“THE BLACK SPHERE” by Patrick Greene – Fictional Horror Story #WeirdDarkness #ThrillerThursday
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IN THIS EPISODE: It’s #ThrillerThursday and I’m bringing you an original story of fiction from one of our own Weirdo family members, Patrick Greene… it’s a story he has titled “The Black Sphere.”
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode… it’s #ThrillerThursday and I’m bringing you an original story of fiction from one of our own Weirdo family members, Patrick Greene… it’s a story he has titled “The Black Sphere.”
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, to enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
My four years in Army engineering were right around the worst of the Vietnam conflict. But I’d never set foot in Nam. Thinking a step ahead, I enlisted and got into something safe (engineering) before they could draft me.
Yet here I was, seventeen months after the official end of conflict, heading into the deepest part of the Nam jungle, up behind Co Khao. If I could have chosen between combat and what was about to happen, I’d have jumped into front-line infantry with both boots.
I got a good job with French hydroelectric outfit Electrique Mourant thanks to yet another moment of brilliant foresight. When U.S. involvement in the quagmi- uh, excuse me, I meant war, started wrapping up, I figured companies from all over would be brought in to help with reconstruction, or in this case, expansion. EM got the contract to put juice in the deep boonies of our latest freedom-spreading venture, and I landed on the crew to lay the final survey markers. When I say deep, I mean remote. This parcel was a good few klicks from the most remote village.
The other guys were chosen for their background and familiarity with the region. They were all vets too, only with actual combat experience.
Trainor was stationed with me in Texas. He got on with EM at my recommendation. Happ was almost 60, but fit as a fiddle, funny as hell, and always up for adventure or any other type of good times. Frenchman Duarte was both ridiculously intelligent -his English was better than mine- and tough as nails, having served in the Legion. There were two security contractors, Bolan and Domingo, along to protect us from wildlife; tigers and monkeys I presume — or unfriendly jungle rats, meaning any natives who still had a hate-on for foreigners.
Bolan, I knew from basic, of all places. Hadn’t seen him since. Turned out he saw a good bit of action — and really missed it, the way a retired boxer misses getting his head bashed, I guess. A good guy, if quick to talk himself up a bit much. As for Domingo, we all found it funny, including him, that he was not connected to any of us in any way.
After a sweet two-day stay at a swank French resort on the beach, we stowed our gear on the Jeep and checked out. Then came time to stand around in the parking garage and show off our weapons, a long-held tradition in the world of ex-military men who still did military stuff. Everybody had a handgun, naturally, and we all got to spit a lot of technical jargon. Mine was just a no-frills .32, but I kept her clean, so the fellas showed it some love. Bolan had a brand-new, top-of-the-line game rifle, courtesy of the company. Domingo carried a twelve gauge. It looked like it loved him, if that makes any sense.
Cracking wise the whole way, we rode a good thirty miles up Nan Sang; a rougher road than any I’d ever seen back when I was a punk hellraiser out in the mountains of North Carolina. The road ran out – literally just ended, at the edge of a high bamboo forest, so we hiked to the big open field that EM’s boys in the scouting choppers had settled on. The file said it never got too overgrown, thanks to rocks and bad soil.
The hike was less than half a mile. There wouldn’t have been much to it if not for the viny ground cover that was always snaring our boots, the soul-sapping heat, and the relentless insects. As rough as the jolting ride had been, the slow, plodding passage was probably worse. At least in the Jeeps, we had some wind hitting us. This stifling stillness made every breath feel like a cup of hot sweat.
“Don’t get carried off, boys,” Happ quipped, futilely waving through a roiling cloud of big-ass black bugs we would soon come to call “buzz bats.”
On either side, the jungle gradually opened up again, into sparse tree lines. Beyond the field was a dense little jungle of teak and bamboo about five hundred yards square. Happ, doing a decent Rod Serling, gave this section a name too. “You have entered… The Dark Realm.” We all laughed at that little verbal swerve.
About fifty yards back from The Dark Realm we set up camp; a tent for the radio, collapsible chairs, stove, and sleeping bags. Then we headed in to check out the spots that EM’s helicopter pilots had chosen in their godlike wisdom.
Despite the hardships, we all got along fine. Once we established a decent workflow, we started dropping wisecracks again, with Trainor the de facto cut-down target for a while. Then it was my turn. Around twilight, it finally cooled down some, but we were just about drained. The buzz bats got worse, the jokes petered out, and we just focused on reaching the day’s goal.
We were behind by about an hour when Trainor and Happ started pacing off a line toward the field’s edge, with Bolan tagging along. I was on radio with them.
They plunged into the tree line behind a curtain of vines. I gave them about ten seconds, then cleverly asked “You there yet?”
I got hit with a slug of static so loud it could’ve come out of a stadium amp at a Led Zeppelin show. I tossed the radio away and fell back on my ass, staring at it lying there in the brush like it was a hornet’s nest.
“Swan!?” Domingo shouted from the other end of camp. “What the hell was that!?”
“Radio went bananas.” A weird tingle crept up my neck; like that high alert you get on night patrol – or so I hear. The two-way blasted again, just as loud. This time I cried out.
“What are you doing man!?” Domingo yelled. “This damned radio.” I got up and walked a circle around it, scared to pick it up.
The lazy violet South Pacific twilight suddenly flashed bright as high noon.
I looked up to see a hazy ball of blue light cross the sky to the right – over where Trainor, Happ and Bolan were. It wasn’t all that fast; moved more like a train than a comet. But it came and went like the kind of uneasy dream you might have when you’re napping on duty, and part of your brain knows not to drift too far.
I stood there, blinking at the smeary trail it left on my retina. The radio sounded again, normal this time. “You there, Swan?” Glad to hear Happ’s gravelly voice, I picked it up. “Here.”
“Did you see that crazy light thing just now?”
“Sure did,” I answered.” You don’t know what it was?”
“How the hell would I know?” Happ said. He must have forgotten to release the button. I could hear him breathing like he’d just done a full PT. “We’re heading back. Don’t mind telling you — we’re all a little spooked.”
“Roger that. Let’s wrap it up for the day and smoke a jay.” I just said it for the rhyme, hoping to break some tension.
By then Domingo had come over. There was still too much flare in my eyes to see his expression, but I figured it was the same as mine.
“If it was wartime, I’d dismiss that as some kind of mortar anomaly,” he said.
“Man, if I saw that thing in the middle of a firefight, I’d surrender, quick as hell,” I said — like I knew anything about firefights and mortars.
We headed back, feeling kind of weirdly energized. “Atingle” I’d dare say. My first thought was that there was a lot of static electricity or something in the air, in the wake of the. meteor, I decided it was.
Happ and Bolan built the campfire like it was the most important task in the world, exchanging this weird look the whole time – but no conversation.
A weird thing I noticed – the buzz bats were gone. I don’t know anything about Vietnamese insect life, but I’d never known the mosquitos back home to pack it in this early. Duarte went straight to the main tent and radioed the bosses. First thing he mentioned was the light we saw. There was silence on the other end, long enough to have us thinking we’d lost communication. For some reason, I got this sudden panic — like we’d all be stuck out here. Forever. Then someone came back on and told Duarte to log it, along with our progress.
Duarte asked us all to describe it for his write-up. Trainor was the closest to an artist among us, so he sketched it – for what it was worth. Any of us could have scribbled a fuzzy ball. Still, the trees and shadows he added for perspective made for a nice touch.
I made supper my business – a small matter of opening cans and boiling water.
It was full dark when we settled in around the fire. Bolan kept his rifle right up against him like a new girlfriend, and I was glad. Then we finally started talking about the bright-as-hell elephant in the room.
“My papa saw one of those things in our vineyard when he was a boy,” Duarte began, checking our faces.
“Sampled his own product, sounds like,” said Happ through a mouthful of spam. We all laughed at his delivery. Better than Johnny Carson.
Duarte laughed the loudest, then went on, the fire sparking in his eyes like the cigarette tips advertising the street corner hookers we had all gawked at a block from the hotel.
“From about twenty meters away he saw a shining…” He held out his hands, rounding his fingers. “…circle. A machine.” Duarte was a good sport about being ribbed, but you couldn’t mistake the discomfort he felt. “It put out legs on the soil, there in the middle of the field. A kind of ramp dropped from the bottom, and a little man stepped down. Pa said he saw the little man’s face.”
We stared at Duarte, his features dancing in the firelight like the shadows of startled rabbits, as he shoveled in a mouthful of cheap-grade meat, just peering deep into the little tin cavern.
“So? What’d he look like?” asked Bolan with a nervous little chuckle.
“Duarte’s dad?” deadpanned Happ. “Like Duarte, only stained all purple, I expect.”
We laughed our cans off, sending echoes into the ebony and teak trees – The Dark Realm – across the field.
“The spaceman, moron!” Trainor cackled.
Happ kept a straight face of course, but there was some wonderment there in those orange-lit crow’s feet and laugh lines.
Duarte leaned so far forward I thought his hair might catch fire. “He couldn’t remember,” Duarte said. “Papa remembers everything else. The little ship, the man’s uniform — but the face is a blur.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Trainor wondered.
Duarte shrugged. “Papa said it was like that part of his memory, just that one little section, was – erased.” Duarte thought for a second. “Painted over.”
Bolan looked back toward where we’d seen the flying flash, then at Happ, like he was hoping for a skeptical quip. “What if they can just. mold our memories? Like clay, so we don’t even know if…?”
“Who’s “they” Bolan?” Happ interrupted.
Bolan shrugged. “Whoever’s piloting these… things. Bolan stood about six-four and weighed an easy two-forty. But right then, with his eyes all bugged-out, he sounded so much like a vulnerable ten-year-old that he almost looked like one too. We all burst out laughing.
“I never said that light was a. a spaceman,” backtracked Duarte.
“You pretty much did, Frenchie,” I said. “Said your dad saw one anyway.”
“Eh.” Duarte shook his canteen, tossing his empty meat can into the fire.” I don’t know.”
“Gotta whiz,” Domingo grunted, checking his hip for his sidearm, a nice nickel Beretta that I coveted.
We all knew to keep bathroom business out from the camp, so’s not to bring all kinds of wildlife traipsing up to see who was marking their turf. We had settled on a spot at the edge of The Dark Realm a good twelve yards from camp. Yeah, it was a bit of a walk, but it beat having a three-foot monitor lizard crawl into our sleeping bags or being pissed on head-to-toe by agitated monkeys.
We moved on to other topics – what we did before this gig, what was next – anything but the flying light.
“Hey!” Domingo called to us. “Guys!”
“Can’t find your wanger?” asked Happ. Predictable I know, but like I said, it was his delivery that made all the difference.
“Get out here!”
We all grudgingly stood up and trudged toward The Dark Realm. The laughs were gone by the time we made out the shape of Domingo.
There were no animal sounds. I felt a heavy vacuum, a feeling of absence, not just in myself, but coming from the other fellas too.
“Come here, come here!” Domingo whispered.
As we came up beside him, Domingo jabbed his finger at a section of blackness maybe six yards away. “Look there for a second. Let your eyes adjust.”
As I did, a perfect circle, about eight feet wide, formed, like sand washing away from a seashell. It was then Happ clicked on his flashlight.
“Don’t!” I said reflexively.
Not a flat circle — a solid sphere; matte-black, and smooth like polished onyx.
By the time we all spouted our variations of “What the hell?” Happ walked right up within a couple of feet, trailing his beam over the surface.
“It’s a fallen satellite,” offered Duarte.
“Yeah? Well, it ain’t finished falling then,” said Happ, shining his light at the bottom curve of the thing to show us It was hovering at least a foot above the ground.
We all just stared at it for maybe a minute, Happ covering every visible inch with the beam, walking a wide circle around it.
“Anything?” I asked.
“I don’t see whatever’s suspending it,” Happ answered. “But there’s no motor-type sound either.”
“Yeah. Sure is quiet,” Trainor said.
“It’s not giving off any heat.” Happ came back over to stand beside us for a second, then drew his knife.
“Hold on,” I said. “It might shock you or something.” Duarte took his insulated gloves out of his back pocket and tossed them to Happ. He slid them on, and we all stepped back exactly as far as he stepped forward. Bolan raised his rifle.
Happ didn’t make any kind of production out of it, just strode up and dragged his knife blade across the surface of the thing. It sounded muffled, like it was coated with Teflon or industrial plastic. Everybody who had a light was holding it right where Happ used the knife. There was no scratch or mark at all. Happ slid his rubber-coated fingers across it.
“What’s if feel like?”
“No heat? Vibrations?”
“Nothing.” Happ sheathed his knife and came back to our group. “Domingo, you done your business?” he asked. “Shake it off and let’s get back.”
“We’re just gonna bed down with this thing floating out here?” Trainor asked.
“Happ is right,” said Duarte. “We finish eating, and we get some sleep. We’ll take a closer look at this object in the morning.”
“Object’” I said. I guess it felt a little weird to talk about it like it was mundane, or even real.
“Maybe we should have somebody stand guard tonight,” said Trainor.
“You volunteering?” I asked.
“Why don’t we do two-at-a-time, for two-hour shifts?”
“Me, I need my sleep.” Happ started back to camp. “You fellows do what you want.” As with his jokes, his brush-off carried a lot of weight. It made us feel like superstitious rubes. If the others were like me, they were weighing how they’d tell the suits at EM that we got behind schedule because of some floating black whatzit. The topic of guard shifts was dropped.
“Yeah, okay. I’m a light sleeper anyways.” Bolan checked his rifle magazine and his sidearm as he started back to camp, giving the sphere one last glance.
We sat down and dug back into our rations, silent at first, then pointedly trying to find a topic of conversation that would make the black thing easier to ignore. Everybody finished eating in a hurry.
It was a cool night, so we all decided to roll out our sleeping bags around the fire. Nobody suggested ghost stories.
I thought of the resort, where we had just spoiled ourselves silly on the company dime. Our game of chicken fight in the indoor pool had me smiling.
Without a word, Trainor popped up from his sleeping bag like he’d just realized he left the oven on.
“Piss for me too, would ya, Trainor?” mumbled Happ.
Trainor didn’t answer or laugh, or even bother to slide on his boots. He just walked toward the tree line, The Dark Realm, straight as a pin
“Left your boots, dumbass!” I called. I watched him till he merged with the dark. Then I closed my eyes and pretended, for the first time in my life, that a nice house and a family were waiting for me back in Knoxville, instead of my empty apartment where I didn’t even bother to hide my Hustler magazines.
“Where the hell did he go?” whispered Bolan. “Huh?” I must have dozed off. It took me a second to realize he meant Trainor. “Pissing.”
“Twenty minutes?” Bolan whispered.
“Hope he took his teddy,” grumbled Happ. “So’s he don’t get too lonesome.”
“Probably having trouble with his butt hatch,” added Domingo. “Go help him, Swan.”
“Har har,” I said.
Just as I dozed off again, a clattering sound jerked me awake. Turned out to be Happ, kicking over the coffee pot.
I raised my head and saw a trail of glowing sticks and coals. He’d just walked right through the fire, like an zombie. Good thing he had bedded down with his boots on. I sat up and watched him tread off toward the tree line, just like Trainor.
“You going to get Trainor?” I asked.
Happ just kept walking, not even stumbling in the dark, making a beeline for the tree line, if you will.
“Swan!” called Bolan. “Domingo!”
We answered in a groggy chorus.
“That was weird as hell, don’t you think?” He was up, stomping out the stray embers.
“Maybe they’re sexy for each other.” No one found my little quip funny. “You going after ‘em, Bolan?”
“Nah.” He bedded back down. “Just getting annoyed, that’s all.”
I peered out toward the tree line, though I couldn’t really see past ten or twelve feet. I was just hoping those two bozos weren’t planning some summer camp oogedy-boogedy garbage. If they did, I was ready to give them nothing, just act like I slept right through it.
But I wasn’t sleepy any longer, that was for sure.
I looked at Bolan and then Domingo, and I could tell they were both fixated on the tree line too – and the big black ball that undoubtedly still hovered there.
“Dammit, somebody’s gotta go check on those two.” Before I finished, Bolan rose and walked off the same way as Trainor and Happ, leaving his rifle by his sleeping bag. It occurred to me right then that the way he walked was the same as the other two. Their stride was weirdly confident – efficient – considering how dark it was – and what was out there.
“Bolan!” I shouted. Domingo repeated. He was looking at me, but the fire was too low for me to make out his expression. Probably for the best.
“You guys pulling some kind of joke?” he asked me.
“If so, I’m not in on it.
“Let’s just go out there,” I suggested. “See what’s what.
“We’ll give ‘em a minute, I guess”
“You’re the boss, applesauce.”
I couldn’t see squat, so I just listened. The silence was solid, complete. I didn’t like it.
I got up and shoved my feet into my boots. “Let me go take a whiz and we’ll walk out there and bust their chops,” I told Domingo. He didn’t respond.
I ventured out about ten paces, the opposite direction of the Dark Realm, more than far enough for camp protocol, did my biz, hustled back.
“Let’s go,” I said. Domingo didn’t answer. I found my flashlight and clicked it on. His empty sleeping bag just lay there like he was never planning to use it again. “Domingo?”
I shouted out for the others and got nothing.
“All right,for cyring out loud!” I called. It sounded lonelier than it did angry. “Har… har!”
Okay, now I knew it was a prank, and I’d been elected the mark. I had to admit – it was funny, at first. And then yeah, I got seriously spooked. Now, it was just irritating. I bedded down again but it was all show, and I was my own audience. I couldn’t keep my eyes closed, for fear they would dogpile me or dowse me, or something else idiotic.
After about five minutes, I wasn’t worried about that kind of crap anymore. They had to know this job was too big a project to be messing around into the late hours.
Besides – that big black spider’s eye was out there.
I checked my .32 and hugged it against my chest. I thought about calling out to the others again, but — it just seemed absurd to think they would hear me.
Staring at the dark husks of their sleeping bags, I realized that each of them had gotten up and walked off at intervals of about twenty minutes. I hadn’t checked my watch in a while, but it felt like at least ten since I’d come back to find Domingo gone.
I’d felt scared and alone before. But not with weird crap like this going on. Being a million miles from home made it a million times worse.
I decided to radio headquarters. If I had to, I’d make up something, and beg them to come and get me. You can bet I wasn’t gonna stay the night out here. One way or another, I just wouldn’t. That was settled.
But it wasn’t the radio tent where I found myself heading. It was the tree line.
I had no control over my own legs.
Something buzzed in my head — not words, but something intelligent. And insistent. And irresistible. I tried to call out, but my voice wouldn’t work. It felt like parts of my brain had been hijacked.
As soon as my legs took me past the fire, I immediately lost my sense of place. I couldn’t see where I was going. But I knew.
I was going to the sphere.
Its control was quickly spreading like an infection, erasing my will – but not my helpless terror. With an exhausting effort, I looked behind me. I only saw the dim orange embers of our campfire, fading fast.
I still had a gambler’s chance, and the game was Russian Roulette.
I raised my pistol in front of me, aiming along the center of my forced path, and squeezed off three shots into the dark, into the sphere. There was no sound of impact or ricochet.
Then I thought of Happ’s knife, how it didn’t even leave a scratch.
I had three shots left, and with vines of unholy influence taking root in my brain like a parasite weed — a sickening choice.
I had just enough time to end myself.
Just as I raised the .32 to my head, my legs started working faster, as if to outrun my trigger finger. I was almost at a run when I thought of one other option – and cursed myself for not coming up with it in time to help the others.
I put the gun barrel against my right knee — and fired.
Damn, did it hurt! I fell to my side, absorbed in the sudden burning agony of splintered bone and joint. Without control of my legs, I hit the ground hard, knocked breathless. But my good left leg was still trying to walk, heel and toe arcing back and forth in the dirt like an upended wind-up doll.
“To hell with it,” I thought out loud, and blasted a hole right through the top of my left foot.
I screamed like a new arrival in hell. My legs still tried to move, alternating in a shaky, grounded dance. I raised the gun to my head once more, ready to make use of that last round to keep from facing both the unknown and this searing pain, if I somehow started moving again.
My legs went limp. They had been released.
If only they had gone numb too. I guess I was no longer suitable for its… their… purposes. Or just not worth the trouble.
The crawl back to camp – about twenty yards – was sheer hell. I couldn’t look behind me, dead certain that if I did, I would see that thing coming at me like a ten-ton boulder rolling downhill.
It was a good three hours before dawn. Thinking of Duarte’s dad, and the blur-faced being that landed on his grape field, I was too terrified to crawl into the radio tent, not even for the first aid kit. Nothing in there would ease my pain anyway. I’d suffer till dawn – if I lived – and then make the call.
I had my last bullet – the most precious possession I have ever owned – and I had my watch to tell me how long it was till dawn.
There were lots of cold little nuggets floating around in my head to keep me company — like, what if dawn never came? I’d be easy prey for the jungle’s sharp-toothed regulars, or worse — for that god-forsaken black sphere.
My bad luck was what ran out, though. Duarte’s accounting of the light must’ve lit a fire under somebody’s can. A rescue team rolled in double time, just as day broke, along with a couple of suits, who grilled me for ten minutes or so about the last twenty-four hours which wasn’t exactly doing me a favor. I was already trying to forget it.
As I lay there in the bay of the chopper the pilot handed me a canteen of, judging by his Tennessee accent, moonshine. Maybe he nipped while flying, or maybe he brought it just for me. I didn’t care. While I was being carried out, a handful of Rangers checked the area. They didn’t find anything or anyone, including my pals.
These days, I get around my place okay with a cane. Got full retirement, long as I keep my mouth shut, and neighbors on both sides keep me from feeling too alone.
I’m always watching the trees around twilight, though.
And I always keep my lucky bullet handy.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host like “Retro Radio – Old Time Radio in the Dark”, “Micro Terrors; Scary Stories for Kids”, “The Church of the Undead”, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a paranormal or creepy tale to tell of your own, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Thriller Thursday episodes are works of fiction.
“The Black Sphere” was written by Patrick Greene – you can find links to his blog and to his published books through links I’ve placed in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness® – is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’.” – Mark 6:49-50
And a final thought… “As soon as you are courageous enough to deal with sadness, worry and resentment, you have taken the first step toward letting go. It takes courage to face what is going on in your life instead of resisting or hiding from it.” – Deb Sakry Lande, and Ursula Pottinga
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.