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  • In high school I lived for a while in a small cabin without electricity next door to my father and his wife's homestead nearly a mile up a rainforest trail in Juneau, Alaska. It was a cozy place tucked in the tall sitka spruce trees with a tiny kitchen and even a shower that I could heat up the cold mountain stream water using a propane heater and an outhouse I always wished was a few feet closer.

    I had more freedom than most to come and go and, being a teenager, often would arrive home at all hours. I would often try to con my boyfriends to walk me home but after the first time, they were rarely willing. Southeast Alaska trails on rainy nights are where you find absolute blackness. This trail was also frequented by black bears, a fact I confirmed with my own eyes many times. Anyway, it is route that can inject tremble even into the bravest heart.

    My strategy for being brave while alerting any wild animals to my presence was to sing as loudly as I could. It's funny what fear will do to your mind because I never could remember the words to any song except Yellow Submarine, so that is what I bellowed over and over until I was safe and sound.

    One night I was returning home in the wee hours, tired and with a pillow of fear in my breast of what might be lurking for me in the darkness, when I heard something in the woods beyond the measly pale beams of my flashlight. I was only a quarter of the way home to a warm dry bed and my voice was shaky as I hollered my song and swept the shadows with the dim light. The ball of fear leapt from my breastbone to my skin when I shone the light into the dark and it fell on what must have been ten pairs of glowing demonic eyes and the shape of a large ribcage rising up out of the wet forest floor, a scene from that movie you really don't want to find yourself in. The multitude of eyes stared at me, an intruder on their ritual feast and they were not retreating. I'm sure I screamed - my song no longer a comfort. Had it been earlier in the evening, I would have retreated and called to beg my father to come fetch me. I was much too tired and had no other place to go so I pressed along the trail, walking backward to keep an eye on the night beasts with shaky hands and song, and eventually made it home an adrenaline husk.

    Thinking back, it was probably the remnants of a poached deer and the eyes could have belonged to ordinary dogs but in that enveloping blackness I was sure my end was near.
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