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Dispatches from Atlantis #15

Shapeshifter (Part One)


IN THE VALLEY OF FIRE, you can detect Black Ops impending arrival before you can actually detect their vehicles. It starts in the dead still of the summer night. No sounds. Nothing moves. Then gently in the West, the distant rustling of sagebrush begins. The rustling grows progressively louder and closer to the fixed observer. Said observer might wonder what disturbance is this that approaches. Within thirty seconds, just as the first vestiges of the breeze reach the skin, the distant roar of a 737's engines emerges from the same direction. The sagebrush all around the observer is now clearly agitated and swaying back and forth, the breeze on the skin growing progressively stronger.

Then you see the lights pop up from beneath the distant horizon, rising ever higher. The 737 is operated by Key Air, a defense contractor that works hand and hand with EEG (now URS Corporation.)What the observer can't see is that all the windows on the plane are blacked out, so no personnel on board can tell where they are going.
What the observer can't see is that all the windows on the plane are blacked out, so no personnel on board can tell where they are going.

The jet soars by overhead, an incongruous cacophony of 20th Century bluster and industry dominating a landscape that has changed little in hundreds of thousands of years. It passes and gradually, the petroleum bellows of its exhaust shifts down the Doppler scale and begins to fade. There is no longer a steadily increasing breeze but a wake of mildly turgid air. Eventually the Black Ops plane, on its way to Dreamland or Papoose Lake up range disappears over the opposite horizon. The air stirs no longer and the only evidence left that something came by this place is the rustling sagebrush in the opposite distance.

Eventually that stops, leaving the stillness and dark; leaving the appearance that one is alone out on this playa. That appearance is an illusion.

Sometimes you have to ask permission to go to certain places in the universe. Humans assume an awful lot about their place in the cosmos. They get to thinking they can go anywhere or do anything they want. This is a mistake on the part of the humans.

The Valley of Fire in Southeastern Nevada is one such place. You won't read about the strange phenomena that occur in this particular valley on any of the official state park websites or Wikipedia. Don't get me wrong. The place is accessible. There are plenty of gorgeous trails to hike, history to explore and even campsites. It is an ancient home of the Anasazi (which should be a clue in itself.) Visitors are encouraged to make a stay of it; so long as they keep their excursions to the daytime, and stay in the campground by night.

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About Paul Corman-Roberts

Paul Corman-Roberts had coffee and donuts with Eldridge Cleaver in 1995 and once pulled a graveyard shift at a Circle K during the Rodney King riots. He misses working in theater.


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