A Trip Down Memory Lane
“Spoopy street, Ah spoopy street, gonna take it down to ah spoopy street.”
“Dude, were you just singing your made-up song about spooky street?”
“Just excited man, in a couple of days we’ll be taking the perilous journey down one of the town’s most legendary streets.”
The street in question is of course Starlight drive, shrouded in mystery and riddled with dangerous folklore. As the legend states, the night before Halloween, whoever resides on the street would vanish. The myth began with the inception of the street itself.
Many years ago, old settlers made it their home, albeit on stolen land. The colonists later learned that the misappropriated boulevard may have been cursed. Just a few short months after their colonization as the summer transitioned into fall, and the day before all hallows eve, a lonely quiet stable boy vanished, never to return. The year following, a young woman disappeared. This went on for quite some time. Men, Women, and children there one moment, gone the next. It took quite a while before the pioneers deemed it a condemned street. They wished to hold steadfast that the disappearances were just a coincidence. But after too long, they succumb to the reality they didn’t belong.
Despite the folk tales and the myths surrounding it, people still settled there. The sacred land took all of its victims. Missing persons’ reports riddled the streets stapled to lampposts and pinned to bulletin boards all around town. All those missing people remained missing. The 80s saw the last of Starlights’ residence. After a young man vanished. The young man’s name was Bert Checkerbee. A fine gentleman and an even better musician; he dazzled the masses with his guitar playing. Bert’s absence was the final straw, it seemed. Vacated weeks after, the street of Starlight saw no more inhabitants. Just a long stretch of road hugged by tall grass and the shells of the house that occupied the street not that long ago. A street trapped in time.
No soul has ventured down Starlight the day before Halloween since the 80s. Well, at least not until this year.
Thrill-seekers Derek and Steve loved the bizarre and spooky. They had an endless thirst for all things odd and unexplained. They investigated many urban legends all around the country, debunking some, confused by others, and frightened by a handful of them, but their passion kept them going. That same passion led them here to Starlight Drive, or as Derek called it spoopy street. The two hoped that this last venture would be enough to write a book. Stationed in their motel, they formed a plan the same as they usually do.
“Alright, this should be an easy one. Will begin the walk at midnight on mischief night. Not too long of a street may be a quarter-mile if that, So I will go slow, scanning and filming what we see, recording a log all the while.”
“Sounds good to me. I have everything we need packed up and ready to go, all we have to do now is wait.”
With that, Derek headed to bed for a nap while Steve sat at the desk and reread over some literature pertaining to the journey ahead.
Derek fell in and out of sleep. He couldn’t seem to rest, every time he dozed off, the sinking feeling of anxiety jolted him back awake. He had been eager for most of his adventures with Steve, especially the day or hours prior. He thought it’d be odd if he wasn’t. That was part of the fun of it, the thrill, the sensation of conquering fear and tapping into something otherworldly along the way. But this escapade down Starlight Drive left an odd uneasiness unlike any he’s ever felt before, enough to shake him out of a sound sleep multiple times.
He implemented a technique, a technique his therapist taught him, and it worked well in times of need. Take the anxious thought and slowly count to 5. 1...2...3...4...5, then replace the thought with a peaceful thought, a calming thought, a more tolerable thought. The technique worked and allowed him to finally drift off into a deep sleep.
The nap didn’t last too long, it seemed like only twenty mins when his friend started gently shaking him awake.
“Come on man, it's time to go, it's approaching midnight.”
Derek sat upright at the edge of the bed, groggy as can be.
“Great, now I’m exhausted and anxious, a perfect storm for a wonderful evening.” He thought to himself as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. Not much I can do now. It might be better once we get there.
It took all of fifteen mins to reach their destination. Still, it felt like hours for Derek. It was time for him to get this over with. Derek parked the pickup on a side street right where it met the main road in front of the sign Starlight Drive in the standard green with white font. Like a reporter on capitol hill, Steve began snapping pictures from every angle possible, jarring Derek from his still dazed state.
“Alright man, grab your bag, your flashlight. And your camera and let’s get in our starting positions.”
Steve and Derek lined up side-by-side ready to start their expedition.
“Ok, here we go, just hit midnight shall we begin?”
The two started their walk down spoopy street. Nothing out of the ordinary, especially at the beginning. Any street presents its eeriness, especially at this time of night. The fall air was oddly humid. It hung heavy and low, right around Derek’s head. Only aiding his drowsiness.
The pattern was distinct. On one side was a row of houses, abandoned and slightly frail, but still in decent enough shape. It was a miracle some of these houses were still visible. This grass and plant life had grown recklessly large and out of shape. Just on the opposite end was a tangled mess of overgrown shrubbery and tangled branches, only accessible via machete or chainsaw at this point. Derek’s flashlight scanned the tall grass and made its way to the window of one of the ancient abodes. He stayed put on the window, brightening the dining room inside.
“Look, it’s completely abandoned, but most of the furniture is still there, dining table, high back end chairs,’’
Derek adjusted his flashlight along with creeping closer to said house.
“My goodness, even a table set and everything forks knives the lot of it.’’
Steve and Derek both mesmerized, taking their time to study every aspect of the house in the middle of the street. Completely hypnotized.
Just then, the tranquility was shattered with a high-pitched squawk that emanated from just ahead. The duo averted their eyes to the sight of a giant owl leaping from the grass. Its wingspan was in full display as it jetted into the air just overhead, clutching some small critter in its talons as it soared into the night sky beyond the clearing and out of sight.
“Shit man, I almost jumped ten feet in the air.” Steve said, panting heavily.
“I know... What the hell was it carrying I couldn’t see, it looked like a bunny or mole I can’t say for sure.”
“Yeah not sure let’s just continue shall we.’’
Apart from the giant squawking fowl, the friends had seen little action. Quite uneventful in fact. Just more of the same. Abandoned house, tall grass, rinse and repeat. Not much worth investigating if he was being honest. Steve shared the sentiment as he sang once again.
“Spoopy street AH spoopy street, we're on Spoopy street, turns out it’s not so SPOOOOOOPY.”
more than halfway down the street, something came over Derek. something heavy enough to stop him in his tracks.
“Whoa you good man?”
“Umm yeah, I don’t know, I just felt a blast of cold air for a second. It's gone now. Felt like we were in a blizzard, but only for a moment.”
“hmm. Alright, well, we’re almost done, let's get back to the motel and maybe we could look into it. Shits kinda getting boring, honestly.”
Derek nodded.“Yeah I feel the same.”
What Derek really felt was a relief, relief that the trip was over and this would be behind them. As the pair trotted onword, the closer the end of the street got, the more Derek felt at ease and the more his anxiety subsided.
“Finally,” he thought.
With an enormous sigh, eliminating the last bit of stress, Derek took a big step off Starlight and onto the main road just inches ahead.
Almost instantaneously like a blink of an eye, the last step onto the main road had very peculiarly brought him right back to the beginning. It happened so quick, like a flash of a camera. One second he was approaching the end of the street and the next he was at the beginning. In an attempt to gather himself and get his bearings straight, Derek looked around frantically as that once alleviated anxiety crept its way in at a record pace.
“Ok, I know I’m at the beginning of the street because of the landscape other than that, no telltale signs. The truck is gone and furthermore, there is no street sign.”
Mid-analysis of his surroundings, a thought that lost his mind hit him in the head like a gunshot and panic erupted in every fiber of his being.
“Where’s Steve!? Ok.. ok maybe I’m still not fully awake. Maybe I dozed off and got lost. Who knows I just gotta move, I can’t standstill.”
Derek Marched on, panting as he did, examining the environment as he moved along, zipping his head around like a finch perched on a branch looking out for predators. Hoping to find anything of use or better yet, his friend.
The first thing he noticed was the grass on the far side of the road. It no longer resembled a wild jungle, instead much more the opposite: the grass was kempt. In fact, not much grass at all. Stables and animals occupied the space where gardens and front porches once stood. Now, something was severely wrong. He tried not to let hysteria creep in as he searched for answers. His search yielded more uncertainty, as he noticed the old 80s style modern two-story house was replaced with single-room houses made of wooden frames and patched up with what seemed to be clay or mud. Each house was just about the same, dimly lit with candlelight, a majority of them billowing smoke out of a small stone chimney placed on the far side of the roof. Something is seriously wrong, he thought. He tried to calm his breathing, unclench his fist and relax his shoulders to keep a full-blown panic attack at bay. The effort was ill-timed because just then he heard a bushel of men and women just Behind him, that almost sent him completely out of his skin. Knee-high socks, loose fitted lined shirt tied together by a long jerkin to bring it all together. Colonial garb, he surmised. The men and women held torches to illuminate the way.
“Alan!, AAALLAANN, ALAN,” the group took turns yelling.
Derek thought back briefly to the preparation research. Alan Williams, the first reported vanishing of Starlight Drive.
“oh no, oh god, what is this?”
A flood of panic overcame Derek as he gasped for air and clutched his chest.
“What do I do? what do I do?”
He quickly decided in a moment of clarity to use his body’s natural fight-or-flight response, choosing the latter of the two he took off in a mad dash. Eyes darting toward the end of the street where it met the long main dirt road, averting his eyes from the surrounding oddities. He leaped out towards the main road with one giant step and BANG like an even brighter flash of light he was back, back at the beginning, back at the start. Out of breath and still thoroughly confused, he made a quick decision to go the opposite direction, twice he tried to reach the end of the street to no avail. A quick shift towards the main road at the beginning of the street yielded the same results. BANG flash of light and he was standing at the beginning of the street an arm’s length from the road. Derek looked for answers while simultaneously trying to calm his nerves.
The street and neighborhood looked different every time. The man-made lake from the 60s.
The mansion from the richest person in the city in the 70s.
The old schoolhouse during the 1800s.
The old-style metal playground from the 50s.
Back and forth, back and forth, as he witnessed his research of Starlight Drive come to life in real-time. Utterly defeated, a broken Derek flashed once more at the end of the street to the very beginning. This time was different. This time he recognized something, not from his research but from something he saw the first time he walked down the road with Steve. That seemed like days or weeks at this point. The sign was the same as their first trip through. This time the sign was the small green and white rectangle that he was familiar with. The house he saw the first time was quite similar to a modern style two-floor ranch. It’s just this time the houses were not abandoned. The Exact opposite, lively and flourishing, no wild greenery. Neat and tended to lawns all the way down the street.
The light fall breeze carried a tune unlike any he’s ever heard on his go-arounds. A softly strung fingerstyle sonata on an acoustic guitar grew louder as Derek grew near. Closer to the sound, he saw its source, a young man at the halfway point of the street playing along as he watched the people in the house across from him. Just an arm’s length away from the young man playing guitar, he stopped and listened as he observed his appearance. He wore a full suit, black jacket, black dress pants, with a black tie and white undershirt. He had a thick pair of rimmed glasses, black as well. His hair was heavily gelled and parted to the side. Looked very similar to Buddy Holly. Maybe it was, Derek thought it wouldn’t be so odd, considering all things. A shattered and defeated Derek just stood and allowed the stranger to serenade him for a while.
“Hey, Derek, good to see you again.”
Derek was stunned; he stood there in complete shock. It was the first time anyone had spoken to him. Despite many attempts to gain attention, this was his first.
“How... umm, how do you know my name, who are you?”
“The names Bert Checkerbee we’ve met a dozen times or more, well to you this might be your first.” Bert continued playing as he did not break his gaze with the house in front of him.
“I know time makes little sense here. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here for a while. Sometimes it feels like I just got here.
Derek was enamored with Bert. This was the closest he’s ever gotten to some type of answer. He just stood there and let Bert speak.
“This is my favorite go through, my favorite memory is here, my house the day I went missing.”
He gestured a nod towards the direction of the residence.
“There’s my mom in her robe smoking on the front porch, anxiously waiting for me to show up from my gig in town… but I never did. Honestly, I don’t know why or how any of this works but when I’m here in this memory, this time, I like to stand here and play hoping that maybe my mom or somebody will hear me.”
The beautiful melody of the guitar rang on through the still night. Derek allowed it to wade over him for a while like waves on the sand. For the first time in weeks or months, he felt somewhat relaxed. Just as Derek was ready to ask Bert another question, he intercepted it as if he knew it was coming.
“Yeah Derek, I don’t know how this works. The reality of time is non-existent on this street. I’ve tried everything, up and down the street, through the yards, the woods, different times, and I always find myself at the beginning. The only saving grace is that I won’t remember at some point… but hey listen if you figure out how to get out of here or anything please let me know will ya?’’
Derek walked now with a little more vigor; his brief discussion with Bert gave him renewed optimism.
“What else can I do?” he pondered.
“I’ve been trying to work the street, but maybe it’s me that has to change.”
What did I do in my regular day to day before this mess that helped me get on the right track? After a while, he thought of all the times his life was in peril.
“The count, the five-count, that’s what i'll do.it’s worth a shot”
Derek trotted towards the end of the street as he prepared for the mental exercise.
“Ok, take a bad thought and with a count to five, then replace it with a good one.”
planted at the end of the street ready to take his last step, Derek began to count.
“5... remember to breathe 4… 3...everything will change once I step off the street. 2... everything will be back to normal 1. “
As the number left his mouth, Derek took a light step onto the main road. Bang a blaze of illumination and back to the beginning of the street. Before Derek let discouragement take hold, he surveyed the area and saw something that shot him with hope. There it was, Steve’s truck, parked just outside the street at the intersection of the main road. Filling with positivity, he ventured on ahead. The houses and the grass, everything seems to be the same as when he first saw it: wild, empty, and unoccupied. This Filled him with cautious optimism.
“Did it work, did it actually work?’’
Just ahead, almost answering his own question, he heard something he thought he would never be so happy to hear.
“Spoopy street ah spoopy street.”
Steve popped into his line of sight. Derek was in a full-throttle sprint as he was overwhelmed with excitement ready to meet with his friend Steve. As he drew closer, he caught sight of another individual walking next to Steve. His stomach dropped when he saw who that person was.
It was him.
Walking as they had the very first night, the very first dreadful night that would change Derek’s life forever. Struck with the sudden realization like a punch from a heavyweight, Derek stumbled. He flailed his arms, trying to regain balance as he was on an Inevitable crash course with himself. Bracing for the impact, he put his arms out and closed his eyes. But to his surprise, nothing, no collision, no fall, nothing. It’s as if he went right through himself. The only change was the position. He was now in front of him and his friend going over a familiar conversation.
“Whoa, you good man?”
“Umm yeah, I don’t know. I just felt a blast of cold air for a second. It's gone now. Felt like we were in a blizzard but only for a moment.”