I’ve been wanting to post more, to keep up this blog as a document to the things that happen here, but it has been so difficult as the shadows grow longer and the nights grow darker…
Autumn in New England is a spectacular thing – it’s probably one of the most amazing places in the world at this time of year. The trees explode with color and the air has a particular crispness that I don’t think anywhere else can match. People come from all over the US, I’m told, to see the foliage and take day-trips through the forested areas looking at the changing colors. It has a different affect on me, however – and not just because of the things I’ve seen, the madness that has become my life, but because I feel such an overwhelming sense of melancholy, a sense of impending doom as the trees shed their leaves and the bare fingers of branches scrape the grey sky.
I remember a time when I was much younger, around ten years old, spending time with my grandparents in Coventry. They had a lot of huge oak trees around their wide yard, and being a helpful child I volunteered to rake – honestly I just wanted to jump into the huge pile of leaves I would inevitably rake, and my grandmother knew that of course, but we had an understanding…
I raked leaves from all corners of the room, dragging the metal tines of the leaf rake across the lawn in short, scraping strokes. I remember the air that day – it felt wrong, there was a chill but also an unnatural dampness to it, hard to describe, but even though it was 30 some-odd years ago I can still remember it so clearly. It was quiet, too – I remember the sound of the rake, but I also remember there were no birds, no street noise.. it was just cold and damp and quiet. I should have realized, in hindsight, that something was going on… but I was ten years old, and I had no idea of the things that lurk in the shadows and dark corners of the earth.
I finished raking up a substantial pile of leaves, my excitement building as the pile grew. I fantasized about sailing gracefully through the air and landing, feather-soft, into the pile of crackly dry leaves, the smells of autumn filling my lungs. I remember dropping the rake and pulling my jeans up higher on my narrow hips, breathing deep, and backing off to a distance, wanting a good build-up of speed before I launched myself into the air.
I silently counted to three and then ran, my legs pistoning as fast as I could make them, my eyes fully focused on the leaf pile. The leaf pile that started to move, to shift, to grow. I don’t know why I kept running – I suspect I didn’t believe what I was seeing, thinking it a trick of the light or just some random leaves carried up on the wind. Maybe that’s all it was, but my mind remembers it differently.
The leaf pile somehow exploded outward before I even reached it, and leaves swirled around me as if driven by an invisible tornado or a hurricane that was limited to the backyard only, but as they whipped around I saw a shape, a figure outlined by the leaves and the slate grey sky that made no sense to me then (though it is far too familiar to me now). I closed my eyes tight and fought against the driven leaves, trying to escape the cutting vortex, but I couldn’t – I was trapped fast and I lost my bearings, not even knowing which way was up. I heard whispers too, within the torrent of leaves; I don’t know what they were saying, but I heard them, and they chilled my blood.
My grandmother found me in the middle of the exploded leaf pile, crying and bleeding from a dozen small, shallow cuts. She assumed that I had fallen and, since my injuries were not at all life threatening, she bundled me in a blanket, dabbed the worst of the cuts with stinging mercurochrome, and gave me hot chocolate and warm biscuits.
I remember listening to the television in the living room, hearing the droning of commercials; I clearly remember hearing ‘When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight’ and it not making sense to my fear-addled brain. I remember the smell of the biscuits, the sweetness of the cocoa, the warmth and scratchiness of my grandmother’s blanket; I remember it all. Underneath all that, though, I felt a fear deeper than anything I had ever encountered in my short ten years – true fear, so far beyond the thing under the bed or the monster in the closet that it barely registered for me. I can remember that now though – I know I didn’t realize it or appreciate it then, but as I watch the dry leaves fly through the streets as the sun sets, that experience weighs on me as much as any other.
The darkness outside presses against the windows now, a tangible presence beyond my wards and glyphs. I feel it closing in… time to light another candle.