The Midnight Hike
Posted on January 4, 2019
It was fall and I was much younger, then.
I was living with my grandparents in Casco, Maine at the time and my brother Gary was visiting from Lewiston and staying the night. We were both having some troubles in our lives and we kept coming back to them via conversation. We talked about life, about women troubles, about things we liked to do. Brother stuff. Bonding stuff.
Late that night, I had an idea. It was close to midnight but I felt like we both needed some adventure in our troubled, mundane existences. I could tell he was feeling down, and I felt like I couldn’t do much to help. We both were living in different cities and weren’t able to hang out as much as we used to before then.
“Hey, Gary,” I said with a mischievous smile moving across my face. “Are you tired?”
He said he sort of was, but he wasn’t sure.
“Want to go for a walk?”
He looked at me like I was an idiot. “It’s dark out and it’s cold. I don’t want to get pneumonia.”
I laughed. “You won’t get pneumonia, Gary.”
I told him to wait there and I went and found the darkest clothing possible for each of us to wear. I started speaking in hushed tones. “We’re going to go climb Rattlesnake Mountain. Here, take this.”
As Gary threw on the black hooded sweatshirt, I handed him my Chinese dagger (or maybe saber) with the stainless steel blade and engraved scabbard. It had the inscription DONGFANG on the hilt, so that is what I named it. He took it out of the scabbard and the metal gleamed in the light from the kitchen in my grandparent’s trailer. He asked me what it was for.
“We’re going to be like adventurers. It’ll be fun.” I strapped on another blade with a leather sheath, dragons and small jewels decorating the pommel and hilt, attaching it to my belt loop and then throwing on a dark hat and sweater.
We were both becoming excited and we finally strode out into the moonlit night, walking down route 85 as lightning bugs flared and crickets chirped in a massive chorus. The field was on our right, covered in tall grass, and it looked like stars because of all those fireflies lighting the way. There was a light breeze rolling through every once in a while and the trees were rustling in a gentle chorus.
We moved as stealthily as we could, diving into the grass as a car would roll by, creating scenarios in our heads involving secret missions to a far-off land or things like we’d read about or watched in movies or on television.
Finally, we came to the base of Rattlesnake Mountain. The forest at the base was ink-black, and we could see the summit poking out into the clouds.
“You ready?” I whispered.
“Yeah,” he whispered back.
We entered the forest and couldn’t see for the longest time. Gary tried to use a flashlight but I made him put it away. “Our eyes will adjust, give it time. We don’t want anyone to see us in here.”
After a while, our eyes did adjust but we could still only make out spots where the moonlight from the full moon came bursting through the canopy and onto the forest floor. The moonbeams were ethereal and added to the fantasy theme of the night’s events.
We climbed, we said little. We heard noises and kept moving, staying focused on the prize at the top. We didn’t get lost, but we had to stop several times to make sure we were where we thought we were. Then, we emerged at the top where the treeline breaks and the side of the mountain opens up into sky. The stars and the wind greeted us and the moon stood in our faces, so close I felt like we could reach up and touch it.
The two of us stood there, bathed in the light of the moon, fantasy weapons strapped to our waists and a sense of adventure and whimsy swimming through our heads. We didn’t speak for a long time, but when we did, we sat down and we let everything out, letting the moon in on our woes, a distant but very wise and comforting friend.
We laughed, we cried. It was a spiritual experience up there on top of the mountain. When we finally started to get cold, we had to leave, but it was a good couple of hours. To this day, I still look back at that night and I think we both figured things out about ourselves and each other. We didn’t slay any dragons, we didn’t find any gold…but the magic was real and I certainly won’t forget it.