Last night as I sat in my backyard, capturing images of a bright Moon, I thought I caught a human shape in the corner of my eye behind the glare of my laptop’s monitor. Thinking it was one of my neighbors coming by the fence to ask about my astronomical target, I looked up. No one. Perhaps it was the cat. She almost always entertains me when I have my scope out at night by darting around the yard like a black flash.
Turning back to my work, oh my God, a face was staring at me! My heart pounded, my ears rang like sirens, and I froze stiff in spiraling fear as I realized quickly that this was no friend whose dark eyes peered at me. I thought—then quickly dismissed the idea—that someone was playing with me. This is how it feels to be murdered. The hope drains out of you as you come to grasp that the unthinkable is materializing right before your eyes.
During that brief instant, signals from an unknown part of my brain raced down my spine to the large muscles in my legs. I jumped up out of my chair, feeling like I had been catapulted several feet back. “What the ____ are you doing!?” My eyes were locked on the face, now morphing into the form of a darkly dressed man. He stepped back, as if startled. Not more than eight or ten feet apart, we locked our stares on each other. His gaze, however, had the quality of a predator. He did not answer; he growled. At least that’s the best description I can come up with for the guttural sound that emanated from him. I’ve heard the sound from hunting dogs, wolves and even a cougar. It was surreal, to say the least.
Then, he showed his teeth—large canines. Once again my mind jolted, trying to construct the incredulous picture before me. “OK, what is this?” Somebody’s really playing with me with this vampire act. But, by now there would be laughter as the practical joke had reached its zenith. No laughter. Only the growl and the predatory eyes. I was caught between the yard and the back door of my house. I instinctively moved behind the table which was sitting next to my scope. The bluish light from my laptop glowed, but its eerie light reveal nothing on the table that was of weapon status. That’s when the scene really went crazy.
“Go on, git, you demon!! Git on outta here in the name of Jesus!” I roared with a hoarse voice. Where that came from, I have no idea, almost laughing. It’s the kind of half-silly, half-frightened way I might shoo off a stray dog from the yard. But, at least I was on the offensive now, playing out some kind of unconscious script from a childhood-era horror film.
“Do you honestly believe that you can banish me away with that religious talk?” he laughed. This guy sounds like he’s for real! And, he is advancing in my direction like he means business. For some reason I was wishing I still had that Soul Winner’s New Testament that I got in Mrs. Turner’s Sunday School class. I’d throw it at him. I even said so. “If I had a copy of the Good Book, I’d whoop your butt with it, I snarled.” This is heating up.
“I’ve got your book right here,” he said, as he opened up his jacket and pulled out a little tattered book with gold lettering on the front . . . and a cross on the spine glittering in the moonlight, and it looked a lot like the Soul Winner’s New Testament that I remembered Mrs. Turner putting in my hand when I graduated from Junior I Sunday School and went into the Junior II class with the fifth graders. “Who are you? Screwtape?” I chuckled. It quickly became apparent that the joke was on me. He was walking toward me, closer and closer, holding that book like a dagger and saying “It’s not doing you much good now, is it?”
By now I had ascertained that there was absolutely nothing on the table or under my telescope mount that could serve as a weapon. I thought—and quickly abandoned the thought—of pitching a barlow lens at him. That’s how puny my arsenal was. I had to come up with a different kind of weapon.
“There is more power in that one little book than you know,” I warned, trying to sound stern. “I dare you to read one page!”
“A page for a page!” he stated, with an immediacy and clarity of voice that took me back. I tilted my head, puzzled. “You read a page of this,” pulling another old book from his jacket, “and I’ll read a page of that” nodding toward the tiny New Testament. “Read what?” I asked, wondering what the heck he was talking about. He opened up the old book, and sliced the first page at the binding with his fingernail, folded it into a paper airplane with that one hand and sailed it at me. I grabbed it just as it hit me dead in the chest and flipped on my red LED head lamp to examine it. It was the title page of Darwin’s The Origin of Species. It was even autographed by the old man himself. One after another he sliced out a page and threw it at me, forming a missile with each page, all in one deft stroke.
“But, I believe this stuff, too!” I shouted in a tone that sounded far too defensive, now that I think about it. Did he think I’d be undone by the Theory of Evolution? Did I look like a gullible William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Monkey Trial (he is, by the way, an ancestor of mine, though I didn’t mention it)? Did he think I’d just stand there while he systematically destroyed a valuable historic document?
Without one iota of forethought, but with a strange mixture of abandonment and fury, I grabbed the 5 milliwatt, 532 nanometer green laser pointer from my shirt pocket and fired it at him. He screamed bloody murder and twisted around with his arm up to shield his face. This thing is really hurting him! I could even smell the odor of burnt flesh as I continued aiming for exposed skin. He shrieked and howled, running wildly . . . away. It was all over in an instant. There I was, still swinging my laser like a sword, shaking.
April 1, 2010