What I write here is not fiction.
Once, perhaps as many as eight or nine years ago, I went for a nighttime bike ride with a couple friends. Zipping through Calgary's near southwest was a great time, empty streets, anonymity, dry summer air, a dark sky. At one point we picked up a book lying on the road and made it a prize for a Cyclepalooza competition.
It was on this ride that it happened. In the dark, on Oakridge Drive, heading north past the (then) tee-intersection with Southland, I glanced to my left at a strip mall.
I'm not sure if I can describe my mental process, really, this long after the initial fact. But I know the impression was that something did not parse. At home, and for days, then years, I chased an image around in my head. It was as if the doorway to one of the shops had been removed, then blocked off, a kind of L-shaped wall constructed of cinderblocks in front, painted white.
Something like an outdoor changeroom at the beach, but with red light emanating from within, and no beach, just an empty parking lot hanging in the dark.
This stuck with me, growing like an uncomfortable bubble in my mental map of Calgary, a place that was like a colourless gap in space, something I could never reason about properly.
The place itself was not exotic in any way. I've traveled past it many times since, and many of those times, remembering this void, and in some cases even riding with the express purpose of resolving things for myself, I have again glanced at that particular spot in that particular dull, small strip mall to try and confirm what I saw that night.
But what has become incredibly strange to me over time is that for some reason, no matter how many times I try to confirm what is or was really there (and this is certainly dozens of times over nearly a decade of my life), only the initial impression ever sticks.
In fact, the only thing I can remember about this beyond that first impression is that I have tried many times to resolve it. But either I can either never properly see or else can never remember what I have seen.
This summer I started to carry a camera with me on my nighttime bike rides, shooting pictures for Instagram as a hobby.
Last night, I decided I would simply go to this place and make a picture.
So this is what I shot: