I absolutely love the column I write for our local weekly, the Anchorage Press. It’s a pretty rockin’ little paper, and the column, “Crash Test Dummy“, covers a new activity every week. I never know what I’m going to get into next–one week I’m attending helicopter underwater escape training, the next I’m an extra in a zombie movie, and then suddenly I’m rappelling off the roof of a 14-story building. Oh yeah, and sometimes I get to dance, too.

Anyway, last night I was a few miles out of town, looking for a “no camping” sign to photograph for an upcoming column. I found one in a secluded pullout, bordered by the thick undergrowth that carpets everything below treeline. It was pitch black, but I went ahead and tried a few photos with my camera’s flash for illumination–not impressive. So I trained the car’s headlights on the sign–better. The headlights even lit up a little patch of the undergrowth beyond. Click, click, click went my shutter, because I’m a quantity photographer. If I’m not sure of the conditions I take lots of photos, trusting that at least one will turn out.

As I snapped photo 17 out of 20 (no joke), squinting through the LCD viewfinder, a flashing green square veered off to the side of the frame. It settled on a section of the undergrowth, just within reach of my car’s headlights, and zoomed in of its own accord. I’ve never seen my camera do this before, but I know it has a facial recognition feature. That square must have been said feature in action, because I swear I saw a face–human, or at least humanesque–staring out of the undergrowth. At me. From ground level.

I didn’t worry too much about it at first. I figured it must have been a squirrel–a squirrel with an enormous bald head and yellowish skin–and that I’d get a good look at it when I copied the photos to my computer. I snapped photo number 18. Photo 19. Then my oh-so-visual brain gave me a movie-trailer recap of what had just happened. Humanoid face. With eyes. Staring at me. From the undergrowth!

I snuck a quick peek at the bushes–no masked murderer yet, he must be getting his chainsaw ready–and bravely snapped photo number 20 before retreating to my car, locking all the doors, and getting the hell out of there. When I made it home and downloaded the photos from my camera, there was no face. Nothing even remotely resembling a face. Not even a squirrel. But I’m telling you, I saw it.

It’s Halloween season, baby.

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