I can feel something on the back of my neck. A prickling of every hair standing to salute the world around me. What has bought this feeling of unease on? Of that, I have no idea. I only know that every nerve in my body tells me to get safe and get safe quickly. I just do not have anywhere safe to go. I have nowhere near that I can escape too. It is late, you see, and I had to walk home. “Make sure you stay safe,” my old ma used to say to me. She’d have a bloody heart attack if she could see me now.
Wait, what was that!
Sorry, I thought I heard something from behind me. Something closer than it should have been. Just whispering in a bush that I have only just passed, the wind blowing through the leaves. I am sure it is nothing, but still… I shall walk a little faster. What harm can it do? If nothing else, it will be good for me. I shall burn off a few of those excess pounds.
So now I find myself with two problems. I really should have called a taxi, but no! Why should I have to? I am a grown adult! The lane I am walking is overgrown. That by the default rules of the universe means that it is creepy. That can’t be helped, thems the rules. Then we have the lights, and those could have been helped. The universe has no rules on public lighting.
I am a green person. I vote green, avoid meat (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to cut it out entirely), recycle everything that I can, and marched for climate action. When the council spoke about fitting LED bulbs, I thought, yeah, bring it.
Okay. You can do this.
I will sound silly now, but I just can’t shake this feeling that I am not alone. Just saying it aloud sounds stupid. I have glanced back quickly, stealing a look behind me, and I could not see anyone. I just can’t get that feeling to go. I can’t shake it.
I have now done something without even thinking about it. I have reached into my pocket, and without even giving it a second thought, grabbed hold of my keys. I am not even a violent person, yet now I have my hands clenched in a fist with keys poking through. I would probably do more damage to myself than to anyone else.
LEDs. Light emitting diodes. I am usually all for these things. LEDs, cheap, they give off less heat, costs less to run and are greener. I have them in every room in my home, and I would not have it any other way. This is the part where I would look like someone fast-forwarding a movie to any onlookers. If LED street lamps are placed too far apart, then you have a problem.
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my….. you flaming idiot.
I could feel the keys cutting into my palm as it happened. I tensed up tighter than a well wound watch. Ha! It was just the wind blowing the bushes, shadows dancing in the night, but damn I am glad I went to the loo before setting out. It never happened with the old street lights, but now you have what I call safety zones. They light up the path like spotlights — a well-lit area, dark and dim area.
Hi, yes, it is me, back again. Remember I mentioned looking like something going fast-forward? Well, that was what I just did. My little legs moving at half the speed of light (speed of dark?) through the mugging zone. I am now back in the light, the non-mugging area. Only a handful more to go! Wish me luck as I do the dance through the spotlights. You can watch me, a human zoetrope, as I make my way forwards.
Made it! I am not unfit, but damn I feel shattered now. Mentally knackered after the zebra crossing of zones. Thy can be mugged here, but not here. Then with every other step into the darkness came that thing that hides in the corner of your eye. You know the thing that you are never sure if it is really there or not? The spider that scutters under the stairs at the last moment, or is it just a shadow or a dust ball. You can never be sure until you look, and by then? It is too late.
I am sure. I am positive that I am not alone. My lone-wanderer senses are tingling. They dance the samba on my spine while I shiver in the dark. Tormenting and teasing as I walk the light. Hinting at the horrors that are hidden to me, hidden from all but that corner in my eye. I must be going mad.
Going? Gone? Welcome to the nuthouse my friend, we have all the best stuff!
But here, here is some good news. My front door. I have Gloria Gaynored it. I have made it. The world is set to rights once again. I slide the key into the lock and can breathe freely once more. Then my mind speaks up, being as helpful as ever, it asks. What if I was followed? Now they know where I live…