This last week or so I’ve been making sure I get my daily allocation of steps (my fitness smart watch demands my obedience) by going out for a late evening stroll. I’m usually out at 21:00 or even 22:00, walking at least a mile and a half to three miles.
Most nights I’l piss off the occasional dog who objects to my existence on the other side of their wall, and I’ll spot a clown or two running through a stop sign at 50 mph. As long as I’m not actually in the crosswalk at the time, the walk is (hopefully) calming.
Last night it was spooky quiet. I don’t think I saw more than one or two cars all night. After a while it became quite noticeable that I hadn’t heard a single dog barking. I didn’t hear any music playing or noise from any televisions coming from any houses, despite the fact that it was a comfortable night and I would have thought that many folks would have their windows open. No helicopters, no jets heading into Runway 08 at Burbank.
Tonight flipped to the exact opposite. And it was all odd, at least a little bit off in small, subtle ways.
That car parked next to the high school? Only when I was passing it did I realize that it was running and occupied by a couple. No brake lights, no motion, just a sudden realization that there were shapes in there and they were talking loudly. More like an argument than making out, but not exactly threatening or dangerous. I did give a couple of thoughts as I went by as to what I might do if the woman inside saw me and took the opportunity to jump out and shout for help.
Around the corner, I can hear an unfamiliar sound. Sort of like a cricket but more metallic or mechanical. It’s soft but somewhere straight ahead of me. Within ten seconds or so I hear the location switch to a location out in the middle of the street about 45° out, then to a spot that sounded like it was about five feet away out in the street, then to a spot behind, at which point it became a more steady drone and quickly dopplered away. The street is well lit there with a high school on one side and a shopping center parking lot on the other, yet I saw nothing passing me by or anywhere near me.
Around the corner, the grocery store had closed at 21:00, about fifteen minutes earlier. There was suddenly an alarm bell going off and I saw three or four people get out of a very high-end SUV and run over to the locked doors. The alarm stopped and they went back to their car and just stood around, waiting for something. I’m going with the closing shift doing a poor job of setting the burglar alarm, correcting the error, and then wasting their time doing something or the other.
As I go around the next corner I can see a kid twenty or thirty feet in front of me. A Mini pulls up and there’s some kind of exchange between the several occupants of the car and the teenager on the sidewalk. He gets in but doesn’t seem enthusiastic about it. They roar off – and run through the red light ahead of them. (At least that part was “normal.”) Big brother rounding up the kid who broke curfew? Gang members? Something completely innocent?
Now that it’s dead quiet again, coming through the red light from the other direction I can hear music, getting louder. Over the little rise appears a HUGE guy on a bicycle with a boom box blaring away. He reminded me of some of the passing characters in “Blade Runner.”
Approaching my home block after about a mile and a half, I can see a large SUV pull over at the corner ahead, stop, and the hazard warning lights turn on. I see someone get out and stand in the middle of the street nearby. As I approach I can hear someone talking quite loudly. It’s the lady standing in the middle of the intersection, talking on her phone. I don’t understand what she’s saying or even recognize the language. She’s quite excited and agitated. Is she having mechanical trouble? Did she run out of gas? As I cross the street I see that she’s tall, really tall, like basketball center on the US Olympic team tall, at least 6’6″ or more. She’s dressed in what looks like some kind of African dashiki and is wearing a turban or headdress of some sort. She never looks at me, just keeps shouting into her phone. As I get across the street to where her car is parked, I see that it’s running, the interior lights on with the driver’s door open. What made her stop her car so fast and jump out? Why is she shouting and who is she shouting at on her phone?
Very, very odd.
As I turn the final corner toward home I half expect to see Rod Serling standing there smoking a cigarette. He wasn’t there, of course. That whole “been dead for a long time” thing and all. But given the rest of the evening, it might not have been as unlikely as it would have been in broad daylight.
Walking through the Twilight Zone is mind bending.