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Mack Williams: Lightning bugs of earth, sky, and space

I awoke the other night to a bright flash of light through the window. Not being an alien abduction, this light was quickly followed by a close by peal of thunder. This is, of course, the weatherman’s routine forecast for this time of year, 50% thunderstorms and showers ( actually the chance of them; they’re not made up of 50% one thing and 50% something else).

 Just after that flash in the sky, I saw a miniature version of the same thing (well, sort of) on the window, a lightning bug. Concurrently, I saw stars in a newly opened space between the clouds, that space depriving the storm of some of its nourishment.
Being gravity-bound, I thought of the levels of the sky above me. In this, I thought back to a chart in an old astronomy book of my youth. It showed the average height of passenger planes, then the height of the most current “space plane” of that time, the X-15. Above that was represented the World War II German V-2 rocket (called “A-4” by the Germans) and the U.S. WAC-Corporal rocket. The level of those highest of clouds, “noctilucent” was represented, as well as the level of the Aurora Borealis and the place where “space sand” is burned by friction with the atmosphere to become meteoric flashes in the night.
 Picturing that chart now, I see myself looking at it in my bedroom on the Old Concord Road, those sections of sky in that chart being superimposed upon my then “window-ward” view of the western sky above W.A. Cline’s gravel piles and cow pasture (his pasture had piles too, but they were “organic”).
 Back then, I visualized the western sunset sky as being where the future lay (but since I lived in Yanceyville from 1974 to 2008, and now here in Danville, Va. since 2008, it seems I should have given some thought to the sky’s northward section as well).
Back to another aspect of my “gravity-bound-ness” on that recent “dark and stormy night” (quotation marks always an integral part of that phrase), I thought of what might lay below me (much farther than beneath my bed), even mentally picturing some charts in a book read in my youth about the old 19th century “Hollow-Earth Theory.” One version said there were “concentric earths,” each with a separate sky, in which there was a separate sun( and, I guess, separate moon and stars as well).
 I also thought of the old film”Journey to the Center of the Earth”(1959), some of its scenes having been filmed in Carlsbad Caverns. I then remembered the tragedy in this movie where the antagonist consumes a pet duck of one of the “journeyers”( in this case, “why a duck?” being due to the fact that the duck was the only non-human member of the expedition and the hungry antagonist was not a cannibal).

Thinking farther “downward,” I remembered the levels of Hell in Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” and especially that horrific scene at Hell’s core, where Satan continually chews upon the living bodies of Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot, the first two, traitors to Caesar, and the last, traitor to Christ.

 These “opposites’ “of above and below were merely inspired by that chance juxtaposition of lightning bug, lightning, and stars. I then imagined the “bug light”(not Lowe’s variety), lightning flash, and stars being one and the same, with that lightning in the sky coming from great, flashing “Rodan-esque” insect abdomens in the clouds. Far above these are those furthest lights produced by the “space fireflies,” so far away that they only seem to “blink” every few hundred years or so.
Such are the things which pop into a suddenly awakened brain in the wee hours: a-world-within-a-world-within-a-world, the skyward point beyond which there is no more breathable air, and lightning bugs of earth, sky, and space.

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