Livingston County, Michigan.
John Sutton’s feet hit
the pavement with military precision. In his mind he envisioned a metronome
that allowed him to keep perfect pace as he jogged his daily three miles.
TICK-TICK-TICK-TICK–each imaginary tick synchronized with a foot slamming
into the dew-covered asphalt. So fixed was his rhythm, he could easily
predict within seconds the time it would take to traverse the three miles.
This morning, jogging south along McIntosh Road at seven, the temperature
matched Sutton’s age. It was a clear sixty-two degrees, and the morning sun
had just begun to top the trees.
retired land surveyor stood all of five-feet-ten inches on a lean, wiry
frame and weighed not one ounce more than one hundred and fifty pounds.
Rimless glasses defined his thin face and his deep-set eyes. A neatly
trimmed salt and pepper goatee wrapped around his chin. He always dressed
the same on these morning runs, no matter what the weather or the season:
Nike running shoes, white knee socks with a double red band around the top,
knee-length khaki shorts, a white and green striped soccer shirt over a
white tee shirt, and a ball cap that sported a Chicago Bulls logo.
McIntosh Road ran
north and south, parallel to the Henson dairy farm, one of the last big
dairy operations in the county. By the time Sutton jogged by each morning,
the cows had been milked and turned out for the day to graze in the rich
ladies,” Sutton shouted, as if the black and white bovines knew he was
coming and waited patiently for his greeting. “Have yourselves a great day.”
He tossed a fist in the air and laughed. He repeated this ritual each
morning. It amused him.
Jed Olsen, owner of
the local mortuary, drove by and honked his horn. Sutton waved, his face
stretching into a wry, cocky grin, supremely confident that his
three-mile-a-day sprint would forestall any near-future professional
services from Mr. Olsen.
Sutton was a
quarter-mile past the cow pasture, running along a tall grass and wildflower
meadow, when a flash of light hit him hard on the right side of his face. It
was so bright, so sharp-edged, that his head jerked to the left, forcing him
to a wobbly stop.
“What in the hell was
that?” he asked, aloud. Thinking at first that it had been the rising sun
peeking through the trees, he raised both hands to shield his eyes. But it
couldn’t have been the sun, he reasoned. The sun was on his left and the
light had struck him on his right. Blinking rapidly then rubbing his eyes
with his fingertips, he tried ridding his sight of the hundreds of little
black specks that floated before him. His focus was coming back, but the
damnable black spots remained. He spun completely around, trying to
determine where the blinding light had come from. He glanced suspiciously
again at the sun, but a giant chestnut tree still partially blocked it. He
retraced his steps back to the spot where the light had first struck, and it
happened again. WHAM! Sutton quickly back-stepped several feet.
“Holy Christ,” he
cursed. “What the—”
Now he was determined
to find the source of the intense flash. He looked west, then east.
Nothing appeared unusual or out of place.
Cautiously, he retraced his steps until the beam of light struck him again,
this time on his left side as he was now facing north. He stepped back two
steps and the light disappeared. Two steps forward and the reflection
reappeared. He turned to the vast meadow of high grass on the west side of
the road and that’s when something odd caught his attention. It was a shiny
object a good two hundred yards away where the meadow began to slope
downward. He glanced up at the sun again, then off to his left.
The sun, he reasoned.
The sun is reflecting off something out there.
He stepped down into
the wet roadside drainage ditch, then up a few feet to the barbed wire fence
bordering the meadow. He could see the shiny object in the distance, but it
was too far away to make out any detail. Carefully slipping between the two
strands of barbed wire, he began his trek across the meadow. When he was
within fifty yards of the object, his right foot sank into a gopher hole,
causing his ankle to twist to the right. He yelped in pain, lost his
balance, and fell forward flat on his face.
“Damn it, damn it!”
His glasses had
tumbled into the tall grass. He fished around but couldn’t find them.
Struggling to his feet, he brushed off his shirt and shorts.
“Now, where the hell
are my glasses?” he mumbled to himself and began a search of the area
immediately in front of him only to hear a sickening crunch and a snap. His
right foot had found them. “Son-of-a—” he cursed, as he fished up the
glasses from beneath his foot. The right lens had been shattered and the
Obsessed now with
finding whatever it was sitting on that ridge ahead of him, he
straightened the frame of his now-damaged glasses as
best he could and slipped them on. With only one good eye, things were
fuzzy, but the shiny object was still partially visible to him. From what he
could see, it was round, smooth, and much bigger than he had first thought.
As he got closer to where the meadow dropped down, he realized that he had
been seeing only a portion of the object because of the way it tilted over
the embankment. Now, even with the use of only one eye, the size of the
entire structure began to register. He eyes widened and he sucked in a
breath and held it. A chill ran through him, his knees began to tremble, and
his legs threatened to give way beneath him.
“My God,” his voice
His legs involuntarily
propelled him several feet backwards, stumbling on the last step and ending
up flat on his back. The tall grass obscured his view, and he could no
longer see the bizarre object. He shoved his shaking right hand into his
pant pocket to retrieve his cell phone. Finally freeing it, he flipped it
open and frantically punched in 911.