I don’t usually write about personal stuff on my blog because I worry it will create a jarring disconnect between all my half-baked social commentary and poor man’s Seanbaby jokes, but I remembered this story the other day and I thought it was worth telling.
When I was about nine I was super into Garfield. After my first trip to Florida in 1999, I brought back –no bullshit– an entire suitcase full of Garfield books; I couldn’t get enough of that little orange fucker. They were all just compilations of the various comic strips from the newspaper, but one book did have a series of connected strips that formed a relatively short story.
Here’s a section from that series:
According to Google, Jim Davis decided one year to do a series of strips, just before Halloween, that had no humour in them, and were instead intended to scare the shit out of people.
Naturally, nothing can ever be simple where the internet is concerned, so many people have continued to speculate that Garfield has been dead ever since this story ran and everything since is just a hallucination, in spite of Davis literally laughing in their faces and basically telling them they were full of shit. Whatever way you choose to look at it, the strips were pretty creepy, and relatively heavy for a series that has never even bothered to address the fact that feeding a cat that much lasagne would fucking kill it.
So yeah, apparently the whole Garfield Alone thing is pretty well known on the internet, these days, but back when I was nine and couldn’t google Creepypastas this terrified the fucking life out of me. I’m not really sure why, either, it’s just a cartoon cat after all, but for some reason the whole completely abandoned, dilapidated house angle really unsettled me.
Anyway, the whole thing gave me nightmares for a couple of days, but then I got on with my holiday, because there’s a whole lot of shit to keep a nine year old busy in Florida.
Two weeks later, it was time to head back home, and after a ten-hour flight with nothing to amuse me but a shitty 99-games-in-1 toy I got on the plane, which was shaped like a mobile phone, constantly played a MIDI version of ‘Ode to Joy’ and actually turned out to just be 99-different-versions-of-Breakout-in-1, I was pretty jet-lagged and miserable by the time we got back to the house.
Since it was the middle of the day, and not wanting to ruin my sleeping pattern, my parents sent me upstairs and put on a tape of the astoundingly shitty Incredible Hulk cartoon for me to watch. Jet-lag is a motherfucker, though, and I fell asleep, anyway, after about ten minutes.
I woke up probably about an hour or two later. The video had stopped playing so there was just static on the telly, which is one of the most horrible sounds to have drilling your ears when you’re groggy and half-awake. I switched off the television and immediately noticed how unusually quiet the entire house was; that weird kind of silence where the complete absence of sound actually builds up a pressure in your brain. (Or maybe that’s just me.)
I looked outside my bedroom window and there wasn’t a single car or person on the street, which was weird because it was the middle of the afternoon on a really, really nice day –rare in Scotland, even during Summer– and I lived on a main road, that ran right through the entire town.
This road was never quiet, even at three in the morning you’d still hear trucks passing outside, carrying stuff to the nightshift at various supermarkets around town. It was noisy as fuck, and growing up on it was probably the only reason I was able to sleep like a baby the entire year I lived on Glasgow’s equivalent of the Las Vegas strip.
At this point the Garfield story started to creep into the corners of my mind and, for a nine year old boy with what I would charitably describe as a slightly nervous disposition, I am proud to say I at least didn’t immediately completely start losing my shit. When you’re basically terrified of absolutely everything in the world, you learn to wield logic and reason like a weapon; in a dumb way I think that how you choose to cope with your irrational fears can help to make you an extremely rational human being.
So, my logic in this situation was sound: My Mam and Dad’s house is pretty big, so it wasn’t entirely uncommon that you couldn’t hear someone if they were in a room far away from you. I also reasoned that they might have decided to have a snooze on account of their own jet-lag, but upon further inspection the bedroom was empty. I methodically went about checking every single room in the house, even ridiculous places they’d have no reason to be, but there was nobody home.
Every single room in the house was empty.
This might not strike everyone as immediately odd, but it’s important to understand my Mam wasn’t the type of woman to leave her nine year old son alone in the house. Hell, even once I moved out, at the age of twenty, she’d still occasionally phone me at night to make sure I’d locked all my doors. The woman was thorough when it came to security, is the point I am making.
At this point I was approaching full-on meltdown because, funnily enough, a heavily coddled nine year old boy doesn’t cope so well when faced with the sudden prospect of being literally all alone in the world. I ran down the stairs in a blind panic and flew out the back door…to find both my parents sitting in the back garden, taking advantage of the aforementioned rare Scottish sun; trying to maintain their Floridian tans.
That was it. End of the story.
…What? The feature’s called ‘Boring Anecdotes About My Sad Life,’ not, ‘Totally Awesome Birth of a Crimefighting Vigilante and Also He’s Really Good at the Sex, Ladies, if You’re Interested?’.
I don’t know what made me think about all this, fifteen years later, but I do think it’s funny how coincidences like that work; how at that exact time every single variable aligned to perfectly put me in the position of Garfield in the story that had frightened me so much. Nothing like that ever happened to me before or after, what were the chances the one and only time it would occur would be after I’d read a story describing that precise situation?
But it was just that: chance. Just a one-a-million converging of events that all fell into place at the right time. I don’t attribute it to a higher power, or fate or any of that bullshit. It was just a really odd coincidence.
I don’t really know how to end this, so enjoy this nice story by Tom Waits for the alternate ending: