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it’s all you americans talk about… liminal space this… cryptid that

america is big, we got.,.,.,. its a lot happening here

It’s at least 3,000 miles just from the East Coast to the West, depending on where you start.

If I try to drive from here in Maine to New Mexico, it’s 2,400 miles. 

From here to Oregon, 800 miles from my current residence to my relatives in NJ, then another 3,000 miles after that. 

A brisk 8 day drive that meanders through mountains, forests, corn fields, dry, flat, empty plains, more mountains, and then a temperate rain forest in Oregon.

The land has some seriously creepy stuff, even just right outside our doors. 

There is often barking sounds on the other side of our back door. 

At 3 am. 

When no one would let their dog out. 

It’s a consensus not to even look out the fucking windows at night. 

Especially during the winter months. 

Nothing chills your heart faster than sitting in front of a window and hearing footsteps breaking through the snow behind you, only to look and not see anything. 

I live in a tiny town whose distance from larger cities ranges from 30 miles, to 70 miles. What is in between?

Giant stretches of forests, swamps, pockets of civilization, more trees, farms, wildlife, and winding roads. All of which gives the feeling of nature merely tolerating humans, and that we are one frost heave away from our houses being destroyed, one stretch of undergrowth away from our roads being pulled back into the earth.

And almost every night, we have to convince ourselves that the popping, echoing gunshot sounds are really fireworks, because we have no idea what they might be shooting at.

There’s a reason Stephen King sets almost all his stories in Maine.

New Mexico, stuck under Colorado, next to Texas, and uncomfortably close to Arizona. I grew up there. The air is so dry your skin splits and doesn’t bleed. Coyotes sing at night. It starts off in the distance, but the response comes from all around. The sky, my gods, the sky. In the day it is vast and unfeeling. At night the stars show how little you truly are.

This is the gentle stuff. I’m not going to talk about the whispered tales from those that live on, or close, to the reservations. I’m not going to go on about the years of drought, or how the ground gives way once the rain falls. The frost in the winter stays in the shadows, you can see the line where the sun stops. It will stay there until spring. People don’t tell you about the elevation, or how thin the air truly is. The stretches of empty road with only husks of houses to dot the side of the horizon. There’s no one around for miles except those three houses. How do they live out here? The closest town is half an hour away and it’s just a gas station with a laundry attached.  

No one wants to be there. They’re just stuck. It has a talent for pulling people back to it. I’ve been across the country for years, but part of me is still there. The few that do get out don’t return. A visit to family turns into an extended stay. Car troubles, a missed flight, and then suddenly there’s a health scare. Can’t leave Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent alone in their time of need. It’s got you.

Roswell is a joke. A failed National Inquirer article slapped with bumperstickers and half-assed tourist junk. The places that really run that chill down the spine are in the spaces between the sprawling mesas and hidden arroyos. Stand at the top of the Carlsbad Caverns trail. Look a mile down into the darkness. Don’t step off the path. just don’t.

The Land of Entrapment

here in minnesota we’re making jokes about how bad is the limescale in your sink

pretending we don’t know we’re sitting on top of limestone caverns filled with icy water

pretending we don’t suspect something lives down there

dammit jesse now I want to read about the things that live down there

meanwhile in maryland the summer is killing-hot, the air made of wet flannel, white heat-haze glazing the horizon, and the endless cicadas shrilling in every single tree sound like a vast engine revving and falling off, revving and falling off, slow and repeated, and everything is so green, lush poison-green, and you could swear you can hear the things growing, hear the fibrous creak and swell of tendrils flexing

and sometimes in the old places, the oldest places, where the salt-odor of woodsmoke and tobacco never quite go away, there is unexplained music in the night, and you should not try to find out where it’s coming from.  

@gallusrostromegalus

The intense and permanent haunting of a land upon which countess horrors have been visited, and that is too large and wild for us to really comprehend is probably the most intense and universal American feeling.

here in minnesota

We’re fucking what now

colorado is a strange sort of place, a passing-through kind of place, a place that holds just as many people who stay as leave. the highways stretch like ley-lines or the lines of old palms; 25 north and south, 70 east and west, 76 and 470 and 285 curling all around and tangling in the middle like loose thread

the mountains are their own place, the plains their own, too, with the hogback and the foothills in between like a strangely-comforting barrier, “this far, and that’s enough. this far, and you’re still close to home. this far, and no further.” the people in the mountains rarely make the plains; the people in the plains rarely make the hills, and the people in the middle rarely leave the developments which spread outward every year like creeping moss.

Summertime in California, when it’s 110 and you wake up in a sweat at 7am and can’t fall back asleep regardless of how much sleep you actually got. You open a door or a window and smell smoke. The air is hazy, the sky is orange, the sun bright red. You go back inside. You stay inside. You don’t worry about the fire, it’s probably miles away. The smoke lasts for days and even after a shower you can’t get the smell out of your nostrils, can’t get the taste off your tongue. You hope your neighbor doesn’t mow his lawn, you hope no one throws a cigarette out a window on your road, or lets a loose chain drag behind their truck. 

The wind picks up, you get nervous. a helicopter passes low overhead, you get anxious. You wait for sirens. You watch more helicopters carrying heavy sacks of retardant, tanks of water, and keep testing the way the wind blows. Somehow, the fire misses you this summer.

Wintertime in California. The yellowed, crackling grass that looks like miles of sand dunes turns gray and falls loose from the baked earth.

You pray for rain but you beg that it doesn’t come with lightning. Still, you don’t expect rain because every winter is “dry.” Snow falls somewhere in the mountains where someone skis then comes back and tells you it wasn’t much. No rain means more fire in the summer.

Then, after New Year’s, it rains. And rains. And gushes. The ground is baked stiff and won’t absorb water after an hour of moderate rain. The water rises. It fills streets, houses, threatens levees and dams. After days of this the ground finally softens. The plants, their root systems shriveled and mostly washed away by the flooding, can’t hold the dirt in place. Where it has no choice,the earth gives way to landslides.

The Sierra Nevadas, riddled with abandoned gold mines and in some place stripped by hydraulic mining. The water is always tainted with mercury and alkali. Occasionally a mine collapses and a sinkhole appears. If the house shakes you ask your friends and neighbors if they felt it too, but then you forget it happened. You actually sleep through most tremors.

Everyone knows at least one old mining song. School projects and field trips are to Fort Sumter and the missions. Cracking adobe that predates the country. You can tell vultures apart from other birds of prey easy because they’re the ones you see most often. Orchards that go on for miles and towns built on top of old olive orchards—occasionally a business or private home has kept a few to remind you. They don’t plant them. Those are the original trees.

You’re hiking and you find a massive flat rock with fist-sized holes bored into it. Trees and fenceposts that look like they were used for target practice with a machine gun. You hear what sounds like a lawn sprinkler go off and you get as far away from the rocks as you can, watching where you step.

Sacramento is a concrete jungle of one way streets and sky-blocking towers before endless miles of ugly industrial wasteland. San Francisco is a twisting maze of clogged overpasses where you drive three miles an hour and watch a dense blanket of bonechilling fog climb over the hills and obscure everything before you enter the city and keep your foot pressed flat to the brake at the steepest intersections. LA is a fever dream, a knotted nightmare of traffic you can never escape, air you can’t breathe even when there’s no fire, and someone’s always playing Norteño, which sounds exactly like polka but with melancholy Spanish lyrics.

The Central Valley gets funnel clouds that touch down even less often than snow falls, but you remember once as a kid getting sleet in the Valley and thinking that’s what snow was then later hudding in the school cafeteria because of a tornado warning. You remember visiting the ocean and bringing home kelp and colored glass. In the mountains you found a sticky pinecone the size of your head and a snake with miniscule legs. An owl with a broken wing was brought to your classroom, there are giant statues of golden bears at the state fair, and someone’s always going missing from Modesto.

But in the springtime, the hills are orange and purple and you realize that oak trees are actually green once a year. The heavy wind makes the grasses sway in waves and it sounds like waves and you’re nowhere near the ocean anymore, but it’s right there, endlessly green and almost sentient. The hills are moving. 

Meanwhile, on the East Coast…

New Jersey: there’s literally a demon living in the long stretch of woods that runs up and down the state. we’ve befriended it.

San Diego. The ocean is blue, except where it isn’t, where it’s just a touch of dark green, in exactly the place your eye tries to focus. Go inland fifteen minutes and it’s scrub-land, irrigated enough that you’re not supposed to see the desert and the cactus waiting, always waiting their turn. The hawks are there too, and they don’t give a damn. They’re waiting and they don’t care if you know it. 

There are mountains with giant boulders cleaved in half—to make a path for the freeway, they say. But maybe, at night, the boulders move. 

West Virginia: Almost like a crib rolling mountains that time has whittled into looking like hills trap you in. You’re boxed in and they control everything. You don’t see the sky upon the horizon until they decide to show it to you.

The people here are just like the mountains, quiet, and selective about what they tell. And none of us asks any more questions than we need to. We know better than to follow the haggard people walking down the road with two shovels in hands. We know better than to stare at a man and a woman handing each other, something, in front of a graveyard behind the stop sign.

In Ohio, something walks behind the corn.  Possibly multiple somethings.  Possibly many, MANY multiple somethings.

They have shiny eyes that reflect your headlights.  When you see them, you look away as fast as you can.  DO NOT MEET THE GAZE OF THE THINGS IN THE CORN.

Corn is planted in neat rows.  It should be child’s play to find your way through a corn-field.  Just pick a row and walk down it until you hit the end.  And yet, people get lost in cornfields all the time.  Sometimes people even DIE lost in cornfields, though this is less common in the age of cell phones.  And if your cell phone just happens to lose signal at the place where you are CERTAIN you have walked the rows at least twice as far as the cornfield should logically stretch… keep walking, friend.  Just keep walking.

If you find a scarecrow in the field, treat it with respect.  Then walk away.  Straight away.  Don’t look back.  DON’T LOOK BACK.  Do not look down at the corn fields at night.  Do not look for the scarecrows while you are sitting on your bed in the small hours, looking out your bedroom window.  If you see them, they will know it.  If you see them, you may see things that you cannot forget.

Texas is a land of ghosts and lies. Foreigners imagine a vast, flat desert when there’s no desert in the state: the prickly pear cactus sprawls between oak trees and mesquite, and the climate swings from tropical to arid in the course of a year. They imagine horses instead of traffic worse than Manhattan; they imagine vast blue skies instead of all this smog. They imagine a Stetson on every head and yeah, sure, maybe once you’re out in the steppes, but most of the time that one’s a lie, too.

Everywhere is haunted. We touch the visor and lift our feet off the floorboard and pedal as we roll across a railroad track. We drive out to the crossroads in the dead of night with flour on the trunk’s lip to see the tiny handprints of dead children trying to push us out of the way. We see things in the shimmering curtains of heat that aren’t there when we blink. I’ve seen things moving in the fields in the dark. There are so many churches, dead and living, because frightened people will pray to one ghost to keep the rest of them at bay.

People know which way to hang horseshoes around here. It’s a U-shape, so the luck doesn’t spill out. I think I must have hung one upside-down once.

The stars at night are big and bright and so are the eyes reflecting the porch light out among the trees.

And if you think that’s scary, try living here when you’re Black and/or queer.

Pacific Northwest- more people just plain disappear here. The trees and mountains eat sound and attempts at civilization at an almost violent rate, lone feet still wearing sneakers wash up on the beaches.

And I’ll just repeat what @gallusrostromegalus said:

The intense and permanent haunting of a land upon which countess horrors have been visited, and that is too large and wild for us to really comprehend is probably the most intense and universal American feeling.

The only people who have anything to say about Indiana are the people who were born there. In all other instances, it seems like you pass right through- a ghost, a traveler, a salesman. 

Crossroads are either trod upon or they are where petitions are made to devils and gods alike. But in either instance, no one spends that much time at them. No one wants to be caught making deals. 

Gambling is still outlawed in several counties, after all. 

But you wouldn’t know it by day. 

The sun shines bright and terrible, casting long shadows along the highways. Neighbors say ‘hello’ to you, they chat with you in line at the supermarket, they ask you how your weekend was- even if you’ve never spoken to them. 

There are crossroads. And there are backroads. The crossroads are a place you meet. The backroads are the way you speak- in nosy riddles, in pleasantries, in little innocent questions in hopes that you’ll one day slip up and tell them the truth- what men you’ve spoken to under the cover of night. 

It’s insidious. They want to know so that they can say it wasn’t them. It surely was not. It was you. They ought to tell the pastor. 

But your strength grows deep like roots and caverns, like limestone bedrock that hardens your water, like rough hands from years of work. 

And you will see them again at the darkest hour, just out of the radius of a street light, for the same reasons you’re there. 

The Crossroads of America. 

See you there.