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An Evening Walk

20th of January 2019

It’s 2019 and though my world looks nothing like that of Blade Runner I still feel like I’ve stepped into the future, which I guess I did one minute at a time. I was recently in a local mall and I found it half empty, some of the stores that were there before Christmas had just vanished, leaving gaping holes in the place. And as I stood there I couldn’t help but think that this was some kind of a strange sign of a quiet apocalypse that I just hadn’t noticed.

So here I am in the future of 2019 and in two days it will be the one year anniversary of my divorce. It’s been a year since I found out that my life was going to be turned upside down.

Now I’m not here to talk about that especially, but it felt it important to touch upon in relation to what I am going to talk about.

Since I got the dog, which was about the same time that the divorce occurred, I have been going to the nearby forest for walks. I’ve always liked the place, but do so even more now that I’m not running in it but walking. (I’ll start running again soon, I promise!) And around the time I started to walk more frequently I started listening to podcasts a lot more. They became a part of my daily routine. I‘ve mentioned them before but it bears mentioning again. I’ve been listening to THE OTHERPPL podcast for a long time and I still do but I expanded and started listening to THE HORROR SHOW. Roaming the summer forest with Brian Keene and the other hosts in my ears was just perfect. And when I’d gone through the archives as winter was settling, I went on to THE THREE GUYS WITH BEARDS which is just delightful.

Now the evening walks aren’t new, but as the winter settles it turns dark. The same time during the summers it’s bright as day but in the dark, some of the paths are lit up, which makes it possible to go out there in the winter because let's face it being there in the darkness would just be very scary... and weird.

Now before my divorce I wouldn’t have dared to do this. I can’t tell you exactly why, but the darkness surrounds you and there are wild boars, deer and potentially other people in the forest. Now if there are enough people it’s fine. If you meet say 5 people on the path you feel fine, it’s almost crowded, no one is going to do anything when there are so many people there, but if you see a single person on your entire walk you can start to feel a bit creeped out when they are on your tail. But taking the evening walks is invigorating and I bring this new courage back to what John Wayne Comunale says in the interview I listened to tonight in the forest: "everything is crazy after divorce and just settling back down and I just told myself you know, your whole life has been broken down and you're putting it back together and you have nothing else to lose...". That is at the heart of my courage.

Now right after the New Year, it was fine. There were many enthusiastic joggers running underneath the lights but it’s almost the end of January and the newfangledness has worn off so there aren’t many people there. But tonight I didn’t have a BEARD show to listen to so I figured I’d listen to the JOHN WAYNE COMUNALE episode of the HORROR SHOW. I’d been saving it for the right occasion and this was it.

I started the show, drove to the forest and started walking. But just as I’d passed the bridge into the forest, no more than a minute into the walk I notice two people trailing me. I saw two shadowy figures, but couldn’t make out if they were women or men. I realised that if this was a horror flick I’d be as good as dead, though I’m not twenty years old anymore so I’d be that second, unimportant victim.

I quickly decided to stop walking and wait for the people to pass me. I did this not to stifle my fear but to make sure I was alone on my walk and not being trailed. I like being alone in the forest and I hate having to follow people or being followed, even in daylight. And besides, having someone on your trail is creepy.

They passed with a simple hello, not serial killers, as far as I know, but a couple on their evening walk. Dave was at that point talking about his dealings with the American health care system and there was a lot of laughter in my one earbud (I only keep one in my ear when I’m out walking). But suddenly there was a sound somewhere near me and so I pulled the earbud out of my ear, which pauses the show, and

I could hear it. It was loud and clear and all too close. A boar. Very close. I could hear it grunting. I stopped to look around but saw nothing. My dog doesn’t bark much, not at people, deer or wild boars. If she is loose she’ll gladly chase them, but she won’t bark at them. She doesn’t bark a lot unless she hears sounds outside our door at home.

But this animal was close, so I took a deep breath, I cleared my throat and walked forward trying my best to ignore the fear. Boars aren’t dangerous really, but people here seem to be concerned about meeting them in a dark ally or in the forest and so I wasn’t keen on having a confrontation out there in the semi-dark underneath the lights from the poles.

When I passed the road that runs through the forest I felt a bit easier about the boar. It didn’t seem to care about me thankfully, nor my dog.

I walked on listening to the show but still felt that there was a strange energy about and the dog was paying attention to it. She was stopping to look into the dark, she was looking back a lot as if to see if someone was on our heels but there were no more people in the path and at one point she even stopped and growled into one of the unlit paths. During the day these paths are wide and bright, but in the darkness, they look like gaping holes, paths into the unknown.

But there was never anything there.

Often when I’ve been walking past those in the past I’ve thought about those empty dark paths as being like life. A lot of the paths we walk down are unlit, gaping holes, something we don’t know yet. We find a way opening before us and we walk down that path, whether it's a relationship with someone new, a new job or anything really. And as I was listening to Brian Keene interview John Wayne Comunale, I thought about this yet again. And when I passed one of the biggest, darkest passages John Wayne Comunale was speaking about his divorce and his writing and I stopped and I stood there thinking that I’m surviving this. I may not know exactly how I’ll end up landing on my feet, but I will. I know that. This path may not be lit yet, but it’s alright, scary but alright.

It was a little later that I heard a loud BANG and I quickened my step, afraid it was a gunshot. Now, I don’t know a gunshot from a gasp really, but it was loud and it was close and they do hunt boars in the forest occasionally, but never in the dark, surely!?

I walked on, not giving my dog reason to be afraid of the sound - because when she hears a sound like this she looks at me and I try to look cool and unfazed and so she shrugs it off (or whatever the doggy equivalent is) and we move on.

And then I see them. Close to the parking there is a kind of a forest gym, natural weights made of wood mostly and that’s what that sound was. There were two young men working out in the dark, and the sound as they let go of the weights was loud. It was my turn to shrug it off. I’m not twenty anymore so I knew they wouldn’t even notice me.

But I hurried to get to the car and we drove home, ate dinner and by that time the show was over and I found myself thinking about my newest writing project, which happens to be much bigger than I am but it won’t leave me be so I'm taking that road. It’s complicated, but then most things seem to be in this future year of 2019.

I’m happy to be here though, and curious to know what those dark paths have in store for me and when it gets closer to spring I might even take one of them to see where it will lead me. May it not be quite so scary as this evening walk though.

And though the list of people to thank for all they've done for me in the past year is long I feel that tonight I should thank THE HORROR SHOW with Brian Keene and all his hosts, along with THE THREE GUYS WITH BEARDS for keeping me company on my forest walks during this year of inner turmoil. They’ve been inspiring in more ways than I can say.

I think in the future though I will listen to THE BEARDS during those dark evening walks and keep THE HORROR SHOW for the daylight.

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