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  • Writer's pictureJayna Newbold

Swamp Cruise

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

It is the time of year when full and harvest moons grace the night sky; the autumn air is crisp; tree leaves are turning from kelly green to bright yellows, neon oranges, deep rustic reds and purples; yet, not for long as they shed their lovely colors daily.

All Hallows' Eve is on the minds of children as they choose their costumes for rushing door to door on the last day of the month in hopes of encountering a generous neighbor who gives out the full size chocolate candy bar.

I’m not one to enjoy scary movies, frightening things (even our old cat - you can read about “Psycho Kitty” in my Halloween holiday short story series), or even actually celebrate Halloween. Although I did enjoy trick-or-treating as a kid - and continue to enjoy children coming to the door dressed as everything from SpongeBob Squarepants to “Creeper” from MineCraft, and the younger cute little fairies, pumpkins and puppy dogs - I am more apt to celebrate the season of harvest than skeletons and things that go “bump” in the night.

It’s not like I have ever been afraid of anything in my life, Dear Hearts. Quite the contrary. The few haunted houses I’ve visited did nothing more than startle me. Although, now that I think about it, I’m surprised I didn’t at least run into a wall or fall flat on my face in one of those dark unfamiliar surroundings.

I did see the movie “The Exorcist” back in the day and have to admit it grossed me out to the point where I vowed never to see another horror film - but can’t say I was afraid. I simply found it non-entertaining and unpleasant. I prefer my entertainment to be either comical, romantic, musical, action-oriented, or dramatic.

Anyway, it wasn’t until a few days ago when a friend, who had just returned from a trip to Louisiana, posted photos of her experience on social media and added, “It’s all so different and interesting. When you’ve visited this area, you know you’ve been somewhere.”

Her comment sparked a memory for me and I found myself reiterating a story from my own travels through that very same state:

“That reminds me of the time I made one of many business trips. This particular one was to a remote area of Louisiana,” I said to my friend.

I went on to tell her that since I traveled alone, I typically chose to fly into my destination early in the morning in order to give myself plenty of time to secure my rental vehicle, locate my meeting place for the next day, check into my hotel, call my husband, unpack, and find a good bookstore where I could settle in for the evening after dinner - all before dark. But this particular trip, the plane was delayed for hours; and by the time we landed, it was already dusk.

No worries, I thought. How hard can it be to find this itty bitty town? Quickly checking GPS, I realized it had already become the usual time I called my husband to let him know I had safely arrived at my destination. But since my calculation for final arrival time was only about twenty minutes, I decided to drive while I still had a tiny bit of daylight. Besides, I was starving (no food on the plane) and figured I would check in, order room service, and then make my calls. A thirty minute differential in my usual contact time wouldn’t be enough to cause concern.

However, within fifteen minutes of being on the road, my cell service and, therefore, GPS system, lost connection. I found myself in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, suddenly, everything became pitch black.

This was a lonely two-lane road in the middle of the Louisiana Bayou. There were no businesses from which to pull over and ask directions; no houses with welcoming porch lights; and no green highway signs with illuminated letters guiding the way.

I felt as though I had landed in the middle of a spooky movie set with nothing but black pavement in front of me; silhouettes of creepy dark gnarly trees, their branches hovering above like claws ready to grab me at a moment’s notice.

Nary a breeze, the air was eerily still and humid.

The only light was the moon. Even it was diminished by clouds.

I did not dare pull over as there was no shoulder. The pavement gave way to a dirt road leading into some woods and ran parallel with a swamp.

So, this is the Bayou, I thought to myself. Intrigued, I pressed on. Where else would I go? What else would I do? Continued driving seemed the only alternative.

Although it did not seem possible, my surroundings grew even darker as I drove. I was deep into the ink bottle by now. My headlights illuminated pieces of broken wood made into home made signs which warned folks to “keep out”. The swamp gurgled and spit right up to the road’s edge.

The already dire situation worsened as from time to time heat lightning would flash through the sky in vertical streaks as though the Bayou were having a heart attack and this is how Mother Nature registered it on her monitor. No thunder as a warning, the brief flash of lightning caught me off guard each time it illuminated the black charred menacing tree limbs, reminding me that not only did I not have a clue where I was, I had no ability to contact anyone and not a human being in sight.

Needless to say, I kept going. Eventually, the dirt road became paved again. This fact gave me little comfort. After a few miles of this, the unmarked road came to a “T”. Should I go left? Or right? Again, no road signs and no indication of life.

I decided to turn left. If that didn’t take me anywhere, I would turn around and drive the opposite direction.

Eventually, I came upon another home made sign that said “Highway” in sloppy red letters with an arrow underneath the word pointing straight ahead, followed by a warning: “Get out. Last Chance.”

Although I still did not know where I was located, and had no idea what highway may lie ahead - or even if there was one - I obeyed the sign.

Filled with trepidation, I drove through the same dark abyss for what seemed hours (most likely, more like fifteen minutes), and the ominous heat lightning continued to intermittently illuminate my path as well as the gurgling cauldron running parallel to the road only a few feet away, I pressed on.

Finally, I came to a highway and jumped onto it, driving in any direction. I didn’t care. At least there were lights and I trusted that at some point, there would be signs or civilization. After several miles, my cell signal worked and I could access GPS.

The weirdest thing, though: Wherever I had driven, and whatever territory I just went through, did not show up anywhere on GPS or any map. It was as though the area didn’t even exist.

Needless to say, the heat lightning ceased; I continued to drive, following directions to the letter, and made it to my hotel in the anticipated thirty minute window. When I called my husband, he wasn’t worried (he had been aware that my plane was late); we had a short goodnight chat and all was well. I decided it was best not to tell him I had just gone on an unplanned swamp cruise in the dark with no direction or light. I would save the telling of this part of my journey for when I returned home in a few days.

Dear Hearts, I still can’t locate where I was on any map. But I know what I experienced. If someone had told me this happened to them, I would have wondered whether or not they had seen one too many scary movies. And although as a writer, I have a wildly active imagination, this was real!

So, I suppose this was the one time in my life I was a little frightened. The fear didn’t kick in until I was safe in my hotel room and heard my husband’s voice on the other end of the phone, but it did eventually hit me that I had been fortunate. The mind reels with scenarios that could have taken place out there!

As you dress up in costume this season; accompany your children door-to-door on their trick-or-treating adventures; or hand out candy, attend a party, maybe even visit a haunted house or go see a scary movie; be safe, enjoy, and make sure you know where you’re going!

Welcome Harvest and Happy Halloween!

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