The nearly 2 week long roadtrip took Gerick and I and several of our friends from Portland to Seattle to Boise, and from coastlines to forested mountains and through the desert. At least a third of those nights we saw UFOs of the "distant lights in the sky" variety. Dancing lights in odd colors doing 90-degree maneuvers and wavy leaf-falling movements and dashing quickly to and fro, appearing and disappearing... anytime we seemed to be out and away from cities we learned to look up into the sky and quite often were rewarded with sightings lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours.
The reaction of my friends was interesting to say the least.
Cat missed several sky-lights sightings due to being asleep too early or in the bathroom or running an errand. She got pretty irritated that she kept missing what everyone else was seeing. Yet the times she did see the distant lights, she would frown and complain that they weren't close enough to tell for sure what they were. At that time, having one of my closest longtime friends witness some form of 'proof' that I wasn't lying or crazy was important to me, and I was as frustrated as she was. That she had probably never been taken herself (especially when another friend was) seemed to provoke a certain envy in her, despite my attempts to convince her my position wasn't to be envied.
Wacita, meanwhile, seemed to be taking it all in stride, and shrugged and acted overly blase and was perfectly fine with taking some credit for it. After all, by this time, she had seen a few of the "ball lights" close up and had several missing time episodes on the same nights I did. After she was paired with me at girl scout camp where so many encounters took place, she was put into the program with me, at least on some level for a while. I felt terribly guilty about this. The stranger tales I told her she preferred not to discuss and remained skeptical of-- but distant lights or close up lights were intriguing and cool to her. I found her attitude confounding, since so much of my youth was spent in raw horror over these things. Yet perhaps her attitude was a better one-- and in any event, weirdness certainly wasn't scaring her off as it had other friends and lovers of mine!
Any other friends we might have around at any given time were intrigued and amused by any sightings, and as they weren't told of the deeper, more potentially frightening aspects, I could see why. Several had heard of alien abductions in the media by that time, and a few jokes were cracked about it, but in general it was just a "cool" anomaly to appreciate and speculate about. Gerick and I gave each other significant looks and held our tongues.
He and I often felt "watched" and ended up being creeped out, over and over again, whenever we were out away from the cities and 'burbs. We tried to pay attention in case anything more happened, and sometimes got overwhelmed by paranoia, which for us put a damper on our enjoyment from time to time. However, for most of the roadtrip, such things stayed at a distance and we began to relax just a little.
... Until the day we visited the place Diana insisted I tell Gerick about! I DID tell him of course and he was intrigued, and we instructed our group of friends to take us by the location as we did many other locations. The weather was beautiful and the scenic vistas were well worth the often long, rambling drives off the major highways. After visiting THAT location, we drove for miles upon miles looking for a place to camp for the night. Every campground seemed full and we kept having to drive further and further...
It was sunset by the time we found a place way out in the desert that had spaces open. The campground was nearly deserted, in stark contrast to everywhere else we'd been, maybe because it was one of the newer ones, and we were too thrilled to complain-- instead setting up tents straight away. By the time that was done, dusk was upon us and everyone was exhausted and in agreement to make it an early night.
The distant lights in the sky were gold this time out and did their thing and it was almost no big deal we'd seen so many by this time. Gerick took some photos of the lights including at least one shot of something quite a bit closer up. He'd been taking pics all through the trip and never tried to take shots of the dancing sky lights-- but there was still some light in the sky this time, so he hoped it wouldn't be too hard for his camera to pick up. We were all excited about the closer up shots he and Wacita had seen-- what would processing show? It was determined that the very next day we'd go to a one hour fotomat and find out!
We took turns going to the cinder block type state park restroom building to get ready for bed, and I was waiting my turn by camp with Wac. I noticed Gerick doing something very odd... he stopped walking (back towards us and away from the restroom building) and stopped. Then started. Then stopped. Then he took the camera and started taking pics of the area behind him he seemed so concerned about, the flash lighting the area he pointed his camera at-- though nothing was there as far as any of us could tell. THEN he suddenly turned and ran back towards Wacita and I with wide eyes. When he reached us, Wacita was already on her way to the bathroom-- and he waited 'til she was out of earshot and announced to me, "They're here!"
I knew he must of meant the aliens, but HUH!?
He explained that he heard footsteps behind him on the path, over and over again-- 2 sets of them! He first heard them walk up to the restroom while he was in there (the area we were in was very quiet, no traffic, wind, or insect noise, so you could hear people walking easily on the gravel pathways) and expected someone to come in. No one did. He did not hear whoever it was leave, yet when he went outside he could see no one. When he started walking back, it was obvious 2 people were walking behind him. That was why he kept starting and stopping and then took photos of whoever was behind him!
By this time Cat was back so I took off for the restroom myself, only now I was scared. A part of me didn't want to believe Gerick because I didn't want to be so scared. I heard Wacita finish on the other side of the building and so I was very alone and all was quiet.
But then I heard it... footsteps. 2 sets of them crunching on the gravel sounding exactly like a person! I quickly finished up and raced outside and sure enough saw no one. By this time it was nearly dark, but I could still see clearly without help of a flashlight. I began the slight trek to the tents and shuddered when after about 30 feet I heard footsteps clearly behind me! Damn it! Where was Gerick? Why was he leaving me here on my own knowing there was something going on tonight!?!
I went another 20 feet or so and heard the footsteps sound up again and follow me, and I began to think furiously. What does one DO with INVISIBLE beings? I surmised it was a "cloak" or something. (This was before I saw a demonstration of invisibility by the aliens.) I suddenly stopped, bent down for 2 big handfuls of those small pebbles at my feet, turned, and cast them into the direction of the footfalls behind me. I strained to see if any of them bounced off solid beings that would be otherwise impossible to track-- but the small gravel disappeared into the darkness too much to tell. I hissed loudly, "Stop scaring me! This is hard enough as it is without your bullshit, guys!"
Just then I heard loud crunching from the other direction! I spun to see Gerick jogging up to me. He reached out a hand, "Come on!" and I was relieved to grab it and run with him back to the group of people already getting into tents, declining so much as starting a fire that night. Gerick shook his head, "They'll fall asleep in no time..." and I nodded. Whenever aliens are around, other people get unaccountably drowsy and will fall quickly into a dead sleep. I dreaded that inevitable pattern emerging again-- yet I knew to expect it.
I piled into the large "girls tent" with 3 other young women, and Gerick was the only guy in his tent. Within 20 minutes, however, he begged to join us, too scared to be alone. His fear was obvious, so the others took pity and he crawled to a spot on the floor of the tent with his sleeping bag and was soon OUT. The rest followed him quickly. I swear everyone was asleep in less than 20 minutes. And I felt waves of drowsiness hitting me, and it had been a very full, active day. Even so, I was too petrified to give in. It seemed like I was always the last person awake and I hated it!! I held a small flashlight in one hand, clutching it in defense against the near perfect darkness outside. Maybe an hour passed in silence before I finally began to relax and drift off.
... and then I heard the sound of 2 sets of approaching footsteps!! My eyes popped open and I was filled with a terror that is nearly impossible to communicate. The dread was so thick I could almost choke on it. Staying utterly still, I listened as the footsteps came right up to the side of the tent! Then, to my utter horror, I heard a man's voice clearly say, "Is she asleep yet?" in a very soft voice, deep but almost whispering so as not to wake anyone.
I flicked on my flashlight and shone it in the direction of the voice, "NO SHE ISN'T!" I stage-whispered in defiance.
I was SO scared! How did they even know a "she" was the last one awake? How well could they monitor us, all crowded in this little tent? I was also astonished because the voice was very human, and far enough up to be spoken by a tall man, and had no weird inflection or accent or anything! It didn't make any sense! Also, one voice asking a question seemed to verify there were 2 people outside the tent, one asking another of my mental state-- without using silent telepathy!
I was confused, and curious, and terrified. The footsteps didn't leave! Whoever I heard come up and speak wasn't walking away. I couldn't stand it. I began shaking Gerick and trying to wake him up. I started crying and freaking out-- it took some hard rolling him back and forth to rouse him. In the meantime, the people outside did not leave. I managed to get Gerick awake enough to sit up partially and I told him what had just happened. Then I grabbed my flashlight and began undoing the screened tent windows to look out where the voice was coming from. Of course I could see NOTHING out of the ordinary, just sparse grass and gravel, even though I had not heard whoever it was actually walk away. For good measure I looked out every side of the tent and saw no one. By that time, Gerick was already fading fast again, and I finally gave up and curled up into my bag and blankets and just sobbed in fear and frustration for a good half an hour. Invisible people outside our tent, not leaving-- it was unbearable fear.
My weeping turned to sniffling, I blew my nose many times, and eventually began to settle into a silent listening watchfulness again. After a period of time, I heard the footsteps start moving away from the tent from the place I had heard them stop to begin with. In both horror (at knowing they had indeed been there next to us and invisible the entire time) and relief, I listened to them go. I was unable to fall asleep until dawn.
Not too long after dawn, I once more heard footsteps, followed by whispered male voices, and a zipper being pulled...
I was SO drowsy at that point that I was barely caring, yet Gerick was now the one sitting up rigidly next to me and turning to grab me, "Lucy! LUCY!" he hissed into my ear, "Do you hear that?" I struggled to wake up all the way and mumbled that I heard the people camping next to us, that's all, and tried to snuggle back into my warm pocket of covers.
"There are no people camping next to us! Remember?"
I blinked, trying to wake myself, and sat up, as Gerick whispered frantically into my ear, "They're in MY TENT!!"
Then I heard the zipper again from the direction of Gerick's tent and footsteps retreating quickly. Gerick cussed and opened our tent door and jumped out. I crawled out slowly and stupidly behind him. The desert location made it nearly impossible to duck and hide behind anything, and there was no one about, though the footsteps had retreated in a definite direction and couldn't have been more than 50 feet away. Gerick ran a few steps into that direction and looked around, and then gave up and came back to check his tent.
A search quickly determined that his camera was missing!
Oh and was he PISSED!!
Our group got to listen to him both worry and bitch about his missing camera for a while. It was a pretty expensive camera for a young man who didn't often indulge in such items. We elected to stay in the campgrounds one more day, however, and take in some sights locally, as none of us had been in that area of Oregon before. In the meantime, Gerick and I disclosed to Cat and Wac about events of the night before and didn't get much of a reaction. Cat had a hard time believing she could have slept through all the fuss, Wac continued to be seemingly nonchalant about the whole thing.
That evening we did have a fire and excellent campfire food (seeing as how Cat, Wac, and myself all had cooking training from Girl Scout camp) and everything seemed peaceful. No sky lights. Gerick still slept in our tent, which was annoying because there really wasn't room for it.
The next morning was almost a repeat of the morning before with Gerick waking because he heard footsteps again at his tent, the zipper opening, and then the footsteps retreating-- this time he woke ALL of us before venturing out and we all followed him to his tent, wrapped in blankets and yawning. He unzipped his tent before our eyes, and THERE on top of his stuff was Gerick's camera, very obviously returned to him! And the film was still inside! A few more pictures had been shot, so that was even more intriguing!
Now we were all excited, and rushed to get ready and out of there so we could get to a one hour photo place! It took some driving, but we went ahead and dropped off that film as we went to do laundry in the same strip mall as the photo place. When we returned to pick up the film, we were monumentally disappointed... the entire film was over-exposed and didn't show anything you could make out. Gerick asked to look at the negatives anyway (and kept those) and you could see every pic was washed over with bright streaks (in reverse on a negative-- the few photos he processed showed light streaks). Gerick thanked the guy and we walked out.
"They fucked up my film and then gave my camera back to me.... I must have accidentally taken a really good picture they didn't want me to keep or something," Gerick grumbled.
That was the first 2 weeks Gerick and I spent together in person, and it was to be a preview of things to come for the next few years. Because I flew out to live with him Labor Day weekend of 1991, and things became truly interesting.