Sunday, October 16, 2016

Autumn Leaves, October Rain, and Nightmares...

Right off the bat let me say that usually our Portland Octobers are pretty nice. The rains don't usually start until toward the end of the month, after which they don't stop until along about April. I italicized rains because rain is a constant fact of life around here for six months of the year, so much so that when the sun comes out people run around in shorts and sit on sidewalks drinking coffee and sunbathe wherever they can find a non-soggy piece of lawneven if the temps are below freezing.

This October is not nice. We've had enough rain that the leaves on the sidewalks and trails are soggy. No taking a walk in order to kick your way through drifts of crisp, rustling leaves, which I remember as one of the best things about autumn.

Except for once.

I was fifteen and we had recently moved to a middle-sized town in southern Idaho. The library was only a half mile or so from our house, and I made frequent use of it. Even better, it had a good collection of science fiction books, my then-favorite genre.

It was the middle of October and I was taking the long way home from the library because the temperature was mild, the wind was blowing fallen leaves across the streets and sidewalks, and the nearly full moon was playing peek-a-boo behind fast-moving clouds. Although there were streetlights at the intersections, the blocks were long and mostly dark. Deserted. I might have been the only person alive that night.

I am not one who jumps at shadows. I'm more likely to try to discover its source than to be afraid of a strange noise in the night, and ghost stories do not frighten me. About the only things that really scare me are lightning storms and having a tree fall on my housethat's happened twice and folk wisdom says events happen in threes...

One of the books I'd returned to the library that night was John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids. For some reason it had scared me, way more than any of Lovecraft's stories or Poe's or Shirley Jackson's. The triffids were plant creatures that ingested meat. Any kind of meat. And they were prone to making the source of the meat dead before they ate it. When they moved they made a clicking, rustling noise.

Just like those dry leaves rattling across the sidewalk.

I was terrified.

I did not run screaming, but I certainly walked very fast, flinching at every click, knock, bump, thud, rustle, and creak. I was never so glad to see our porch light as I was that night. For weeks afterward, I woke in the night, sure I'd heard a triffid outside my window.

In the many years since then, I've reread that book a couple of times and seen the movies (one true to the story, one not). And I have to admit, triffids still scare me. So maybe it's a good thing our sidewalk leaves here in Portland are soggy.


Mary Thornburg said...

Wow -- thanks for reminding me of The Day of the Triffids (I think!) My favorite John Wyndham book is Rebirth (the U.S. title; it's The Chrysalids in the U.K.) I recently reread it and found it, well, pretty old-fashioned in its gender stereotyping. But then it's an elderly book. I somehow missed the Triffids but I'll find it now. Love to be scared!

C.S. Fuqua said...

Never got around to reading the book (will now), but saw one of the movie versions and can't recall a thing about it. Thanks for the entertaining read.