photography by Gillian Pishl
I walk out the doors of the Liberal Arts building with both headphones in—blasting. There is a light sprinkling of rain and I am listening to the score of Dune by Hanz Zimmer (2021). After seeing the movie last weekend I can't stop listening to it. I am fascinated with scores that are powerful enough to force me to feel a certain way. They have the power to make me feel what the characters are feeling.
Walking down the sidewalk with the score assaulting my ear drums, I became the main character of a tense and unsettling life as the music shifts my mood. My eyes lose precise focus and become the camera for a cinematic world that was only brought out by the eerie reverie of the melody that transforms the tone of my life.
Each step was a moment, each turn of my head a new shot. The gentle rain continued to fall casting a gray filter over the world. Drops land on my sweatshirt creating an organic pattern and dampen my hair. The somber tone of the world around me comes into focus as I walk slowly in beat.
The leaves of the trees are electric yellows and reds against the ominous sky suggesting that melancholy days are among us. My eyes focus on the smaller things. The way the leaves lay on the grass. Their weightlessness still held down by gravity.
People pass. Hoods and hats on. Eyes averted. Headphones in, just like me. Anyone could be dangerous. Anyone could be the antagonist.
Every few steps I glance back scanning the area. The tragedy of the day before, still fresh in my mind. I see a figure behind me. Far enough back that I shouldn’t be worried... Just aware. Worry is worthless when acknowledgement and preparation brings the best results, but the fear still enters. I wasn’t even there. I shouldn’t be scared.
“Fear is the mind-killer,” a phrase that has been on my mind from Dune, repeats in my head to the rhythm of the brash drums. I will not be afraid when I am in a public place.
My eyes flick back and forth across the horizon of vision, clocking my surroundings. Fear is nowhere to be seen. It will not sneak up on me. I will be prepared. The figure behind me is closer now. But it's probably just a regular student walking to their car, just like me. The unsettling feeling runs through my veins as my music plays harsh, dissonant sounds.
I consider the best way to hold my water bottle for efficiency in the case of self-defense. Conscious of my ring finger is in the loop of the lid and the rest of my hand grips the top of the water bottle. My eyes are IMAX cameras taking in the detail of the yellowing edges of my hands as I tightly grip. Ready for anything that might come.
I pass the student union building where young adults in dark clothing mill around or work with headphones on. Performing to get through the fear that walks behind them. Maybe I am not alone on this strange fall day.
The music heightens. It rushes in with the highest stakes and lush clashing voices. Someone comes up from behind. That figure has caught up to me and passes, her hair damp from the rain, “Sorry I was following you for a long time,” she said as she passed, lighthearted. “You’re good,” I respond. My grip is ready for anything, but nothing actually happens. It’s a regular girl on her regular way.
Still a couple hundred yards to my car, I continue my path. Step after step with the feeling of pain in my ears.
I look back and don’t see anything, but when I turn back around something is still there. “Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the mind-killer.”
The next track swells with the hum of unplaceable familiarity. The chanting choral sounds echo with the gloomy bagpipes. Eyes always scanning. Left to right. Right to left. Behind. Repeat. Screaming and slapping beats in my ears.
The filter never lifts. Rain continues to fall. I turn my head. Someone’s there. I turn it more. No one in the nearest hundred yards. I turn back. The mirrored building shows no reflection beyond my own.
I walk up to my car door and see my face in the reflection of my window rippled with dripping rain. No one behind me. Only me. And the path forward.
Erika Pishl is a senior at Boise State University studying to be an English teacher. This piece was written shortly after the recent shooting at the Boise Towne Square Mall and explores the effects of local events on members of the community even if they weren’t present.