It happens to everyone around here eventually, at some point, even though you’ve been told not to walk through the village alone at night, or maybe in some cases because you’ve been told not to do it, everyone finds themselves, sooner or later, walking through the village, alone, at night, maybe moonlight, maybe not, the details are a little different for everyone, but the basic scenario of being out there by yourself — for some people it’s on the lake, for some it’s in the pines, for some it’s probably right under the Breckendales’ grape vine, wherever — you encounter whatever beast you fear the most.
What is it for you? Can I ask that? I feel like maybe it’s the wolf for you. Or is it our Loch Ness? The skeleton in the Lukas’s castle? There are others. Plenty of others.
It happened to me. Of course it happened to me; I’ve lived here all my life, haven’t I? It was summertime. Hot. And I couldn’t sleep. Now that I think about it, I felt like the lake was calling to me. It’s like I’m lying there in bed between dream and sleep, and every thought, whether it’s subconscious or unconscious or my wide-awake thoughts, I’m not in control anymore and my thoughts are all about the lake, like I’ve got to get to the lake, or I’ve got to solve something at the lake or I forgot something at the lake, you know how it is in dreams when you can’t focus exactly but there’s a feeling, some nagging feeling that pulls you, dreamlike, to certain locations or certain images, and you can’t shake yourself up to identify exactly what’s going on, it’s just an inescapable feeling. And finally I realize, well, I’m not asleep, and I’m not sleeping in this frame of mind. So I get up out of bed. Now you know and I know that I’m not supposed to go walking through the village alone at night — we’ve heard enough stories, at our age — but of course I fooled myself by coming up with some reasons why it’d be okay this time: first of all it was hot, almost felt more like daytime than the day, and the full moon was up so I could see the paths well lit from my window, nothing scary about that, just like walking in the daytime, and the moonlight did look so enchanting on the lake, such a still, perfect night, and it was summer, too, and on such a beautiful summer night there’s always folks from outside the village who want to come visit the lake, skinny-dipping or rock-skipping or fishing or what-have-you, so, frankly, I didn’t think I’d be alone. So I left the house for a walk-about around the lake, just wearin’ a t-shirt it’s so warm.
The air is thick, and still, and it turns out there is no one else out there, no one that I can see anyway, but there’s nothing more beautiful than a lake by moonlight, so I keep walking, and even though I know I’m awake it’s kind of dreamlike. My feet keep following each other until I’m at the cove at the west end of the lake, and I’m lookin’ at my own moon-shadow in the placid lake water, waveless, I can see the reflection of the stars in the sky in the water at my feet and surrounding my moon-shadow. And as I’m looking at the starry reflection in the lake, trying to identify constellations, something happens: out of the darkness and among the pin-pricks of light in the lake reflection, a moon-shadow looms up behind me, I see it in the water, and I tell you it’s a wolf. My breath catches in my throat, and I briefly wonder if I can be so still that the wolf doesn’t know I’m there, but then I swear to you that I smell wolf breath. It is blood and dirt; it smells like death — flesh decomposing or being digested. I have the distinct notion of feeling sinful as I breathe it in, the wolf’s breath, my breath. And I realize in a moment of lucidity that I am encountering my deepest fear, the blood-thirsty wolf monster, and, hear this, I realize that it’s merely a reflection of me, as I can see in the water right in front of me and smell in my own nostrils — I am the wolf monster; I am the very thing I fear the most.
But I talk too much about myself. How about you? I know you. Your deepest fear is not some childish boogey-monster. No, yours is something real, something too real, something like cancer, or like watching yourself go crazy and not being able to stop it, or becoming an alcoholic. Or maybe getting pulled over by the police and locked up for the rest of your life, innocent but imprisoned. “The capricious nature of the state” — I heard that phrase once and it stuck with me, doesn’t it sound just awful, not sure exactly what it means, though, is the capricious one the bratty younger sibling or the bullying older sibling? — anyway, no, you’re not the type to worry as much about the police and the government as you are to worry about a personal catastrophe — personal over the political, do I have you pegged right? — so what’s your deep-down fear? Depression? Meaninglessness? Loneliness? I’d tell you not to walk around our village by yourself at night, but it happens to everybody, eventually, somehow you end up out there, alone, although most all the time in our village someone is watching you, someone’s got your back, really, cuz when they’re not watching, when you end up out there alone, that’s when you’ll encounter your fear.