The Canal Walk - Short Story
She woke up early on this beautiful Saturday morning. The Sun was just rising but from the perfectly blue sky she could tell that it will be a fabulous day. But she was still hesitant.
The day was perfect for a walk but her worries were quite strong - she never went for such a long walk completely alone and into the new unknown area.
She was sitting there with a cup of coffee pondering the situation. She was scared but she also wanted to go as she was simply craving the natural beauty of the nature and was dreaming of being far from town, crowded streets, and car noises. ‘Screw it, let's do it’ she told herself and without further thinking she packed everything for a day.
She took her map showing the path along the canal, the one she was planning to take and checked the train time. ‘Time to go’ she said to herself and left home. She decided to take a train to the next village and simply walk back to her own town using path along lazy canal.
The canal from the beginning to its end was very long and used to be a way of transporting goods between cities. Then the rail track was built on the same route and canal wasn't used anymore, so it has fallen into ruin with a time. To safe this beautiful and scenic routes, canal trust was created to take care of it and turned it into a tourist attraction. It became very popular among narrow boats owners despite or maybe because of hundreds of locks on their way.
She didn't plan to walk the canal from start to the end, she only had a several hours before it would get dark and even if she had more time – it would be too long. A friend of her did a cycle trip to the very end of it and it took him three days of constant cycling, so not really a walking distance. In fact the same friend encouraged her to go for this walk in first place as he knew the paths already.
So she was finally here, leaving the small station next to the canal entrance and a souvenir shop. Several boats were towed nearby, excellent opportunity to take a perfect photo. Even at that early hour she spotted a few dog walkers and several other people who were probably here for the same reason as she was – to spend a day far from noisy town and to enjoy the countryside.
The walking was easy but her anxiousness came back. It didn't take long for her to leave other people behind and she was completely alone right now. She couldn't see any house or hint of civilisation anymore, there were only water, trees and the path next to the calm waters. She felt lonely and frightened.
She started to listen for footsteps or other noises indicating that someone is nearby or maybe following her. Her heart was pounding hard as her imagination was bringing back all the horror stories of young women being strangled in the woods. She was painfully aware that there was nobody in the shout distance who could potentially help her and even worse, her mobile lost reception.
She wisely put on paper a few phone numbers she could use in emergency if she were robbed but it wasn't giving her much comfort. She felt pretty bad right now, not enjoying it at all and wondering what she was thinking when she decided to give it a go!
Suddenly she heard footsteps in front but she couldn't see anyone as the path was turning. Her heart almost stopped when she was facing her destiny while her thoughts were going wildly in her head thinking through all the possible escape routes.
Then she heard a whistle and a friendly ‘come on boy’. When she looked in the direction of the voice, she saw an older man with a happy dog dancing on the path. The man looked at her, smiled, and said hello. She was still feeling anxious but her fear was leaving her rapidly and she started to feel silly. His smile was so warm and friendly that she couldn't help it and smiled back, greeting him cheerfully.
Suddenly she realised that birds were singing in the trees, water was playing its lullaby touching the banks and leaves were telling their stories to the wind. All was soothingly quiet and calm. There was no danger here; it was a different, magical world of nature where everything was fine.
She kept walking enjoying herself more and more with every minute, leaving her stress behind. She met more people on her way, all friendly and happy. She chatted with some - nobody was in a rush and the life was going slowly. She even met a woman on a narrow boat who was looking for a key to the lock she lost a few days ago. Till that moment she had no idea some canal locks have keys at all.
The day was progressing lazily with her stopping here and there admiring the scenery and enjoying herself immensely. Still hours were passing by and afternoon came quicker than she predicted when she was still far away from her destination.
She decided to cut her walk shorter as she was worried it might become dark before she can manage to get to the town centre and she didn’t know the route. So instead of walking till town centre along the canal, she chose to enter the streets on the suburbs so she wouldn’t get lost even if it got darker before she reached her home.
On her map she found a nice country path leading to the house estate. She crossed the bridge and looked back one more time at the lovely scenery before leaving the canal and its beauty. The path was short and soon she found herself on the pavement of the small house estate. It was quiet and green with birds singing in the trees.
Then she noticed a person coming quickly into her direction. She was just about to say hello and her smile froze half way through on her face when the person walked by vigorously completely ignoring her and the outside world. Then she spotted other people around her, all lost in their internal worlds with frowns on their faces, not seeing anyone around them.
It was quite of a shock for her after warm and friendly people she met during her walk. She suddenly felt very lonely again. ‘Welcome to the civilisation’ she sighed and shut herself out of the outer world while planning another canal trip in her mind.