Based On A Real…Incident…?!!
Well, yes, the idea stems from a midnight jaunt up a mountain outside of Portland, Oregon.
Let me step back and set you up properly.
I lived in Portland, Oregon from mid-2002 to October of 2005. Life had gone completely off the rails beforehand. I only ended up there because my ex-wife—though we may not have officially been divorced at the time (long story, don’t ask, haha; for all I know it may end up in a story at some point, so you can find out then)—had moved with my son up to a small town in southern Washington, to live near her sister. Portland was across the Columbia Gorge from where they lived, and no matter our losing our way, I needed to be near my son, to be a part of his life…through all the madness that led us all to this point.
Things settled down, I made Portland my home.
One evening, my girlfriend and best friend up there and myself decided to drive up to the top of one of the mountains east of Portland; can’t remember which one, I want to say Larch mountain, but think that’s probably not correct. We drove up late one night to the top, where the asphalt ended in a parking lot which we could barely see the lines to distinguish parking places…as if it mattered. We were alone, and it was dark. Places where only the lights of nature intrude—the stars, the moon, the red eyes of demons—change the way one sees and feels things. It’s a different world. It’s almost oppressive, suffocating in a way. We hung out briefly, wandered around, feeling instantly lost once we exited the car, as we could barely see a foot in front of us once we moved away from it; I honestly don’t remember if I turned the lights off while stopped, but no matter with what followed...
Just as we left the parking lot, heading on our way down, I turned the lights off. We hung there for a few moments in a darkness that felt as though it might crush the car, and us within it. A truly harrowing sensation. The real surprise, though, was when I turned on the lights…and a bear was running in the road in front of us, caught in the lights and leaping off the road and into the forest.
We freaked out. It amped the harrowing sensation brought on by the darkness to a point where, I’m sure, each one of us had adrenaline pumping in overdrive through our bodies.
I remembered the incident and knew it would somehow take shape in a tale. I think it surprised me that the bear, or at least a bear-like creature, also made it into the tale. This one’s subtly cosmic when it gets to the creature. The darkness, “This Darkness…” insists Susie, our main character, walk on by the beast, if she has any ideas on surviving the ordeal she’s already witnessed so far.
Shall we walk along with her?
Susie expected animal musk, the gamey scent of the wild, the stink of nature’s bloody victory. What she got was beyond comprehension. What she saw was a silhouette, a misplaced shadow--something undefined—perhaps just a black shape from which freezing waves from the wasteland of its being emanated. With a slight twitch of her head she glanced closer at the beast, into an immeasurable cosmic gulf littered with shards of bone and constellations cognizant of her trespass as the beast, this thing, an emissary from this darkness, wailed into the starless sky. It was the roar of planets being birthed; it was the keen of suns going supernova; it was the alpha and omega of eternity; it was infinite yet steeped in the here and now.
There’s a lot going on in this tale about the choices we make in life. There’s also the darkness, “This Darkness…” which is given a voice.
"This Darkness..." originally appeared in the Crystal Lake Publishing anthology, For the Night is Dark.
As I type this, Occasional Beasts: Tales is one week away from being published!
It’s time you pre-ordered a copy, don’tchathink?
Here’s some cool art that works for the tale, in a way. Because, y’know, the creature in the tale is not a bear, it’s something more…cosmic and horrific, but it relates to a bear. This art is from a game called Shadow of the Colossus. I do not know who made the art, but I like it.
Next up, the age-old question of where writers get their ideas gets answered in a grim and quite unexpected manner, as we meet our “Personal Jesus.”