In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Night Walker
  • Kimberly Anderson (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

Night Service Mirage, by Kimberly Anderson, 2022. Mixed media collage on corrugated cardboard with family photos, archival photography, and gold leaf, 12 x 12 in.

[End Page 57]

"Hey, sorry i can't take you further down the road, man, you sure you gon' be alright?"

Tea smiled at his friend. He fully understood the trepidation. The black of night in rural Marion, South Carolina, could be really unnerving if you weren't from the area and familiar with the roads—especially in the dark. The low country roads were mostly deserted, save for the occasional car passing through, and the atmosphere was pitch black. Looking into the night was like staring into the void.

Tea exited the car. "That's a'ight, man, I 'ppreciate the ride this far. 'Sides, I know these roads like the back of my hand." Tea's words were still hanging in the air when his driver peeled out of Ariel Crossroads.

Tea chuckled. He was no newbie and could probably walk the fifteen minutes home blindfolded, but he couldn't blame his friend for being apprehensive. There were a lot of peculiar happenings indeed in the low country after dark. No streetlights either—just pure darkness, except for the occasional light in the window of Ms. Mae's house about a mile down the road. Ariel Crossroads began right at the edge of Tea's family cemetery, a real-life crossroads of life and death. There were many tales of peculiar happenings in the St. James area after dark—hell, during the day too—vacant rural roads and thicket-covered ditch backs provided the perfect backdrop for the clandestine. Tea thought a minute about how his sister Retta always said she wouldn't be caught in St. James after the sun went down.

She spook too easily, ol' spooky scary girl, he chuckled to himself. Still, he drew the bottle of homemade moonshine he always kept in his shirt pocket and took a quick nip of liquid courage for the road.

Tonight, the full moon offered some solace from the typical nighttime obscurity. The dirt and rocks swished and swashed under his feet as he shuffed along the road approaching the family cemetery.

The story went that Uncle Zack purchased the land for the cemetery back in 1919 for one hundred dollars. One hundred years later, the land was the revered resting place for legions of ancestors, and as expected from an area so long inhabited, the energy was charged. Coming up the road, Tea heard what sounded like clapping, singing, and praising over at the church house. He paused. He couldn't remember any mention of a service or program scheduled for that night, but he felt the energetic draw of rejoicing inside. Tea had intended on rushing home to wash up so he could get back to the service. Instead, he suddenly found himself standing in the vestibule of the church. The energy of worship and cries of salvation had called him closer. Still dusty from the day's work, Tea glanced down at his work clothes and back up at the congregation; the church was packed to the gills. [End Page 58]

One of the three AME churches on the network—St. James, St. Mary, or Bethlehem—must have been visiting this evening. People stood lining the walls. With all the shoutin', clappin', and catchin' the spirit, he could barely find a seat. But Tea had worked all day on his feet, and they were throbbing. Scanning the room, he spotted a lone vacant seat in the middle of the front row. While the choir sang "Peace Be Still," Tea made his way through the crowd to the front, looking for familiar faces, but he couldn't place anyone. He made it to his seat and sat down.

The moment he sat the church went dark—he was there all alone in the silence. In an instant, he was up out of his chair and fleeing the church.

"What the hell was that?" he panted, running down the pathway back to the road.

Tea slowed, knowing better...

pdf