it’s all you americans talk about… liminal space this… cryptid that

america is big, we got.,.,.,. its a lot happening here

It’s at least 3,000 miles just from the East Coast to the West, depending on where you start.

If I try to drive from here in Maine to New Mexico, it’s 2,400 miles. 

From here to Oregon, 800 miles from my current residence to my relatives in NJ, then another 3,000 miles after that. 

A brisk 8 day drive that meanders through mountains, forests, corn fields, dry, flat, empty plains, more mountains, and then a temperate rain forest in Oregon.

The land has some seriously creepy stuff, even just right outside our doors. 

There is often barking sounds on the other side of our back door. 

At 3 am. 

When no one would let their dog out. 

It’s a consensus not to even look out the fucking windows at night. 

Especially during the winter months. 

Nothing chills your heart faster than sitting in front of a window and hearing footsteps breaking through the snow behind you, only to look and not see anything. 

I live in a tiny town whose distance from larger cities ranges from 30 miles, to 70 miles. What is in between?

Giant stretches of forests, swamps, pockets of civilization, more trees, farms, wildlife, and winding roads. All of which gives the feeling of nature merely tolerating humans, and that we are one frost heave away from our houses being destroyed, one stretch of undergrowth away from our roads being pulled back into the earth.

And almost every night, we have to convince ourselves that the popping, echoing gunshot sounds are really fireworks, because we have no idea what they might be shooting at.

There’s a reason Stephen King sets almost all his stories in Maine.

New Mexico, stuck under Colorado, next to Texas, and uncomfortably close to Arizona. I grew up there. The air is so dry your skin splits and doesn’t bleed. Coyotes sing at night. It starts off in the distance, but the response comes from all around. The sky, my gods, the sky. In the day it is vast and unfeeling. At night the stars show how little you truly are.

This is the gentle stuff. I’m not going to talk about the whispered tales from those that live on, or close, to the reservations. I’m not going to go on about the years of drought, or how the ground gives way once the rain falls. The frost in the winter stays in the shadows, you can see the line where the sun stops. It will stay there until spring. People don’t tell you about the elevation, or how thin the air truly is. The stretches of empty road with only husks of houses to dot the side of the horizon. There’s no one around for miles except those three houses. How do they live out here? The closest town is half an hour away and it’s just a gas station with a laundry attached.  

No one wants to be there. They’re just stuck. It has a talent for pulling people back to it. I’ve been across the country for years, but part of me is still there. The few that do get out don’t return. A visit to family turns into an extended stay. Car troubles, a missed flight, and then suddenly there’s a health scare. Can’t leave Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent alone in their time of need. It’s got you.

Roswell is a joke. A failed National Inquirer article slapped with bumperstickers and half-assed tourist junk. The places that really run that chill down the spine are in the spaces between the sprawling mesas and hidden arroyos. Stand at the top of the Carlsbad Caverns trail. Look a mile down into the darkness. Don’t step off the path. just don’t.

The Land of Entrapment

here in minnesota we’re making jokes about how bad is the limescale in your sink

pretending we don’t know we’re sitting on top of limestone caverns filled with icy water

pretending we don’t suspect something lives down there

dammit jesse now I want to read about the things that live down there

meanwhile in maryland the summer is killing-hot, the air made of wet flannel, white heat-haze glazing the horizon, and the endless cicadas shrilling in every single tree sound like a vast engine revving and falling off, revving and falling off, slow and repeated, and everything is so green, lush poison-green, and you could swear you can hear the things growing, hear the fibrous creak and swell of tendrils flexing

and sometimes in the old places, the oldest places, where the salt-odor of woodsmoke and tobacco never quite go away, there is unexplained music in the night, and you should not try to find out where it’s coming from.  


The intense and permanent haunting of a land upon which countess horrors have been visited, and that is too large and wild for us to really comprehend is probably the most intense and universal American feeling.

here in minnesota

We’re fucking what now

hi, may i introduce you to florida. our entire state mostly sits atop an aquifer made of porous limestone. the ground likes to open at times unknown and unwanted to swallow roads. cars. houses. entire car dealerships. it’s unpreventable. south of jacksonville, you pretend that the ground is solid. 

walt disney, that famous madman, walked into florida and built a multibillion dollar entertainment empire in a swamp in the middle of florida. the swamp did not forget. the swamp is eating the old and broken things in the heart of glittering, new disney world. the swamp is all. if you hear low, piglike snorting from the swamp, you’re told it’s gators in mating season, even if it isn’t mating season. 

(you’re better off believing it’s the gators.)

the humidity. the heat. the humidity. tourists drop by the scores, heatstroke in July and August. you wear your sweat like a second skin and every breath is wet. florida would never have been settled if not for the timely invention of the air conditioner. that is a true story. once we grew oranges, strawberries, produce. we shipped them all over the states. before the freezes of the 1980s. before the blue tabebuia inexplicably all died. (not the yellow or the pink, only the blue, the rarest and most beautiful.) now we export only tourist memories. 

the ocean is nigh unreachable in part of the state, an unfamiliar and ugly wetland where they used to launch men into the stars. take a road. drive east. go over a bridge. drive east. go over another bridge. drive east. drive into a wilderness of scrub and palmettos until you finally hear the ocean, an hour later than you thought it would take. the barrier islands go layer upon layer into the waters of the Atlantic, and you have to wonder why so many strips of land. is the land trying to prevent people on the sea from coming to the shore–or is it trying to keep the people on the shore from ever reaching the ocean? 

i hear popping shots at night, in the woods outside my home. in ten years i have never discovered what the sound is. 

i pray it’s only men shooting at stop signs in the dark.

I live in Louisiana, where out most famous city has to lock its cemeteries to prevent bones being stolen from graves by people who perform dark rites out in the swamps designed to appease spirits of death and knowledge. I was born in Georgia where we joke about the Appalachian folk north of us, but do our best to leave them alone and not think too hard about what they get up to in the hills. For generations the wild places in this nation have held a kind of dark mystic aura, and we can feel the power and hunger that seeps out of them and invites us in like a lure.

Well, I can’t write the weird kind of real life horror the way others before me have, but I can guarantee from life in (fairly) rural Nevada that you *don’t* look out the fucking window at night. You just turn over in bed and pretend you didn’t hear anything. Just stay inside until morning and the sun bakes the outside of the house (or the pale, thin light bleaches the color out of everything until it feels pretty safe, if it’s winter). Some of the more terrifying times I remember were waiting for the bus alone when my sister was sick and the wind gusts hard enough that it shakes sticks out of the trees and then the wind stops blowing but the trees don’t seem to stop shaking soon enough and the bus can’t fucking get there soon enough.

New Englanders don’t even feel the cold anymore. We are winter. The frost is in our blood now. It owns us. Even when the summer comes we joke that winters coming soon. Better get the rock salt and shovels ready. Better not get to used to the sun. We don’t belong to it, we belong to the cold. We laugh when the tourists come to see the fall leaves, laugh white smiles full of snow because we know what they don’t. That everything they see is a pretty lure. Come see the leaves and the harvest decorations and the pretty Christmas lights. Come stay for a while. Stay. It’s nice here isn’t it? Stay. It’s getting awful cold. You better stay the night. Stay forever. Stay.

Missouri is a land of gateways.  The Gateway Arch, the Gateway to the West.  In the hills to the east you can still hear the tribes who built the earth into vales and mounds; in the flatlands to the west, the monotonous clicking and clacking of wheels as they cross the prairie echo from the trees.  In the middle, there are caves, thousands of caves of limestone that catch and repeat voices–you hear your own voice in the murmurs, but you haven’t said anything yet.  

A land of centuries of contrarians, of change that means nothing because it is a land of change.  Here was both east and west.  Here was both north and south.  Here there is nothing, and everything.  Arrive at the fur trader’s posts, where the French built cities older than states to the east; leave from Independence, the town named for the thought of leaving.  There’s no part of Missouri that’s not filled with ghosts.

You’d better stock up–it’s a long way to Oregon Territory.  Or better yet–just stay a while.

I grew up swimming in the graves of drowned men. The ghosts of the Edmund Fitzgerald linger in Lake Superior. The neighbor’s child wandered away from her mother and into the arms of an undertow in Lake Huron. When I was eight the helicopters swept over Saginaw Bay in search of a lost swimmer. That summer I learned what extended exposure to water and heat does to a corpse – how even a strong swimmer can sink beneath the whitecaps only to gain buoyancy in death.

We call them The Great Lakes, but we really should call them inland seas. They hold shipwrecks and ruins and the dead, and when you’re in the backcountry and hear the loons’ eerie laughter echoing over the waters of Lake Michigan you can’t help but wonder what else lies beneath the surface.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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