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When lovely midnight strolls turn into '101 ways to freak Brigid out'...

Hertford, United Kingdom

So, I decided to go for a walk. Disregarding the obvious lack of light, Andy's warning about the dangerous Hertford canal route, and my overstuffed stomach (a day at a free Excel food event and a brother who orders pizza on your staff discount can do that to you), I set forth into the night.

As I stepped out of the building, Andy's warning rang fresh in my mind, but I thought, "Pffft, I come from South Africa. I can handle ANYTHING.' Not, and I make this clear, that South Africa is a terribly dangerous place, because on the whole it really isn't, but compared to Hertford where a bit of graffiti gets into the tabloids... well....

I put my hood up and hunched up my shoulders, did my best to send out a 'don't mess with me' vibe and began my adventure.

It was lovely. The wind was brisk and the air was fresh. Reflections in the canal were disturbed only by the occasional duck settling down for the night, and all I could hear was the 'shhht, shht, shht' of my jacket as I walked.

Then it occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to hear someone approaching from behind....

I glanced back. The path was clear. I continued walking.

Or was it? I glanced back again. What was that shadow at the corner there? I walked faster.

Oh, shit, I nearly walked into someone! (And that poor old lady will probably get back home and tell her husband about the crazy dark figure that nearly trampled her.)

Berating myself, I continued along my way, determined to make it to my favourite spot in the marshes. It was no longer about getting some fresh air. It was now KILL OR BE KILLED. Nah, it was just my being too stubborn to go home.

Once I stepped out onto the open plains of King's Meads, I began to relax. The sky was a burnt pink. In the distance I could hear the faint drone of distant highways. Across the marshes I could see the warm glow of houses. Ahead of me, I could see tiny dark patches hopping around as bunnies scampered out of sight.

It felt lonely. Lonely in the way one must feel standing alone at the top of a mountain, gazing down at the world. It was beautiful.

Feeling emotional, I settled down on the mound and closed my eyes for a few moments. It was so peaceful. The air was so pure. No one around for miles.

A thought popped into my head: 'what if I'm not alone?'

I glanced around me, eyes skirting the perimeter, falling on an unidentifiable dark-spot. It moved. Jerking upright, I stared it down. It moved again.... My heart thudded. I crept closer.

A bird took flight from the bush I'd been staring at....

Feeling stupid, I took another quick look around me and then settled back down.

Harsh breathing came from somewhere to my far left. I held my ground; I wasn't going to be a chicken again. It didn't stop.

I began backing away. I could see the silhouette of something that didn't fit in with the trees or shrubs. I grabbed my bag.

It was then that my mind decided to remind me that I'd crossed a lit up area as I came into the King's Meads, so anyone already there would have seen me approaching....

That thought had me stumbling back along my route as fast as possible. Every dark figure was menacing. Every time I looked behind me there was a dark figure following me.

I got back onto the proper path and nearly fell into the canal when a branch brushed my arm. The path was lit, but only for about 20 metres. Beyond that I had to pass under a bridge.... There was a smear of water across the path (as though something had been dragged?).

Then there was a man holding a knife that turned into a tree.

A torso of a dismembered women that turned into an assortment of flower pots.

A face in the water that turned into a duck's bottom.

I felt stupid.

And then the hoarse breathing started up again... louder.

My panic rose....

The breathing came closer, closer, closer. The water in the canal began lapping against the side. I spun around.....

And saw a barge approaching.

The big, scary, hoarsely-breathing monster passed me by and I felt more stupid than ever.

But still, there definitely was a dark figure following me. I could see it just where the light lit up the pathway.

I got past the Old Barge, crossed the bridge and rounded the corner, looking back on the path I'd just come along....

The dark figure behind me turned into a young woman walking her dog....

What a night. I'm exhausted!

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on March 14, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
tagged Hertford

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Brigid Jelsma Brigid Jelsma
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