Non-fiction

All of these things really happened.

Theses are either my stories, those of friends, or FOAFs (Friend Of A Friend).

A Fairy Tale

Did you ever have the feeling of being watched? This happened to me once while I was sleeping. I do not remember hearing anything, but I came awake instantly-alert in the manner similar to being roused by a loud noise.

I was lying on my back with my head propped-up on my pillow. My eyes snapped open already looking directly at a white spherical object about 1.5 cm in diameter hovering about 30 cm away from my feet. I presumed it was simply something extremely light (feather, dandelion seed, dust ball) but I was extrememly curious to determine exactly what it was, and decided not to move abruptly lest I cause it to move out of view. As soon as the idea came into my head that I wanted to see it closely, it moved towards my face. It was not alarmingly fast, but in a few seconds it was about 25 cm away from my face. Over the last 5 cm or so of its travel, it dissapated, in much the way that a steam puff does.

I have thought extensively about what I saw. Here are some possible explanations:

Hypnopompic Hallucination

This is possible I guess, but the episode was in no manner "surreal", and I subsequently went on about getting up and the rest of the day had no dream-like aspects. I'm sure I was completely awake when I first saw it.

Opthalmic Illusion

As we age, the vitreous humour (clear jelly-like substance) within the eyes becomes more liquified. Clumps of the more solidified humour can occaisionally roam loose within the more liquified humour. The two materials are of slightly different refractive indices, thus a lens-shaped clump could conceivably focus light onto a spot on the retina. Normally, the brain's visual cortex rejects images of these objects from manifesting themselves into our consciousness, because such a mass can only create an artifact on the retina of the eye it is within, and within the binocular field of vision we generally only perceive objects that create a matching pair of images on each retina.

But when a pair of these floaters exist, one in each eye causing a bright spot at the exact position matching where a real object would create an image, the result is the perception of an object within the field of view. I reject this explanation because the object did not move when I moved my eyes to focus on it in the first instance. It then moved while my eyes were already fixed on it. I have numerous dark "floaters", (which are much smaller and create shadows when they are close to the retinae) and I am very well aquainted with how they appear to move in reponse to movements of the eyes. Besides, there was no point source of light in the room, thus no object from which a "real" image could have been created.

Electromagnetic Soliton

I reject this explanation because the colour brightness was simply that of a white mist illuminated by ambient light. It did not appear to give off any light of its own. It made no noise nor smell. Besides, how would ball lightning originate in my bedroom?

Hydrodynamic Soliton

This is what it most closely resembled. Several years ago there was a TV series here called "Candid Camera". Usually they used a concealed camera to embarrass people, but occaisionally they did something like "Stupid People Tricks". Once in a while when they show the "best" footage from the entire series you will see a woman smoking a cigarette, (from a holder if I recall correctly) and blowing not smoke rings, but smoke balls. I guess they were, in fact, a type of ring with a very small radius. She could apparently put some kind of spin into them to cause them to change speed and direction. Eventually they would disintegrate into a puff of smoke. What I saw resembled this, except that the smoke or steam dissolved upon the collapse of the soliton. I reject this explanation because there were no sources of steam or smoke whatsoever.

UFO - Natural Source

This would be simply what I thought I saw at first, i.e. a dust ball, pillow feather, or dandelion seed. I reject this explanation because I cleary saw it disintegrate from a distance of about 25 cm. Of course, my eyes had only been open for a few seconds, and perhaps it just got blurry when it got too close and I lost track of it. There is also no explanation for it's sudden velocity change. It was rock-steady before it started moving, and I did not move at all after opening my eyes.

UFO - Supernatural Source

A faerie? An extraterrestrial warping out into another dimension? I definitely felt that someone was watching me. This feeling was so strong that it caused me to snap awake instantly alert. It moved to me when I wanted it closer. It moved as quickly as possible without being startling. And it disintegrated when it got uncomfortably close to my face. I cannot help but feel that it went away simply because I stubbornly persisted in trying to define it with a natural explanantion. I wish now that I would have had the presence of mind to at least say "Hi!".

The Thrill of Victory

It was the last game of the regular baseball season. The student′s team had a 100% winning record so far. Everyone knew that they would go on later to win the playoffs. Their team was very well-balanced and had a profusion of natural talent. All of their players were filled with youthful stamina and enthusiasm. Undeterred by injuries or fear of becoming injured, they were determined to have a complete winning season as well.

I don′t remember much of the details prior to the point in the game when I came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with bases empty and two runners out already. My team was down by eight runs, and I had been in a hitting slump for a few weeks. Nobody present expected me to do very much. I′m fairly tall and heavy, so theoretically I should be able to really crank out a ball, but my hitting "strategy" I developed when I used to have a batting average of nearly 1000 was to clobber the ball into the ground hard enough to bounce it over the infielder′s heads. Most of the time, it would result in a base hit, and invariably advance any runners because they would never have to wait to see if the ball was fielded cleanly. But lately the balls had been going out more horizontal and a lot of them ended up going directly or short-hopping into the infielder′s gloves.

I was determined to at least go down swinging, so I took a wild swipe at anything close to the strike zone. I managed to connect weakly with the ball and bounce it on the dirt and then off second base as well. It ended up being an equally easy play for either shortstop or the second baseman, and while they were deciding who should field the ball, I managed to make it all the way to first.

I was the team Captain that year, and my team-mates followed-up on my example. Everyone managed to get on base. There were a few more errors, some clean singles, a few base-clearing home runs, and even a few unintentional walks provided by the more distracting members of the team. Eventually, we ended up with runners on 2nd and 3rd, and the batter preceeding me came up to bat. At this point, history was made in our baseball league. The opposing pitcher had a huddle with his fielders, following which he actually performed an intentional walk! This caused a mild consternation to say the least. From an objective point of view, it was a sound move because it removed the opportunity from one of our best hitters to win the game with a solid smash, and it created a possible force play to end the game on every base. But such a flagrant act of winning strategy bordered on poor sportsmanship in the eyes of the more mature players.

For the advantage of those of you "doing the math", our league has a rule about putting everyone into the batting order regardless of how many people show up for a game, and there were eleven of us that night. So when I came to the plate again, the bases were loaded and we were behind by only one run.

It was at this point that history was made yet again, after another more prolonged huddle with lots of arguing. When the huddle broke up, the outfielders didn't return to the outfield. Instead, they came as close to the infield as they were allowed, to form a practically solid quarter-ring of eight players. I was completely flabbergasted. This sort of player placement simply had never been seen before in our league. I must admit that I was sort of humiliated and intimidated.

The first pitch came high and inside, but I fanned on it anyways, due to my disoriented mental state. "Calm Down!" I scolded myself. At that point, I decided that the most humiliating thing for the pitcher would be for him to walk me, so I steeled myself to strictly wait for pitches in the strike zone. The next one came even higher and tighter. Part of me said "Good. Run up the count." But another part of me said, "I can hit that thing!" I made a wild swing, way later than normal. I hit the ball after it had gone a bit past me, and I must have hit it with what they call the "sweet spot" of the bat, because I didn′t feel it at all. My team-mates started squealing, but I didn′t know why. By the time I finally caught sight of the ball, it was over the outfield, still gaining altitude. The runner from third came in to tie, followed immediately by the one from second, who removed the bat from my hands, and reminded me that I still needed to tag first in order to make the win official.

Afterwards, during the traditional hand-shaking between the teams, almost everyone from the student team remarked to me that they had indeed learned a valuable lesson about never giving up. That is, everyone except the pitcher. He was sitting all by himself on the mound, cursing repeatedly. In retrospect, I must admit that he had made a gutsy move. Maybe he didn′t get the "perfect" season he so much wanted, but I got the "Thrill Of Victory" that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

A Glitch in Time

This is a true recollection of my only prescient episode.

I own a set of Encyclopædia Brittanica. Often I will just sit on the floor cross-legged, with a volume resting on my calves, and read sections at random. One day, (co-incidentally enough), I was reading the entry on "Precognition". While I was reading, a drop of sweat fell off my head onto the right page, near the top right edge. The paper in those books is quite fine. I decided to leave the drop rather than disturb the paper by rubbing it while wet. Being careful to wipe my head to prevent any further such occurences, I finished reading the article and decided that I had done enough reading. I started to close the book by lifting the left cover. Because the paper is very fine, the entire sheaf on the left side started to slide and "sidewind" shut. But just before the outer edge of the left page I had been reading flipped into place, I noticed very clearly that it too had a wet spot, in approximately the mirror position to the spot I had already seen on the right.

Is is possible, I wondered, that a different drop of sweat had fallen unnoticed on the other side? But no, my head might be big, but not as wide as an open Brittanica volume. Being primed from reading about precognition, was I imagining it? Was there still enough undried sweat on the right side to even make a spot on the left? Of course, I wanted to re-open the book, to see if there really would be two spots, or perhaps four if the two original spots were in slightly different positions.

But if I were really seeing into the future, it must mean that I would re-open the book. I had enough time to think a few minutes, because the drops could not dry very quickly with the book closed. Eventually, it became clear to me that I absolutely needed to check, because otherwise I would never be able to know. I even toyed with the idea of "changing the future", by letting things dry and using a chemical test for the salt, but I didn't really want to damage the book just to satisfy my curiousity while avoiding the vision I had of simply looking at a wet spot on the paper.

So I opened it up again. Sure enough, there were two (and only two) spots, one on each leaf. So either an unnoticed drop of sweat had fallen at exactly the spot mirroring the position of the one on the right, or I had imagined seeing the spot on the left, which was exactly what I was looking at a few minutes later.

I have heard it said that prophetic visions cannot be avoided. Based on my minimal experience at clairvoyance, I must agree.

A Christmas Story

This story was one of my mother′s favourites.

As part of the upcoming Christmas celebration, the Pastor asked everyone in the congregation to memorize one line from a small Christmas play. During the service, they were to take turns reciting the story of the birth of Jesus. My mother′s friend ended up with the line:

"The ass stuck his head out the window and brayed three times."

She did not feel that the word "ass" was a proper word for a lady to say. She even felt anguished about it enough to ask the pastor if she could use the word "donkey" instead. He said that either word was correct. But the lady still had a lot of trouble deciding what word to use. Apparently, she had not really made up her mind completely when her turn came to speak. What she said was:

"The donkey stuck his ass out the window and brayed three times."

Cherry Turnover

This story was told by my friend Bill B.

It was the first year at college away from home for Bill and his friends. For most of them, it was also the first time that they had done very much housekeeping chores, such as cooking and cleaning.

Bill′s brother Ray decided to heat up a cherry pie for everyone to have as dessert after their supper meal. But he did not have proper oven mitts and was not really that familiar with how thick the dishtowel needs to be folded in order to prevent burning his fingers. While transferring the hot pie from the oven to the table, he reflexively dropped it when his fingers became too hot.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth by everyone present, Bill pointed out that the only ‘dirty’ part of the pie was the upper crust, which was face down on the floor. If they were careful to only eat the pie from the bottom down without breaking the top crust, there would be no chance of eating any dirt off the floor. Thus, they moved the table and chairs out of the way and set places on the floor (i.e. napkins, forks, drinks) for all four of them.

After they had all sat down to eat, there was a knock on the door. Bill′s Mom had decided to come and pay them a surprise visit. Bill said to her: "See, Mom. You have no need to worry about us. We keep our place so clean that you can eat off the floor."

Driving on Otto

This story was told to me by my friend John L. about his friend Otto.

Anyone who has ever done a lot of long-distance late-night driving has no doubt at some point experienced a moment of drifting off to sleep for a second or so. At this point, anyone with a normal amount of prudence will pull the car over to the side of the road and stretch a bit to become more alert, or perhaps even take little nap. Usually, the sense of falling as our head slumps will startle us awake. When this happens, the feeling is nothing like that of waking up after being asleep for a few minutes.

Otto owned a VW beetle. One night, he woke up in his car while it was going along the highway at normal cruising speed. This was not simply a case of dozing off momentarily. Otto′s arms were down by his sides, his head fully slumped over, and his foot on the accelerator. He could tell that he was travelling at highway speed because of his dashboard instruments and the road noise. However, he could not see anything at all through the front windshield. It was completely black. About this time, he noticed that he could see out of the side windows and the rear-view mirror. But what had happened to his forward view? Instead of jamming on the brakes in panic, he let his foot off of the accelerator. Immediately, two red lights moved into his field of view, tail-lights of a huge tractor-trailer as it pulled away. The nose of his beetle had been snugged under the rear end of the trailer, in between the rear wheel mudflaps.