The Memorial Triangle
By Jeffrey Bishop
Your fate is to not escape your fate.
Tell Time: 7 minutes 45 seconds
Scare Rating: 3/5 Ghosts
Dr. Soma had always been interested in supernatural phenomenon. As a young scholar and professor, he’d built an impressive body of research studying the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle, known to sailors and aviators as the Devil’s Triangle. In this large area in the Atlantic Ocean between Florida and the island of Bermuda, ships and their crews have mysteriously disappeared over many centuries. Those who made it out safely have reported bizarre experiences within the boundaries of the triangle — loss of communications, unnatural light patterns in the sky and malfunctioning navigation systems among the less ominous events.
In his studies, Dr. Soma had successfully confirmed many reports on the Triangle; he’d validated the missing ships and aircraft, and he’d interviewed scores of crews to confirm their experiences. But he’d not yet been able to explain what caused the supernatural experiences, or why they’d occurred. And although he was an intellectually curious person, he frankly was also somewhat of a coward, and didn’t really have a strong desire to enter the space himself to try to answer these questions.
So after more than 5 years researching the Triangle, he was rather in a quandary, in that he’d taken the research about as far as he could without a new discovery. There were plenty of other happenings in the realm of the supernatural that he could study, but he really had no interest beyond phenomena of the Triangle. Without research breakthroughs, he couldn’t publish, and without publications, he might lose his university post and access to labs and other resources vital to his research.
Dr. Soma got his breakthrough not in the deep, cold seas of the Bermuda Triangle, but rather along the interstate highways cutting through the wheat fields of the Central Plains of the United States, near the university where he taught. He was driving west on the interstate highway, returning from the airport following an out-of-state conference on the paranormal. The endless prairie scenery was punctuated by very few distractions of interest: a crowd of turkey buzzards wheeled high above the Flint Hills, barbed wire cattle fencing traced the contours of the land, and every now and again, a colorful but somber display was erected at the side of the road to memorialize the passengers of a vehicle that had suffered an accident at that place on the highway.
Except that starting at about mile marker 49, Dr. Soma noticed that these posters, bundles of flowers and crosses placed at the scenes of tragic and fatal highway accidents were suddenly innumerable. Where previously the memorials were spaced a number of miles apart, on this stretch of road, they seemed to be almost continuous, and in some spots, were overlapping, with two, three or more discrete memorials in the same spot. It was such a fascinating feature, but something that apparently was rather easy to miss; that is, until one noticed it — then it was all that he noticed! Indeed, Dr. Soma was so excited about the phenomenon that he stayed on the highway and followed it past the interchange that he needed to take to get home. He kept on for another few dozen miles, until he noticed the prevalence of memorials drop precipitously, to a more normal pattern of infrequent occurrences. At that point, he turned around and headed back for his exit, and of course, the memorials were just as thick heading east as they had been heading west.
This phenomenon continued even after he took his exit south. For almost 60 miles, the concentrated roadside memorials persisted, just as they had on the east-west stretch of road. The T-shape, of course, was intriguing to Dr. Roberts. Could this be another deadly triangle? An inland Devil’s Triangle? There had once been an ocean over this part of the U.S.; was there something about the concentration of salts and of lime in the sedimentary beds that could be causing a similarly shaped, large surface of the Earth’s surface to be so dangerous?
When he got to his modest home near the campus, Dr. Soma immediately started to build his research plan. He’d study police accident reports and compare this area to other areas for conditions and prevalence of accidents. He’d revisit the two major highways, but also the smaller arteries, to confirm the triangular shape of the effect. He knew that he was on to something, and he was excited to hit the field to study the phenomenon first-hand!
A week had passed, and Dr. Soma was eager to get in his car and start tracking the memorials around this region of the Midwest. Perhaps it was the fact that this phenomenon appeared in his own “backyard,” on dry land and on highways he’d traveled on his entire life. And perhaps it was sheer excitement at the new thesis he’d discovered that might extend his research into the future for decades to come. Whatever the reason — and he wasn’t sure the reason himself — Dr. Soma wasn’t afraid to do this research first-hand.
He’d learned a lot over the week; county sheriff and state and local police reports confirmed a higher-than-average rate of incidents in a generally triangular area corresponding with his theory. In their meta-analysis of hundreds of accident reports, they also were able to determine together that few of the accidents occurred at night or in generalized poor visibility conditions, and all were single-car events of which there were no survivors.
Research with state and national weather agencies showed no difference in weather conditions in the area when the accidents occurred — indeed, in every instance, the weather was clear and dry. Further, research with the department of transportation showed no difference in road quality and safety conditions in the affected area than in other parts of the state where accident rates were much lower. And while the area had a reputation for poor cell service, it wasn’t for want of a lack of towers; in fact, two major providers had cell service areas that overlapped the memorial triangle for miles. And the communication black hole even preceded the digital age; research showed disgruntled over-the-road truckers had complained of communications issues with their CB radios back in the ’70s and ’80s. Dr. Soma could find no Earthly reason why the rate of fatal accidents was higher in the triangle than elsewhere in the Midwest. To learn more, he’d have to take his research into the field.
By noon Saturday, Dr. Soma had traveled 10 miles, and had already recorded 48 memorials along that stretch of road. The work of recording the occurrences — photographic documentation, GPS location and correlation with accident reports — was exhausting, but also exhilarating. Dr. Soma really felt like he was on to something.
At noon, the scientist set up a small picnic lunch on the side of the road, where he enjoyed a turkey sandwich and a soda, along with the warm sun from the mid-spring day on his face as a few lonely cars sped past his spot. His mind was still racing, turning over in his mind the facts he was discovering.
Dr. Soma was still deep in thought as he pulled his car back on the highway, in search of the next roadside artifact. He was scanning the side of the road so intently that he didn’t notice how dark the sky had become so suddenly. What did catch his attention, however, was the appearance of a wraith-like image which suddenly appeared in front of his car. The yellow-green form began to shriek and wail at him through the pane — a haunting and desperate sound that chilled the doctor to his core. Dr. Soma gripped the steering wheel tightly and instinctively swerved to the left to avoid the ghostly image before him. Doing so was futile, however. While the wraith did dissipate before him, the scientist realized that he was headed straight for the center median strip dividing the four-lane highway.
Still gripping the wheel at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, he steered back to the right, but realized too late that he’d over-corrected. His car tumbled and rolled until it collapsed in a ball of flaming metal at the bottom of a ditch at the side of the road.
A few days later, there was a small vigil at the site of the accident. The doctor’s friends and family gathered to place a small wooden cross, some plastic flowers and a picture of the man they’d lost.
“Just ironic,” said the sheriff who had helped him with his research only a week earlier. “He was on to something. And that might have been just what took his life. But now he’ll never know — he’s not here with us to finish his work.”
Unknown to the sheriff or any of the others gathered there, Dr. Soma was there. The spirit-form of the scientist was standing back, a witness to his own memorial. Somewhat touched by the emotion, he was much more interested in observing the gathered crowd for his research.
Joining him at the ceremony were other spirits, including the woman whose wraith form had compelled him to leave the road. Dr. Soma had talked to a couple of the ghost-people already — not in conversation, but in the kind of deliberate, probing chats that are unique to scientists and psychologists. He’d learned a lot, but he knew there were many hundreds more within the Memorial Triangle for him to interview, and so much more for him to learn.
Indeed, there was an eternity’s worth of research to be done. Dr. Soma couldn’t be more thrilled at his fate. While the studious doctor didn’t necessarily live happily ever after, he was happy with his research forever in the hereafter.
Would the doctor have suffered a similar fate had he visited the Bermuda Triangle to do first-hand research? His life seems rather one-dimensional around his research interests — do you think his horizons will expand in the afterlife? Leave a comment or a question and let us know what you think about Dr. Soma, his research, and the idea of other mysterious “triangles” outside of the Bermuda Triangle!