Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Story

I was in the band in high school, and that night was a basketball game. I sat in the stands and played my musical instrument, but I cannot remember what year it was or even what I was playing. What I remember is that it was a very dark night when I left the gym to head home.

Most people had driven cars to the game, but I lived just more than a block from the school grounds. To get home, I had to descend from the brightly lit parking lot down a set of stairs to the unlit track, cross almost the full length of the track to a gate in the fence around the grounds, then walk up a dark cul-de-sac to the road I lived on. Streetlights were far and few between, and as I recall the first streetlight was a few yards past the cul-de-sac.

That night felt very cold as I left the parking lot and started down the stairs to the track. It was so dark I could not see anything. I literally put my hand in front of my face and could not see it. Looking off into the distance I could see the streetlight, but I could not see the gate and I found I couldn't turn around to look at the parking lot. No light leaked onto the track from the school or parking lot, which seemed odd to me even at the time.

I had a strong sense that there was someone on the track. I was terrified that I would run into the person in the dark. My legs had gone weak. I set my direction based on where the streetlight was and headed toward where I thought the gate was. I walked the route twice a day, I knew it well enough to walk in the dark, but I was scared. I wanted desperately to turn around and go back, but I could not.

After I had gone maybe a quarter of the way to where I thought the gate was, I felt someone right in front of me. I swerved to go around them and said, aloud, "Excuse me." I had a sense of immense surprise, and I thought I heard some sort of response. Not a voice, maybe a sound. I had a vague sense that I should stop and help, but I couldn't see anything at all, nothing. The darkness was practically physical. I didn't stop. I continued on.

I felt when the track changed to the lawn as I walked on it, and I found the path to the gate after a moment, to my surprise. I got through the gate by feel and suddenly felt a HUGE weight lift off my shoulders. I looked back, but I still couldn't see anything on the track. I could see the lights at the school, but the track itself swallowed light and was as dark as the grave.

I was still in the dark, so I hurried up to the road and then up the road to the streetlight. I looked back again. Nothing. Still dark. I turned my face to home and said nothing when I got there. I was so terrified by the experience that I never wanted to think about it or talk about it again.

I remembered it today. And I suddenly thought I needed to write about it. It's been a long time since it happened, more than 20 years, but I still shiver when I think about that darkness and still feel like I was in dire peril. I don't know what sort of peril, I don't know whether the darkness was the thing I should fear or the darkness was protecting me from something else. All I know is that I sometimes remember it and when I do the chills go up and down my spine. The vaguest of events, but utterly terrifying.