WORMDATE: L2: 731-115,926: 4-1,806: 130,228-1,771,407
Last night, in the middle of the night, I found myself in a dark woods. I meant to walk this path the night before but –and I’m not proud of this– when the path vanished into total blackness, my imagination populated the gloom. It provided a helpful list of all the things that one would not like to see on a path in the woods at night. That’s a fairly long list. One would not like to see much of anything on a path in the woods at night. Even mundane things, like some child in soaking wet pajamas with a mouth full of seaweed standing in the middle of the path would be terrifying. When you’re in a place no sensible person would be, you don’t want to see another person. I wouldn’t even want to see me. No one in their right mind would want to see me in that context. I would make no fucking sense.
I developed a sudden case of Coward’s Heart.
Pausing to wonder if I could steady my nerves and continue forward, an unseen animal suddenly blundered through the brush in front of me. Probably a cat. But maybe 장산범.
I started thinking in common sense (aka “Coward’s Logic”). Had there been a full moon, then maybe I could continue. Maybe. But the moon that night was small and red. It cast no light. I decided that I had to turn back towards light and concrete. After all, the path was rocky and hilly. I wouldn’t want trip and fall off a cliff. I’ve done that sort of thing before –in a jungle, long story and, er, substances were involved– and I’m not twenty. After a fall like that, nevermind if I could get up, these days, I might not want to even bother. I mean, what’s the point? I’m old enough to know that you’re just going to fall down again. I also would not like to break or sprain an ankle. I wouldn’t even want to stub a toe. No sense being foolish about the thing. No sense going forward only to limp back. Why risk it?
But this retreat did not sit right with me. It bothered me all day. Of course, retreat was the sensible thing to do. That path is steep and rough. Traversing it in darkness would be difficult and dangerous. The only sensible thing to do was to turn back. But the thing about sense is that sense is irritating. For one thing, when I was younger, I almost always had a flashlight on me –just a small one– so things like sense wouldn’t interfere too much. And sensible or not, I was still spooked by the path. I don’t like that feeling. Fear irritates me. Common sense provides no relief. These are not things I’m proud of, but they are things.
So, last night, after Wife went to bed, I did what I often do after such embarrassments: I came back armed. This time, with a flashlight. Having equalized the odds and dispatched with the common sense part of the problem, I was not going to just leave it alone. I was going to walk that damn path. And I did and I’m happy I did. It was a beautiful walk.
Of course, it was still a bit spooky. My main fear was scaring someone else. The homeless tend to hide and I did not want to terrify some poor soul who was sleeping rough. But I was alone out there and saw no one. More importantly, no one saw me.
I am probably not a thing you want to bump into in the woods at night. I’m not really a sight you ever want to wake up to but I’m particularly unwelcome if you’re sleeping alone in the woods. You might give yourself a heart attack. When I’m not lurking, I tend to loom. These are not good qualities in a stranger. But I saw no one.
I made it to the lookout.
Then, instead of turning around and retracing my steps, I saw what looked like an interesting staircase. Because I’m basically incapable of resisting an interesting staircase, decided to follow that staircase to wherever it may lead. It led to an evaporating path.
Having lost the path through this dark wood, I had to think. I hate thinking. Thinking is usually the first sign that something has gone wrong. I still had my sense of direction. Wherever I am in this city, I can find my way home by walking uphill. But I could not see a clear way to get uphill nor did I know where that would take me or how it would take me, and although I figured I could find the path again, I did not want to be poking around until dawn, retracing my steps, trying to find my way clear of the woods. I had to locate myself.
I turned the lights off. A flashlight is a valuable tool. It’s excellent for seeing what’s around you and avoiding obstacles that could seriously injure you. They’re great little tools for keeping on a path and finding a new one. But flashlights can also blind you. Aside from how they distort your night vision, they can also provide too much focus. They concentrate your vision on what you’re looking at, blinding you to what you’re not looking for but need to see. So before turning around, I had to orient myself in darkness. I turned the lights off.
Thank Satan that I did. I almost immediately saw where I was. Lasers flickered through the trees ahead. I knew exactly where I was. Just about ten to fifteen meters away from where I needed to go. And I never would have seen them with the flashlight on. Of course, without a flashlight, I probably would not have found myself in that mess to begin with. I quickly made my way through the brush. Back to concrete and lights with a weird new knowledge that if I veer left off a certain sidewalk laser, where no path exists, I can find one. I won’t tell you which one. Some knowledges are only for those who find them in the dark and their worthy friends. Not everything a person learns or sees is supposed to just be given away. Not for money and not for free and not even on the internet. And I’ve already said way too much.
And this story doesn’t have a moral or whatever, nor do I think anyone should ever act like me. It’s just some shit that happened last night. But, back in the strangely depopulated city, with its shutdown bars and clubs, I had a bit of a strange thought.
I felt like we’re seeing, in some respects, the sort of anti-night agenda that informs a lot of society. These late-night places need to be shutdown but the night is always the first territory lost. The places the respectable day people frequent while engaged in their respectable activities are always the last to see restrictions. But this is fine.
While it shows a tendency to regard the night from the perspective of the day, as something that should serve the day, that’s how night is usually viewed anyway. But with these shutdowns, a different, older night is returning. Not the sort of night that a lot of people think of as night. That brightly lit and noisy imitation of the day, where a club is basically 3PM in the office on Tuesday except louder and everyone is drunk off their ass while someone plays with the light switch and someone else screams inanities into your ear. But the silent and dark night. The night where 장산범 hunts. That shadow habitat is returning.
Night has been hiding in the corners and crevices. But it’s creeping back into the world. Bring a flashlight. You might need it. You also might need to turn it off.