Friday, January 08, 2010

Magic in the Details

January 8
Magic in the Details

Imagine being inside a scary place, such as the unlit cellar of a haunted house or an abandoned graveyard late at night. Use specific sensory descriptions - of smells, sounds, images (insofar as they are discernible in weak light), and physical sensations.

I feel as though I did this with an earlier exercise. I haven't even gotten through January without feeling as though I would be repeating. And perhaps I should read ahead so that I don't repeat. But, who cares. Instead of a scary funhouse, I think I will picture myself in a graveyard at night. There is a local graveyard in WNY that is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in WNY - Goodleburg Cemetery (I have also seen it spelled Goodleberg - not sure which is correct). I visited during the day once and it didn't seem to be that bad, but I can imagine it would scare the Bejesus out of you at night. Let's go....

I had heard that Goodleburg Cemetery was one of the most haunted places in WNY, but was skeptical. I thought the best way to get a feel for this creepy place would be to visit at night. This is not an easy task. The cemetery is in a pretty deserted place. It is not easy to get to and it is not easy to be anonymous once there. It is on a short, narrow street in the small town of Wales. It sits directly across the street from a small house and up the street from another house or two. I suspect parking in front of the cemetery wouldn't be a good idea since the owner of the house would likely call the cops thinking I was a high school kid out to get drunk or laid in the cemetery.

I parked on an adjacent street and hung the obligatory white t-shirt from my car window hoping anyone driving by would think the owner went for help because of a bum car.

That good idea quickly faded once I remembered that there are no street lights in rural anywhere. I walked up this street relying on the crescent moon as it periodically escaped from behind clouds because I didn't dare bring a flashlight.

Someone was home at the house across from the cemetery. I could see the living room light from behind the sheer blue curtains. I could also see the hockey game being played on the television set. I made a mental note to try to catch a score on my return, however unlikely that would be.

I could barely make out the decrepit stone stairs in front of me. When I was there during the day I thought I saw four or five steps. Now I couldn't be sure. I climbed up the steps feeling my way with my hands since my eyes were still becoming accustomed to the dark.

The steps ended with me standing between two trees. Was I really going to do this? How badly did I need to wander the most haunted cemetery at night? In the middle of nowhere. No one knew I was here and anything could happen. But I was being foolish.

It had lightly rained earlier in the day, but the dampness could be felt under foot. It reminded me of a bog. I could hear the slosh as my sneakers hit the grass. I could feel the slight bounce from peat or damp dirt. I could also smell spring. The smell of damp lawn coupled with worms making their way from a winter hibernation beneath the soil to the surface. The thought made me shiver.

I walked slowly afraid I might run into things, which I promptly did. The headstone came up so quickly and I found myself stabbed with pain in my mid-thigh. I rubbed the pain as I looked around. Did I just hear a twig crack? I could have. It was outdoors, after all. It was probably an animal.

Or did I just hear footsteps? I knew that the mind may start to play tricks on you, especially a mind prone to storytelling and creative endeavors.

Pipe smoke. I was sure I smelled pipe smoke.

And another twig crack.

I stood as still as the headstone I had run into. I could hear my heart thumping and could feel it in my chest as if it was in a race to get out of the cemetery. Sweat started on my forehead and the hair on my neck and arms stood. I couldn't hear my surroundings because of my heaving chest so I tried to calm myself. Think yoga breathing. In and out through your nose, calm down.

Frantic wouldn't help. Pipe smoke is not an animal wandering at night. Pipe smoke is someone in the cemetery. Or something.

God, what was I thinking coming here at night? What did I expect to find?

Then I thought, what if it's the person who lives in the house across the way. What if he or she saw me and thought this would be fun - scare the shit out of the trespasser. Well, it was working.

I had only walked ten feet into the cemetery and had no intention of walking any further. I turned to leave and ran smack into something large and solid. Thinking it was the pipe-smoking madman, I turned and ran into the cemetery. How I avoided additional headstones, I am not sure. But I was now lost. The moon receded behind the clouds and I was in the dark. Complete, desolate dark.

Yogic breathing wasn't going to help me now and I felt my chest heave beneath my frantic breaths and my unfaithful heart. I dropped to my knees to try to rally my senses and to catch my bearings. The grass was damp beneath my clammy hands. Then I felt a wriggle under my index finger and jerked my hand up. I stood straight up and tried to calm myself. The moon returned as my beacon and I was able to see that I had run into one of the trees at the entrance.

I laughed at my foolishness. Before the moon could return to its hiding place, I got the hell out of dodge, or the hell out of Goodleburg Cemetery.

I didn't stop to catch a hockey score, and I won't even return during the day.

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