“The Road Best Not Taken” by horror author and video game writer Richard Dansky is a treasure I discovered during the Georgia Bigfoot Conference in April. It’s a riveting short story propelled by the eyewitness testimony of a Bigfoot encounter.
“I’ve always been a Bigfoot fan ever since I saw the Bigfoot episode of ‘In Search Of …’ way, way, way, way, way back in the day,” Dansky said in an exclusive interview for The Bigfoot Files. “It’s always been something I’ve been interested in … reading about encounters people have had with Bigfoot. The story was actually inspired by an account I heard. Reading about that encounter I saw the seeds of a good story in there if I just expand it a little bit.”
“The Road Best Not Taken” is one of nineteen short stories in Dansky’s collection titled Snowbird Gothic. Dansky is also a video game writer at Ubisoft, and his credits include work on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Outland, and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. He also wrote the novel Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands: Dark Waters.
While Dansky’s short story “The Road Best Not Taken” is a far cry from the world of Tom Clancy, his tale is a compelling illustration of how a traumatic encounter can alter the path of someone’s life. Narrated in the first person by a second-grade teacher named Barry, “The Road Best Not Taken” is a dramatic eyewitness account of Bigfoot with a twist.
The setting is a beach bonfire where four old college friends – Barry, Sam, Harris, and Jeremy – reunite and catch up on each other’s lives. However, the only real information Barry’s friends want to know is the reason for his breakup with a redhead named Jaimie nine years ago.
“I could tell you what happened, but I don’t think you’d believe me.”
His friends push Barry to explain what happened.
“If I tell you, will you let it go? It’s not a story I want to tell twice.”
And just like that, Dansky expertly hooks the reader, and you feel like one of Barry’s college friends sitting around the bonfire. Like Sam, Harris, and Jeremy, you have to know what happened between Barry and Jaimie.
And what happened was Bigfoot, but not in the way you’d expect.
Barry’s account starts with him driving from Chapel Hill to Elizabeth City to visit Jaimie during his college days. He hits construction an hour east of Raleigh and makes the fateful decision to take a shortcut. He gets lost on the backroads leading to his Bigfoot encounter.
Barry struggles at times to tell the story to his friends because they can’t relate to his experience. He’s like a soldier trying to describe the frontlines of a war zone to civilians who’ve never served in the military.
What elevates “The Road Best Not Taken” is Dansky’s earnest description of the Bigfoot encounter and his empathy for the narrator. Dansky seems to understand how a Bigfoot encounter would affect an eyewitness emotionally and psychologically.
Dansky is a Bigfoot believer himself and knows people who say they’ve seen the cryptid, which may be why “The Road Best Not Taken” feels so authentic.
“I have eight friends who have seen Bigfoot, so I’m not inclined to call them liars,” Dansky said. “I have never seen Bigfoot myself. I’m a city boy.”
I asked Dansky why Bigfoot remains so prevalent in pop culture today.
“I think part of it is the mystery of ‘Is it really out there?’ There’s a little bit of realism to it you don’t get from vampires and zombies,” Dansky said. “And part of it is Bigfoot stands for the untamed wilderness, which is still a big part of this country’s psyche, I think.”
“I believe Bigfoot is out there,” Dansky added. “I believe Bigfoot is a large primate, and I hope he continues to confound and amaze us for many years.”
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