I have never, that I can recollect, been truly terrified more than once in a 24 hour period. Until tonight. Leading us to this writeup...
At this time, I am living with my parents trying to find a job that doesn't involve flipping burgers. This means I am in a small town, which only has one store. To get to the point, a store that doesn't sell my particular brand of smokes. To get them, I have to walk roughly 7 miles to a truck stop, which is a 2 and a half hour trip, mostly along unlit, empty country roads.
I've been on a 4:30 AM to 8 PM sleep schedule lately, which means I was tired to start with when I set out (at 11 PM). For logistical reasons, AKA hiding my smoking from my parents, who should be able to accept that their dear little 22 year old son is able to make decisions for himself, even stupid and potentially fatal ones, but are most certainly not, I don't dare leave before they have gone to sleep. I digress... I was sleep deprived when I set out. That is where I've been going this last paragraph.
First it's a half mile through town, which is reasonably well lit. After that, it's not, especially when there is no moon and heavy clouds. The first big stretch is a 2 or 3 mile road, with fallow fields on either side. I'd walked this stretch of road numerous times, both on other cigarette runs, and back when I lived in this wasteland. But I am quite sure that I have never seen a reddish glow on the horizon on that road before. It was directly in front of me, and, as there were no other lights, I could not tell how far away it was. My best guess was it was right on the bridge that crossed over a small stream about a mile away. For some reason, the thought pops into my head of 'oh, it's an alien landing', which I laugh at as pure nonsense. But shortly thereafter, I began to feel like I was loosing control of my body - my head was spinning, and my body felt light. In the dark, all alone, with a mild case of sleep deprivation, everything became a monster. A small tree at the side of the road became a ravenous thing laying in wait for me. A small mammal in the ditch was a giant spider, sneaking up on me from behind. By the time I reached the end of the road, the only thing holding me onto sanity was the running commentary I kept in my head of my reactions. Other than that, my brain had de-evolved into something quite similar to what a small lizard might have. I am eternally grateful that I didn't run into some poor farmer or local kid on that road, because I truly believe I might have kicked in their head, or knifed them, out of mindless fear.
Despite being a wreck, I made it to civilization without any serious trouble. I bought 3 packs of smokes, and confused the crew by walking off down the road (I don't think this is typical behavior at truck stops). Walking back, I felt much better, though I realize now I was still somewhat unhinged. I felt that, being such a good smoker, the nicotine demons would protect me from harm. I don't think that is a sane thing to actually believe.
In any case, I make my way back to the monster infested road from hell. With the strange red light out of sight behind me and the lights of the town in front, the feelings I had before seem almost silly. I walk and I smoke and I even sang to myself a little bit. By the time I'm a mile away from town, I start thinking about how nice it will be to sit down and rest my legs, and drink a few of those Tecates I had in the fridge. And then I hear, out of the darkness around me, a large dog starting to growl. I pull out my cheap, stupid pocketknife† (how I wished for one of my switchblades at that moment), and begin to scream. Not a yell of 'Go away, bad doggie!', but of pure fear and rage, saying "I am big and mean and if you get near me I will fight" without any words. By this time I can see him, in the field next to me, following along with me. I keep walking, and screaming. A few times he looked like he was going to cross over from the field into the road... at which time I would have killed it, or gotten seriously hurt attempting said act. Believe me, I am not a bad person. Or at least, not bad enough to want to hurt or kill animals. But I would have done it.
We keep up our little dance, me, walking sideways with a knife in my hand, screaming, and our canine friend, following along, growling and barking. Eventually he slowed, then stopped, letting me continue on my way, with the receding volume of his threats letting me know it was safe enough to turn my back (though I checked every 10 seconds, all the way home, just to make sure).
Home. Lights. Beer. Safety. And as I'm sitting outside reading Howard Zinn and acting quite a lot like a normal person in civilization, I realize that the truly messed up thing about tonight was not what happened around me (which was weird enough), but that I spent most of the night with all of my higher levels of thought turned off. It is amazing what a little dark can do to someone...
All true. It's been a bad night.
† I've been taken to carrying a weapon on these trips ever since I heard two dogs stalking me in the dark while on one, around the end of September.