Have you ever looked a devil in the eye? Brushed your fingers against those that had choked someone’s life away? I have.
It happened at a gas station, as I was paying for the gas I had just pumped. With a counter between us, there was no immediate risk of additional, direct contact beyond his fingers brushing mine. And a line of other customers, all men, stood at my back. I had no reason to feel threatened. None at all. And yet I did feel threatened. I fell into the grip of a fear so intense it chased me back into my car, where I hurriedly locked the doors before even thinking about putting the keys in the ignition.
In the two decades since, I never returned to that gas station. I never will…because two weeks after the encounter, I discovered my instincts had been entirely correct. I had, in fact, touched the hand of evil. I knew it the instant I saw that man’s devil eyes staring back at me from the front page of the newspaper. He had been arrested in connection with the deaths of four young girls, and the abduction of a woman close enough to me in age I couldn’t help but wonder: If those other customers had not been there, could I have been that woman, his final victim? When his eyes looked into mine, is that what I saw?
You never really know who will touch your life on any given day. I wonder sometimes why he had to touch mine—and then I chastise myself because, in reality, he did not touch my life at all, certainly not like he touched the lives of those girls and their families.
Of course, he did far more than simply touch their lives, didn’t he?
Still, I wonder…. Everything that touches me leaves a mark. Eventually, every mark finds its way into my writing. Sometimes I don’t recognize it until long after the words are written. And sometimes I see it before a single word comes to life. I wrote “I Touched the Hand of Evil” with a purpose, knowing I needed to put that chilling encounter into words. Years had already passed before those words were written, but they still needed to be written. And I still feel the need to share them. That poem is available for public viewing in a couple of places online. It is also included in my book of dark poetry, “In the End.”
Why include dark reality in a book of poems grounded in dark fiction? Maybe because the rest of the poems might not be entirely fiction, either. “Shadow Man” was inspired by a dream I’ll never really know for sure had actually been just a dream.
So how much is reality and how much is fiction? Does it matter? The darkness is out there, after all. We can’t ignore it. But we also don’t have to let it suck us in. If there is one thing my encounter with a serial killer has led me to realize, it is this: I don’t belong in the darkness. I can touch it…I can brush my fingers across the threshold… and still know with certainty it will not draw me in. It will not choke my life away. It will instead keep me looking toward the light.
“In the End: Apocalyptic Poetry” --- Because the more you see of darkness, the more you come to appreciate the light.