Little Black Cloud

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SUMMER 2006

This is among the strangest things that ever happened to me, as I don’t even have a way of classifying the incident. I’m not even sure what you’d call it, other than a bizarre weather anomaly. Other strange factors played in to the story as well which I still can’t account for…

I was in a band at the time, and it was a regular occasion that we’d throw raging parties after shows and band practices. On this day, the frontman of the band had a party at his apartment, so the harmonica player and I naturally headed that way. It was late afternoon or early evening, the kind of calm summer day with sparse wispy clouds and no wind. Warm, but the perfect weather for driving with the windows down. My harmonica player friend was driving his beat up station wagon and I rode shotgun as we approached the intersection of Park Avenue and Main St, coming from the east and positioned to continue onto Stafford St. We were second in line at the red light waiting patiently when things got weird.

Things got really quiet. Like, still, and silent. Everybody had a red light, on all sides of the intersection, and there was barely any sound or movement. We both started to wonder what was up with the traffic light – there was no pedestrian crossing light on or any pedestrians… Everyone else held captive at the whim of the stubborn traffic light sat motionless and apparently unperturbed in their cars. What’s very bizarre about this as anyone from Massachusetts can tell you is that drivers here are among the most aggressive and impatient in the country. And on any given day regardless of what’s going on, one expects to hear some city noise – car horns, loud stereo systems, shouts, sirens… But not this day.

I really don’t know how long this eerie moment that seemed so dreamlike and surreal actually lasted, suffice to say it was an inordinate length of time to have that many people stalled at an intersection. The spell was broken rather suddenly as dark clouds made their way in from every direction and the sky went from blue with wisps of stratus clouds to black to the point of blocking out the sun! This happened very rapidly, and before either of us had a chance to comment on it, an explosive burst of thunder roared above our heads and we were blinded by a flash of brilliant white light. A loud pop was heard from the rear of the car as if in reaction to the blast… Both of us experienced electric, static effects – a tingling sensation and our hair standing on end.

Then, as quickly as the cloud first appeared, it dispersed. The sun broke through, the calm of a summer evening returned, and the light turned green. We rolled on through the intersection onto Stafford St and proceeded to freak out about whatever the hell that was…

The station wagon was dragging a bit of metal from the undercarriage, and we surmised that we were likely struck by lightning. Of course we were eager to tell our friends all about it at the party, which was no more than 1000 ft from the intersection in question. “You got struck by lightning?”, they asked incredulously. “There isn’t a cloud in the sky! What are you talking about?”
Of course no one believed us, and no one was inclined to give it too much attention. After all, there was beer to be drunk, and a party to be enjoyed. And down through the years my harmonica playing friend has spun the tale to his friends, very few of whom ever seem impressed. I’ve had similarly lackluster results in relating the tale of the time he and I were struck by lightning as though being smited by the hand of the Almighty…

We both know what we experienced that day, and presumably everyone else at that intersection saw it too. But who knows what it was, or why? I’ve always felt there was some divine or mystical reason for that as it all seemed so unnatural. The stillness and silence was something akin to the “Oz Factor” I’ve heard described, almost as though time had stopped. The formation of the cloud and the rapid thunderstrike and dispersal took literally seconds to play out. I really can’t account for it. Maybe someone reading this can – but I took it as having some kind of significance. Being struck by lightning is something I’d usually consider to be a bad omen… But I seem to have come out of it ok – although I guess you could say I have a little black cloud that follows me around at different points in my life…

Submitted by A.P. Strange, Liminal Ambassador