A Pleasant Walk. Short Story.

She was walking slowly, after all she was in no rush. The day was pleasant enough, though it could be nicer. There was a slight breeze, it was cold, but the sun was warm so it balanced out, most of the time at least. Occasionally the breeze would be strong and it would blow through her clothes. But apart from that it was okay. The leaves were starting to change colour and fall, that was nice, all those pretty colours, one of the trees she had passed had looked almost as though it was on fire, the mix of reds and yellows working in perfect harmony. The sidewalks weren’t as crowded as they could have been, normally at this time people would be pushing and shoving one another, not respecting personal space, but now, there were only a few people out wandering, like her. The roads would be choked with cars as they idled and spewed out smoke, now the roads were clear, there was one or two cars pulled into the side but that was it. The silence was nice. No horns honking, no engines revving. Now there was bird song, though it was light, it was much nicer than what had been before. The streets could be cleaner though, rubbish was pulled about by the breeze, rocks and pebbles littering the ground, look, over there, broken glass. Someone could get hurt. She moved away from the glass, she didn’t want to get cut, it looked dirty, what if she got an infection? That wouldn’t be good. Someone banged into her, by the time she realised what happened they were gone. She wondered if they had been running or wandering like her. It was a pleasant day after all. It was nice to go for a walk. Nice and normal. She took a deep breath, the breeze carried the scent of flowers. Beneath that was something else, something unpleasant. She stopped breathing as deeply. Shallow breaths, that was the way to go. The air was cold, deep breaths could hurt her lungs. She stepped over a pile of old clothing. That’s all it was. Old clothing. Her hair fell into her face, she brushed it back. She should have tied it up before leaving. That would have been a good idea. It had only been done recently enough, but she knew it needed to be washed, styled and probably dyed again. No matter, people weren’t too concerned with what she looked like. They never were. She didn’t think she was ugly, but everyone else seemed to disagree. Oh, never in an obvious way, she was never teased about it, but she was never asked out or complimented. No matter what make up or clothes she wore, no matter how gorgeous her hair was, no one ever seemed to notice or care. She sometimes wondered if it was just that she was plain, painfully so, though in her mind it was better to be ugly. Better to be one extreme or the other. If she was just plain it was her fault that no one noticed. Her fault that no one beside her parents seemed to love her and even her parents love had a vague, almost perfunctory feel to it, like they loved her only because they knew they were supposed to. If she was ugly, it wasn’t her fault, not really. There was nothing she could do about it. Still. It didn’t matter now. Not really. They were gone. She had thought she would feel alone once that happened, really they were her only social attachments. She didn’t go out for coffee with anyone, she didn’t visit anyone, she didn’t even write anyone. It was just them and now she was alone. It could always be worse, but that was true of almost anything. She shook her head slightly, it was silly to think of such things. It was a nice day, she should concern herself only with how pleasant it was outside. She enjoyed walks, they were always calming. She didn’t want to think about her parents. A body at the bottom of the stairs, sticky blood, everywhere oh god, everywhere what happ-No. She couldn’t think about that, wouldn’t think about that. It was so silly. There had been car alarms before, but they had stopped now, batteries had gone dead. She looked at her watch, wondering what time it was. The face of it was cracked and broken. She shook her head. Of course, it had broken the other day, how could she have forgotten that? She would need a new one. Her arm hung limply by her side. Not that it mattered too much now. As she walked the broken watch left her mind, completely forgotten about once more. She reached a corner and looked both ways, wondering which way to turn. To her left there was a car, or what was left of one, it was burning, thick clouds of smoke billowed into the air as the flames licked at the metal frame of the car. To her right, there was a group of people, they were standing around something. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to know what it was. She didn’t like the larger groups. They made her nervous, always had. Straight ahead seemed clear. There was a park there too. The park would be so pleasant today. She continued on, ignoring the flames and the dull murmur of the group.

The park was a lot less nice than she remembered. There was that smell again, though the flowers tried their best to cover it and those dratted flies were buzzing about the place. There was rubbish everywhere and more piles of clothes. Really, who leaves their clothing just lying about the place. Well, there was no one else here so that was something, she had the place to herself, even if it wasn’t in the best condition. Maybe she’d complain to the city council, tell them how poorly the park was being managed. She made a mental note to write a letter when she got home, then laughed slightly. That was so silly, no one used mail anymore.

The sun was starting to set, and it was taking its warmth with it. She shivered, she didn’t like the park anymore. It wasn’t as nice as she remembered. It was getting colder and darker, she didn’t like the clothes on the ground, it unnerved her. She turned and started to walk quickly. She’d be fine when she got outside, she’d be near people, it wouldn’t be as creepy. She looked at her watch again, it was getting late, she glanced at the broken watch face, it didn’t register. She didn’t want to be out after dark. There were some problems lately with electricity, the street lights had stopped coming on. It was dangerous at night. She had heard shouts and gunshots the other day. It was so silly of her to go for a walk so late. What was she thinking? Only it hadn’t been late when she had started her walk, nor had it been late when she had entered the park. She must have had one of her moments again. She felt a little better outside the park. It was better out here, there was more space. She kept up her fast pace, she’d be home soon and everything would be fine. She could have a cup of chamomile tea, that would be nice. She passed the intersection, not looking left or right. The car had stopped burning, the wreckage was still smoking slightly. The group of people had vanished, they had continued on to where ever they were going. As she walked she considered stopping into her parents, seeing if they were ok. No, that was stupid. They were gone now. She’d have to get used to it. She crossed her arms, wishing she had brought a jacket, but it had been so lovely out she didn’t think she’d need one. Her skirt wasn’t short, but it felt all too revealing, it now seemed to be clinging to her body. It was too tight, it wasn’t safe. This had been a bad idea. She hurried past a couple, they were shouting, arguing. At least the woman was shouting. The man was trying to grab at her. Probably trying to calm her down. Before there would have been a crowd of people hurrying past, maybe the police would be there, trying to separate them, but not now. She continued on her way, it was getting late, the shadows were getting longer. She had started to move faster, jogging now. When she reached her house she was almost running. She bounded up the steps and for a brief panicky moment she couldn’t find her keys, as she was considering just breaking the window, she found them, nestled deep in her pocket. Quickly she unlocked the door and slammed it behind her. She rested against the door, breathing heavily. She turned and looked out the view hole, she couldn’t see anyone on the streets. She was ok, she was safe. She had just scared herself a little, that was all. It was fine, everything was fine. She moved passed the windows, the blinds had been closed already. She went into the kitchen and started to make tea.

Once it was done, she took it and went upstairs to bed. She wasn’t hungry, her day had been long but it had gone by quickly. She sat on her bed, sipping the tea. The blinds were closed and the room was dark. It was better that way. She wanted to look outside, see the world. Before she had sometimes sat and watched as people went by, but it wasn’t safe now. She put her tea down on the floor and curled up into a ball. It would be fine. Everything would be fine. She closed her eyes and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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