Bad news, friends. I died.
I was trudging along the banks of the Red River, as you do during an unseasonably warm North Dakota Winter. With the trees gone and the prairie grass tamped down by deer, you can get much closer to the water than in the Summer, but usually it's colder 'n the heart of a Saskatoon Psychopath and there's liable to be a foot or two of snow on the ground, so you're mostly stuck indoors, gaining winter weight.
Not this winter, though. This was a couple days after the anniversary of the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor and it was still in the high 40s. Heaven on earth.
So, I was trudging along, tossing rocks and kicking out rotted stumps when I came upon a peculiar sight. There was something wedged between two bare elm trees not ten feet from where I stood. It was red and green and, this being the Holiday season, I assumed it was some kind of out of the way Christmas decoration. But I pushed on to investigate, and, to my surprise, saw three words printed in big block letters on the mystery object.
The words were these: The Phoenix Lights.
I was taken aback. Why, that very morning I'd cracked open a book on The Phoenix Lights, the most famous UFO sighting in the Americas, maybe the world.
I whispered, "Synchronicity," because that's what UFO weirdos do.
Convinced that I'd stumbled upon some sort of cache of secret information, finally, or, at the very least, some sort of incoherent message from The Phenomenon - I rushed toward whatever it was, and this is where I died.
My foot caught on an exposed root. I put out my hands to grab hold of a branch, and the branch snapped like a box of angel hair pasta over a bubbling pot of water. I tumbled, foot over fedora, down the river bank and on to the icy surface of the mighty Red. Shaken but okay, I stood up, brushed the dirt and cockleburs from my body, lifted a foot to ascend the bank and heard another crack - too many cracks for one day, if you ask me - felt the ice give way below me, fell backward again, and crashed through the thin ice, into the frigid, mud dark water. I felt a jolt of unspeakable cold, gasped, filled myself with water that tasted of clay, and was sucked Northward and to the bottom of Fargo's preeminent body of water.
Next thing I remember, I was completely dry, which struck me as odd. I was back on land, in a dense green wood, ominous in a way I couldn't quite put my finger on. Poetical, somehow. The ground was rocky and inclined. This wasn't North Dakota. What was it?
I heard a low growl. Not good. Low growls are almost never good. Even high growls aren't great. I heard a low growl and saw an enormous black bear slowly approaching me, snout wet, eyes wild with malice or hunger or both. I looked about for somewhere to run. There was a clearing! I started in that direction, but - Alas!- coming through the clearing was a guy I went to high school with who I'd blocked on Facebook. REALLY didn't want to talk to him.
But it was this guy or the bear. I was frozen in indecision.
Then, from above, an urgent whisper.
I looked up. There was a man in the branches of a large Sycamore Tree, partially obscured. He looked older. Well dressed. A stranger. Not ideal, but better than the other two options. I briefly hoped he wouldn't be the chatty kind of stranger and then ascended the tree as quickly as I could.
There in the branches of the Sycamore was a man I immediately recognized. He was Kurt Vonnegut.
"You're Kurt Vonnegut!" I whispered.
"Guilty as charged," said he.
"But your d-d-d-dead!" I hissed.