Hot, humid wind whipped through the streets, the beams of cars in the distance dancing along the curves in the road. Night was falling as we stood in the middle of an intersection, dumbfounded.
“Heather, how did we get here?”
She turned first this way, then that. Fear flashing across her face.
“Where?” She asked.
“Here.” I said calmly, “Right now.”
She understood what I meant and shrugged. “I have no idea.” She glanced back at the bridge enveloped in trees and vines, “Should we turn back?”
I looked up at the closest street sign and didn’t recognize the name. “I don’t think we have a choice unless we want to get ourselves into a worse situation.”
We started for the forest and I realized I couldn’t see past the bridge. I looked down at the keys and pepper spray in my hand and remembered that several months ago a jogger was raped in these woods.
Heather had the same thought, and I detached the canister from the key chain. She placed the sharpest keys in between her fingers, reminding me of a certain comic book character, and I took the safety off of the pepper spray.
Midway across the bridge I couldn’t make out anything, I could only see lights here and there. Madame surprised me by walking confidently in the direction we needed to go.
“You can see?” I asked, grabbing her arm for guidance.
“Yeah,” She said slowly, “Can’t you?”
“Not at all.”
Every rustle of a bush and twitch of a leaf or little furry creature in our periphery suddenly turned into a potential attacker. Hardly half an hour ago this place seemed to be filled with families and joggers. Now there was no one to be seen.
Heather Madame and I thought it would be fun to go jogging after stopping at Starbucks earlier today (we were out and about looking for an outfit Madame could wear to Carlisle’s graduation from basic training in the navy, and we brought along our workout clothes just in case we had enough time.) When we first arrived it was sunny and humid and refreshing in an odd way. But, obviously, two hours later cloaked in darkness and dominated by veiled panic, the place didn’t seem quite so dandy.
“I wish we had a guy with us.” She said suddenly as we walked down a worn trail.
I chuckled nervously, “I was just thinking the same thing.”
As we approached a freeway underpass Heather suddenly froze and gasped. I looked over to see a flash of pure terror in her expression.
I looked to the underpass and couldn’t see anything. I felt her arm muscles relax suddenly and she exhaled with relief.
“What is it?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual. Meanwhile a voice in the back of my mind was screaming bloody murder to just run like the wind and mace anything that moved.
“I thought I saw a man, but it was just a shadow.”
My mind played for a moment on the contrast between how much we wanted a man with us to protect us (feeling comfort , relief and admiration towards a male figure) while simultaneously fearing one with, let’s just say, bad, intentions would appear out of nowhere (feeling fear, stress and expecting bodily harm from a male figure.) The really good guys vs. the really bad guys.
“It’s just your mind trying to make sense of ambiguous stimuli.” I said (I realized a moment after I said it that I had just accidentally quoted a Rorschach inkblot exam textbook.) “Just remember, if something happens, we are not helpless.” Just then I nearly tripped on a root but caught myself.
“I know.” She said as she glanced around nervously.
We eventually found ourselves in the middle of a worn trail in the woods, taking turns glancing behind us out of paranoia. I felt a spike of panic every time I thought I felt a presence nearby. I was fascinated for a moment by the fight-or-flight response, and wondered what chemicals my brain was releasing to make me feel this afraid (I know, it’s odd. But even when I feel bored or jealous I wonder what my nerve cells are up to.) The digestive system slowing down for a bit as blood is rushed to the legs and arms for running or fighting, shots of adrenaline as the sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear, making the subject jumpy and hypersensitive to information from the environment, the re-
A beam of light appeared behind us, and I paused for moment when I realized it was someone on a bike.
“Excuse me, ladies.” A man’s voice said as he passed us. I caught a glimpse of a uniform and a belt that would make Batman proud. I looked over to Heather and saw her looking at me with the same emotion on her face as my own, an expression that can only be described as YES! A cop!!
Nevermind that said cop was riding away into the darkness, there was a police officer within hearing range. And to top off the relief, we heard cars passing by and turned the corner to see the part of the jogging trail that runs parallel to a main road.
On the drive back to my house Heather said what we were both thinking: “Let’s never do that again.”
So… that’s all. Nothing bad happened and we took quite a few memorable videos today (none on the trail, unfortunately. We were both disappointed that we weren’t able to capture our little potential-slasher-film/potential-Star-Telegram-front-page-news-adventure on camera.)
Until I Write Again,