A dark path home
During my adolescence I would often visit the home of an elder from my parents’ church to talk and drink cups of tea. Our conversations would be based around the Christian faith and Brian, a kind, gentle and loving man, mentored me. Now, where we used to meet was a half hour walk from my parents’ house. To get there I could either walk through this patch of wood filled with trees growing in straight lines and stinging nettles and brambles carpeting the ground. Slicing down the side of the wood was a thin path broken up by thick tree roots, a dried up streambed and a flowing stream. It was, and remains, one of my favourite places. It’s a place that cuts out the noise of zooming cars and shouting people. In other words, it is a haven and one of the four ways to reach Brian’s old house. At night, unlike two of the other routes, it is a dark place. The second and third routes were lamp-lit and safe, one following the course of the roads and the other following the course of the Black Brook. The fourth route, the way I decided to take on this particular evening, was like the first one in that it lacked lighting. On this night, after saying farewell to Brian and his wife Terri, I headed off along this path that began with winding its way through some washland.
Everything started fine. It was merely a dark path. I’d been that way many times before; there was nothing different this time. It wasn’t long until my mind started to fill in apparent blanks. The tree that was illuminated by the moon wasn’t a tree but a ghostly figure. There were eyes watching me and that fear of being followed by an unknown creature, a superstition that haunted me from my childhood, returned. My heart hammered. My imagination whirled. After a while, I left the washland and followed a thin track that merged with a wider, stony road. There was still no lamplight. I pulled out my brick of a mobile phone and started texting a couple of friends. Each time I looked down at the bright screen, I wandered off the path and onto the grassy verge. Numerous times I looked up to find myself standing on some grass, about to walk into a tree. The evening seemed to be stretching on longer than it should do until, up ahead, there was a streetlamp shining an orange glow down onto the end of the path.