Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand
You wake up in the backseat of someone else’s car. The wind’s beating trees. You can hear it, one of the windows is cracked. It’s pitch, it’s night, there’s a thick orange cloudcover so you must be close to the city. You open the door. The ground’s gravel. You’re in a forest. You don’t know where you are.
It was warm this morning so you’re in shirtsleeves. You wish you’d thought ahead. That same wind brings all the hairs on your arms to attention. You pace a few times around that car.
Are they coming back? Who brought you here?
It’s an old Camry, ’91 or ’92, blue paint faded, a busted front headlight. The only clues don’t mean anything to you. You peak into the seats to look for keys but there’s an empty ignition. The road curves left up ahead and right behind you. A leaf falls. Your heart shakes. You think about spending the night in the car, but then you consider who might be coming. You start walking down the road.
It’s a slow walk. The path is getting steeper. You trip and when you get back up there’s blood coming from you. For some reason you can’t explain, you lick it. Every dead sow you’ve put inside you; the red ink of our mother.
Scatter – a flock of birds. It was deeper in the forest and something shook them. Ten slick bodies spiral through the leaves. You wait and try to listen, a bit of the blood still on your lips. There’s only the wind at first and then you hear it: “Pad, pad, pad” – little muffled footsteps; a park stroll; only it’s dead night and you woke up in the backseat of a foreign car.
Now you’re pounding. You walk. You stumble. You run. You stumble more. The footsteps are getting louder and louder. It’s all you can do in the dim night to keep to the path, keep your bearings, have a sense that you’re still a part of the world. The road is all uphill. It twists and snakes. You push past a point of exhaustion and think there’s no way for you to go any further. You remember the blood and you push further.
Then there’s a light. It’s through the trees and you only catch parts of it. It’s yellow, orange, a candy corn, somewhat repulsive but still inviting. You quickly realize that if you follow the path you won’t find it. It’s Eastward, and you’re going nowhere close. You pause a second and look behind you. Little specked things are in the trees. They twist and rattle. Beneath the commotion, the footsteps keep coming. With all you have, you step into a mess of bramble off the road. It cuts. It stabs. It’s better than whoever wants to find you.
A half hour passes following that pumpkin light. You can’t tell if you’re getting any closer. Then, all of a sudden, the trees slip back and you’re in a pasture. There’s a wide, mowed field with a house in the middle. It’s a wood house, one-story, a porch with pole-columns and rocking chairs. There’s an old dead tractor rusting on the lawn.
For a second you’re frozen. An unknown home – could be the man or woman who got you, stranded you here. Could be it belongs to the pair of too-light feet that have you in twenty yards. But there’s no time to think. You walk. You run. You’re running. Fireflies escape the blades of grass. A personal sea of stars. The house is forever across the field and then you hear the ‘slap-slap‘ of something running. It’s behind you. You turn around and only see the fireflies.
Time stretches as much as your tired muscles. It’s forever to reach the porch. Finally, though, as inevitable as Spring, you’re there. There’s an old rusty doorbell and light coming through the thick curtains. You try to spy inside but there’s no gaps. The thing behind you is still coming. You don’t know who or what lives here. You press the button. There’s a ringing behind the door.
“Trick or treat!!” Old Lady Johnson has the biggest smile and pumpkin earrings. She sees your costume – all dolled up as the dark things in the night – and pats your head and hands you two Snickers. On the way down the porch, you see your mother. She’s talking to some other parents, some other families. You open one of the candies and eat it before she sees you. It tastes red and perfect and you’re proud you’ve kept the secret. A million kids are out here tonight but not a one knows your secret: that for a brief time you were somewhere else, lost in a dark forest, haunted, and that you made it home.
Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker
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“Led through the mist,
By the milk-light of moon,
All that was lost, is revealed.
Our long bygone burdens, mere echoes of the spring,
But where have we come, and where shall we end?
If dreams can’t come true, then why not pretend?” – Patrick McHale, Into the Unknown, a song from Over the Garden Wall