Sam gazed at the last remnants of the setting sun. Brilliant oranges were gone; the horizon was a pale orange with a deep pastel blue slowly fading to the almost black skies of night.
His thoughts had wandered to the past and the first time he visited this spot in the desert. Solitary by nature, he would spend his spare time looking for places in the desert rarely or unvisited by humans. This was one, and required a short hike to reach. It was more than special and he'd only shared it with one other person.
The first time he was here, it was the second evening after a rare rain storm. The desert was blooming and the flowers appeared alien in the sparse landscape. Deciding to camp for the night, he'd pitched a small tent and soon fell into a deep sleep after dark.
It was after midnight when he awoke. The night was without a breeze and almost silent. Unaccustomed to such silence, he left the tent and gazed into the night.
The stars appeared globular in the deep darkness of the desert night. After a few minutes of gazing, he realized the bright stars seemed to blaze in what could only be described as a silver background of small diamonds on black velvet. The Milky Way was like a brilliant smudge of light that ran from horizon to horizon.
Young, and unaccustomed to such a display, Sam was awed by the splendor of the heavens. He spent long moments scanning the sky. Every section brought new vistas of delight. He felt a wonder, and contentment, he'd never felt before.
It was almost an hour before Sam's attention wandered from the skies. Gazing across the desert, he found something that broke his thoughts and spent a few moments wondering if he was hallucinating.
Dim, multicolored globes of light seemed to drift among the flowers as though gently pushed by a breeze. They were small; maybe only a few inches across; and stopped for short moments at each flower, which was briefly bathed in the dim light.
Straining his eyes, he could see something quite small in the center of each globe. He couldn't tell what it was, but they seemed to have appendages similar to small humans, which grasped the flowers for a few moments, as though harvesting something from each flower.
Sam watched for hours, barely moving; he feared too much movement would cause the globes to leave. When the zodiacal light appeared, the globes seemed to congregate in one spot, which soon grew to a large silver globe. Slowly accelerating, the ever shrinking globe disappeared among the stars.
The sound of a jet pulled Sam's attention away from his thoughts. Looking up, he saw the tiny flashes from the navigation lights of a jet, which was tens of thousands of feet above the desert. Within minutes, the sound faded and the flashing specks of light soon disappeared towards the horizon.
Sam returned to his thoughts and his second visit to this secret spot. It was around twenty years after his first visit and he wasn't sure if it would be as wonderful as his first.
He'd brought his wife, with the plan of a surprise. He could only hope the first event wasn't an isolated occurrence. The thought it was an isolated event prevented him from ever discussing his first visit. His wife, who also loved the isolation of the desert, was only thinking of spending the night in a spot that was covered with flowers from a rare rain shower. She was awed by the beauty and voiced her anticipation of the sunset that would soon arrive.
As the sun set, and the beautiful sky slowly faded, his wife asked: "Should we light a lantern?"
Sam only had a short reply: "No. It will spoil the beautiful night. There's enough light to see."
After the sun set, and they spent a few long minutes viewing the night sky, both turned in and soon fell into sleep.
It was before midnight when Sam awoke. Slowly leaving the small tent, he gazed into the beautiful night sky for a few minutes before he would even look at the desert. He was apprehensive and hopeful, but knew how disappointed he'd be if there was nothing to see.
Sam decided it was time, and scanned the desert for the small globes. Within seconds, he realized they weren't to be found. Disappointed, he gazed for a few more minutes and made the decision it was only a fluke, or he had indeed hallucinated. He'd return to the tent and keep his secret forever.
Sam found his wife had left the tent and was sitting at his side. Lost in his thoughts, he didn't notice her quiet exit from the tent.
Feeling selfish, Sam found her presence and appreciation brought him joy. It was beautiful and the isolation was intoxicating.
Quietly replying, Sam's voice reflected his awe of the night: "It's more than beautiful."
The spent a few long minutes in silence, which was broken by a question from his wife: "That hazy star is beautiful."
In the dim light, Sam could see his wife pointing to a spot in the sky. Looking towards the spot revealed a hazy star, which slowly grew larger, as though it was coming closer.
Within a few seconds, Sam realized it looked just like the globe he'd seen decades before.
"What is it? It's seem to be getting bigger."
"Just wait. You'll soon see."
The silver globe slowly settled to a spot right above the ground. Within seconds, dim, multicolored globes of light appeared and drifted apart into the desert. Soon, they were drifting among the flowers; just like before.
In a whisper, his wife asked: "What are they?"
Sam whispered a reply: "I don't know, but I've seen them before."
"Should we try to take a picture?"
"No. If we do, they may disappear forever"
Over the next hours, they both watched, almost in silence, as the globes drifted among the flowers.
As the zodiacal light appeared, the small globes merged into the large silver globe, which slowly disappeared among the stars.
After that night, he made a pact with his wife: They'd never say anything to anyone about their experience.
Sam drifted off to sleep, while thinking of how it seemed like it was only yesterday; even though two decades had passed.
Sam awoke after midnight. His seventy year old joints ached in the night chill. Slowly rising, he realized he'd fallen asleep where he sat watching the sunset.
Again, the night sky was awe inspiring. He only glanced at the sky for moment, before searching the desert for the globes. They were there. Floating among the flowers, with purpose and as wonderful as before.
They were closer this time. Sam could make out the tiny figures as they wandered between the flowers. Some, which surprised Sam, drifted very close and hovered within arms reach. The tiny figures appeared as tiny humans; suited in silver and seemingly inquisitive of the old man that sat quietly and observed.
Sam only watched. He wanted to reach out an touch the globes, but feared his movement would cause them to leave.
Over the next few hours, Sam watched, wondered and pushed the thoughts aside that told him this was his last visit. He doubted he could ever make a future visit unattended and felt such a special place was to never be revealed.
When the zodiacal light appeared, the globes merged into the large silver globe once again. As Sam watched, it slowly drifted towards him, stopped within a few feet and hovered almost within arms reach.
The silver globe was a myriad of tiny figures; all on one side. Sam felt as though he was being observed and wondered if he was.
After a few minutes, the globe slowly drifted upwards and accelerated into the sky. Soon, it was only a pin point among the stars that faded away.
It wasn't long before the sun appeared on the horizon. Sam gathered his belongings, made the short hike to his car and placed them in the trunk. Pausing, he looked at the flowers that would soon disappear. Reaching, he picked a small bouquet and placed them on the front seat.
As he drove away, Sam's thoughts were of his last visit, the visits before and the plan to make a short stop on the way home. He'd place the bouquet on his wife's grave. She'd like that. She always loved flowers and the desert.