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It’s dark in here. The grove is very dark.

My eyes are open, although I feel the urge to squint, as though there may be a chance of finding focus. But there’s nothing. It is a lightless void—the deepest kind of night.

And musty. I can smell it. I can taste it.

With each inhalation, the moistened air carries into my lungs. With every exhale, I can palate the filthy dust hovering in the air, the rot unchecked by gravity, lifting up, up and into invisible currents of steam.

Yes, very musty, as if something were rotting but still breathing.

I think it may have rained. The ground is softer—no stones or roots—much more unsure than the times before. At least I think so. I think I’ve been here before. But I can’t tell for sure.

It’s dark in here. The grove is very dark.

The effort, the direction, the course—it began as the others. The sounds are the same. There is the familiar sense of the spying fauna, the awareness of a familiar geist suspended above me in the outstretched branches, the annoyed but receiving pathway carpeted with thinning weeds and populated by long, squirming insects that tangle and twist around one another. I can hear their clicking.

Food for the birds, I suppose. They hear it, too, if even they can navigate this blackness.

It’s dark in here. The grove is very dark.

Where are the stars? The moon? Is this place—this dark coppice—is it a somewhere that not even the heavenly things would tread? Is it much too much of a lurid somewhere pitched against even them, causing a fleeting of celestial courage?


But I’ll press on. Never mind the loneliness. Never mind the lurking terrors. Yes, I know you are there. I can smell you, too. You’re close. I can feel your breath against my legs, my arms, my neck, my face.

My sweaty skin absorbs your stares, and at once, I can see you.

It’s dark in here. The grove is very dark. But I can see you.

“How is this?”

Because I fear nothing—I fear nothing.

“How is it that you are so bold?” a hissing whisper breezes from below, beside, above, behind. “You are surrounded.”

“You are mistaken,” I whisper in reply to the gloom. A common breath is quickly stolen. The branches snap and the insects scurry away. “You have been invaded.”

Ah. Feels good to get that out. I certainly was determined.

I know. Weird, huh? What does it mean? I don’t know. I just started writing. A fine few minutes and this is what came out. Maybe the psychologists in the crowd are already itching to offer commentary. Feel free. But you’re probably wrong. Just know that up front.

What’s even weirder is that I just wrote not all that long ago about how I rarely, if ever at all, fail to have something to scribe, and yet it’s been several days since I’ve felt the least bit motivated to sit and type anything. I’ve been writing sermons, newsletter communiques, and editorials, but nothing that I could apply in this particular locale. All I can say is that it’s felt a little like I’ve been choking on something—particular words strung to particular emotions—all keeping me from breathing, preventing me from composing anything ethereal. But I’ve finally cleared my throat and whatever was bending my attempt at keeping pitch has finally broken loose and been spit.

As I said, it feels good to get it out. Now I can get back to work. How about a whiskey, you know, to celebrate the victory? Don’t mind if I do…

My friend, George, sent me a few Canadian gems rather recently, one of which is the Stalk and Barrel Blue Blend from Still Waters. It’s not bad, although I’m cautious in recommending it.

The whiskey’s nose is exceptionally full. You’re sure to take in singed oak and caramel apples. But then the palate comes along and calls out so miserly, “Egad, men! Don’t be too generous with the treasures!” Wait, what? How could it be that something so rich might be so thin, so pale? There’s a little bit of vanilla. The apples are there, too. But both are soggy.

The finish is the dram’s helpmate. It matches the nose while adding the tiniest sprinkle of pepper. With this, it’s given a little bit of grip.

As I said, I’m cautious in recommending it. I suppose if you’re looking for something to sip after mowing the lawn, this one might do the trick. It’s the difference between Miller Lite and Guinness.

Whatever you do, don’t add water to it. Drink it clean lest any of its finer qualities disappear completely.