The beech trees, the internet, Slenderman and me — a night time gander through the town-lands of Trim, Co. Meath.

Conor Fay

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The Walk

It was past midnight and I walked the backroads of my locale, Phillinstown Trim, a bland country mess for the bored or a vibrant throb for the keen. I hate that I typically lean towards the former but I wanted to change that. Perhaps the greens and the browns, the trees and the tire marks would look better at night. I came prepared in case the boredom prevailed, Mahler’s 9th was in my headphones.

Phillinstown from the eyes of the ants – Photo Credit Roy Murray (Flickr)

Early on in the walk, I shrewdly noted that you can’t see much when its dark. The spring lambs were asleep with their doting mothers, the bustling hedgerows weren’t bustling.  At least they weren’t bustling for me.

It was all a pain at first really, I was walking through fields so I kept losing my balance and every time the ground felt softer underfoot I’d wonder whether the poo belonged to a dog, a cow, sheep or a horse.

No, this walk wasn’t going to work but Jesus Christ, the orchestra were banging out Mahler like a miracle and I was getting some fresh air. I pressed on! I hopped a wall beneath a great beech tree, a dead one, the sap was bleeding and bounced the moonlight. What a good way to die, for me to look at anyway, it might actually be terrible for the tree. I wouldn’t know .

The soudtrack for the night

The Dawdling

The dead tree and the more dead wall were right beside the living river, the Boyne we call it, and it was full of beans. I followed it for half a mile or so and stopped. It was great to be fair, I gave Mahler a bit of rest and enjoyed the sound of the water. It took a while searching but I found a good stone and tossed it. The plonk of impact was the business, entertaining me as it did at five when a good day revolved around little else than just that, plonks.

Ten minutes admiring it was enough though because at this point I was properly trespassing and I knew for a fact that people with guns live nearby so I turned back. These people shoot first and ask questions later.

No they don’t really, but I just wasn’t up for the uncomfortable exchange, no one wants to see a stranger wandering near their house at night.

It’s the Beech Trees that dominate Phillinstown – Photo Credit Dominic Mitchell (Flickr)

I got back to the dead tree.

‘I’ll climb it!’

At about 8 foot I got tired and hopped off. It really hurt the balls of my feet and there was no one to impress so I gave it the grimace it deserved. Sympathy for the self is sympathy for the devil, a narcotic which will rope you in, but its nice to feel sorry for yourself now and again.

Back to the road, a two mile stretch of bungalows and big brick contortions that were barely fashionable during the Tiger. I had enjoyed that Boyne leg of the stroll but this was miserable.

The road was ugly, these houses should not have sprung up like they did.

Trim town is a lovely place for a house why spread out to this area. It’s now an ineffectively planned housing estate, it looks like a child with a huge gap between his eyes.

The Slenderman Saga

I walked on anyway and tried to avoid looking at the boring houses. I focused on the trees, big mistake. Come daytime, the mass of beech trees, poplars and whatever else look beautiful, but at night they’re dark denizens cast against crayola grey. Sinister bodies.

I wasn’t too bothered though. Until one stretch, the hedge was cut low and the trees were gone, replaced by a stone wall. Yet one remained, tall and thinly branched but with a great swelling mass at the midrib. That looks like Slenderman I thought. Imagine if it actually was.

Slender
The divil Slenderman – Photo Credit lookcatalog (Flickr)

But imagine if it actually was.

I did imagine just that and I ran quicker than will would carry me. No turning back, that’s what the crook wants. I cut the music, Mahler was nothing to me now, I needed my senses. If I turned I was caught, he’d engulf me, murder me, torture me. I don’t know, no one does; it’s Slenderman.

On I ran, aware of how ridiculous I was being until I turned a corner for the home stretch and stopped. This is my territory, Slenderman has no dominion here.

I plugged Gustav Mahler back in and stayed still. That had been a serious adrenaline rush and a serious wet-the-bed moment. I had to know why I got so scared.

I had not played Slenderman for about five years and even then it was just an unbelievably stupid internet game, based on some 4chan legend, the very fabrication of which I had witnessed as a young’n on 4chan. It couldn’t be less real and I couldn’t be more qualified to know that.

Yet I ran.

The Realisation

I am not easily spooked, a jump scare will catch anyone myself included, but terror and dread must survive an extended filtration process before they reach me. Again, 4chan and other internet cesspits had much to do with this.

They put me through a great desensitisation. I have offended, irritated, upset and embarrassed, I have been entertained by those offended, the irritated, the upset and those embarrassed. I watched things just to have seen, and consumed for the sake of consumption.

I am the degenerate offspring of the internet, my unwanted siblings and I take many forms, trolls, social justice warriors, the whinging left, the deplorable right, silent lurkers and the insufferable fiends of social media; throw us a like there.

The internet is my mistress. But it was not, that night on the outskirts of Trim. I walked, I enjoyed some music and I entertained myself.

Perhaps that flirt with the uncanny, with Slenderman was down to jealous rage then. My subconscious was having a go at me for engaging the critical faculties rather than petting them down with content-content-content. Slenderman was my passive laziness incarnate. He hijacked a tree and sent me running back home.

“Back to the internet, you!”

I was a sucker, I obeyed.

If this occasional glimpse of terror is the bizarre price I must pay to go for a walk then fine. I’m due a great sensitisation. Revelry of the mean online does me little good anymore as I’m starting to see how poorly it does anyone.

I reached the driveway of my Celtic Tiger home. Beech Lodge. Both Beech Trees either side of the driveway are dead now also, strangled by earth.

Some wisdom from Edward Abbey

That was a good walk overall. Terror and beauty had both eluded me for a while; the mere stimulus is a positive thing. Like Edward Abbey said, “like Nietzsche said, ‘Live Dangerously’”.

Well, Nietzsche and Edward, I made a start; I climbed that tree, I threw that stone, I stepped confidently down into that dung.

I may have been bullied back home by my own habits, but I had not entirely reverted back to my vegetable form. Danger is relative anyway, I looked down at my RSA High-Vis vest, what a pointless wee garb for the situation, there were no cars here ever at this time. I took it off and walked inside. Live dangerously.

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Conor Fay