Rain, flares, and finally, a car flipped on its side.
Figures flashing in front of headlights, dancing shadows cast on the cliffs
A pandemonium made sluggish by the pounding storm.
Howl — howl is the only word to describe the sound of that night.
Screeching, cackling, wailing…
No, howl — howling was the wind, Mother Nature’s wild, exasperated warning:
“You are not welcome.
You do not belong here.”
Fighting against the wind, I thrust open the door and heard its voice:
“‘WHSHHHHHHH! HSSSS! WSHHH!”
The wind cracked like a whip, dumping water as if it were being hurled sideways from the sea instead of falling from the sky above.
The Howl was piercing.
The Howl was raging.
The Howl was as haunting as it was familiar — bursting forth from a poorly-repressed nightmare shouting
“I will not be forgotten! I can not be forgotten!”
Glass shards as numerous as rain drops littered the road, illuminated by tiny flare fires.
Stripped tires, clothing, the worldly possessions of some life I did not, would not, could not ever know.
The car’s windshield was cracked like a spider’s web, windows shattered into pieces and scattered across the pavement, dents and oblong shapes punched into the sides like craters.
And hanging out a broken window was what The Howl demanded that I see: a limp, lifeless hand, dirtied fingernails kissing the pavement.
“What happened?” I managed to yell through the wind and rain to one of the first responders, a resident from up the road.
“Car spun out!” He shouted back.
“Is there anyone inside?”
“He…he, uh…he’s passed on.” He made a cutthroat sign with his hand, shook his head, grimaced, and disappeared back into the confusion of the night.
“HSSSS! HSSS! WSHHH!” howled the wind, whipping torrents of glass at my face as if to say to me uniquely:
I can do it to youuu toooo.
This sinister siren song called at me to investigate the crash — imploring me to confront whatever was inside.
Maybe I would see a wiggle of life and it would all be clear:
There is something to be done! I do have a role to play in this!
Maybe I would hear a weak but persevering groan, “There is but still hope!”
And my journey into the Howl would mean something after all.
Deeper and deeper I descended into The Howl as it grew louder, sharper until it was simply shrieking as I stuck a flashlight through the broken window, shining light into the darkness.
Sudden, arresting quiet.
No hissing, no shrieking — if it was even raining I wouldn’t have known.
Just me and what used to be — who used to be — sheltered and alone in the eye of The Howl.
Every thought they ever held, every anxiety they ever harbored, every person they ever loved, every dream they ever dreamed — the ones they achieved and the ones they did not.
Every beautiful moment that inspired them, every instance of terror they ever felt, every question that never got an answer, every goodbye left unsaid.
Every time they stayed up too late and drank too much, ate too much, lived too much
Every time they were punched in the gut with awe.
The flawed vessel was strewn across the front seat, its fragility laid spectacularly bare
As the voice of its captain faded into bewildering, hysterical silence.
For about 6 seconds, the world froze
But when I pulled my head back out the window,
And left the scene to its darkness,
That manic, frenzied Howl was stronger than ever.
This poem was written following an accident on Highway 1 near Garrapata State Park on February 1, 2019, the only reporting of which seems to be a footnote from the California Highway Patrol. My girlfriend and I rescued a dog that inexplicably survived the accident and took her to Pet Specialists of Monterey, but we don’t know what happened afterward. We found out that the dog was named MJ, and we believe (according to a comment from a waiter at Deetjen’s the following night) that the driver worked at the Big Sur River Inn. Please feel free to contact me if we can provide any information that would help those involved.