Saturday, August 2, 2008


This is a little something I wrote years ago as a written version of a thriller story I told my sister one night. We were talking about "The Illustrated Man" by Ray Bradbury and I just made this up off the top of my head when telling it. It's a little reformed now, with grammar, punctuation, etc., but some of the grammar might be a little off, but don't forget, this was waay back when I was 15, so the grammar, I hope, will be excused at points.

This is a very long short story. Yes, strange way to put it, I know. But nevertheless, interesting to you, I hope. Here we go...


Tim Arnold met a good friend of his named Harry Trumb in a bar he walked to on every Saturday. It was Spring of 1985 in the state of Connecticut, and Harry began his tale.

"There's a legend that settles around this bar we're in right now. About 44 years ago in this very bar, a bad storm hit this place in a heart beat. The men didn't care; they continued their drinking and talking. Now Tim, do you know what ball lightning is?"

"Yeah, I've heard of it, but I'm not sure. What is it?" Tim responded.

"Ball lightning a natural phenomenon that happens rarely all around the world. It be up to basketball size and as small as a golf ball or even smaller. Basically, it's lightning that comes in a ball shape. Not too many people can explain it, but if you were unaware of what it was, you'd be one of two things: scared stiff or totally amazed. You might even be both. I have to explain this to you before we get on with the story or else you'll have no idea what I'm talking about.

"Anyway, this bar we sit in had a big storm come over it; say 5:00 in the afternoon; but no one cared too much and continued their daily alcohol. Lighting struck the chimney, and the mere sound of that shook just about everybody. Down the chimney came ball lightning; maybe about 3 or 4 of them, the biggest one being the size of my fist. You should have seen the panic that hit everyone. The men were running around, jumping under tables, and doing anything else possible to avoid the little lightning balls, because these balls are very fast when they travel in the air. When they aren't moving they just hover. Maybe a minute and a half after that, the balls started disappearing into all sorts of metal and anything electric. The last one bounced off one man who fainted right afterward, and then it disappeared outside the window and went into a car outside. The car started from the lightning entering it which caused even more panic.

"Finally, a police officer who happened to walk by when the car started and saw the commotion inside. The officer dashed in and yelled at the men to stop, and not to panic. He asked what happened and the men explained there were a million fireballs that entered through the chimney and started attacking them. They pointed to the man who had fainted and claimed it was proof that these fireballs must have been evil spirits. The officer ran over to the man and started to revive him with some wiskey. The man woke up and instantly looked around to see if the 'fireballs' were gone. The officer asked what happened and the man said simply, "It tried to kill me!"

"The policeman looked up and the men around him exclaimed the car was running because a 'fireball' was inside. The man who apparently owned the car walked quickly outside into the rain and inspected it. The men inside darted to the window and watched the car inspection with eager eyes, waiting for some great supernatural thing to occur. The man outside opened up the hood and looked inside, and the car stopped running. The man scratched his head in wonder and likewise did the men inside.

"Now, there was a certain man who had run outside in the middle of the ball lightning phenomenon and hid behind a car next to the one being checked. After the police officer entered the bar, he came out of hiding and walked in the door cautiously when the officer was taking a look at the man who had fainted.

"Anyway, the man outside closed the hood down and came inside. The officer had heard of ball lightning before from his father, and explained it was something strange that happened in stormy weather. He didn't know about the technical stuff involved with it, so he just said it was a weather 'goof.' But the man who hid claimed he was wrong, and that this wasn't weather, but evil spirits. The other men believed the officer, however, and then went back to their drinking, with the occurrence being one of the main topics of discussion.

"The man who didn't believe was still scared, so he traveled home and performed his daily tasks, like cleaning his dishes, etc. He didn't have too great of a job, just an assembly line worker for automobiles. He had a bigger dream, though: fame and fortune. Now, of course everyone wants that, but I guess he saw a tad too many movies to really understand. His house wasn't any bigger than 70 x 90 feet. So he finished his duties, and during the time he did them thought about what happened in the bar. He was still terrified of what happened. That night he went to bed and had a dream he was running away from 'fireballs' that were chasing him across a green field. He stumbled and fell, and looked up to see the balls had caught him. The balls turned into horribly deranged, deformed faces that terrified him. He woke up when they were about to attack him.

"There was one slight problem. The storm outside had raged all day, and continued into the night. You will not believe what happened next. Lightning struck his chimney and the ball lightning returned to enter his room. (It was only one ball this time.) The man was literally terrified out of his wits. The lightning bounded across his room faster and faster and faster, hitting every wall and every chair, until it bounced right onto his chest and entered him (he wasn't wearing a shirt in bed). It gave him a slight electric shock. He was so terrified he could not move at all. He fell asleep in his position.

"The next day he decided he had to find out what that thing was; he couldn't take it anymore. About half a mile away was a local General Store. The man who worked there was the desk clerk employee, the manager, and the owner. No one worked under him or above him; he was a loner. He was considered the most intelligent man in the county because he aquired a college education and learned all kinds of things. Whenever someone couldn't figure something out, they came to him and he tried his best to explain their problem. If he couldn't, he always checked his dictionary he had beside him on his counter. (This had happened so many times where people came to him and he didn't know how to explain their problem, so he bought a dictionary to accompany him.) The man hurried his feet to get to the store as fast as he could. He explained what had happened: the bar, the dream, and then his chest. The clerk said he must have been lying (since he knew about ball lightning), because they don't disappear into anything, but rather metal or anything electric like a cord or an outlet. The man left the clerk baffled."

Harry stopped dead in the story. Tim was confused and asked what happened next.

"You really don't want to know what happens next; it just gets worse from here on," said Harry solemnly.

Tim was incorrigible and said, "You can't just stop there; I've got to know what happens next!"

"Suit yourself; you asked," Harry cautioned, "George started home after--"

"Who's 'George'?" Tim interrupted.

"Sorry 'bout that. I forgot to tell you his name was George Dunn. Anyway, George left the clerk, baffled from what he had said. He knew what he saw, and he knew it wasn't his imagination because of the shock he got, so he thought it might've been the wrath of God or something. This is when he started losing it completely. He talked to himself while he walked home, thinking about all the things he could've done that possibly caused 'the wrath of God' to fall upon him. He looked at everyone he passed in a strange, suspicious-like way. As he neared his house his neighbors could see a strange blank glare in his eyes, as if he was looking at something in front of him that wasn't there. The neighbors were getting a bit frightened and stayed a certain distance away from him.

"He entered his house and completely lost his mind. He thought he might be able to wait out the 'wrath' that might come on him later. He stayed in his house and never left for the entire day after that. No one visited during the entire time. The next day he wasn't satisfied with just sitting in his house. He got out of his chair he sat in and entered his workshop where he got all of his tools and nails together, and he took every chair and table and anything wooden except for the chair he used to sit in, and he worked the whole day boarding himself inside his house, isolating himself from anyone that might come along. During this time a neighbor visited him and tried to comfort him all he could, saying he didn't have to do this and it was all in his mind.

"All George responded to that was, 'God is gonna use the devils against me and I don't want that; no sir! I'll show 'em. Those devils aren't gonna outsmart me! Not gonna outsmart ole' George!'

"The neighbor left and George finished the last of his barricade and turned on all his lights with a few candles lighting the places without lightbulbs. Every window was deprived of any source of light. If any one of his lightbulbs or candles was snuffed, there was no seeing in that area ever again. He sat in his chair in the middle of his house, watching; waiting for whatever it was to pass by and let him be. The ball lightning, as I mentioned before, will make you either terrified or astounded. Now, thank God there was no storm that night, but the weirdest thing happened to him the next day. He woke up from his chair and gasped. Every window was no longer boarded. He was petrified with fear. How could anything remove every board without waking him? He stayed awake most of the night; what the hell happened? He instantly got up andd felt where the boards were supposed to be on a window closest to him, and he felt the wood, but he could see light coming through. The boards were still there but he could see through every single one. His house was engulfed by the sun's rays pouring through each of his windows. He pounded on the wood harder and harder. How could he see through it?

"Now, the neighbors outside heard the pounding and walked outside. George was pounding on his window pane. There were no boards. He continued to bang the window and finally broke through it, causing his hands to stain with blood, about 4 or 5 on-looking men rushed to the window and held him down, keeping him from hurting hsi hands anymore than they were. George had never boarded his windows, nor did he ever receive any visitors while he 'worked.' The visitor he received comforted him and talked about his mind doing it all. George's visitor was a figment of his imagination to make himself think someone cared about him. The entire time he was working to board his windows he sat quietly and calmly in his chair thinking about it, never lifting a finger.

"The men who held him down called to the other neighbors to call the police and get a doctor around quick. The police arrived, bandaged his hands, and then took him away. The total time it took to get him to the hospital, he screamed his head off, "WHERE ARE THE BOARDS?! WHERE ARE THEY?!"

"The police took him to a psychologist who concluded he must be out of his mind. The officers sent a detective to the neighborhood where he lived. The residents informed him of the strange look in his eyes and the day he never left his house. The detective came back with the testimonials to which the doctor gave the suggestion of keeping him in a special hospital where he might recover. George didn't have any family he lived with, and his mother and father were dead, so they put him into a psychiatric hospital where he lived for 2 years. He always glared at everyone he passed whenever he walked the hallways of the hospital. When there was a storm he would scurry to his room and tuck deep under the covers until it ended, after which he would continue to walk the halls calmly.

"Over the span of those two years he had a daily talk with a psychologist about the 'fireballs.' The doctor had never heard of such a thing from the start, so his take on it was he must have been dreaming. That's how he approached George every day, with the premise that there was never any incident at the bar, and he never experienced a 'fireball' in his room, that only his imagination had taken hold both times, and that his dream had a continuation in which he was hit by a 'fireball.' It was a nice thing to believe, but George remembered the electric shock he received when it entered him, and it sure didn't feel to him like he might've hit his chest in his sleep. Nevertheless, he forgot the pain he experienced. Those two years in the hospital passed slowly and he lost the memory of what it really was like. In the two years he spent at the hospital, he became sane once again. The doctors noticed he never wandered the halls anymore, he never glared at anyone blankly, and he started reading and learning. He got 'better.' They performed sanity tests and all proved positive, so they let him go.

"George walked the whole distance to his neighborhood. He met the neighbors who lived where he used to but none remembered him anymore, for they had all left over the time he spent away. He finally reached his house which was abandoned ever since he left.

"As he stared at his house two kids came along and exclaimed, 'Don't go in there mister, that's a haunted house!'

"The other kid agreed, 'Yeah, a mad man used to live there; the policemen don't let anyone in. They say it's dangerous but I think he thinks it's haunted too.'

"George smiled and didn't look down at the kids, but continued to fix his eyes upon his house. The kids jogged away and George decided he'd look inside again. He walked slowly through his doorway; the door had been ripped out somehow. He walked left and found the window he had broken; all the glass was gone from the pane and lay on the floor. He turned right and found a door that was shut. He opened it and to his surprise, the moment he opened it it fell straight down onto the floor, revealing his old bedroom. The mattress was old and eaten through by mice who created their nests within. He 'knew,' though, that the 'fireball' wasn't real.

"He left and got a small apartment to stay in. He would get a job the next day and his life would be back in order. That night, a harsh storm, worse than the one he experienced at his house, came upon the apartment. Lightning struck a metal rod on the building and one ball lightning appeared through a naked wire on the floor against the wall. It didn't bounce this time, but hovered closer and closer to George. Suddenly, every memory of that terrible night in his room, the dream, and the bar incident came to him. On very rare occasions, ball lightning doesn't disappear into a metal object or something electric. Instead it vanishes in an explosion which makes a strange discharging electric sound. This is what happened with George. The lightning did just that. It hovered slowly toward him and vanished in a quick explosion. George was totally frozen with horrifying fear, that his mouth was open the entire time, his eyes almost bulging. The second it exploded he died of fright, with the most unpleasant feature on his face, with his open mouth and bulging eyes.

"The next morning, the maid kept knocking and knocking on his door. He never answered so she assumed he had gone out. She opened the door and began dusting his dresser. She noticed a sock laying on the ground, and went into his bedroom to find the other one, but seeing George's face the way it was in bed she jumped up against the wall and screamed. He never moved so she dashed out of the apartment as fast as her legs would carry, and she told the manager at the front what she saw. The manager calmed her down and went up the stairs to his room. Other people had opened their doors and were looking outside, very confused and shaken by the scream. The manager assured everyone that everything was fine and they disappeared back into their rooms. The manager continued to the room with the opened door, and no sooner did he see the body did he run to his side and check his pulse. He was dead all right. He darted down the stairs and called the police.

"The police, when there, could not figure what had happened to George Dunn. Why did he die? He was taken to the hospital for an autopsy. The doctors discovered a small bullet lodged in his chest. Why did the lightning enter his chest? The bullet must have attracted into his chest because of the bullet. No one ever found out what that bullet had come from, but it was there: the very thing that caused George to lose his mind."

That's where Harry discontinued his story, until Tim asked, "Well, what happened next? What happened to the house? Is it still there?"

"Oh it's still there," Harry explained, "But it's all fixed up new now. There's an interesting story behind that too. About two years after the death of George Dunn, a man was looking in that same neighborhood for a house, but all were taken except that one. He was rich from some business he started a while before that, I forgot. The only way he could live in the neighborhood was to either tear down that abandoned house and build a new one in its place, or to fix up the current one. Now, he may have been rich, but he was still thrifty. He knew that fixing up the house would cost much less than hiring people to tear down the house and buying all kinds of tools and materials to build something entirely original from what used to be there. So he chose 'Plan B,' which was to fix it up. The realtor who described the house to never mentioned the fact that a mad man used to live there; he learned that from the neighbors who kept the story alive over time. He wasn't scared of who used to live there, but he also heard of the bar incident, as well as the officer's explaination. He looked into anything he could find that was relatively close to what happened there, and came to the 'ball lightning' explanation.

"When he moved into the house and always kept four thimbles with him whenever he slept. One night, about 5 months after he moved in, a storm hit that brought the ball lightning again, but he was prepared. It entered the bedroom and darted all over the place. The man thought fast and put the thimbles on, held his hand out, and the lightning entered the thimbles and disappeared. He laughed in triumph, knowing he had been smarter than those bar folks. And he still lives there today. He was 38 in 1945 when he moved in so that'd make him... 78 now."

Tim was eager to learn more and asked where the house was. Harry told him it was about 1 mile away on Flatlond Road. Tim got there in about 3 minutes driving his car. He avidly got out of his car and knocked on the door. An old geezer answered with a small voice. Tim explained the story he heard about him and the old man invited him in. Tim found out into a conversation that the old man's name was Edward Dunn, and he was a brother to George. Edward broke the details down on how he looked into the history of George's living in the house, and his job application for the automobile factory he worked at. He found where George was buried and took away the old tombstone. He replaced it with a more elaborate monumental one that was four feet high and made of limestone.

After the conversation ended between the two, Tim asked where the graveyard was so he could see the stone. Edward told him it was about 2 miles away straight down the road leading left from his house. Tim thanked Edward for his hospitality and left, traveling to the graveyard. He found the tombstone. It was all white limestone as Edward described, with a small cross on the top with a circle containing a picture engraved into the stone, depicting a "fireball" in the air, with the name and dates given. On the bottom it said, "Here lies a man who died from fear." Under that it had a small star and then the words, "If you saw what George saw, you'd die too!" Tim chuckled to himself as a dark-haired man walked up next to him.

"Nice fellow," said the man, "but too bad they dug him up and burned him."

When Tim heard this he was stunned. "They dug him up?!" Tim exclaimed, puzzled.

"You mean you don't know??" asked the man.

"I just had a long conversation with George's brother; he never mentioned anything like this!" Tim proclaimed.

"George's brother, Edward, built this bigger grave but he removed his body beforehand and cremated it. I think there was some gold ring he wanted to keep in memory of him. You can probably figure out why he never mentioned that; it was too personal. I was here, though, when he removed his body."

Tim inquired, "What was done with his remains?"

"He buried them back in the ground," the man said. He paused for a while and finally asked, "You know the legend of this guy, right?"

"Yeah, I know it." Tim answered.

"Well if you ever wanted to see the bullet, it's in that small block on the top of the stone," the man said.

Tim had noticed that before but didn't take it to mean anything. He looked at the man and walked over to the gravestone. The block turned out to be a stone box attatched to the stone, and it had hinges so you could open it. Surely enough, inside there was the bullet, roofed by a glass plate to keep people from taking it. Tim drove back to the bar and told Harry about the grave, the brother, the bullet, and everything else he heard.

Harry's simple response was, "Well now. I guess he gained fame in the end after all."

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