The Knife, the Library, and the Green Car

I take a knife to my library sometimes. Don’t worry, I only do it after hours.

You may be backing away at this point, so I’ll back up.

I live in a point in Florida where rural meets suburb. Within twenty minutes of my house is a sports stadium and casino. Within five, you can see horses ridden on city streets. Given that, there’s always a bunch of creepy Everglades-and-mist roads to transverse. The eeriest one was renovated just after my scariest night ever, where I had to call and apologize to 911 while things went down. More on that someday. The current creepiest one holds my local library.

It’s a small branch, near a horse farm, a pub, and enough trees to advance on MacBeth’s real estate. There’s no good reason to go there at night unless you’re as forgetful as me.

If you’re that absent-minded, you may realize that you have library books due long after you’ve put the kids to bed. “Oh, crap,” you think, “how many of DVDs are supposed to have gone back today? Those are expensive.” Thus, you gather up your materials for a midnight drop-slot run. After all, drop-slot returns count as being given in a day early, and fines can otherwise add up.

My problem is that I write horror fiction. I only get paid for fantasy currently, but that’s a matter of time and a tangent in any case. Stick me on a lonely path surrounded by woods, out of view of the main roads, and my imagination will start to eat itself. It doesn’t matter if I’m within one minute driving distance of a lit supermarket plaza; all I can see around me is a backdrop to shoot the next Swamp Thing movie in.

The knife comes along with me. It made my acquaintance when I borrowed my Dad’s car. The wheel went flat, but all I found in the trunk was Justin Bieber lamps, 70’s porn, an absence of automotive tools, and the little knife. My father is a classic get-rich-quick schemer, and packs his vehicle with accordingly random objects. The knife looked like it could be useful.

And I wouldn’t even bring it if it wasn’t for the Green Car.

Logically, I know there’s no creatures hiding in the forest. I’ll even grant you that the likelihood of encountering homicidal drifters is nearly insignificant. No, what sets my imagination afire is the Green Car. Come midnight, the only things in the parking lot are myself and the drop-slots on one end and the parked car on the far, darkened side other of the parking lot.

Now, I know intellectually that there’s lots of potential explanations for its presence. Someone in the neighborhood has a small driveway, or carpools home perhaps. I don’t know. Lots of things are more realistic that “They’re in there, watching me.”

But I am descended from tens of thousands of years of cagey bastards who assumed that predators were nearby, so I look askance at the tinted windows and wonder if someone’s looking back. Part of my brain’s wired to obsess over predators, and most of the time I let it exercise in its cage by writing about monsters, but every so often it rattles the bars and screams mostly empty warnings.

I could, I know, just drive by the silent, shadowed car. Flash my brights, see if anyone’s there. Odds are that the worst I’ll do is stir some poor homeless family sleeping in their safe parking spot. Still, the predator radar part of my brain doesn’t care about odds.

Thus, there you’ll find me, tiny little fishing knife in one hand, Darth Vader bag in the other, stuffing graphic novels and DVDs into the drop-slot while I look over my shoulder and keep an eye on my very close and still running car with its door unlocked.

The Green Car is Stephen King. It’s Richard Matheson. It’s the slightly outer in the normal, the thing that starts you wondering where reality keeps its teeth and how sharp they are. It’s the mystery that you fear to solve.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth a quarter a day per book not to deal with it. Other times, though, I wonder if I’d miss it. After all, everyone loves a hint of the mysterious. Twenty minutes of chilling atmosphere is an inspiring thing for a writer.

But I think I’ll stop by the library on my way home tomorrow. I got books coming due soon.