On March 14, 1983, my best friend Lars and I made the great trek from our home in St. Paul, Minnesota to Podunk, Wyoming.
Why Wyoming? Well, at the ripe age of 23, with a beat up Dodge Aspen and a desire for nothing, Wyoming offered just that: a whole lot of nothing.
And, believe it or not, driving through fields for eight hours had taken its toll on our morale, and we needed a pick-me-up.
It was 2AM, and we eventually found our way to the only convenience store open as we stocked up on as much beer as possible.
"Hey Don," Lars piped up.
"Why don't we take this case to an open field and stargaze a bit?" Lars proposed. "It's not often you get to see the stars like this."
I glanced up. He was right; the lack of light pollution made for an incredible sight. It's not like finding an empty field to relax in would be difficult, either – fields were all that surrounded us.
So we decided to drive until we found a secluded location to park our car and drink; Lars was always a big drinker.
"You should throw on some Dylan," he suggested, as he cracked open two beers for us and handed me a cigarette.
I happily complied, as I popped in my Blood on the Tracks 8-track. The following events will stay with me for the rest of my life.
We were driving down a completely flat and straight two-lane road, which could be weakly classified as a 'highway,' when we see headlights a ways down. Now, as I mentioned before, Wyoming is flat – and I mean unbelievably flat. We could see these headlights from afar, so we couldn't really tell how fast the car was moving toward us or how far away it was.
Suddenly, without warning, the lights shot straight up into the sky at an incredible speed and seemed to have left no trace. I looked at Lars.
"Did you just see that-" we simultaneously gasped, jaws agape.
We didn't really know what to make of the lights; it was only a split-second and didn't give us much to observe. We were more intrigued than spooked, but perhaps both of us were just pretending as to not appear timid. So we kept on driving.
We eventually came to an opening in a fence, in what appeared to be a lone dirt road into a vastly open field.
"DO NOT ENTER – PRIVATE PROPERTY" was printed on this lopsided, tattered, and barely-legible sign.
We looked at each other with a smirk as to say "good enough for me."
Meet me in the morning Fifty-sixth and Wabasha
Bob Dylan crooned on my shitty sound system while the car rocked and jumped over the dirt road.
As we drove down, we encountered more signs, pretty much to the same effect as the first: "PRIVATE PROPERTY" and "KEEP OUT," and the like.
But as we kept driving, the signs became increasingly… aggressive, finally culminating in "DEADLY FORCE AUTHORIZED BEYOND THIS POINT."
I became very uneasy and stopped the car. I could tell Lars was uncomfortable, too.
Suddenly, and actually out of fucking nowhere, a bright spotlight engulfed us and four Jeeps surrounded the car.
Men in unmarked white uniforms had us at gunpoint with military-grade rifles.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" one of the strange guards screamed behind his gun.
As calmly as possible, we raised our hands and tried to explain that we were simply two degenerates trying to catch a buzz and see the stars.
After a few seconds of pleading, the guard ordered his men to put their guns down; he seemed more annoyed than anything.
"Listen, you guys can't be here. Leave. Now. We will escort you back to the main road."
Thank Christ. I had nearly shat myself. I carefully maneuvered a three-point-turn to turn around on this narrow road and drove back the way we came. We glanced at each other, too shaken up to even talk.
The drive back to the main road seemed to be much longer than before.
"Stop," said a wide-eyed Lars.
"STOP! JUST FUCKING STOP!" he screamed, "DO YOU SEE THAT?! IN THE SHADOWS!"
I slammed the brakes. "See what?! What the fuck ar-"
Without warning, he bolted from the car into the open field. I was frozen in a state of shock, as the armed guards in the Jeep following us yelled and ran after him.
I hopped out to chase after him; as soon as I stepped foot outside the car I crumpled to the ground in the fetal position.
I experienced the most extreme tinnitus I've ever heard. It was so loud, I was physically forced to the ground and began to pull on my hair and scream. My nose began to bleed.
The tinnitus grew louder, and I was able to make out words:
They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn
I was hearing what was playing from the 8-track in my car, but it was impossibly loud and seemed to fill the air.
I was able to make out gunshots and a guard screaming at me to get back in my car as I writhed on the ground, physically unable to move. The feeling of helplessness and impending doom engulfed me.
When I awoke, I was neatly parked on the main road. It was dawn, as the sun was just starting to peak over the horizon.
It took me a minute to recount where the fuck I was or what the fuck happened. Did I imagine it? I looked down at the dry blood on my shirt and the patches of hair missing from my head and the empty passenger seat.
My stomach dropped. I needed to get as far away from that place as fast as possible. I called the police as soon as I got to a pay phone but couldn't bear to stick around and wait for them.
On March 15, 1983, I made the loneliest drive back to St. Paul, Minnesota.
Lars was never found.
Please, if you have any information or know of anything similar happening… please contact me.
I'm okay now. Although not nearly as bad, the ringing in my ears has never left.
But you wouldn't know it by me Every day's been darkness since you've been gone