For your spooktacular October delight, I offer two fat-free tidbits--one fact, one fiction. Enjoy!
Sometimes I pretend to be human. Occasionlly, I am mistaken for one. But most of the time I am little more than the shadow that trails behind you.
You feel my presence, I know, for your footsteps slow just a smidge. You glance back over your shoulder with cautious curiosity. But you cannot see me. Not at first. Then you catch a flicker of movement from the corner of your eye. Feel the brush of cold upon the back of your neck. The razor's edge of a memory---just out of reach, which evokes a primal terror from deep within the reptilian brain.
Yes, I am there. I am with you, matching you step for step, yet you refuse to acknowledge me. You don't want to believe what you cannot see. "It can't hurt me," you say to yourself, so you turn face forward and pretend I don't exist. You relax. Your pace quickens and you laugh at yourself, shrugging me off as an irrational product of an over-active imagination.
But still, you glance back again, just to be certain. Because your soul trusts your primordial fear. It knows I am really there. It knows I was there all along. It knows . . . I am always there, feeding your doubts and selfish desires . . . stealing your humanity.
You look back, but will not see me. Not until I want you to. And by then it will be too late.
Footsteps in the dark (a true story)
Just inside the Toiyabe National Forest, in an isolated canyon deep within the Paradise Range in central Nevada, lies the ghost town of Ellsworth. For many decades my grandparents kept a small cabin there, which in later years we often occupied on our family weekend getaways.
One summer evening saw the cabin as host to seven girls, ranging in age from ten to seventeen, along with one terrier-mix mutt. At bedtime, we all sprawled out across the single room. Two girls shared the double bed against the wall, two girls shared the double futon in the center of the room (I was one of these), and the other three girls filled up the remainder of available floor space. Needless to say, the cabin was literally wall-to-wall girls in sleeping bags. Eventually, the giggling stopped and we all drifted off to sleep.
Sometime in the night, I awoke. Someone was walking across the room. There were no stumbles, no stepping over someone in the dark obstructed floor area, no faltering whatsoever. I knew those footsteps did not belong to the dog. I also knew they did not belong to any of my roommates, much I wish they did, for it was an impossible pathway for anyone to cross. Impossible for the living, that is.
Steadily, the unbroken paces crossed from the bed side of the room to the other, passing right past my head in the dark. Never a brave soul, I kept my eyes clenched shut and refused to move, feigning sleep.
Once the footsteps reached the far side of the room, they stopped. I never heard them again, though I stayed awake for hours, unable to fall back to sleep. The only sound that filled the night silence was that of my sleeping roommates. To this day, I've often wondered---what might I have seen had I dared to open my eyes?