Can a person will away FEAR? Part Two
I am aware that I watch too many movies. But--am I the only one here?--sometimes it feels like The World is doing everything it can to make me feel like I'm in a scary movie.
[Thump, creak] Am I supposed to be running out the front door right now?
[Prickle, prickle, neck hairs up] Is someone watching me saying, "Don't go up the stairs!" or "Look behind you!"
[Watching TV] Am I in the rough cut that doesn't have music yet? Is this the moment when the audience will hear "Ree! Ree! Ree!"?
So, perhaps a little melodrama is creeping into this post. But what is a person supposed to think when this happens:
Dan was out of town (of course he was!) and I was on the phone chatting when I was supposed to be walking the dogs. One of the adaptations I have made is to walk the dogs right before dusk--when it's still broad daylight--so that when it's time to go to bed I can just take them to the yard for one last quick peepee. It's been working out well; there's nothing worse then walking the dogs down the length of our driveway (about a quarter of a mile!) when it's dark out and your imagination is working overtime.
In my defense: our farm is scary as hell! It is the epicenter of scarydom, the template they use to create the setting for all Scary Movies. And if you've ever walked past a field of corn when the wind is rattling the stalks and the clouds are whisping creepily in front of a werewolf moon . . . well, if you have then you know. You know why they use The Middle of Nowhere to invoke the proper amount of spookiness. And if you haven't . . . well, I invite you to try it, just once.
We have a couple of streetlight-sized lights (that I just call streetlights even though there is no street per se). We have them because we're just That Far away from civilization.
To make matters worse: one of them is shorting out (the power company has been notified but they can't make it out to fix it for like two weeks). So to anyone who has never been out walking in the pitch dark when one of the only lights for miles is flickering on and off (mostly staying off), well . . . I don't really think that person is allowed an opinion on the matter.
Back to the story: Dan was out of town, I was chattering away on the phone with a friend of mine like some kind of Scary Movie Ditz, and just as we ended our conversation the dogs started going bonkers, barking like hell was out waiting in our driveway.
While I was gabbing away, the sun had said goodbye, set, and was now completely gone. It was wholly dark, the streetlight was flickering, and apparently an ax murderer was waiting for us in the bushes.
My heart started to thump. "It will be okay!" I hooked the dogs up. "You watch too many movies!" I went and got a sweatshirt. "Everything is going to be fine; the dogs bark when a leaf blows by!" I got my cell phone and called Dan. "It's just a little wind!" We all went outside. "When the streetlights go out in Harry Potter, it means Dumbledore is coming. But . . . Harry Potter is just a movie. It's going to be a convict or a coyote instead."
No clue what Dan and I talked about . . . I was so in my head, I didn't hear anything he said. I know he was trying to reassure me, but the wind was blowing and I was getting more and more petrified with every step I took.
Incidentally, the farmer we lease our land to did not plant corn this year. So, to be fair: soybeans are actually much less scary then corn, since it comes up to your knee instead of over your head. Being able to see all the way to the center of the field is actually reassuring in a "you can see if someone is coming" kind of way (rather than scary in a "nowhere to hide" kind of way)(I've seen enough scary movies to know you should never hide in a cornfield!).
However, between the dogs barking like crazy earlier, the wind, the darkness, and the inoperable streetlight . . . I was not in the mood to be reassured by the fact that we had a low field of soybeans versus a taller, even creepier field of corn. It really didn't matter at that point in my imagination.
I made it to the second streetlight without being killed (that's about halfway down the driveway), but neither of the dogs had pooped yet so we had to keep going. Did you know when you're that far out in the Boonies, you can see the edge of light cast by a streetlight? And when you step beyond the rim of light, you feel the temperature drop, and all sounds are sucked up by the seashell void of ghostliness? It's true.
As soon as we walked beyond the edge of light, the dogs started standing on their back legs (both of them!) to sniff the air and peer into the even darker shadows of the hayfield. (One side of the driveway is soybeans, the other side is hay). I was having trouble controlling them (remember, Danny was with me on the phone) and I could feel my diaphragm start to seize.
Finally, whoever was supposed to poop did their business, and we started back. We walked briskly toward the circle of light from the streetlight . . . the dogs' behavior continued to psych me out, and I yearned toward the light like grace.
It was just before we got to the circle of light that it happened. The scene with absolutely no theatrical benefits to the movie; simply a scene meant to scare the hell out of the audience for no reason other then for the kicks and jollys of some sadistic director.
Ree! Ree! Ree!
Both dogs were trying to walk on their back legs (to catch the scent of whoever, or whatever, was in the soybeans) when all of a sudden Izzy darted over to the edge of the soybean field and before I knew what was happening the air was filled with the roaring clap and flap of demon wings as a throng of devils flew straight toward my face. I saw bone-white bodies and black, soulless eyes and I yelled and nearly dropped the phone, the leashes, and my stomach. Whatever fraction of rationality and bravery I had completely deserted me.
It turned out to be nothing but two birds roosting on the ground on the edge of the field, startled out of their sleep by Izzy. I tried to calm my palpitating heart enough to tell Dan that I was not dead, but my shaking hands could barely keep a hold of the phone and the dogs were weaving back and forth, getting their leashes tangled in the excitement of our near-death experience. I panicked neatly, and even though I knew it was nothing, the adrenaline made my extremities tingle and my breath come short. When I finally was able to speak, it came out in a gasping Blair Witch style stutter that I couldn't control.
At first Dan thought it was hilarious, as anyone at the other end of the line would for someone freaking out over a pair of birds. But he soon figured out that they were just the final straw, and the anticipation had almost been as bad as my fright over the birds. The birds would have unsettled even the most stoic of dog walkers, and I was about as far away from stoic as a person could get. Even for the calm of heart, bird wings can be very loud and shocking; it's a natural instinct to swat and jerk backward when something flies toward you, and someone in a normal state of mind would have moved on very quickly from what was practically a non-event.
I did not move on.
My subsequent meltdown was just the result of being in a heightened state of fear prior to having a flock of rabid birds attack me and chase me back to the house, swarming and plucking at my hair and clothes, and screaming like banshees in my ear.