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In the Realm of Eden

by Robert J. Emery

 1

Early August, 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.

 

The 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 green pasture.

“Good morning, 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 frame twisted.

 

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 cracked.

 

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.
 

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