Horoscopes, Sleepwalking and My Loss of Innocence
On a Friday night in March of 1971, I visited my best friend Brad at his parents’ home on the other side of town for an overnight stay. From a very early age, our get-togethers were largely conversational, as opposed to playing games and sports or watching television (long before anyone knew what a “video game” was). We were at an age where we still sometimes indulged in children’s activities, but the realities of our soon-to-be teenaged years were encroaching on our lives, and we discussed our interests and fears at length. At the time we were battling with some tough characters at school that were bullying and intimidating other kids, and we focused that evening on how best to safely deal with them. We also discussed girls we liked and how I wished for a bit more social grace, so I could get girls to like me in return. It was, at least for a few hours, a normal evening shared between two young friends. It turned into something else: the dividing point between what my life was and what it would turn into.
Nothing would be the same
Horoscopes, sleepwalking and hedge clippers
After awhile I told Brad I recently began reading my horoscope in the newspaper each day, and that it intrigued me to see how frequently horoscopes could be applied to the events of the day in one form or another. We fetched the paper and read our forecast. His mentioned the discovery of new outlets for creativity. Mine was less inspiring, but interesting nonetheless.
I began to feel claustrophobic in his small bedroom, so I recommended a brief walk outside. We strolled about his yard in the setting sun, and approached a tree where we noticed strange cuts in the bark. I jokingly asked him if cutting trees was his new hobby, and he shook his head but didn’t laugh. The deep cuts didn’t seem random but formed an odd pattern, and we were reminded of the horoscopes we read earlier. I suggested this was the creative outlet mentioned in Brad’s horoscope. He recommended we re-read what the paper said, and we went back inside and retrieved it. When we looked at the horoscopes again, we saw nothing remotely connected with what we recalled. It was as though the words on the printed page changed, because we both remembered reading about creative outlets but saw nothing about creativity mentioned. The horoscope was instead a generic warning to exercise caution over the next several days.
The changed horoscopes were bizarre but we didn’t know what to say about them, and soon we went to bed. I slept on Brad’s bed while he graciously rested on the floor in a sleeping bag. The moon shone through the window and cast an eerie light into the otherwise darkened room. I heard Brad’s steady breathing as he drifted into sleep and contrasted it to the cars that drove by periodically. Brad seemingly noticed the cars too, for whenever one drove by he softly muttered the word, “kill”. I suffered this for awhile, but started to feel anxious as his mumblings grew louder and sounded increasingly like a chant. I called out to Brad and attempted to wake him. In his sleep he said, “Brad is gone”. He said other words also, words that sounded like a language, but not one I ever heard before. This continued without interruption for perhaps an hour. After that, Brad slowly climbed from his sleeping bag and left the room. I soon heard noises outside in the yard, and when I summoned the courage to look outside I glimpsed Brad’s shadowy figure in the moonlight beneath the window. I heard noises also, as if he were using hedge clippers or some similar garden tool. In panic, I returned to bed and pulled the covers over my head, despite the warm temperatures outside. Eventually I heard Brad re-enter the room and return to his sleeping bag. I asked if he was okay, but he never answered.
Morning finally arrived, not soon enough for me in my terrified, sleep-deprived state. Brad rose, checked to see if I was awake, and asked if it was okay to turn on the light. I said sure and noticed in the light that there was a large knife next to Brad’s sleeping bag. There were also cuts and scratches on Brad’s hands and arms, as if he had been in a struggle of some type. This was more than Brad simply acting weird for the sake of a prank. There was an aura of menace. Brad had a history of sleepwalking, but I was never aware of threatening behaviors. I was scared and it felt dangerous to be in the house. I briefly pondered whether Brad was a threat, if he was in peril as well, or if it was all an elaborate joke. I told him what happened the night before, and he was alarmed but strangely calm. I wondered why he wasn’t afraid, but our years of friendship made me confident he wasn’t playing a game with me. He cleaned the cuts on his hands and arms and we went outside to investigate what happened overnight. We saw clippings around the hedges beneath his bedroom window. At some point he also clipped the rope of his tether ball, we noticed with dismay. We then went to the garage, looked for the clippers and saw small twigs and branches caught between the blades.
We returned to the house and ate breakfast in relative silence. The food was good but offered nutrition instead of the normalcy I craved, and the knot in my stomach made eating a chore. After breakfast, Brad suggested a walk through the wooded area behind his home. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I hoped a stroll would take the edge off my odd mood. Brad was familiar with the area, but after a few twists and turns along barely discernable paths, I was lost. We walked slowly but without hesitation, as if he was leading me on a guided tour. As we meandered along the path, Brad pointed left and told me we saw the remnants of the Garden of Eden. He noted the thorn trees at its entrance and offered that as a symbol of man’s fall from God’s grace. He explained we weren’t at the Garden per se—remnants could be found throughout the world. A short distance away, he pointed to a clearing where a battle between good and evil was supposedly fought. He told me the Bible said Satan must be freed for a time after a thousand years, and he appeared on this spot. He gestured toward the charred, scorched trees and suggested fires from the Inferno were the cause. He directed me to an area that looked like a shelter and explained that a strange creature lived there, and identified another spot “connected with limbo”. I didn’t know how to respond to his bizarre tour, and asked how he knew these things. Brad told me he wasn’t sure how he acquired this knowledge; he simply woke up knowing. Once again I wondered if he were playing an elaborate joke, but stopped short of accusing him of perpetrating a gag. If it were all a joke, what was the point? Did he map this out ahead of time, or was it all ad-libbed? If he did, why bother?
Brad finally pointed out two cloud banks in the sky, racing to obscure the sun. There was a line of dark clouds in the west moving eastward, and a line of lighter clouds approaching from the east. He told me the battle had begun, and the clouds presaged conflicts to come. He asked if I had been wearing a silver ring I found, and I told him I always wore it. He cautioned me never to remove the ring; it was my best protection against the forces that would soon rise against us. He warned me to be prepared—we were about to stand against evil entities of great power and hunger. Brad asserted we had the might to stand against what we would encounter, but we were barely teenagers and I hadn’t the slightest idea how to defend myself from paranormal adversaries. He was so calm and strangely convincing, and I felt forced to accept that we were on a level with other-worldly powers that would soon reveal themselves to us. He told me they feared us as much as I feared them—a statement I seriously doubted.
A loss of innocence
One evening we were discussing bullies, horoscopes and girls; ten hours later Brad was advising me to prepare for battle against ancient, unseen enemies. Was he tricking me that evening? He never admitted to orchestrating the night’s events or pretending to sleepwalk. Why maintain the deception your entire life? How would Brad’s behavior address my own experiences? I was first to mention reading horoscopes and noticed the forecast changes. Was there an explanation for that, or was it simply my imagination?
Brad was changed from the night before. The previous evening he shared my anxiety. That morning, however, he exuded a confidence I had not observed previously. When my parents came for me to return home, I also felt different, but it was not for the better. I was changed as well from these experiences. Whether an odd joke or a paranormal experience, the evening’s circumstances signaled the end of my normal childhood. The events of that night assaulted my reason and opened floodgates of the bizarre. From that moment on, the unexplained would forever be a part of my life, and I could not go back—my innocence was lost. I was no longer a child; I was part of a cosmic drama. I never again entertained the notion that Brad was trying to fool me because it did not matter. I was terrified but accepted my fate and embraced the fantastic without possibly knowing what I accepted.
This was my first experience with the unknown; there would be others.
A Final Thought
I wrote this article several years ago, and it was intended then to describe events that fascinated and frankly terrified me as a boy. As I read these words once again, I was struck by the realization that single events can both transform and define our lives. We can be changed forever by things that happen to us. A single instant can change our life's path.
There has been no shortage of unusual events that have occurred in my life. I have lived through some remarkable experiences--enough to provide fodder for an entire season of shows like "The Twilight Zone". I have not allowed these moments to define my reality--the fantastic has never eclipsed the ordinary--but these extraordinary incidents shaped me. I responded to what I experienced and was affected by them. They served in many ways as an unwelcome distraction. While others started careers and families, I was too often sidetracked by these things that lived in the shadows. I fought to maintain balance in my life, but sometimes failed in the attempt.
It all started on the night described in this article. I changed that night. I lost my innocence. My ordinary life ended that night, to be replaced with something else--the life I have lived since. There are no regrets because there never seemed a choice. The odd moments and strange occurrences found me, not the other way around. What was I to do?
The moment that altered my life and defined my destiny was, in retrospect, easy to identify. Those special moments that shape us for good are more often very subtle and perhaps missed. This is the moment that changed my life.
What was yours?
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