Wormwood Files Part V

(This will be the last WORMWOOD, NEVADA outtake for a while. Thank you for coming along on the magical mystery tour!)

Gathered in one unified mass, they all traveled towards the light. The cold and dark around them didn’t matter anymore because everyone’s eyes were fixed on the tower of light outside of town. Some people carried flashlights but most walked through the scrubby terrain by feel and instinct. Overall the crowd was drunk, their minds as open to wonderment as a child’s, and Felix Hill walked along with them, Lila’s hand the only thing keeping him from levitating above the earth.

He understood now that expecting something to happen was only a small burning candle in comparison to the fiery deluge that accompanied the actual event. You could dream about an event every night for five years. You could talk about the event, going so far as to proselytize and form a communal group of like-minded souls around you. You could even predict the evening of its long awaited arrival in a desperate attempt to, somehow, cause it to happen. But that was nothing like this. Nothing like walking into the desert at night, light rising before you like hope incarnate.

Felix estimated the crowd at around a hundred people. Most of them from the beer garden, though a few had noticed the light from their own homes and joined the crowd on their dusty march. The drunkest folks joked loudly, but for the most part everyone spoke in hushed tones easily taken by the cool night wind and scattered over the plain. The nearer they got to the light, the easier it was to make out the terrain ahead. Felix glanced back and saw Sheriff Jackson riding his horse to the rear of the crowd, herding stragglers like stupefied cattle.

Lila squeezed his hand.
“Do you really think this happening, Felix?”
“Yes. It is.”
“I’m not so sure. This might be a dream. Or mass hypnosis.”
Felix gestured towards the light. “Why shouldn’t this happen? Why shouldn’t they finally arrive, as they said they would?”
“Because things don’t usually work this way, honey. As far as I know, the only prophecies that come true are the bad ones. War, famine, pollution. Stuff like that. How will the Visitors fit in with that?”
“They wouldn’t,” Felix said. “And that’s the point. The time’s come for an entirely new paradigm. A new way of living, the advancement of our entire race.”
Lila stepped over a bush without releasing his hand.
“Well, I hope people will still want to buy stuffed animals in a new paradigm.”
“Definitely. I bet your sales numbers will skyrocket.”
The light further away than it seemed. The crowd slowed its pace, realizing it would have to conserve its energy. The drunks stopped their whooping and the buzz of conversation died down as people drifted to their own thoughts. Felix, like most of residents of Wormwood, hadn’t been out walking in the arid terrain for many years. The air cracked your lips simply by being inhaled. The sand kicked up around your feet and sifted into your shoes, rubbing between the sock and the sole. Small things skittered around you, darting through the dark as they sought water, food, and shelter. Living in town it was easy to forget this wildlife was out here, getting along whether human eyes supervised or not.

Wormwood was far off now, a tiny blob of orange lights sitting at the foot of the mountains, not even big enough to give off a noticeable amount of light pollution. Yes, you could see the stars here, and Wormwood should have been home to 3,000 astronomers. Men and women of science, armed with second floor patios, telescopes, star maps, and laser pointers. Trained minds with their eyes on the stars, their ears to the wind. Not this staggering, drunken collection of misfits, whose children came to science class with no conception of black holes, inertia, or even what the phrase “zero gravity” meant. They’d rather sit on the couch all evening, staring at their television sets while the wonders of the universe thrived, far above their heads.


As they approached the tower of light, Felix scanned the night sky but could not make out any sort of vessel hovering nearby. He wheezed from the walk and he could not suck down enough air. The crowd had picked up its pace again, practically trotting through the desert, and Felix and Lila fell behind. The crowd stopped as it converged on the light, murmuring. Felix ignored the voices around him and released Lilia’s hand. He pushed his way through the crowd. He took off his glasses, polished them with his tie, and put them on again. He stepped to the front.
A ring of searchlights sat in a small depression of the earth, their luminous beams pointing into the night sky. This was what had formed the tower they’d seen from town. Twelve. Twelve searchlights droning with electricity, their thick cables running along the ground to an industrial sized generator in the middle of the ring. This was it. This was the tower they’d stumbled through the desert to find.
Felix bent over. The wind blew sand into his mouth and he crunched it between his teeth and spit it out again. He thought about keeling over right there, in front of the droning searchlights. Footsteps crunched behind him and a light hand rested against his back.

Lila put her arm around him. Felix straightened and craned his neck. The combined light of the twelve searchlights was impressive, even beautiful. So much light pouring into the sky, so much released energy. The light was already passing through the earth’s atmosphere and streaming out into the vacuum of space, where it would travel for untold years until its particles were absorbed by another mass and converted into more energy.
Would this light ever reach another intelligent life form?
Did it matter?

Lila tugged on the sleeve of his coat. “Look.”

Felix turned around. The entire beer garden crowd had gathered around the searchlights, open mouthed as they stared into the night sky. No one spoke, and the only sound audible was the wind cutting through the sagebrush. Lila rested her head on his shoulder. “There’s your Visitors, honey. Just look at them all.”


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