Aurora Fugacior Borealis - Elusive Northern Lights

Written in response to: Set your story during polar night.... view prompt


Contemporary Funny Speculative

Peering through the rear taxi window, you could see a glow coming from the inside on the back seat of the taxi, as it pulled into the small hotel car park. It was an outline of a person, but it was incandescent – a strange alien phosphorescence. The glow was like a hazy aura surrounding the profile, much more illuminating than anything powered by electricity, the light was different, this was a luminescence from chemical sources, or was it spiritual sources – a combination of both? Not a chemical reaction powered by solar energy that later radiates in the dark, this was a combination of raw natural radiation, powered by heating and then cooling temperatures, chemicals hidden in the water, silica dissolved in hot water, entering the skin pores of the human body, and then creating a glowing effect, now radiating in the darkness. Maybe it was more holy than holy vision. If it could be harnessed and manufactured, life expectancy would be eternal, and everybody would look like Karoline, as she stepped out of the taxi. She looked like a religious icon with her surrounding aura, and a beaming smile to match, it shone like a lighthouse in the dark and dingy car park of that Reykjavik hotel.

Although her face glowed red, and the shimmering aura hovered around her body, it didn’t stop at looks, yes, her face smoldered red, and he wondered if she would have permanent skin problems for life. When she recognized him, Karoline gushed, she was incoherently eulogizing her magical experience of a lifetime, she could not stop extolling, the adrenaline rushing through her veins was at fever pitch. She was talking faster than the speed of sound, the pitch was at stratosphere levels, completely unintelligible - gibberish. Slowly she started to remember to breathe, to slow her speech, the words started to become understandable, and audible.

“Oh my god, John, oh my god John, you should have been there, you should have seen it! It was incredible.”

His heart sank, he had missed it yet again, the spectacular northern lights.

He had wandered the planet for years, the polar regions, the arctic, flown over the north pole on several occasions, but the aurora borealis – the northern lights had eluded him, still to this day. He read, this year, supposedly the best chance in two decades to witness this spectacular sight, is because of a unique 11-year sun cycle. Just writing this story causes depression. If nothing changes the headstone will read. “He saw, he conquered all – except he didn’t see the northern lights!” Like a floating leaf in a bucket of water, in his bucket of dreams the leaf drifts in the water, elusive, and then sinks to the bottom of his bucket list of dreams – unobtainable.

All the knowledgeable gurus tell you the northern lights can be seen from a plane, they say the sight is better in the air than the ground, but they don’t tell you that you need to be facing north, and flights traveling over the north pole either head northbound, or then southbound. The flight deck crew must be in ecstasy watching the light show, but the passengers, alas, do not get the luxury of forward-looking windows. The announcements on the Icelandair flight to Reykjavik that December day chortled over the clear skies, and icy temperatures, with the encouraging words “Great night for seeing the northern lights”, but the flight was delayed, and the plan to meet Karoline at the famous “Blue Lagoon” geothermal hot springs was diminishing by the minute.

He had in many years past spent nearly a week in Finnish Lapland, living in an icebox, with inappropriate clothing, where the hairs in the nostrils, transform from friendly, useful filters in your personal breathing apparatus to become dangerous and painful as hypodermic needles frozen by air temperatures dropping well below freezing - minus 30 or more. His expectation, and the promise of the pre-sale’s rhetoric about the sighting of the northern lights was dampened by the continuous and constant cloud covering under 1000 feet. But, the locals recounted, as they always do, “You should have been here last week – the northern lights were the best in years!”

That was last week – he missed out again! Next time, he thought – Iceland this is it!

Iceland’s blue lagoon is advertised as the 25th wonder of the world. It is located near Keflavik airport, which is to the southeast of the island. The land around the area is rugged, volcanic, one can feel that Iceland is a young landmass formation, it was only formed 20 million years ago, young in geological terms.

The thermal water activity underground has been harnessed by temperature controls, and the blue lagoon resort and spa has been built around the pools of hot springs, which creates this white mud - silica. The water's milky blue hue is due to its high silica content. The silica forms a soft white mud on the bottom of the pools which bathers rub onto their bodies. The water is also rich in salts and algae. The resulting temperature control of unprecedented underground thermal activity is a pleasant water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the blue lagoon averaging 37–39 °C, all year round.

His personal experience in the summer was that of a hot bath, but the silica mud was unexpected, and the encouragement to spread the white mud while bathing does have an afterglow effect. The combined hot water and the silica mud therapy create a well-being experience that lasts hours after bathing. To experience this in sub-zero temperatures as Karoline experienced that night would have been a double whammy. To get the 360-degree vision of the aurora borealis thrown in for free, as one bathes in the hot waters; the icy, misty, steaming, freezing night sky would be better than the best sex, ever. 

That’s how it was reported by Karoline, her red face, her beaming smile, the look of ecstasy in her eyes, as the recent memory flooded all her senses. He could feel it, but he had missed out again.

The decision not to go directly to the resort from the airport was the first of many mistakes. He realized he was put on this earth to miss the sight of the northern lights. The curse continued. The debate and decision not to go assumed that the resort would be closed, as his final arrival that day at Keflavik airport was around 6pm. The assumption was wrong. Regretfully wrong, but the mistakes didn’t stop that night.

The journey between Keflavik and the town Reykjavik is an hour's car journey. The night sky was still clear, icy, and cold. He thought, I will see the northern lights in the town. He could feel it shimmering above his head, high in the sky. He could feel it humming, it was taunting him. Hiding from him. He craned his neck in the taxi to get a glimpse, he was guaranteed to see the lights tonight, he thought.

He checked in, threw the bags into the room, closed the door abruptly and then chased downstairs to the cold outdoors. This was it, finally to see the lights. Looking up into the dark sky - nothing. He had read a lot about light pollution, but this was the first time that the words and meaning joined, and then rage, realization, disappointment and resignation were the result.

He had to settle for Karoline’s recollection and recounting of her experience. The inner and outer glow would never require any Duracell batteries, the combination of the nighttime lights, and thermal bathing had created everlasting energy, energy for many lifetimes in Karoline. Although Karoline had a similar appearance to a boiled lobster, she was alive, more than alive, she was superpowered, and the incessant gushing over her recent out of world experience never stopped – ever.

He would relive the second-hand experience from Karoline every time they met. At least we know it’s there – he thought, the elusive northern lights - Aurora Fugacior Borealis.

January 11, 2024 11:58

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John Rutherford
18:03 Jan 12, 2024

True story.


Show 0 replies
Mary Bendickson
04:58 Jan 12, 2024

A light mission.


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