The Back Lane – a short story.

I have just finished the editing of God’s Bolt and felt like having a break. This piece of writing was a go at something I had not done before. That’s always worth a try.

What do you think?

The Back Lane

Chas needed his walk. He hadn’t been out all day and it showed. He wasn’t fussing but he had a way of looking at her that communicated exactly what he was thinking. It was so transparent. She wondered how on earth he managed it. She looked out the window. Evening was setting in. If she did not go now it would be dark. Besides, she needed to clear her own head. She had work to do and that required a fully functioning brain. A long walk would do her the world of good.
‘Alright Chas,’ she said, getting to her feet. He knew exactly what that meant and bounded towards the door. She pulled on her coat, collected his lead, clipped it on and they set off.
Chas did not like being on the lead. He preferred exploring, sniffing here and there and leaving his own little messages. He pulled her towards the back lane. That was his favourite place. Jenny conceded and allowed him to lead her, while she engaged her mind in mulling over what to do. There were always problems to solve and they usually involved awkward people. Bringing in new systems upset everyone. Nobody liked change. She was responsible and it was not proving popular, or easy.
When they arrived at the back lane she let Chas off the lead and he bounded off. He’d spied a rabbit in the distance. He never got tired of chasing them, even though he’d never actually caught one. Jenny followed behind, walking slowly and thinking about how best to deal with her recalcitrant staff.
She was halfway down before she looked back. The lane was already dark – much darker than she had thought when she set off. She glanced at her watch. It was later than she had realised. Nervously she scanned the lane. There was nobody to be seen. All the other dog walkers were long gone. Chas was way up ahead. He was intent on reaching his favourite field. There were lots of rabbits there.
A creepy finger of fear crept into her mind like someone was watching her. The lane was different in the dark, much more sinister. She was tempted to call Chas back and head for home but she told herself she was just being silly. There were no wild beasts lurking in the hedges, leastways nothing that could harm her. She had not heard of anyone being savaged to death by a fox – though there was always a first time. She was just being daft. No proverbial axeman was going to leap out at her. Why would any madman hide down here? Nobody went along here after dark.
She shrugged and gathered all her resolve. She wasn’t going to be spooked by her own silly thoughts. She strode on after Chas. But now the idea was in her head she could not get rid of it. Her scalp was itching. She found her eyes darting round, alert for any shape detaching itself from the shadows. She reacted to every rustle in the undergrowth. It was only the wind she told herself, but that did little good. She was becoming nervier by the minute and by now her imagination was fully engaged.
Her mouth had gone dry and her palms wet. She found herself too frightened to call out to Chas in case it drew attention to herself and somebody homed in on her. No matter how rational she was about it, there was a fear clawing at her stomach. The idea came into her head that this was precisely the kind of place rapists and murderers did hang out, just on the off chance, waiting for silly women, just like her, to walk along all on their own. What had got into her head? Why was she down here in the dark? She was three quarters of the way down the lane by now. Her feet came to a stop. She wasn’t going any further. She was frightened. All around her the pools of dark were full of menace. She felt eyes peering at her. The lights from the village seemed a long way off. What had she been thinking? What was she doing here? Then Chas came back to her. He was no longer full of his usual energy. His exuberance had evaporated. He peered up at her in the gloom and back down the lane as if pleading to go home. What was it? It wasn’t like him. Had something, someone, spooked him? Was there somebody out there?
She anxiously peered around, but there was nothing to see. Nervously she turned for home with Chas staying close in at her legs. The dark seemed to throb, the shadows oozed with menace, and every rustle of leaves signalled looming danger, as her senses strained and her nerves were stretched to snapping. It was as if some sixth sense had kicked in. Chas had picked it up too. His ears were down, his head lowered and he loped along close in beside her. Everything about his body language suggested that he wanted out of there.
Jenny told herself that sixth senses were not real. There were no such things. There was nobody out there. No crazed rapist or murderer would be lurking down their back lane. That was daft. But a part of her knew she was just trying to fool herself. This was precisely where evil people like that always hung out, waiting for some naive fool like her to happen along, all on her ownsome. She could feel something wasn’t right, and so could Chas.
Chas was staring fixedly at a point in the bushes ahead. She came to a halt and strained her eyes but could not make anything out just an indistinct black silhouette. Was there someone crouching there? She told herself not to be silly. It was just a tree. She was desperate to avoid going past those bushes but there was no other way back. She convinced herself that it was nothing – just her eyes playing tricks, but there was something odd about that shape, something unsettling.
Jenny’s heart was racing and she wanted to break into a run but, with an effort, managed to control herself. The last thing she needed now was a sprained ankle. Reluctantly they headed back towards the welcoming lights, but also towards that shape in the bushes, she felt torn, like a rat in a maze, glancing left and right and behind as if any second expecting someone to jump out at her. She was getting closer and closer to the street lamps but still had to go past those bushes. No matter how hard she strained her eyes the shape was no clearer. It could have been anything. Then, when they were right up to it, it began to move and she felt a scream rise in her throat.

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