The moon was just bright enough to illuminate the shapes of massive rocks looming on each side of the road. In the near-darkness, their shapes were contorted into ugly demons and terrorizing faces--hundreds of feet tall. We were swallowed up in the eerie canyons and cliffs.
The idea was sound enough: I thought it would be fun to go star-gazing away from all the city lights. What better place to ponder the universe than in the heart of one of our national parks? The road is open 24 hours a day, so we thought it would be great... until Alysa casually remarked, "You know, I'm really scared of the dark."
"Oh, really?" I asked breezily ... and then quickly admitted: "Yeah, me, too. Scared to death."
"Why?" Alysa asked.
"Because you have no idea what might be lurking two inches away from you," I replied honestly. "You could be feeling safe and secure and there could be a mass murderer holding a knife two inches from your throat and you'd never know it in the dark." We pondered that for a few moments, feeling the skin on the back of our necks crawl. I continued: "What are you scared of with the dark?"
"Ghosts?!?!" I asked, laughing. "You're kidding, right? What about good old human people who might want to kill you ... or... stuff ...?"
"I'm not scared of people," she replied. "Just the supernatural."
As we continued driving along the steep roadway, I thought she was kidding. I mean, come on. Ghosts? Whatever.
Suddenly, a massive form loomed along the side of the road. It looked like a huge animal and I knew it was going to jump out in front of the car, stranding us with our fears and lack of cell phone coverage. I gasped and jumped in my seat. It was a rock. I hate the dark.
After driving for about 20 minutes or so, we spotted the parking turnoff for the Petrified Sand Dunes. Perfect! We pulled over on the side of the road and contemplated finding a comfortable stone sand dune to sprawl out on. We stepped out of the car and gazed into the blackness.
"Maybe we should just sort of look up while we stand next to the car," I suggested. So we leaned against the car and looked up. My brain kept wondering what would happen if we met unsavory characters while we were out here in the middle of nowhere. With nobody else around. That creepy fear started crawling up my neck again.
That's when it happened: a car rounded the corner and shone its lights on us. Fine. If they were good-intentioned people, they would have no interest in us and they would keep driving.
They slowed down.
Why? Why were they slowing down? What kind of freaks would want to come and bother two total strangers in the middle of the night?
"Frrrreeeeedd..... Get back in the car. They're stopping. Fred, let's GO," I said. Fred is Alysa. We like nicknames.
"Why?" she asked as I realized she was sincere when she said she wasn't scared of other people.
"Because those people in that JEEP are STOPPING and there is NO GOOD REASON why they should be STOPPING and checking us out and shining their headlights on us," I replied. "And it's freaking me out. I'm serious. Go get in the car!!!"
The Jeep slowly passed us, then came to an almost-complete stop. They swung around slowly in an arc until their car was next to ours and their lights were shining directly on us again. If you think the dark is frightening, it is nothing compared to being blinded by bright lights in the middle of the darkness. I felt completely exposed and helpless.
"Come on, come on, come on," I insisted, reaching for my doorknob. "Now, now, now, now, now!"
Alysa/Fred looked at me in confusion. "What? You're really scared that those people want to hurt us or something?" She was totally sincere. I was starting to feel panicked.
The car slowly swung around ours and drifted off into the darkness. Alysa burst out laughing.
"That was the PARK RANGER!!!!! You're scared of the PARK RANGER!!!!"
"What?" I gasped. "You're scared of GHOSTS and I'm scared of PARK RANGERS?!! This is ridiculous!!" We got back in the car and kept driving. We (unwisely) continued to swap stories of why we were scared of the dark until my senses were all on full alert. Our late-night communion with the great outdoors was seeming like less and less of a brilliant idea.
We reached the end of a roadway and were entering the parking lot loop to turn around when suddenly, the space in front of our car was filled by something other than light. A shape emerged from the darkness and raced across the road, inches from our bumper, before disappearing again a moment later.
Alysa may claim she didn't scream but I am certain we both screamed out in surprise. It looked like a jack rabbit, but I swear it was about 11 feet tall. Okay, maybe not 11 feet, but it was HUGE and it was FAST. My heart was racing as we decided we'd had enough thrills for one night and headed back to our hotel.
"You were totally scared of the rabbit," Alysa said laughingly a minute later. "And the park ranger. You're scared of rabbits and rangers. Ha ha!"
"You screamed, too," I said sullenly.
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did!"
"Maybe," Fred half-admitted. "But I wasn't scared. Just surprised."
"Scared? Who was scared??" I asked in indignation. "As if. Just surprised. Like you said."
I arrived back in Moab with everything intact except my ego.
Hi, my name is Juliana. I'm 30 years old and I'm scared to death of park rangers and rabbits. At least I'm not scared of poking fun of myself by sharing it with the whole world. That's got to count for something. I hope.