I was going to tell the story of getting shot at in Florida, but I thought of another Florida story instead. We'll save the shooting for another time. Instead, I'll relay one of the life experiences I've had that confirms, to me, how powerful the imagination can be. A thing for which I have no adequate explanation.
When I was about 18-19 years old many of my friends were going away to college, mostly University of Florida and Florida State. I had dropped out of high school on my own accord so those options were not yet open to me. Finances kept them from ever becoming a reality.
I was working my way through an 8.5 year A.A. program at a community college in Seminole County. The same one, incidentally, that George Zimmerman attends, or attended. I have not had much time to keep up with his life. This is one of the reasons I felt as if I had so much to say about the incident. I know the area pretty well, and am aware of both the overt and submerged racism that extends both ways. There is plenty of hatred amongst blacks for whites and Hispanics there.
Spell check had me capitalize Hispanics. I do not believe I have ever seen "whites" or "blacks" similarly capitalized.
In any event, that is not the point of my story.
I was dating a girl. Beth was her name. She was among several different girls I dated with the same name that used Beth, or Elizabeth, or Liz. The last mentioned, Liz, ending in suicide. Beth went away to school, Florida State. Being ~19 I would do just about anything for pussy, including driving the four hours from Orlando for it.
I didn't drive there very often before things inevitably ended between she and I. The weekends in a college town were much fun but she became very serious about studying, to what end I do not know. I saw her at a Bauhaus show many years later. Though she was lonely that first semester and I was young and energetic, willing to love, still trembling with glandular discharges. Young enough to have a long distance relationship, that is. Twitchingly motivated. So, on Friday nights I would make the four hour journey by myself, usually coming home on Sunday towards the afternoon/evening.
From Orlando, once you get off of I-75 heading north (75 could take you all the way through Detroit and into the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan, and then to the Canadian border, surrounded by Lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie) and turn West onto I-10 near Lake City where Ted Bundy took his last known victim, a 12 year old girl (10 will take you west all the way through New Orleans, San Antonio, and then on to Los Angeles, if you cared to), then you head the last hour and a half to Tallahassee. Through nothing but woods, along the panhandle.
Look at a map, there are no cities there, barely even gas stations. Just a highway built of necessity. An artery of commerce.
I believe this to be the greatest of southern crossroads, perhaps the most significant in all of America in terms of the length of roads crossed. Perhaps there is some crossing in the midwest that might beat it. I don't know. I've never cared. The roads lead north and west for as long as they possibly can.
Once you are on I-10 there are no lights, just highway and darkness, lots of it.
This particular night I was tired but not that tired. I wasn't suffering from highway hypnosis or anything along those lines. I didn't need to pull over. I was singing along with the tape player in a full-throated way, rocking along to R.E.M. or something similar. I was eager to make the last hour and a half towards my girlfriend.
There was the occasional headlight of a car going the opposite direction. The highway was separated by a significantly concave grass median, the outside shoulders tapering down into woods that were worse than nothingness. Darkness, and shadows that barely required light.
I had my high-beams on and there really was no reason to dim them for cars coming the other direction. The night and distance absorbed any oncoming insult.
About halfway between the turn west and my destination, maybe 45 minutes that direction, I saw somebody by the side of the road. I could see them from quite a ways off because they were wearing something very light, almost reflective. A sort of silverish figure standing on the side of the road, but on the road, at the edge.
I started to slow down as I approached, looking around for a wreck off to the side, assuming there must have been an accident. I probably slowed to around 30 or 40 while I was still a hundred yards off or more. With there being nothing else to see I started to focus on the person on the side of the road, who then started to walk into the road. I slowed down even more, not knowing what was going on and not wanting to hit them. I pulled to the inside of the far side, to the opposite edge.
It was then that I noticed the way they were moving, as if their elbows and knees moved in both directions. The fabric, or what seemed to be fabric, was of one piece and was worn from head to toe without a visible seam. There was a sort of S-shape to the extremities and this seemed to be how it would move, a sinuous sort of dance, though the feet were noticeably shifting also. It seemed almost unable to hold up its own weight in this way, but showed no sign of effort, or strain.
By this time it was in the middle of the right lane. I had slowed to about 15 or 20 miles per hour. As I passed I noticed that there wasn't much of a face on it. It was taller than the side of my truck but still a couple feet away, so that I could see to the top of its head. There were indentations where there would be eyes and they were of a slightly different color, almost a grey and without as much reflection, maybe none. There seemed to be a place where a mouth would be, but it didn't seem possible for it to ingest anything that way. Sound may have been a possibility. I heard nothing. It spoke nothing that I could hear. But it was interested in my passing.
Its attention followed me as I went by. Its head turning slowly with me, slow enough for me to get a really good look. Its arms were moving and even seemed to lengthen a little as I passed. I could see the fingerless hands and a dark line that hinted at a thumb. Through my right window I looked directly at it. As the lights from my headlights were no longer hitting it there seemed to be a glow from whatever light had been previously on it, as if it had absorbed all that it needed. Phosphor, or a bioluminescence. I could see it even more clearly once it was out of the direct light.
This mild glow seemed to come from just under the surface of the material. There may have been more than one layer. The glow was concentrated in the abdomen, though only slightly more so. As you can probably guess, its head was large and its neck was thin and seemingly elongated.
It all happened in a matter of seconds, no more than three or four at the very most.
Then, it was in my rearview mirror, it had turned to watch me drive away. I could see it still face-on watching me depart. This is when I could really see how it moved, its sort of liquid locomotion, with each leg almost acting independently, like a four-tentacled octopus on its hind legs. It didn't seem to be pursuing me or indicate anything to me other than mild curiosity. It just turned and watched, standing near the center of the highway.
That didn't matter to me.
I was only about 20 or 30 feet past it when I also turned backwards to look off into the woods from where it seemed to have come, wanting to see a few cars, probably pickup trucks, and kids laughing, getting their kicks, drinking beer and cheering.
There was nothing, but it was dark.
I got my truck back up to 70 mph as fast as I could, as fast as it would, watching this lone apparition recede in my rearview mirror, deep in the middle of nowhere. By this time I was shaking, and scared. I kept looking in my mirror and through the back window of my truck, half expecting to see a launch and a light darting through the sky. I kept telling myself to stop or turn around, but wasn't able to.
Fuck, fuck, fuck was all I could think clearly.
Fuck, fuck, fuck was all I could think clearly.
I told myself over and over that it had to have been kids, college kids, an elaborate prank. A student of avant-garde dance. Michael Jackson had also pulled off miracles of movement.
But then I couldn't understand why they would risk their life stepping out onto a highway for a joke or a student project - so far away from anything, willing to get shot, almost asking for it.
Kids, I thought, kids it must be. Not kids like me.
And that's what I've told myself ever since.