Hey all. My last story for a while (don’t worry…I have more. I just don’t want to post them all in one go). This one is about me in the dark. Fun stuff, that.
Oh, and thanks to all of you who have actually bothered to read my last two stories. Means a lot to me, that. Hope you enjoy.
Story No. 3: Here There Be Monsters…Sort Of.
My memories of our dock are fragmented. I know that I go out there to sit in the dark—usually when I know I’ll be able to watch the moonrise over Lake Bellaire—but I don’t remember when I started taking those late-night excursions. When I picture myself out there, the wood beneath me is a splintery, bleached silver. At some point the old dock was replaced with a new one, its planks smooth and greenish-tan, but I don’t remember when that happened either. Was I still in high school, or already in college? Even when I picture my more recent memories, the boards are unfailingly old and warping at the edges. I guess my memory is that way, too: a little warped at the edges.
I remember the various colours of the moon much better than I remember the dock. Usually it’s grey, and other times it’s the rusty colour of dried blood. Once, it was gigantic and neon orange, a colour I had previously only seen on poisonous frogs at the zoo.
In my most intact memory, the moon is a pale, vegetable-spread yellow (we don’t use real butter at our house) and rising, it fades to the colour of powdered sugar. It’s like a floating doughnut hole. It was windy that time, and I was wearing a hoodie. A green hoodie. My arms were prickling with cold, but I was in a bad mood and felt like I would stay outside anyway, just to spite the cold wind.
As if I could spite the wind! I once took a class on mythology, and a particular myth cautioned against spiting the wind. That myth also ruined my favourite flowers, telling me they sprouted out of an ill-fated, gay love triangle:
In one version of the story, a prince with a terrible name—Hyacinthus—spurns Zephyrus, a god of the wind, and goes off with Apollo instead. Everything’s fine until Zephyrus uses an ancient stone of a frisbee to crack open poor Hyacinthus’ skull. Then Hyacinthus turns into a plant. One of many morals to the story: don’t underestimate the wind.
I don’t believe in wind gods, though, so I thought I could afford to be spiteful. There were no hyacinths around the dock to warn me, either, just sticker bushes and sweet pea vines, heavy with pods and purple or white blossoms. They grew all over the hill beside the crumbling concrete stairs that came down from our yard, and during the daytime they would have been full of glimmering green and black hummingbirds. It was all very happily-ever-afterish.
But at night things were less fairytale-esque, unless you take into account that the original versions of fairy tales tend to be dark and depressing. For instance, in some versions of the stories, Red Riding Hood’s wolf is actually a rapist, Mother Hubbard’s dog is actually dead, and the real Little Mermaid didn’t have a soul and killed herself—thank you, Disney, for softening these stories up for modern kids!
Disney aside, it’s true: fairytales were originally morbid things, and in original fairytale fashion, the dark, stealthy things would steal out of my imagination to take over for the sweet peas and birds when I was on the dock at night.
I didn’t like listening to the rustling noises from the wind, and I hated that they made me nervous…so I had my iPod playing. In my green-hoodie-clad memory, I was listening to a band called Virgin Black. Having Rowan London’s voice for company made me feel better, although I confess the music was faintly creepy. A melancholy blend of opera, violins, and electric guitars, it made me think of vampires, and big empty Catholic churches.
We’d been Catholic when I was younger, and the church always creeped me out those times I tagged along with Dad while he did some late-night maintenance. But for the two of us, the sanctuary would be empty, and most of the lights off. Votive candles threw flickering, Halloweenish light over the statues of Mary and Joseph, and the white communion rail. Everything echoed, and I’d been terribly afraid of bogeymen lurking in that dark, echoing church. They could easily hide between the dozens of darkened pews. Even the most sacred places weren’t safe, as I figured monsters could hide beneath the marble altar, and spy on us from behind the stiff white altar cloth.
What kind of bogeymen would haunt churches, anyway? I didn’t know, but I remember thinking about it as I sat on the dock that night, watching the moon and listening to Virgin Black.
I recall hugging my knees and burying my face in the crook of my elbow. That way, my nose wouldn’t get too runny from the cold. I’ve always hated a runny nose. Out on the water, I saw a little green light moving steadily to the right. Soon, little waves from the boat’s wake were splashing against the dock. I watched the moon’s silvery reflection break into bars and drift to the shore. It was very pretty. So were the violins, and Rowan’s deep, sad voice…
And my iPod died.
Grumbling over the ruined moment, I wound up my earbuds and held tightly onto the little gadget. I was afraid of dropping it into the lake and having to do without music for the rest of my vacation, while little fishes poked at and nibbled my iPod’s leather case.
The wind blew again, long and cold. I shivered. Behind me, the sticker bushes and sweet peas rattled in a most sinister way. I thought about the deer that sometimes dashed through our sandy yard to come down and drink from the lake, and I wondered what other animals might come down at night. I thought about foxes and coyotes, and the bear that my brother and sister had once seen.
I thought of the folk story about the Michigan Dogman, a werewolfish creature who finds its way into the smaller papers now and again, usually in relation to attacked pets and livestock, or in the words of some poor soul who claimed to have seen it. Some clouds drifted across the moon, and everything was much darker. What was that about Little Red Riding Hood?
Now, I knew that the rustling on the hill was probably just the wind, but my imagination isn’t always so reasonable. It’s like a small child, and I must often be stern with it. I refused to let it turn me around, and have me scan the hillside for monsters that I knew weren’t there. Staring resolutely out at the deserted lake, I pulled out my cell phone and called the house. I asked Mum if she would, pretty please, turn on the floodlights.
I just didn’t want to walk back to the house in the dark.