This Didn’t Happen

Repost from old blog, 2/21/2009A couple of years ago I was living in a tract of homes just outside of Upper St Clair. There wasn’t much to recommend about the area, and the only time I really spent outside my home was to come to and from work.

The houses all looked the same with subtle variations in structure and decoration – like many of them had window shutters, which weren’t shutters at all – just boards pasted to the exterior sides of the windows. They were just an option; they served no purpose.

One evening a summer storm knocked out the electricity in my office and I had to go home early. The storm had passed, giving the sky sort of a radioactive orange glow.

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I didn’t have a TV or books or anything, and eventually I got bored and stood outside on my porch. Dusk was setting; most of the houses on my street were dark.

I realized I’d never walked to the end of my street, and I was suddenly compelled to do it.

I hadn’t put on any shoes but I felt that it couldn’t wait. The concrete sidewalk was warm and porous.

The end of the street curved to the left, toward more houses, but just beyond that corner were woods. I kept walking in that direction. I was afraid for my feet, but though the ground was rough on top with sticks and pine needles, underneath it was soft and yielding.

The woods were dark and dense. I walked along what seemed to be a path at first, but the ground was so sparsely covered it was hard to tell if I was still on it. The woods seemed endless. It was so incongruous to my day-to-day reality – clean house, air-conditioned car, office in a towering downtown building – to be almost surreal.

I was just thinking of turning around when I saw a fire in the distance. I didn’t hear any voices, so I approached it. It was full night now.

The fire was in the middle of a clearing, and as I got nearer I realized there were figures standing around it. They seemed to be wearing costumes – dressed in black leotards, maybe, their heads covered by simple black masks or stockings. They were all thin and spindly. I got very afraid.

They were performing something – an incantation? – putting their arms up in the air, lowering them, and circling the fire in formation. Then one threw something onto the fire, and for a brief moment it glowed a bright, electric blue.

I gasped. All of their heads turned toward where I’d been crouching. I turned and ran, as fast as I could, without looking back.

It shook me up, but eventually I put it out of my mind. It was like a dream – while it’s happening, it seems so real, but then you forget about it and it’s as though it never happened at all.