“It was up here” he said. Out in a grayish dream of dank fog, we plodded through the cold muck of a cornfield. Thanks to the lights of a faraway farm, I could make out the crowning hill for which we were bound. Jim hadn’t been himself for some time. My visits were not frequent, and the last time I saw him, it was a shock. We were friendly enough that I could get personal with him, but he had shrugged off my questions, saying that he had been ill for a time and was getting better now.
He had told me that, on a mid August morning, he had felt there was something odd and foreign about the hilltop. A curious local dome of excited airs lay upon it. Rather than take the tractor, Jim had walked slowly and quietly through the corn rows. On closer approach, he stopped when he heard a peculiar sound of rapid crackling, which he could only describe as being like fireworks heard from a distance, or the sound a woolen sweater makes when pulled from the dryer, still warm.
Since I have known him, Jim has always been a bit of a joker, with an outgoing nature, great smile, and keen sense of humor. This night, he was quiet, morose, but at the same time strangely agitated. The blue veins of his thinness alarmed me, as did his continuous rubbing of his arms.
I am no scientist, so I can only set down here what I experienced that night, and not what it means. We were nearing the base of the hill, about 150 feet across, when a pungent odor became evident. I liken it to the unpleasant smell an electric motor makes when it burns out. As we began the climb, vegetation was thinning out, and the smell grew stronger. Halfway up, and Jim would go no further. Assuring that he was alright, I continued on and reached the top.
There was a great bowl there, some fifty feet across, seemingly covered in fine black cinders, the source of the odor. In a concentric pattern along its inner rim, there were solidified puddles of what looked like molten lead, cooled. Without flying over it to confirm, I still would say the bowl depression was a perfect circle, and I wondered what could have done it.
I got back with Jim, and on the slow walk to his house, I related what I had found. The more I spoke, the greater his sense of relief was, and he said “At least I know I’m not crazy.”
Jimmy then began to tell me what had happened that August morning, and in the time since then…..