April 19, 2014

Coyotes Underground

There are coyotes underneath my city, or so I’m told.

The (moderately) famous Seattle Underground. There are tours of some parts of it, and if you visit, I really do recommend you go on one. Dirtiest PG-rated tour I’ve ever been on. “Seamstresses’ Guild” and “Singer Sewing Machine Innerspring model” and a nod and a wink to the grownups, and the kids still think you’re talking about sewing. Sometimes you’ll see locals take their kids, and it’s the fourth or fifth time the kid has gone, and it’s kinda fun, but suddenly, this time, she gets it. And starts giggling and blushing.

They’re tell you about the rats down there, in the empty, vaulted-over and abandoned sidewalks, in the multiple subbasements that were ground floor and above when the building went up, only then later they pulled down the bluffs north of downtown and just graded all the streets with it, a smooth slope down to the harbor. The streets got raised, but the sidewalks belong to the buildings’ owners. They’re already there, both the floors (as many as three of them) and the sidewalks, that now lay far below the street level. For a while, the were ladders at every intersection, so you could cross, but then eventually stores added doors at the new street levels, and added sidewalks at that level. Some of the subterranean sidewalks were still in use for some time after that. The new sidewalks had glass blocks set in them, as skylights for the level below, but things got dimmer as the glass got dirtier, and as the manganese it was doped with slowly turn the glass the color of amethysts. Eventually, most of the shops on those levels closed up or moved, and the spaces were used for storage or abandoned, and the walkways forgotten. The Seattle Underground Tours opened some of that back up again, brought it out of the lost places, and food for them.

They tell you about the rats. Sometimes, you even see ‘em, though not so much anymore. They don’t tell you about the coyotes. But people say they’re there. Some of them are even credible.

It always makes me wish I could write fiction. I’m not terribly good at it, though. I can make up characters and build worlds alright, but I’m no good at constructing a plot, or even themes. I’ve tried. I wasn’t, in the long run, pleased enough with the results to continue working on it. I used to write fiction for pleasure, in high school and college, and I don’t now, because I can’t do it the way I want to. Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist. Maybe someday I’ll go back to it. For now, it isn’t worth the frustration.

But I do wish I could write a story about the coyotes under my city. I love interstices, gaps, between-places. I love elevators and airplanes. I love thresholds. I love the places that aren’t quite anywhere. I love hidden things, too, secrets and forgotten things. And I love tricksters.

What I really want is to write a deLint story or a Gaiman story or a Windling story or a Bull story about those coyotes. Since I can’t write one of their stories, or even one of my own that’s as good, I’m not going to write it. Not now, anyway.