The Hunted and the Damned

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” – Edgar Allen Poe

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Vapor or ghosts?

Eyes. Two yellow eyes were peering from between the pines as I rounded the rain slicked corner in the trail. I squealed to a stop as my brake discs shed the copious amounts of water and muck deposited upon them by the bogs and puddles on this rain drenched night. For a moment the eyes dulled and shifted in the rain, then glowed brightly again as the screeching stopped. The rain pelted down in sheets as I, transfixed, provided a convenient gathering place for the water before it pooled then dripped upon the earth like blood from a corpse.

The yellow eyes never stopped observing. They glowed like embers in the night. I stared back, peering into them to try and figure out to what they were attached.

With it being so close to Halloween it’s easy to get spooked by things that go bump in the night. One’s brain can play fun tricks on your perception of reality at this time of the year when we are told that the souls of the dead have typically wandered the earth. Be it the spectre of Samhain or Dia de los Muertos or All Saint’s Day (choose your cultural poison), there is no denying that this can be a powerful time of year – especially while riding around the woods at night in the rain.

This time of year the leaves have mostly fallen from their trees and the world opens up to display its secrets. The barriers are down and night envelopes the earth in a cold embrace that shivers with each leaf clinging desperately to its tree. It’s enough to make one believe the fables and folklore that surround the season. It’s enough to make a calm and rational person like myself believe in the supernatural, especially when confronted by yellow, unwavering eyes from within the pines.

Things are changing out there despite our desire to cling to the warmth of summer. Luckily I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

Regardless I still shifted a little uneasily as a swirl of vapor rose from my form and my body sought to equilibrate with the chill of the October night. Meanwhile the eyes moved from one side of a gnarled old pine to the next as if searching for something.

Despite having read way too many Stephen King novels in my formative years I’m not inclined to believe that ghosts and other supernatural beings wander the woods of Maine. My straining human brain is damned to fill in the blanks of the situation as it sees fit. In situations like this my primal brain immediately retreats to fight or flight reactions borne through thousands of ears of evolution where humans were pursued and eaten by giant hyenas, cave bears, cave lions, eagles, snakes, other primates, wolves, saber-toothed cats, false saber-toothed cats and who knows what else?

Of course in the modern world this gift of our evolution provides us with a certain level of anxiety whenever we are confronted by a threat, whether perceived or real. This gift revealed itself to me as I stood astride my bike in the rain trying to figure out what the eyes were attached to. I suddenly felt a little vulnerable to say the least. What the hell was out there?

Peering deeper into the night, for the briefest moment I thought I made out the shape of the head of the form to which the eyes were attached. It was hard to tell, but the hair rose on the back of my neck as I filled in the missing dots of information with a feline form. Holy crap! It’s a mountain lion! I’m going to be eaten!

The brief moment passed and the form turned sideways before bounding off like a deer (which it was). Feeling a bit silly I admonished myself.

“It’s a deer and not a cat, you idiot.” Large cats are as common as ghosts in the woods of Maine. Well, a least in my part of the state (maybe not in Stephen King’s).

I turned and pedaled along the trail while my steaming form headed for the treetops and wandered into night.

 

 

 

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