I wish I could say this is about that time I read Call of Cthulhu and had the “artists’ dream” but it isn’t. It’s shockingly similar though and from a time well before I’d ever heard of the likes of H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King. It was 1981 and I was five years old. I don’t remember anything of the night before but I remember waking up terrified and confused. It would stay with me my whole life and when explained all the way through it’s terribly, terribly stupid.
I remember we were at my grandmother’s house in Pulaski, Mississippi at night and headed back to Vicksburg. It was myself, my sister, and a group of her friends. I remember wearing a yellow raincoat. I remember it very well because it was too hot, too large, and uncomfortable from my sweat on the lining. I know the “grown ups” were talking. The sun had set but there was still a pink glow to the eastern sky. That should have been the first clue something was wrong. One of her friends, Carla, was jumping up and down in the yard but in slow motion while everything else moved at speed. I was starting to get nervous when the pink in the sky vanished. We heard a low sort of thud. A crashing sound. And sound like the foot of a god striking the earth for the first time. Humanity’s reckoning had come. I don’t remember passing through the space between the porch and the front yard but that’s where we were. I was holding my sister’s hand and all of us were staring into the dark sky over the trees. All I could hear was my own breathing echoing against the raincoat and the occasional crashing sound. My sister squeezed my hand. Her friend Suzette whispered “It’s the end of the world”. A shadow walked in the darkness. I hate to borrow from Lovecraft, but a mountain walked. It moved against the night sky, a darkness blacker than the void. A silhouette that inspired a terror in my I can not explain but was immediately recognizable.
It was Smokey the Bear.
He was taller than a mountain and bent on the destruction of all humanity.
Years later I would read “The Call of Cthulhu” and find it more disturbing than anything I’d ever read because I was terrified of a giant Smokey the Bear.