It was a dark and stormy night. Pepper pawed at the back door, jumping up on her hind legs to scratch at the panes of glass she could reach – anxious to get out.
“Come!” She called to me. “Come!”
I put my book down.
“Seriously, Pepper?” I replied. “That is actually a one-way word. Me to you. We’ve discussed this! And you are awfully impatient to get out in this terrible weather,” I noted.
“I hear a strange rustle bustle, a whispering and a muttering, and I want to investigate,” she told me.
“You’re the brave one tonight,” I observed, but she was already gone.
I came back inside and lit a candle against the dark. I couldn’t concentrate on my reading. I knew that the Hideous Troll, unhappily biding its time in the Bamboo Forest, was not the only thing that hid in the Three Acre Wood.
The minutes crept by, each one longer than the last. I ate a cookie, then buttered toast. I heated water in the kettle for tea until it shrieked.
Finally I put on my raincoat and opened the back door. “Pepper, come!” I called, against the wind. No response. I walked down the stairs and deep into the yard. “Pepper, come!” I repeated, again and again, as the rain slashed my face.
I found her, still as stone, in the Rock Garden. Drenched. I knelt down and petted her about the face. “Peppy,” I said. “Peppy, come in.” She followed me.
Back inside, I toweled her off. I gave her a handful of Milkbones, which seemed to revive her a bit.
“Pep, what happened out there?” I asked softly.
“The voices…” she answered. “I went beyond where the Grickle-grass grows, past the Bamboo Forest, into the Great Brambly Thicket. And that’s when I started hearing the voices in my head, it was like I was talking to myself, saying things like I am a Bad Dog, I will never catch a squirrel, I do not deserve to be happy, and then – worst of all – I hate myself. I heard that over and over. I hate myself.”
“Oh Peppy,” I cried, hugging her close despite the fact that she does not in point of fact love to be hugged. “You were hearing the 10,000 Idiots. They live in the Great Brambly Thicket. They grow in strength at night. They say such terrible things, such powerful untruths, but in the deep dark stormy night their voices are hard to resist.”
“Yes, they were hard to resist,” she echoed.
“Peppy, I’m so proud of you. You didn’t get lost in the Great Brambly Thicket. You made it all the way back to the Rock Garden. You almost made it back Home. Next time, come straight back Home, where you are deeply loved and loving. The 10,000 Idiots are powerful. But you are, too.”
She licked me right on the face, which in point of fact isn’t my favorite thing, but which actually felt just right.
* * *
If you haven’t heard of the Bamboo Forest or the Hideous Troll, you might click here.
If you’re interested in the provenance of the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night,” you’d be surprised by how much you can learn at Wikipedia!
For more on the 10,000 Idiots, stop in at Mason-Dixon Knitting.