Saturday, July 01, 2006

On Weird Incidents, Ideas, and My Insistent Muse

When it comes to story lines, plots, and writing ideas, I have no problem thinking them up. And real life often plays a significant role in the process. For instance, on 6/6/06, a day watched and feared by many because of its numerical significance as the "number of the beast," I had a few strange happenings. The first occurred midday as I was sleeping, after a long tiring night at work. I awoke to hear my dogs barking inside the house rather than outside, and I also heard the sounds of things banging around in my kitchen. Since I was home alone, this unnerved me some. So I got out of bed and snuck down the stairs as quietly as I could (after snagging a pair of scissors from the bathroom to use as a weapon, just in case) and looked around. My dogs by now were just sitting and staring at me, wagging their tails because they were happy to see me up and about, so they were no help in figuring out the source of the noise. And because I was expecting to find something a little bigger and more humanoid in appearance, it took a bit of looking around before I noticed my perpetrator, pictured here exactly as I found him. I eventually was able to capture and release him outside, but he left his mark behind. I had bird droppings all over my kitchen...on the floor, on the counters, on the coffeepot, on the cookbooks, in the sink... and spent the next hour disinfecting my kitchen. But I was strangely grateful the little bugger had held still long enough for me to fetch my camera and snap his picture because it was one of those, "no one will believe this" moments.

I chalked it all up to a weird happening and didn't think anything more of it until later that night. I was sitting on my couch chatting on the phone when I heard a strange scratching noise behind me. The couch is on an outside wall of the house and there's a deck there. At first I thought the scratching was one of my cats (who I suspect may have played a role in the appearance of the bird) but when I heard it again, I had my doubts. By the time I finished my phone conversation, several minutes had gone by and I hadn't heard the noise again. But I was alone in the house and still a tad bit unnerved by the whole bird incident earlier (not to mention sleep deprived, since I'd had only four hours of sleep). And my mind kept flashing on those B-movie scenes where some idiot demonstrates Darwinism in action by ignoring just such a sound until it's too late. So I flipped on the lights for the deck to take a look and lo and behold, the critter in this picture is what I found.

For those of you who may not know, that's a snapping turtle. A pretty damned big snapping turtle. They're slow but you don't want to mess with them because their bite can cause some serious damage, as can their claws. And their necks can stretch and bend to unbelievable lengths, allowing them to bite a lot further back than some people realize. So I wimped out and called the local police (who serve as animal control officers during the night hours) and had one of them come and remove it from my deck. Of course, I had to snap (pun intended!) a picture first because it was another of those, "no one is going to believe this" moments. Once the turtle was safely removed from my deck (unharmed, I might add) I wanted to tell someone about my weird experience. But it was closing in on midnight and not too many people I know would have appreciated a phone call at that hour. However my fellow night shift compadres in the ER were awake, so I printed out the pictures, hopped in my car, and headed up there. It's a short drive--I can actually see the hospital from my house--but I have to go a bit roundabout to get there in order to cross the river that runs behind my house. Just as I reached the opposite side of the river, a place where multitudes of ducks and geese hang out, a duck flew up and landed on the hood of my car... as I was driving! Now all the rest of the ducks were sleeping. This duck, however, chose to hop on my car as I drove by. It struggled to get a grip on the slippery hood, staring at me through my windshield the entire time. I stopped the car (I wasn't going very fast to begin with) and rolled my window down to try and shoo the duck away, wishing I had my camera with me.

By this time, I'm well aware of the date and a little spooked that I've had all these "beastly" occurrences. I'm beginning to wonder if this duck is as innocent as it looks. And just like that, the skeleton of a horror story begins to build in my mind. I breathe a sigh of relief when the duck hops off my car and lets me go by, but the day's incidents stick with me.

And the story idea won't let go. My muse likes it. She wants me to develop it. I have other things I'm working on and I want to stay focused on them. My muse and I have been arguing about it for almost a month now (can you spell schizophrenic??) and I fear she may be winning. We'll see.