The Beginning

J Calhoun
8 min readMar 22, 2021

It began with a rapid succession of images:

  • Coastal foothills at sunrise with a farmstead in the distance.
  • A group of kids riding bikes along a dirt road.
  • A narrow cluttered house with lots of things happening.
  • A minivan driving through town in a rainstorm.
  • An ominous man standing in the doorway.
  • Children and adults around a rooftop pool.
  • A cat runs across a road as a vehicle drives towards it in a tunnel.
  • Three boys spread out to search for something a small cabin.
  • A kid runs off a tall riverbank to join friends swimming below at sunset.
  • A side view of two kids holding their breath hiding underwater.

This is how it was presented to me. These images appeared in rapid succession with no context at all and a bit too fast to recognize the moment, but long enough to remember the scene. Then, everything went black. And silent. I was hoping for a speck of light or a sound as a reference point… but there was nothing. Where did I find myself this time?

Blinking my eyes, slowly the light came though. There were trees — I was on a road, hunched over. The air was humid and cold. I was on a rutted dirt road, the kind of rutted dirt road that has seen it’s share of use that the centre of the road raised up and the grass is kept trimmed by the vehicles that drive over it. By the length of the grass, there has been some traffic recently. The trees above had a full canopy that closed over the road blocking out the light, but there were not many branches down below so it still felt open underneath. Open, but dark. The trees were reaching out from either side of the road and formed a perfect arch over the road. It reminded me of the space that is made when you put the fingertips of one hand in the webbing between the fingers of the other hand to form a sealed cavern. Barely any light getting through, and barely any moisture escaping.

Wherever I was, I felt out of place, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It was like I had arrived at the right time, but I was in the wrong location. I had a vague sense of purpose which I was hoping would be revealed to me quickly. It felt like the surroundings were different, but the goal was the same. I had all of my skills, all of my knowledge with me so I wasn’t starting fresh, this time. Now I was in a different place and time.

I started walking along the road hoping there would be an end to the tunnel. I started taking note of what my form was this time. The clothes I was wearing were everyday kid clothes with muted colours that blended in with the tunnel I was in. I could feel the damp of the air and hear the crunch of the gravel under my feet. I had a sense — an urgent need to be somewhere — but where? I had just found myself in a secluded location. Where was I supposed to go? I turned around slowly to survey the tunnel and kept walking in a direction that seemed like it was headed slightly downhill. The silence was unsettling. It left me with my thoughts that repeated questions without answers. Why was I the only person around? Where was everybody? How do I get home? I needed to move from here in order to start finding clues to my goal.

Slowly the canopy started to let more light in as I got closer to the opening and there was a faintness of a breeze. The leaves started to rustle and clatter as if the trees were the audience and the wind urged applause of my achievement of making it this far. Was I being watched? Was I being judged on my actions or progress? Was this a game I found myself in with actors and judges all around? I didn’t know. I just hoped I could get there in time to survive — for all of us to survive. As I reached the end of the canopy the road eased out further down the hill gently winding to the terrain. I could see something that felt like home — but I had never been here before.

Across the cleared farmland and down the slight embankment the scenery stretched on for what seemed like hours. Time felt like it slowed down in order for me to take in the view. The mountains and river in the distance glowed in the soft orange light of either sunrise or sunset — I didn’t even know what time it was. There was a small house near the shoreline of the river. Between that house and where I stood at the entrance of the tunnel there stood a building that looked like a barn or guest house with a single track path leading to the door. The barn held much deeper feelings for me than I could understand. It felt like it was a place that was off limits but I knew I would find myself inside that building soon.

After feeling like I had gotten a glimpse of the setting and background I was now in, I headed back into the canopy tunnel. It was as if something I saw, smelled or felt unlocked a zoo of memories. Seeing that scene of my home again, and for the first time, had unlocked a lifetime of memories. I can remember looking at that scene in all the seasons, at all times of day. It all came in at different rates — pictures, feelings, and senses — some stronger than others. I needed to leave that place, now. I had to find my people — my friends, my brothers or sisters? I didn’t know who they were. I knew I would know them when I saw them. We needed to get ourselves on the adventure we planned. We were headed to the hills in the distance and time was getting short. It was all still a bit hazy but I knew the fastest way to find them was on my bike. Now where did I leave it?

I ran back into the canopy, crossing back and forth over the centre ridge, trying to remember where I had left my bike. How could I remember that? I didn’t even know where I was? The setting felt familiar, but there was an urgency, a deep set fear that time was running out. The people who needed to be somewhere at a certain time at this point had no knowledge of their plans or the consequences. My mind was flashing through the memories like an intro sequence to a TV drama trying to find a clue that would help me understand my purpose this time. Who were the key characters? What was the climax? What were the dangers we were to face? Where was the happiness to be found?

Then scenes started playing out again. Slower this time to gather more details:

  • Coastal foothills at sunrise with a farmstead in the distance. I was just there and had seen firsthand the mountains, the river, the house and the barn. That had been what triggered my return to the tunnel.
  • A group of kids riding bikes along a dirt road. The trees were cut back and there were no signs of traffic.
  • A narrow cluttered house with lots of action. There was commotion in the kitchen where my older sister was making drinks and snacks for the activity upstairs at the pool. I was headed towards the two bedrooms at the end of the hall with what resembled a backpack.
  • A cramped, dimly lit minivan that smelt like second had smoke driving over a railroad crossing in the rain. I was on my knees forcing my way in-between the driver and passenger telling them where to go, but asking for directions. The window defroster wasn’t working and there was mist covering the windshield. Humid. Anxious. We needed to get to the hills, but we were headed in the wrong direction. I needed to find them.
  • An ominous man standing in the doorway. He was tall, skinny wearing a long leather coat dripping with water. He had just come in from the rain and was not happy to find anyone in his space.
  • Children and adults around a rooftop pool. A white house with a pool on the roof. It was a sunny day and the pool was busy with kids playing in the water. There was a gate, a staircase on the outside, and water toys strewn everywhere. It looked like it had been pieced together with corrugated steel painted white — a tin house, in a residential neighbourhood, on a hillside with trees closing the yard. From the viewing angle the road lead down to a large slow-moving body of water.
  • A cat ran along the rutted road in front of a military troop transport vehicle that had its round headlights on, and a Renault (looked like the size of a smart car, but 4 doors) cresting a hill driving down the rutted canopy road. I needed to jump into the ditch out of the way. I didn’t want them to see me.
  • Three boys spread out to search for something a small cabin. Looking at my hands opening the drawers of a jewelry box. I was knelt down on the wooden floor near an antique dresser. Soft light from the bathroom gave comforting shadows. I wasn’t alone there. I was with friends who had gone into other rooms, but we were not safe. There was a footprint made of water on the floor. We needed to leave, NOW! There was a TV on in another room with the volume on low. It was playing the infomercial about the inventor who created that jewelry box I was looking at describing the features and how to use it.
  • Swimming in a slow moving river looking up at a sandy cliff at sunset as my three friends ran and jumped in the water to join me. It was summer time and we had just completed a fantastic journey. I felt a happiness and sense of accomplishment and celebration — we were home.
  • A close-up flash of an infomercial of an inventor of a mechanical chest of drawers. This time It wasn’t being viewed on the TV. It was from the point of view of the camera in the studio filming the infomercial.
  • A side angle of two kids fully clothed in a bathtub holding their breath underwater as a long barrelled revolver descended towards them and broke the surface. The foot-long barrel submerged pointing at their faces. It finally stopped an inch from their noses. They had just been caught.



J Calhoun

Professional Photographer, Product Designer, Musician — titles to describe the path I've taken.