Friday, October 30, 2009
An eerie episode from my past
Being a (mostly) secular, pragmatic person, fully convinced of the virtues of Occam's razor, I don't know that I believe in the supernatural per se. But any open-minded person must eventually admit that there are phenomena in this world that, if one precludes such, simply cannot be explained. So, in the spirit of the Halloween season, I offer this true episode from my past. Perhaps not frightening, but weird. Make of it what you will.
In the spring of 1973, I was living in Salem, Oregon, in a house on Doughton Street, with my mother and my younger brother and sister. Next door to us, there lived a boy who was my age (11), named Danny. He and I became friends.
One bright, cool day we were standing in his kitchen talking. The sun shone weakly through the window over the kitchen sink. It was an easy, relaxed situation: just two boys hanging out together. The conversation revolved around things that eleven-year-old boys tend to think are important: school, friends, toys, television. Then, rather abruptly, Danny said "Let me show you something in the basement." He walked past me to the far end of the kitchen; to a door that opened onto descending stairs.
He opened the door and started down. I distinctly remember seeing him halfway down on the staircase, stomping his feet, descending. I followed him.
But sometime during my descent, I experienced a brief --what shall I call it? --interruption of cognizance? Whatever. The sensation was similar to that which one experiences when brought abruptly out of a reverie. It was as if I had been interrupted during a cast-afar daydream. It lasted no more than a second.
Then I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, in the basement. And it was empty. No Danny. No nobody. Just me standing in my next-door neighbor's basement.
I wandered through the basement looking for my friend, but he was nowhere to be found. I was puzzled.
And then, I heard Danny calling for me. From upstairs!
I climbed back up the stairs, and there was Danny, still in the kitchen. He asked, "Why did you go down to the basement?"
"I followed you!" I said.
He shook his head, saying "I didn't go down there."
That was thirty-six years ago. To this day, I still can't understand what happened. The human mind, of course, remains an enigmatic entity. Is it possible I experienced some kind of narcoleptic episode? That I lapsed instantaneously into sleep and thence to a dream? Or, going further afield, had I momentarily come into contact with some parallel universe, a la Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, wherein Alternate Danny and Alternate Dade had gone into the Alternate basement? Or had I been visited by some desperate underworld shade trying to reveal some dark secret?
I've never since had a similar experience. And, at this point, I'm convinced that I will go to my grave never knowing what truly happened. But once I get there... who knows?