My feet tend to take me to dark places when I run. And not just because I run in the very early morning before the sun rises. The dark and quiet play games with my mind, and I have to talk myself out of my creepy thoughts.
I sometimes wonder if I should be running all by my lonesome when it’s so dark out. What happens if I sprain my ankle? What happens if I get hit by a car? What happens if that other runner over there turns out to be a serial killer?
My fellow early-morning runner raises a hand in greeting. Not a serial killer, as far as I can tell. I try to run with better form and less wheezing…at least until he’s out of sight. Soon it’s just me again.
There’s a rustle of leaves off to my right, and a rabbit darts across the street. What is that rabbit so scared of? Should I run a bit faster too?
My pace picks up a bit, until I manage to get my heart-rate back under control.
Good lord, is that a bear? No, it’s a hedge. A bear-shaped hedge.
A vaguely man-shaped figure appears out of the mist in the local park.
Sweet heavens, is that a zombie? No, that’s just an early-riser, taking his dog out to do its business. You say hello to him every morning. And everyone looks like a zombie before they’ve had their coffee.
“Morning!” I say. He says hello back. His dog hunches and watches balefully.
A few blocks further, a dark shape lurches towards me from the gutter. Gah, it’s a C.H.U.D.! Wait, nope, false alarm—it’s just a skunk.
Gah, it’s a skunk!
I pour on some speed and soon I’m at the half-way point of my run.
I glimpse the shadow of something gnarled and limb-like and sinister reaching across the sidewalk. My heart jumps into my throat once again—a gigantic spider!! Um, no. No gigantic spiders here. That’s a tree-branch. A tree-branch that someone really should move off the sidewalk.
Although, that tree-branch kind of looks man-made. Like machinery. Like maybe a drone, but one that short-circuited and then fell from the sky and smashed to pieces. Wait—did one of the drone’s appendages just move? No, it’s still just a branch, caught in a gust of wind.
Okay, maybe it’s not a drone today. But there could be drones here tomorrow, doing drone-y suburban tasks like delivering newspapers or surveying the golf course or baby-sitting small children. Soon they’ll be everywhere. Next thing you know, the drones become self-aware and demand better working conditions. Then there’s an uprising and a counter-revolution and the whole world goes to shit. That’s how Terminator happened.
My running route takes me through a stately suburban neighbourhood, where the biggest threat to public safety is kids riding their bikes too fast. Yet somewhere between minute 7 and minute 26 of my run, I’ve encountered enough beasts and ‘bots to populate a few new creepy short stories.
As I slow to a walk and approach my driveway, I wonder if this is how Russell T Davies gets his ideas.
And then I get writing.