Gravel Path

"Do you need me for anything else tonight?" Jack asked.

"No, you're all good to go," his boss replied.

Finally, I can go home. I smell, I'm exhausted, and my face hurts from forcefully smiling all day. I walk to the employee corner and grab my bag, and head to the washroom to change. I always bring a change of clothes to work, because I can't stand walking home in my sweat. I don't want to stay here longer than I have to, I just want to get home and go to bed, especially since lucky me has been scheduled for the 6 a.m. shift. After putting my work clothes away, I head to the sink to wash my face. Looking up at the mirror, all I see are broken eyes staring back. I wish I had a better life, I hate having to come here and have people degrade me all day, and for what, the minimum wage that barely covers my rent. Why do I have to live this life, why me. As my eyes lower towards my scared wrist in sorrow, my chest deepens. I'm too tired for this, I just want to go home. I put on my headphones, grab my bag, and just as I'm about to leave the bathroom, I stop. Am I forgetting something? Oh, right, my phone, I had left it on the counter. Leaving the bathroom I still feel off, I'll probably recall something later.

Opening the front door, I step into the fresh midnight air, it smells as if it had recently rained. I love the night, the town is so peaceful. The feeling of serenity, and impending sleep. The thought of falling in bed makes my body heavy. I wish I could drive home, it would be so much faster, although I'm a little worried I might just pass out behind the wheel. It would be nice if I had someone to drive me. I used to have a car, Amy, she was beautiful. But I had to sell her for rent, maybe one day I can get another car, just like her. I don't know, maybe when I can afford to live without struggling to make it to the next month, can I start thinking about a car.

I can't believe this is where I've come to. Looking back, I never really planned to make it this far, sometimes I feel like I was in a sort of limbo. For now, I'm just kind of existing, maybe next year will be better. As it's becoming harder to maintain normal breathing, I realized I'm starting to walk up the first of many hills on the long road home. Stopping to take a breather, I notice I’ve stopped at the entrance of the trail. During the day I take the trail shortcut through the forest to work. However, I don't take it during the night because it's not illuminated. But tonight, I really don't have the energy, and the trail would cut my journey down by at least ten minutes. I'm sure it's fine, I doubt there's anything in there, it's not like some crazy psycho is going to attack me. 

Okay, I’ve convinced myself, I'm taking the path. Maybe this will inspire me to  take this path more often after my shift, that’s if it's not too freaky, I chuckle to myself. Upon walking onto the path, the world around me becomes noticeably darker. My eyes can barely adjust to the darkness, I wish humans could just evolve to have night vision. You know it's kind of nice, albeit somewhat uncomfortable as well, but it's kind calming. Just me, my tunes, and the darkness. 

As the street light dim behind me, the calming sensation creeps into a slight anxiousness. Should I go back? It seems like a lot of work to turn back now, but it’s crazy dark in here, whatever, I just need to focus on home. Wait what was that? I dart my eyes across my surroundings. I can't tell if that sound was coming from my music or outside. Maybe it wasn't a good idea coming in here. I think I'll just keep one ear open just in case. Suddenly I hear something coming from in front of me. What is that? I clutch my phone. Should I call the police?!  What if it's some creature?! I don't really have anything to protect myself with. 

It's coming closer. I just need to keep walking, and keep my eyes down. However, if it were some creature that was out to hurt me, maybe that wouldn't be so bad. It is what it is, I suppose, but It's suddenly becoming really hot, my body is starting to itch. I just need to stay calm. I can almost start to make out a figure, I think it's another person. He seems to be wearing some sort of top hat with dolls hanging on his arms. Great, I'm going to be shivved by some crazy top hatted doll guy. Why would someone just be walking on this trail in the dark? Well, I guess that's what I'm doing as well. I think I'm going to turn my phone's flashlight on from now on. 

Turning on the light, I flash it around. That’s odd, the guy disappeared, observing my surroundings as I continued to follow the path . I don't know if this is helping, I don't even know what I'd do if I actually saw something moving in the woods. Oh, god, that smell. It really just creeps up on you, the worst part is I can feel it in my throat. I'm guessing I'm passing over the sewage portion of the path. I think there are some pipes around here, it's the worst part of taking this path during the day, ugh and that smell really travels. That must mean I've made it halfway, I just want this to be over.

Okay, this time I definitely heard something. I flash my light into the woods, and don't see anything at first. Until I see a lifeless body hanging from what looks like a black branch. The body, slowly being pushed around by the breeze, is suddenly ripped upwards. Looking up, another face stares back.

Its skin looks as if it’s  wrinkled, and fray, with its eyes as blood as red. It  rests its hand atop a tree, I see several bodies hang on the sides. The creature begins to speak to me? I hear voices, but its mouth does not move. It wants me to kill myself. My thoughts are interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. It's Matteo, Right! He insisted on picking me up tonight! Ugh, how could I have forgotten? I need to call him back, so he doesn’t worry, but I can feel the  creature  moving closer, and a faint whistling noise can be heard as  I start running back the way I came. Suddenly a dozen hanging bodies launch in front of me, and the creature steps out of the woods.

It looks like the  only way I can get past this thing is by going deeper into the woods. As I run off the path, sliding down the slope. I felt the wet  ground. It’s dark again, and all l around me,  I can hear voices. I can sense it, this thing is staring at me in the distance. I need to get away, and find my way out. I don't want to die, I can hear it moving closer as it glides through the forest. Maybe I can try hiding from it. I flash my phone and see a large rock just ahead of me. I ran so fast, I almost slid past it. I can finally take a breather, I’ll hide out here, for now I don’t want to die. 

I don't know if it's fear or the cold that's making me shake, or maybe it's both. Just as my body starts to calm down, I feel a hand press against  my shoulder, and  immediately I close my eyes. The voices are getting louder, they try comforting me to the idea of death. That maybe it isn't that bad. I mean, It's not like I've done anything in my life And it’s not like I have any real plans, or a clear future. Opening my eyes, I look down to see that it's my own hand placed on my shoulder. That I'm no longer hiding behind the rock, but standing atop. I look to the tree tops and see that a  noose hangs just above me. As it lowers in front of me,  my hands touch the rope , it feels coarse and damp. The voices tell me it's going to be okay.

But I don't think I want to die. My phone vibrates again. Matteo, he must be so worried, and been wondering where I am. I can't leave him behind. I love him, and I love our little life we’ve created.  My friends, my family, this will devastate them. I need to get out of here, I must fight for my life. Determined, I find the will to grab the rope, but my foot slips, losing my balance, Suddenly hitting the forest floor.

Opening my eyes it's daylight, but it’s  so foggy out here, I can barely see a couple meters in front of me. Quickly looking around, the creature is nowhere to be seen. Waiting a second, I dash to the path. It feels as if I could run forever, where did I get all this energy?

Finally, making it to the path, I feel a sense of safety. I think that thing is gone. Now which way is which. Looking at both ends, there's nothing but light. Whatever way I go, I’ll find my way back to Mateo




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