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Do you ever reach a point, in the middle of the night, when you find yourself itching to do something rash? It’s dark outside, the roads are empty, you can’t sleep and somewhere inside, you find this restless energy you don’t know how to use?

I like to call that the witching hour.

It’s partly because the witching hour always happens either so late or so early that you can’t distinguish which it is, and partly because everything suddenly feels spooky and electric. At some point, you start believing that you, too, could be spooky and electric.

Back in high school, my friends and I lived for the witching hour. Driving was still new enough to us that it kind of felt like an Event, but we were just old enough to have earned enough responsibility points to have late curfews.

Every weekend of senior year, the conversation would start with a “Who wants Cook-Out?” and by the time we had rolled through and came out slurping milkshakes, the city had gone to sleep, and we were ready to go exploring.

We would go ambling through closed down parks, hanging off monkey bars and climbing the structures we weren’t allowed to scale as kids. We drove circles around graveyards, daring each other to go in and never really getting the nerve. We made our way to the all-night Grand Asia Market, only buying things we couldn’t recognize as a snack.

On a few occasions, we even managed to talk ourselves into exploring the old Dorthea Dix park near downtown Raleigh, with its stories of escaped asylum patients and unorthodox therapy experiments. None of them were true, but we were jumpy and excitable enough to believe any one of our own lies.

Lately, it’s been harder for me to recapture that old magic. Harder to spook myself. Harder to get excited about something as banal as driving around town. Harder not to feel guilty about leaving work behind and enjoying the thrill of an everyday moment, instead.

But as kooky as our witching hour rituals were, they were also really fun. As I’m moving further from that part of my life, I realize I’m going to have to be more intentional about seeking those moments.  

I don’t know. Maybe it was something specific to high school. Maybe it’s a unique teenage restlessness thing. Maybe my best friend and I won’t ever have to talk each other out of road-tripping to Canada on a long weekend, just because we both realized that technically we could and nothing was there to stop us.

But I like to think that the witching hour is less ephemeral than that. I like to think I’m always going to be a little too curious for it to go away.

Maybe I’m just crazy, but I do know that, the next time I get the ache to go exploring for something strange and uncanny, I’m just going to give in, grab my keys and go.

Ellie Baker

Chapel Hill '21

Ellie Baker is a junior studying English and Film Production and minoring in Writing for the Screen and Stage. When not working on a writing project, she can often be found buried in a sketchbook, rifling through thrift shops, or working as a pirate guide down at Bald Head Island.
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