Friday, May 30, 2008

Things That Go “Uuuungh” In The Night

Last Monday AM, around 1:50, Flo was sitting at my computer, and I was in my chair, about 10 feet away. She’d been doing some online research, and turned to chat with me – we’d been talking for a few minutes, and she was mid-sentence when a loud noise practically drowned her out.

It was a very load moan or groan, “Uuuungh,” deep and resonant. The best I can describe it: as if someone had plunged a butcher knife into the gut of a large, robust old man. To me, the sound appeared directly between us. Flo told me that she thought it might have come from out back, though the window and door in that direction were shut tight. Still, we checked both out front and back, and found nothing whatsoever to account for the sound.

Sounds rarely rouse me when I’m asleep (my Brown Noise track drowns out everything), and if they do, if I can’t find anything to account for them, I write the experience off as an artifact from dreaming. But, when something like this happens when I’m awake, and there’s a witness, that shines a different light on the phenomenon.

Micro-anomalies are for the most part overlooked, I think, because there is simply nothing of value that you can extrapolate from them, at least not individually. If, say, tens of thousands of fish or frogs dropped from a clear sky into your neighborhood, it would provoke mass speculation; theories would abound, and range from freakish weather to black holes to Biblical plagues.

We’ve lived in this house for a number of years now, and while we’ve had a fair share of these micro-anomalies, the “groaning old man” is not a regular occurrence; nor am I inclined to call TAPS and report a haunting. If the groan appeared regularly, I’d be sure to record and time it, and stake out various possible entry points – but I doubt he – whatever “he” might be, will cooperate.

The natural tendency is to toe-tag such happenings and file them away in the “unexplained” drawer. The event is neither broad nor significant enough to make any useful speculations about – and if you dwell on it enough, you will look like a nut to everybody else.

I once approached an ATM just as the woman ahead of me left; the machine displayed “Thank you, Mrs. Stanton” for a few seconds, and I turned to see her climb into an elegant white car with an Ohio license plate. I never saw her before, and had no idea if she was related to me – in fact, the happenstance is only significant if I feel that it is to me – yet it is not a commonplace occurrence. How often might I have stood behind or in front of another Stanton in some line somewhere, and simply not known it? What were the odds that I would have noticed this time?

Synchronicity can be incidental – such as a name or verbal pun – or a physical event – something tangible beyond syntax and the coincidences of language.

One Thanksgiving when I was a teenager, we heard the screech of tires, and an ensuing ruckus out front – a child had bolted from our next door neighbor’s front yard, and a middle-aged woman had almost hit her – in fact, she had run over the very tips of the little girl’s shoes; the child was unharmed, but both she and the driver were almost in shock from the near-tragedy. The driver was rushing home after making a last moment purchase for the holiday dinner. She wanted everything to be perfect, because her son, who lived out of state, was visiting for the first time in years.

Almost exactly an hour later, another screech, another ruckus out front. Another neighborhood child, about the same age as the first, bolted into the street, from the same place in the same yard. This time, she was hit, and her leg was broken. You guessed it – this driver was the first driver’s son, who didn’t want to be late for Thanksgiving dinner.

This was on a quiet side-street, not a thoroughfare. There was no geographical reason why a child would choose to cross at this point over any other, and neither child had been visiting next door. Both had just been walking along, and for no understandable reason, had chosen that place and moment to run across the street.

Micro-anomalies – the eerie confluence of implied purpose and possibility – if you catalog enough of these, they just might be sufficient to entertain a dinner guest or two, but they also have a cumulative, disquieting effect. Like a pixel-glitch, a video-hiccup in the face of the person across from you.

At the signpost, up ahead…

While you're at it, check out the publications below - I have an article and three photos in Twisted Dreams, and a photo on the title page in NexGen Pulp.

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