Monday, November 12, 2012

Night Run

My eyes popped open from my deep sleep. I looked over at the clock. It was 3:20 a.m.

The stress of buying a new home, changing jobs and being a literary success took its toll on my brain. 

After tossing and turning in bed for an hour and a half, I thought to myself, "Fuck it, I’m going on a run."

I quietly skirted out of my bed, tip-toed around the house to grab my running gear and quietly slipped out of the house.  

Like a chef walking into a meat freezer, a cool breeze hit my face and took my breath away. I stared in awe at the darkened Bath night.

“Where are you UFO’s?” I thought to myself. “Will I ever see you before I die?”

With that last thought, I hopped into the car, clicked on the ignition and slowly careened out of my driveway.

I pulled into Bath Nature Preserve around 3:50 a.m. for an impromptu illegal run (hours are from dawn to dusk)So here I was. The darkness enveloped the entire sky. The skitters and scampers of little forest creatures could be heard in the distance. But that was it. The air was still. I could see my breath misting in the cool air.

To be honest, I was a bit creeped out.

“Maybe I’ll just get back in the car and drive over to the high school and do a couple laps on the track,” I thought to myself.

“Pffft,” the little Eimer devil whispered on my shoulder. “Are you really going to be that big of a pussy?”

“Nooo,” I said to my evil doppelganger, then pulled a 180. “Fuck it, I’m already here. What’s the worse thing that could happen?”

I could die. Gulp!

Thankfully, I had my trusty Energizer Headlamp with four unique shine frequencies, including infrared lens. Yeah, it was dark, but I would be safe and sound as long as my headlamp remained on for my 3.5-mile night run.


I set my watch and took off down the dark grainy path. In the distance to East, I saw the slightest spit of  light from the Fairlawn shopping center. No sign of the sun trying to pull itself out of the darkness. Too early I guessed.

The trail took me through a field. 

I felt a slight tickling at my back and thought about the 'thing' from JEEPERS CREATURESThe thing that could fly in the air. The thing with the cowboy hat. The thing with the dusty MATRIX-like coat. The thing that likes to use people’s bones to create an altar.

Anticipating an aerial assault, I lurched my neck back and forth shining the light from here to there. No JEEPERS. No CREEPERS. 

I continued to run and cut off down a gravel hill, which connected to a rough the horse trail - a trail that was separated to the right by a huge pillar of pine trees and oaks and horse pastures to the left. I noticed a huge mansion, outdoor lights glowing in the distance. Yeah, I was in Bath after all.

I descended the hill and my near-sightedness kicked into high gear as I noticed a black spot down the way. The blur became the creature from XTRO, the alien creature that dropped from the sky and raped a woman with its mouth. A horror that still haunts me to this day. I ignored the lump of whatever on the ground. It may have hissed at me. I picked up my steps and glided by the creature before it could impregnate me with its nasty-eating orifice.

The horse trail careened up a hill. My breathing deeper and shallower, I huffed and puffed up a like the Little Engine That Could; the flashlight on my head bobbing up and down, up and down illuminating the ground in a wobbly, almost-BLAIR WITCH PROJECT-type of cinema verite.

I ran up a forty-five degree incline near the natural gas pump, one of six that lay in the Bath Nature Preserve. To my left, a strange formation stepped out of the woods, it looked to me like the possessed goat in DRAG ME TO HELLI remembered the white eyes. The satanic look. The immediate hunger for human flesh. My heart began to race as I passed the creature that lay before me...

...only a deer.

It gave out a snort and took off into the woods. That’s when I felt my heart beating more than the required 200 beats per minute. The buck snorted, once again, and shot off into another section of the woods. 

I hung a left down an old grassy trail, which connected, back again with the main running trail, and approached an old wooden bridge.

In the darkness, it almost appeared like a moat bridge from CASTLE GREYSKULL inviting me to commiserate with the likes of He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Beast Man and, more importantly, She-Ra to discuss the political situations with Skeletor on Planet Eternia over a pint of mead.

Then, my mind immediately shifted to think the story of BILLY GOATS GRUFF; more importantly the troll that lurked beneath the bridge. "Could there be a troll underneath this bridge?" I thought as I clopped, clopped, clopped underneath the wooden slats, I overheard the stream gently bubbling underneath my feet. 

Then I heard a rustle. Then I did a 180-degree turn and high-tailed it off the bridge back to the trial and up the hill. I imagined the angry CAVE TROLL from THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, pulling itself from the wooden bridge, goblins by its side, as it ripped and tore the sides of the bridge and quickly reached the nape of my neck.

I yanked my head back. Nothing. I let out a sigh and continued on my journey.

About two miles into my run, I was getting into my groove. Heart beat at 180 or slightly higher, half a yard steps, even breathing and a nice 9:00 pace (hey, I’m not trying to break any world records, here). The darkness grew more ominous as I entered an overlap of trees and slightly into the denser forest.

I heard a faint rustle in the woods to my right. I shined the light into the weeds. Deep in the distance a faint shadow appeared. Memories of AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON shot through my skull. The scene where the man is heading up the escalator and scans down the steps to see the hulking werewolf slowly, almost casually, heading toward its prey.

Which reminded me of a story...

When I was a little kid, we had two sets of stairs in our house. The first set of steps ran up from the kitchen and pantry into the upstairs bedroom, which I shared with my brother. Every single time I walked down those steps I was convinced a demonic Gladiator Centaur with bow and arrow in hand was going to shoot out of the attic door, pull three of four fiery arrows from his sheath and, in a machine gun cadence, proceed to shoot them towards my back. Convinced this was going to happen, I always sprinted down the steps like a boy possessed.

The second set of steps headed down into the basement. The steps had openings beneath each step. No carpet, no wood, just functional steps. Going down into the basement was never a problem. However, heading upstairs, was a big problem. I was convinced that as I reached the sixth set of steps, the WEREWOLF from THE HOWLING was going to shoot his hand through the open slats, snatch my ankle and squeeze with all its might. Convinced this was going to happen, I always bounded up the basement steps like a boy possessed – as well. "Why do you do that?!!" my mother would always scream.

Back to the night run...

My pace quickened. My blood pressure felt like it shot up another 10 points. Goosebumps covered my entire body anticipating a strike from the beast in the woods. However, after another inspection with my trusty light, the shadow revealed itself to be a large boulder. Phew! Instant death diverted once again.

I careened off the bike path and onto a dirt, running trail past a gargantuan steel dragon. The JABBERWOCKY from Alice in Wonderland???!!!! No, only the steel pulsing of a gas well going up and down, up and down. Chugging gas from the ground up into its steel basin.

The trail careened into an even darker forested umbrella. Blackness covered me like a cold blanket of Death. I clicked the highest shine function on my Energizer Headlamp.

The crunch of my steps on the hard pebbles and rocks was the only sound echoing into the eerie, wooded terror land. I thought of the movie PUMPKINHEAD. The green creature spawned by hate from some section of hell. I thought about the CENOBITES from HELLRAISER, led by Pinhead, the unflinching psychopaths from Hades. The  things that wanted to tear your soul apart. I glanced over into what I knew was an empty, dried up bog. For an instant, I thought I saw the menacing creatures waiting in the woods. Waiting for me to slightly step off the trail so they could tear my body from limb to limb, ripping each and every piece of my body until only a puddle of blood remained.

I closed my eyes. “Just movies,” I said to myself. “Only movies.” I opened my eyes and the creatures were gone.

Again, wanting this run to be over, I quickened my pace once again as I set up another hill, which turned slightly into a concrete path before opening up into a field of wheat, or hay, or simply tall grass. I wasn’t sure. I ran into a plume of fog, which slightly cooled my body. It felt like I was running into a thousand deathly souls roaming the Earth.

For a moment I was expecting the creature DARKNESS from the movie LEGEND to come through the fog, through the smoke; inserting his scabbard hand into my heart and ripping it into pieces.

This was supposed to be a 30-minute repast during my day. It was supposed to be my relaxing three-mile run. Instead, it was my own personal internal hell. My own personal demons terrorizing my every step.

Which reminds me...

Sometimes during my run, I think about death. I think about possibly dying when I’m older on one of these trails. Will my body be found? Will it lie there and slowly decay for years and years? What will people think when they come upon it?

Sometimes, even during my day runs, I look back and imagine a black figure gliding effortlessly through the trail, 50 yards or so behind me, matching my pace, waiting, anticipating that moment when I trip, my heart skips, I have a stroke or I simply stop breathing.

Back on the trail...

I came around the turn and approached a ubiquitous shadow; a blurry figure walking closer to me. This was the time that I wished for my glasses, or contacts or the fucking Lasik eye surgery. Anything for me to focus on the image in front of me.

Was this my time? Was this my death?  Was that the GRIM REAPER from THE MEANING OF LIFE with his long scythe waiting patiently for me to finish my run. Waiting patiently to take me away from my family, my kids and my not-so-bad life?

“Excuse me,” the creature said. Only it wasn’t a creature.

“Huh,” I said startled as I slowed to a brief walk, then stopped in front of the man’s face. He was an older gentleman, about 60 or 65. A just-as-old golden retriever stood next to him panting a rather jolly pant.

“Do you know how to get back to the main bike trail?”

I nodded and pointed in the direction I came. “Follow this loop and it will take you back to the trail.”

“Thank you so much,” the man said petting the top of his dog’s head. An odd two-second silence whisked between us. My mind started again. I imagined a knife in his back pocket. I imagined the OLDER GENTELMAN from the movie LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. The guy who killed in order to accumulate fresh blood for his young vampire princess. I took a slight step back from the man and the dog, which looked a bit angrier from the last second I looked at him.

“A little creepy out at this time of day, eh?” asked the old man.

I nodded.

“Your mind can play some crazy tricks on you that’s for sure” he said.

“You’re telling me,” I said. “Be careful.”

“Oh, I’m fine,” the old man laughed and patted his loyal dog on top of the head. “That’s why I have her to protect me.”

I looked at the dog and through about my dog, Otto; a loyal Rottweiler-Doberman mix that was the best dog in the world.

“Well, have a good run,” the old man smiled and started on his way. “And thank you.”

“You too,” I said and headed off to my car.

During my half-mile run back to my car, I thought about the old man. I thought about the ghosts and goblins that tormented my mind. I thought about my life, my dreams, my family and my job.

I thought about all the scary things that this world can throw at you day in and day out. And all of the things on this Earth that can just as easily take you away from it all.

I thought about my mother whispering in my ear before heading off to school. “Heck, every time you step outside of your house, you can get killed,” she said. “Just think of all the ways you can die in a day...”

For some reason those comments have stuck in my mind.

Today, I was able to outrun and outfox Pumpkinhead, the Cave Troll, the American Werewolf in London, the grim specter of Death and other creatures lingering and lurking in the back of my brain.

Tomorrow, I may not be so lucky.

Maybe I’ll go on an afternoon run instead.


cbrown said...

Great stuff, dude; enjoyed the read.

rjclancy said...

Brad -- May I suggest that you share this with your psychologist or another mental health professional or clergyman?