By BEN R. WILLIAMS

I don’t believe in premonitions. I’d like to believe in premonitions, along with ghosts, aliens, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Mothman and a slew of other strange and supernatural things, but I’ve just never found the evidence all that compelling.

However, something recently happened to me — or, more accurately, to a good friend of mine — that I can’t quite account for.

On the evening of Saturday, May 18, I had a buddy up to my house to help me do some regularly scheduled pinball machine maintenance (like you do). We’ll call him Bill. It was a fine evening; I grilled a few burgers, we told some tales, and we worked on the machines until well after dark.

At one point, as I was replacing a plastic set on Flash Gordon and Bill was working on rebuilding the flippers on Grand Lizard, I decided it would serve me well to step outside for a moment and enjoy nature’s splendor. I didn’t say anything to Bill; I simply exited the room, stepped outside, and walked back into the house about a minute later feeling, shall we say, relieved.

About five seconds after I finished washing my hands, Bill stepped into the kitchen. He was white as a sheet.

“Dude,” he said, “did you hear that?”

The tone of his voice caused the little hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.

“Whuh?” I said helpfully.

“Where were you?” Bill said.

“I was outside,” I said. “I came back in maybe 30 seconds ago.”

This was not the answer Bill had been hoping for.

He proceeded to tell me that while he was working on the pinball machine, he had heard a loud pop, like the sound of an incandescent lightbulb burning out, and he had felt something hit him in the back of the head, right on the battery pack of the headlamp he was wearing. His first thought was that I was pulling a prank on him, but when he turned around, he realized he was alone in the room.

I told him that I was outside when it happened, and if I was going to pull a prank on him, it wouldn’t involve hitting him in the back of the head for no reason while a 750-degree soldering iron was within his reach.

He opened the battery compartment on his headlamp and examined the three triple-As to see if one had exploded; they were perfectly fine. We went back into the pinball room and looked at every corner and crevice. Where he had been standing, there was absolutely nothing that could have even potentially hit him in the back of the head.

To make matters even stranger, I noticed that my soldering iron was glitching out; instead of reading “750F,” the little blue LED display was displaying gibberish, just random numbers and letters. I turned it off and turned it back on, and the display read “750F” once again.

“I think you must have gotten shocked,” I said. “Maybe the jolt scrambled my soldering iron and then traveled through your headlamp.”

“I wasn’t even touching the machine,” he said.

“I’m going to tell myself that you got shocked,” I said.

“There’s no way,” he said. “I wasn’t even touching the machine.”
“Bill, I live alone in this house in the woods,” I said. “I’m telling myself you got shocked.”

As soon as we finished the last of the pinball repairs, Bill packed his tools, announced he was feeling pretty tired and left. Normally we play a few rounds after repairs, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was still feeling creeped out by the weird incident that had happened earlier. I know I was.

The next day, I sent Bill a text to thank him again for his help. He texted me back that he had an interesting story for me.

Bill said that after he left my house, he planned to stop at his usual gas station on the drive home and fill up his car. Just as he was approaching the gas station, however, a car in the opposing lane backfired right as it passed him. Suddenly, he said, he had a bad feeling. He felt like if he stopped at that gas station, he might get robbed at gunpoint. Instead of stopping, he decided to just drive straight home.

When he got home, he said, his wife woke up and told him that she had had the worst nightmare. She dreamed that on his way home, he stopped at that gas station he always stopped at, and someone shot him in the back of the head.

Like I said, I don’t believe in premonitions. But if I’m ever hanging out at home and feel something hit me in the back of the head, I’m calling in sick to work the next day.