I got lost in the woods today. On my own. At dusk. It started with a drive to a forest in the late afternoon for a walk which turned into a slightly longer excursion than expected. I took the long path around, and after about 45 minutes of fast going I realised that I hadn’t seen a soul since I’d begun. The path was also curving around in directions that didn’t seem familiar. It was beginning to get slightly gloomier but I still had a fair hold on the direction of the manor house so I didn’t worry overly.
As the sun began to set my brain, unbidden, began to catalogue all of the horror movies I’ve ever seen set in the woods. There’s quite a few. Later I distracted myself with hypotheticals such as “What would I do if I saw a body hanging from that tree over there?” and “What would I do if I saw a girl in a night-dress staring out at me from beneath that copse?”
Eventually I came to a path I thought I recognised. They criss-cross all over the woods, some smaller, some more established. I took a chance and changed direction to see where it went. Five minutes later I arrived at a dead end and suffered a fundamental shift in my perception of the whole thing. I wasn’t relaxed about the experience anymore. I turned around to retrace my steps.
You know what’s terrifying? In the half dark, groves of evergreens have dark caverns underneath them, stretching away into the blackness. They are not a comfortable thing to walk past. Occasionally the dull roar of cars in the far distance would become audible, somehow making my sense of isolation more intense.
Coming across brightly-coloured monopoly money scattered all over the path was probably not a good thing in my fragile state of mind. At that stage I didn’t want to meet anybody anymore. The surreal quietness made the idea of a lone stranger worse than nothing.
The animals were making more noise than earlier. Reclaiming the forest for the night. After taking a couple of completely random turns, I saw a small bridge crossing a brook and leading into thicker wood. I was sure I’d crossed this one time, so I decided to go for it. Underneath the trees was much darker than out on the main path; the day’s light was almost gone. The track was no more than a line of worn undergrowth and mud. Climbing across a tree that had fallen across the trail, a squirrel and myself scared the shit out of each other. I whooped. After a hundred metres the track forked. Later it forked again. Guessing each time brought me out onto a larger path. Gambling left over right I took off again, considering running to dispel the suspense. They always run in the movies. Two minutes later I hit the edge of the large green in front of the manor ruin. I climbed into my car in complete darkness, checking the back seat before starting the engine.