Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Clear Skies, Strange Happenings

I stepped outside last night and noticed the darkest, clearest sky I've seen in days. Saturn was so bright, I contemplated dragging my telescope out for some planetary viewing. As I scanned the skies I thought I saw something between Cassiopea and Perseus that looked a little cometary. It reminded me of when my friend Derek and I saw Hale-Bopp before it was announced. I don't think this object is truly a comet, though. I grabbed my binoculars and it somewhat resolved into what appeared to be multiple stars. I looked in an atlas, but it showed no nubulosity or other celestial body in this area. Again I thought about getting out the 'scope, but it was already getting late.

Once I began to suspect my 'comet' was a brighter part of the Milky Way, I started looking at some of the brighter Messier objects. The Great Orion Nebula was very bright and resolved very well in my 10x70 Simmons binoculars. It was quite blue. Andromeda was visible slightly above the horizon, but was naked-eye. I saw a few Persieds streak by, as well.

While I was standing there, looking up, I heard a coyote do his yelp-howl thing. He was near the end of my driveway, which is about 1/10 of a mile long. Before all my neighbors moved in, that was a common thing. All kinds of wildlife used to come up in my yard. Now, it's a little odd to have anything larger than a rabbit come up.

Anyway, it gave me an curious feeling. I think I may have even said something outloud about it, because, a second later, I heard someone/thing cough. It sounded like it came from my neighbor's back yard. I looked that direction, but couldn't make anyone out through the hedges. I had no sooner glanced skyward when I heard the coughing again.

This time it sounded more animalistic. Like an animal with something stuck in it's throat. I didn't look back a second time until I heard the leaves rustling. I looked just as the animal coughed again. There, in the darkness, I made out what appeared to be large black dog about 5 feet away from me and moving erratically in my direction. 'Rabid coyote', was my first thought, but any hurt/sick animal would have fit the bill at that point. The garage seemed safer, suddenly, so a few steps backward were taken.

As I backed up, there was a sudden noise inside the garage, on the other side of the car. I spun quickly in that automatic self-defense mode and balled my fists to meet whatever was coming. Just as quickly, I realized I was unarmed and was probably not going to do any good against a rabid critter, or whatever that thing was with just my fists. I made a quick entrance to the house, and shut the door even quicker with the words, "That's not cool" coming repeatedly from my lips.

Once inside, the memory of the black dog which showed up the night my old TV went out started creeping into my mind. It didn't really sink in until I went to bed. I don't usually turn on any lights as I go to bed. I typically walk in the dark to my bedroom. Not last night. I kept seeing that black dog standing in my driveway, staring at me as if he knew something.