So you know how it is—sometimes as a fiction writer you come across an extraordinary real-life event that sounds way too paranormal. Or like an over-the-top fantasy that doesn’t even belong in a science fiction tale.
Like, say…. mind over weather….
Years ago I read the autobiography of the award-winning journalist Georgie Ann Geyer, Catching the Night Flight. In her chapter on terrorism she describes being in Cairo in 1973 and receiving news that terrorists in Khartoum, Sudan, had taken a group of male diplomats hostage, including two Americans, at the Saudi embassy. She and other journalists flew to Khartoum that night. All the next day she and others waited anxiously as negotiations went back and forth. Desperation and dread set in among everyone.
“Then suddenly the terrorists grew more violent and more impatient. They set a deadline of 8:00 p.m. for killing the men” unless their demands were met.
“A new mood seized us. It was as though the horror were palpable, as though it were sitting there, in black robes, with its eye sockets empty and staring at us. By 7:30 p.m., as a strange hooded sun was dropping over the spectral villas of Khartoum, we stood on the upstairs balcony staring at the stark silence of the Saudi embassy.”
“And then, at eight o’clock, something so incredible happened that… I thought perhaps I was going quite mad.
“Before my eyes at precisely 8:00 p.m. there passed a perfect vertical wave of sand…”
Khartoum was suddenly in the middle of one of the worst blinding sandstorms it had ever known.
The Sudanese sent in tanks and soldiers. Peoples’ dread and fear and desperation deepened. And the terrorists killed the two American hostages.
“The weirdness of the night outside, as the storm continued to bombard the hapless city, paralleled the weirdness of the night within. Nothing in the world will ever convince me that the two events were not linked, or that we were not linked in some metaphysical whirlpool in which nature took upon itself to symbolize the horrors of men.”
I read that scene years ago and have never forgotten its power.
I’d love to give you one more example of such a “metaphysical” weather/ atmosphere phenomenon, but it’s kinda lengthy so I’ll just tell you that Mark Twain – that very unmetaphysical, unmystical, hard-headed man – describes an eerie scene in his memoir, Roughing It.
On pages 405-407 Twain describes a scene in the sky of July 1863 that was so extraordinary everyone in the Nevada town where he was living came out to stare because it seemed “so like a supernatural visitor… a mysterious messenger… a mystic courier.” Sure enough, the phenomenon coincided with the fall of Vicksburg and the end of the Battle of Gettysburg a couple thousand miles away.
Of course if Twain had inserted such a scene in one of his novels, no one would have believed it.
So how about you? Have you ever come across real-life stories of a emotional-cum-meteorological strangeness? Witnessed one yourself?