23rd September

Not Safe

The path through the forest divided in two. I considered my options. One way was narrower and looked less well maintained than the other, but, being in adventurous mood, I opted for the narrower path. No sooner had I set off than a man stepped out from behind a tree.

‘I wouldn’t go down there if I were you,’ he said.

He was solid and tall and carried a large stick. His clothes were of a thick, heavy material, dark blue or possibly black. He wore a brown leather belt and sturdy brown shoes, but no hat or cap. Was he in uniform? It was hard to tell. Nor could I decide if the stick was fashioned by human hand or one he’d happened to pick up in the forest.

‘Why not?’ I asked.

‘The path is not in good condition.’

I indicated my own stout footwear. ‘I think I’ll be fine.’

‘I still wouldn’t go. There’s nothing to be seen.’

He was polite, yet clearly determined to dissuade me from taking that path. He moved slightly so that he stood in my way.

‘Where does it go?’ I asked.

‘It doesn’t go anywhere.’

‘It must go somewhere. Do you mean it comes to a dead end?’

He considered this. ‘No. It rejoins the main path later. So you may as well go that way. It’s safer.’

‘I’d rather go this way. I’m just going for a walk, that’s all.’

‘I advise against it,’ he said. ‘It’s not safe.’

‘There’s no sign warning of any danger.’

‘Signs only encourage people,’ he said. ‘They think it’s all right to go as long as they’re careful.’

‘I will be careful.’

‘You can’t be careful enough.’

‘Are you telling me I can’t walk down there? If so, on what or whose authority?’

‘I’m telling you it’s not safe and you can get to where you’re going the other way.’

Something in the very reasonableness of his argument made me as keen to continue along the path as he seemed keen to bar my progress.

‘We seem to have different views about this,’ I said.

He raised his stick. ‘I don’t think so,’ he replied.

I considered my options.

Reader: Matthew Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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