The following is a short story I composed for a three part instagram series based on a photoshoot experience I had with Karen Gallagher and my father in Payson, Arizona. I’ve re-created it for you here as one post! Enjoy the creepiness.
She holds her lantern a little closer to her face. It’s useless trying to see the path now. But the light brings her comfort. The darkness has settled in like a blanket over a nightmare. Closed eyes would quickly comfort her figment into temporary blindness. But she keeps hers open. Gaze locked on shadows cast by her own limbs. Larger in the sun. Smaller now. The rustle in the bushes. The hope in the flicker. The movement in the distance. She can feel the presence of life closing in behind her. Is it human? Is it animal? Is it something unknown or her imagination? She is still locked onto her shadow, like an icicle beneath the doorframe. She can keep frozen through the night. All but the fog of her breath. By morning, she will start to melt. “Who’s there?” she whispers.
Her fear never shatters. But her hands never shake. There is hope in the light she presses closer to her forehead. She can see as far as the gaze just ahead of her frozen feet. So she decides to be brave…take one step forward. The rusting begins to quicken. Her heart follows suit. The candle matches but is that just her imagination again? She begins to calm herself. “Who’s there?” She cries out louder now. But no noise escapes her lips. She is still frozen, with the sound of her voice echoing in her head. There is no where else to go in these woods. She is alone for the night. With only a water wheel and a stream for company. Then the lantern begins to speak back to her through the flames. Offering a mantra of peace. In the darkness, there is always light. And when the candle burns out, morning will come. She gets brave again and begins to divert her eyes just for a moment. To look around for where to take shelter. The rustling gets louder.
The rustling stops. She begins to feel like she is losing her mind. Like it’s all been in her head all along. As this thought enters her mind, she remembers one thing. It is. This is a photoshoot. Her photographer is five feet ahead, lense clicking and making statements on how to change her body. Her father is there too, assisting by holding the florescent glow that illuminates her face more than a plastic lantern ever could. There is a parking lot ahead. A warm bed down the street. She escapes the creative moment she got so incredibly locked onto and remembers who she really is. A singer. A model. A writer. A lover. A traveler. “That’s a wrap,” she hears Karen call. She puts the lantern down from her tired arm and begins to walk towards the warm embrace of the jacket her father is waiting to wrap around her cold torso. She is safe. Just then…the rustling charges forward, louder than ever, revealing itself to doubtful eyes. As the covers are pulled from the nightmare, realty finally reveals it’s true force. A family of javelina run from the bushes behind her, and into the deep woods. “I thought I heard something rustling!” Says my dad. I’m not sure who was more startled, me or the animals. The three of us watch as the scared creatures take shelter in the forest. Maybe sometimes, it’s not always just your imagination.
*based on a true story*