You just never know what might be waiting for you in the dark. Halloween is over now, but good versus evil has been raging on since the beginning of time, so no sense in letting your guard down now. My town is abuzz with stories like “A well-dressed man asked to borrow my phone downtown, and then I found out there was a nation-wise manhunt for him the next morning!”
But that is in the land of the humans. Where I live there is a bit of distance between humanity and I. Evil is different here.
At night the woods come alive with sounds. “Baby dinosaurs,” I joked with my mom on the phone when I first moved here. Nighthawks, owls, bobcats—they all makes weird noises when the mood strikes. I never did figure out what made the baby dinosaur noise though, which allows me to assume that it was on the evil end of the good vs. evil spectrum.
Darkness comes early now, and now is the time of year the evil likes best. It gets a good long run in before the break of day comes and washes everything over with all that golden light of goodness. In the past I may have been anxious of the darkness that shrouds the house on these long nights, but this year I find myself in a grey area. I am less anxious.
I suppose that is good, since I met a creature of darkness tonight.
People Call Having an Imagination a “Gift”
I don’t think gift is quite the right term. Burden, maybe? No, too heavy sounding. Annoyance? Getting closer.
It is like that extra bag you brought overseas. The contents are periodically useful, but lugging the blasted thing back and forth all over the world is a bit annoying. Now put that in terms of an overactive imagination on a long night, alone, while being required to attend to things at the edge of the woods under a sky heavily covered in moon blocking clouds.
It is like sending out an invitation to all the creatures of darkness that the imagination can invite. Come one, come all, I am heading out into the wildness. Now’s your chance! Come harass me!
What imagination would possibly walk away from that? None.
But I am not afraid of a measly imagination. Who is in charge here, anyway? I said defiantly as I selected my sad, low-battery, dim flashlight, and headed out into the blackness.
First Up, the Boogie Man
Big Dog and Old Man Dog zoomed out ahead of me, those fearless, imagination-less beasts of mine. I hadn’t even gotten fully off the porch before the first spook arrived. Stepping off the back porch, I instantly imagined something above me on the low hanging porch roof.
Gah, boogie man, leave me alone! I thought, without bothering to look, because nothing was there. I trudged onward. Shadows quivered along the grass, made by the tall palm fronds and the distant garage light. Something dropped from a tree, striking the ground with a purposeful thud.
Rats. These woods are overpopulated with rats. They are eating the palm fruit. That is all. I thought I saw a black shape move rapidly along the fence line—a strange, beast-like shape, moving on all fours. I blinked it away.
I walked beneath the Chinese elm, and there were more. In my peripheral vision creatures were sitting in the ornate branches of that tree, looking down at me with mysterious eyes, their limbs attached to the trees like some sort of cross between monkey and thing-of-another-world. They would not move in the way that wild things wait for the domesticated thing to move along. They just sat there in all their ominous presence.
Nothing is up there, I won’t even be silly enough to flash my light up into those shadows.
I walked on to the chicken coop, where I was greeted by the soft purring sort of sounds the chickens make when they notice my presence. It was a nice, safe, of-this-world kind of sound.
I need to stop being skittish. Let it go, imagination. There is absolutely no reason to be creative when closing up a chicken coop. There are absolutely no creatures of the darkness out here. I thought it with a very firm tone, but I wasn’t stupid enough to say it, because everyone knows you just don’t say something like that surrounded by a dark woods on a night with clouds blotting out the moon.
Moving onto the Chicken Coop
I opened the nest box, moving steadily now, my confidence growing. There is nothing out here. Everything is totally fine. Nothing is scary out here at all.
I reached for an egg, and—
A red and yellow rat snake was coiled around my eggs. (It is called red and yellow, but it is not red at all. I know, lame.) It had its freaky reptilian extendo-jaw at the edge of my egg, snake saliva already partly coating the brown shell.
I knew it! You never say or think things like that! It is a law of nature. If you say there are no creatures, of course there will be creatures! It might not be the creature you were thinking…but there will be creatures!
I thought this while I stared at the closed nest box. I reopened it swiftly, to see the same punk that came for a visit last month, and he looked just as unthreatened by me as ever. He was still groping my egg with his freaky reptile mouth, preparing for the grand swallow.
“Stop thief!” I poked his head gently from the safe distance of the opposite side of a long stick. After several pokes he reluctantly closed his mouth, leaving my egg still coated in wet snake spit. He slowly, slowly, slowly slithered out of the box, and of course not out the door I left wide open for him. He meandered right on up into the rafters, near where the girls were roosting. A couple clucked nervously at the trespasser.
“Damn it, creature!” My flashlight and I scanned the ground until we located a very long palm branch, and then returned to the coop. “You are making me stay out here entirely too long with The Creatures of the Elm and the Boogie Man and the Big Bad Wolf, and who knows what else! Get out!”
It should be pointed out that of course snakes do not speak English, but that doesn’t matter. Shouting at thieves is an important part of the experience. He flicked his freaky creature of darkness forked tongue at me. Bravely I pushed that stick up there, until, largely out of luck and greatly to my surprise, I had looped his ridiculously long body around my palm branch and lifted the beast out of there.
“I do hate to be rude,” I said as I slowly lowered it down into the dry palmettos at the edge of the woods. “I think I was a bit harsh back there. I do wish you well. Have a lovely evening.” And then I dropped him onto the ground, and let out an involuntary scream as I scampered back three feet, and he slithered lazily on into the woods. “Go catch some rats,” I called as his long body rattled the dry fronds on the ground.
I hurried into the house then, because I had the sinking feeling I had done the jinxing of all jinxes when I announced there were no creatures.
But it was too late. A couple had already followed me in.
Those jerk mosquitoes.