An Ethereal Distraction

It has been a while since I last opened my journal. Days have given way to nights, and this cycle has in turn produced weeks and then months. By these measurements of time I have worked hard, and yet as I have worked, I have been joined by an unwelcome guest.

It was probably about the third day of my travels back to base camp. A strange shift in the shadows first caught my attention during the late evening. I had been in deep thought at the time – walking, but with minimal attention to each step. Jolted from my ruminations, my first instinct was that I had startled a small animal. Yet the unseen presence did not move like prey, rather it modified its bulk with the careful undertaking of an intelligent hunter. As I was still some distance from its position, I diverted my path and as night fell, I pushed the encounter from my mind.

A few days later, another strange occurrence brought back attention to the first – and what I had initially considered to be a chance encounter, was now challenged by the second.

Having found myself navigating the dry sands of a deep ravine, I was surprised to hear the high-pitched impact of loose stones as they tumbled like a dry waterfall down the steep wall nearby. Although it was a simple matter to avoid the shower of pebbles, my attention for the next few moments remained fixed on the stone wall’s transition to sky – hoping perhaps to avoid a larger dislodgement by a curious animal. What I saw instead was a large silhouette – its dark frame distorted by the backdrop of a scarlet sun – its movement again careful yet deliberate.

And then it disappeared.

Over the next few hours I was again treated to occasional showers of small stones and the dust that followed. Yet until the ravine began to widen, I did not consider myself in danger. Indeed at the very moment its captivating incline began its oppressive relief, a new sound greeted my ears.

It began much like the others – the scraping of rock, the hollow sound of pebbles impacting stone and the smaller particles of sand and dirt amplifying together what none could achieve alone. However this was quickly followed by a louder scraping – as though a dislodged boulder had joined the chorus and was now hurtling to the place I had passed through only minutes ago. A moment later, and the boulder impacted the sand.

For a second, the silence returned before small but growing vibrations in the sand alerted me to the fact that the boulder was now moving at a rapid pace towards my stationary position. Needless to say, I wasn’t stationary for long.

Darting this way and that through the ever-growing density of tree’s, shrubs and needled plants, I did what any would when a predator of unknown capabilities decides it possesses the skills to outmatch another. Having no information about my pursuer nor foreseeable advantage to confrontation, I continued to will my burning legs to move and my heaving lungs to ignore their discomfort.

At long last I chanced upon a glade, and settling myself at its far edge, I hid myself behind a tangle of trees – waiting, watching and struggling to breathe.

Nothing.

No large animal or fairy tale monster burst into the clearing with gnashing teeth or flaring nostrils. No nightmarish creature or mysterious entity filled the glade with its evil presence. Not even the wind appeared game enough to interrupt the serenity of nature’s careful circle.

And so, having convinced myself that I had once more escaped the unknown hunter, I continued on my journey – slightly quicker and with a little more caution.

As I closed the distance between myself and the basecamp, I avoided further encounters and yet – I was not able to shake the feeling that I was still being observed. Even as I entered the gates, this feeling did not abate. And as I spent time within the basecamp itself – building, repairing and writing – I came to realise that the creature behind the shadows had taken up a new residence on the periphery of my certainty.

For months, all I had was a sense of being watched. Yet this sense betrayed all attempts at verification, and so I was forced to ignore the feeling and focus on the many tasks laid out before me. And under such conditions have I been working still – a sense that something isn’t quite right with my literary endeavours – that something beyond by present grasp continues to haunt my newer undertakings.

Is it the writing, the editing or design? Is it the publishing, the marketing or small platform from which I seek to make my books known? Is it something I have done or perhaps failed to do? Is it only in my mind or is this ever-presence shared by other authors too?

Whatever the nature of this intangible disturbance, I know for sure that I only have two choices in my response: I can give in to its distraction or I can ignore the curiosity and get on with the job.

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