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by Tony Rauch
The long yellow and green grass rose to our waists and blew around us in the wind in the golden haze of the setting sun. We were on our bikes over there, taking on the trails before the mean high school boys showed up and chased us off, ruining our good time. We were on our way home, when out of nowhere these mysterious glowing orbs appeared. The orbs were a fuzzy, liquidy amber tone. They were the size of softballs and hovered just above the waving yellow grass. They followed us for a while, then drifted into the weeds and scrub. We decided to split up and follow them, pursuing the little balls of light through the sand and brush and into another field of long grazing grass.
We followed them until Johnny broke off from the group. He peeled away from us to give chase. We lost him in the shadows and taller grass of a long, winding gully. We called and called, then gathered back together and stood on our bikes in a clearing of sand and called for him some more. We called his name into the blankness for about five minutes until he finally emerged from the grayness of dusk. He had a vacant look in his eyes and a strange hum about him. He said he was thirsty.
At first we thought Johnny may have just been really tired from giving chase, from over-exerting himself, maybe dehydrated, or that he wiped out, maybe hit his head or got the wind knocked out of him. We had been out pretty late by this time without drinking anything. But as we checked him over, we noticed he had an odd, robotic movement to his body—an odd stiffness and a weird smell, a weird metallic smell, like old iron. We touched him and he had a strange sort of electrical vibration about him. His skin felt the same as our own—soft, like skin should feel, but he sort of vibrated a little underneath. We told him to take a moment to collect himself. He sat down to rest, and gradually seemed to snap out of it. He even lost that odd electrical buzz. I mean, it was a silent sort of fuzzy feeling that made no noise whatsoever, but still, for a moment there I swear you could feel a little vibration, a slight twingey twitch or something, a hum, something deep inside, as if he had a small washing machine inside of him or something.
After a few minutes he seemed to come out of it, as if slowly waking up. He said he was perfectly fine. He looked normal and returned to how he had always been. He said he was chasing a glowing orb and really tooling along, gaining on it, closer and closer, closing in, and then he couldn’t really remember anything until he found himself on the ground in the soft sand and really long grass, hearing our voices calling his name.
We thought about what happened to him. We decided to check out where he fell. So we followed his tracks in the sand in the darkness, but just couldn’t really find anything. We saw where he took his spill, falling into the sand, and just figured he twisted his front tire around a rock or hole or root or something and lost it. And that was that—it all happened so dang fast that he just couldn’t remember it, like he had gotten thumped real good or slammed his head on the ground or something.
Anyway, it was dark by then. We all watched for the glowing orbs, but they didn’t return, so we went back home. The next day we had a big baseball game where a really funny thing happened. Johnny, who is a below average ball player on his best day (although his father really pushes him at it) plays spectacularly the entire game, and in fact manages to for the rest of the season as well, making fluid, diving grabs and elegant, flying leaps and rocking the ball like mad at the plate. His grades, concentration, posture, coordination, and complexion improve greatly too.
Eventually the story of the glowing orbs gets out, but few really believe it. Some believe it too much and try to hang around Johnny, hoping his new found popularity and refinements will rub off on them. Other stories permeate from it. One has it that Johnny fell out of a tree and was in a coma for a while. After snapping out of it, he was a different person. Maybe the soul of someone else at the hospital had seeped into him, an old soul—more experienced, more settled, calmer, more mature. Or maybe the blow had just affected his personality, changed him. But we knew stories like that just weren’t true.
The other funny thing is that you start improving dramatically as well. I mean it seems like you suddenly advance radically at everything too. We ask if you encountered any of those glowing orbs, but you just shrug as if you couldn’t imagine what we’re referring to as you weren’t even out there with us that night.
Stories begin about you also. One has it that some witch doctor or voodoo lady had moved in a few houses from you. You helped her with a few things now and then—mow her lawn, move a few boxes and piles of firewood, sweep out the garage—and she started teaching you stuff and helping you and giving you lessons in potions and practical witchcraft and stuff.
Personally, I don’t know if I should believe those stories or not. But for whatever reason, you never let on as to what’s happened to you. You just smirk a little spark of a smirk and keep it all to yourself.
We all wonder about you. And about Johnny. We don’t know what happened out there, but to this day we sometimes go out at night, searching the dried river bed and fields and little hills and valleys for those glowing orbs, wishing they’d return and reveal their true nature to us, seeing small sparks in the distance, wishing we could all get close to them, wishing their power, their energy, would rub off on us, hoping they too would cause us to accelerate and make us good at all the little things in life, seemingly important or not.