with a sunken pit for a face. And it was like when I was speeding toward it at sixty miles an hour, time sort of slowed down, and I could see every detail, every one of its limbs pulsing and deformed and wet, shining in my lights. It was horrible and gave me a fear I’d never experienced.
But there was nothing I could do to stop. I was headed straight for it. And as I got closer, it was like going through layers of liquid, and seeing through the different colored lenses of a camera, until I swear the thing grew around my vehicle. It may be some sort of defense mechanism their kind uses, but I felt I definitely ended up inside it. It was a weird spongy body, and I could feel my insides turning over and expanding.
I could see my car, heading toward me, it was like the thing and I had traded places, and I could actually see the thing in the driver’s seat...
It was the realest dream I’d ever had. Must’ve been sleep deprivation, because I woke up in the ditch along the highway. And so I drove extra carefully the rest of the way. But when I got into bed, I wasn’t sleepy, and so decided to write in this notebook what I saw.
Copyright © 2016 by Ljubo Popovich