By G.D. Maxwell
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled like a Republican contemplating a Kerry victory. Snain sloppy, stinging precip on the cusp between snow and rain came out of the sky sideways, filling the inner right ears of anyone unfortunate enough to be walking west without a good toque or an iPod earbud stuffed down their aural canal. Slushy puddles gathered in low spots and joined other slushy puddles to form slushy lakes, giving anyone walking any direction a double soupcon of cold toe soup.
Nights like these in Whistler, mused Ichabods brain, are about as rare as overpriced drinks at happy hour. He wasnt even sure he understood what he meant but that too was not a rare occurrence. The thought amused him nonetheless as he squished his way down Lorimer Road, becoming more aware with each step that his aging, high-tech, Gore-Tex boots were long on gore and pretty much depleted of any tex they might once have had.
A full moon plus a day smudged the bruise-coloured sky, more gestalt than actual light. It was, after all, a dark and stormy night. But the megawatts of light cast skyward from the nonstop din of Whistler Village and the faint, irregular lights crawling up Blackcomb, like long-neglected rigging lights on a derelict sailboat, gave the sky an eerie cast.
As he walked, erratic shadows played across the liquid sidewalk, cast by the pale light of sustainable streetlights. Occasionally, longer shadows would race back along the sidewalk to meet him as a free Halloween bus stuffed with ghoulish children clamouring for candy roared past, often as not spraying him with the downward parabola of watery runoff, reminding him his aging ski jacket too was more gore than tex. And, of course, his jeans were all gore all the time and very quickly, as the temperature dropped, beginning to resemble a stiffening body cast. The iceman cometh.
Something was coming up behind him. He spun quickly at the sound of footfalls in the slush. In the backlit darkness, he saw nothing. "Just the wind playing tricks on me," he guessed.
"This sucks," Ichabod thought. He was struck by how much his mental vocabulary seemed to consist of those two words these days. Only two weeks in town, he was already beginning to wonder about the wisdom of his decision to take a year off off what? Off school which seemed pointless; off life in Tinytown, Ontario which seemed even more pointless to be a skibum.
It had been his dream to be a skibum ever since hed overheard a friend of his older brother talk about the year hed spent in Whistler. The girls, the parties, the skiing, the clubs, the dope; it all sounded like the kind of hedonistic wetdream his now 20-year-old brain burst to even think about. The town, as he fantasized it, was a smorgasbord of everything that had any currency in his young life and far more appealing than studying business and joining his dad in the family insurance business like his older brother, who now seemed decades older than he really was.
But the reality sucked. Five hundred a month to share a bedroom with two people he didnt know, an animal house full of hungry dreamers just like himself, Shreddies and tuna that disappeared as soon as he brought them home, no girls, no dope, no skiing, no shifts yet at one job and just a few hours a week at the other washing dishes.
Hed called his dad and grazed around an oblique request for some money when he realized the two thousand bucks hed brought with him would never last until real paycheques started rolling in. His old man told him hed give him as much as he wanted as soon as he came to his senses, came home and started back to school. "Screw that!" he thought. "Id rather shoplift, panhandle or pimp my sweet young ass than spend the rest of my life staring at actuarial tables."
He heard the footfalls again, this time paralleling him higher up the hill that ran along the sidewalk. "Whos that?" he shouted into the wind. The sound stopped. He stopped. Peering into the looming trees rising above him, he thought he saw something shining, something staring back at him.
"Whos that?" he shouted again. The glint faded into the background, accompanied by a rustling of branches, sound of movement.
"Must be kids," he comforted himself thinking. It was, after all, Halloween. He was on his way to Tapleys to try and pass himself off as a 15-year-old "hippie" for a big candy score. He knew his diminutive frame and sketchy facial hair looked far more 15 than 20, a point driven home with humiliating regularity by every bouncer at every club and bar hed been to since arriving in town and, truth be told, he was still kid enough to relish the thought of gorging on Halloween candy.
He turned and ducked as something unseen brushed the back of his head and buckled his knees. "Whaaaa... " his voice high, almost girlish. Nothing was there.
He stopped, uncertain whether he really wanted to go on. He felt chilled then realized it was getting colder. Snain turned to snow and his wet clothes began to tighten around him. Moving on, thoughts of candy buttressing his waning bravery, he heard sounds, low moans as he approached the school drive, whispers and movement, commotion, silence and then a low, menacing growl.
Hed heard wild stories about pit bulls or thought hed heard them and began to run. His toes ached as they slid into the frozen ends of his boots. "Staaay awaaay," he shouted, glancing over his shoulder, sure he saw something in the shadows.
Halfway down the hill he stumbled, an untied bootlace, and slid belly-first in the freezing slop. He heard running paws, heavy breathing, his own and something elses. Rolling over, he thought he saw a flickering red light moving toward him and the faint outline of a big dog closing the distance between them.
He made a dash, off the sidewalk, down an overgrown hill toward back porch lights of a house not far away. "My only chance," he thought. Tripping on the undergrowth, he went down again, this time wrapping his arms tightly around his head, resigned to the knowledge the dog would be on him in another second.
The brush rustled, he could feel the dogs hot breath. Cringing, waiting for the sharp bite, he waited. Nothing. Opening his eyes, removing his arms, he was face to face with the predator, a big, slobbery Lab. A Lab? A killer Lab?
"You ok, dude?" a voice from the sidewalk asked.
"Yeah," he mumbled weakly.
"Better be more careful, man."
"Lets go, Zippy. Happy Halloween, dude."
"Yeah, happy Halloween."