When I was 13, I was afraid of zombies.
I would stay up until sunrise so I could count the cars that passed my house. If there weren’t as many as I’d like, panic ensued - the apocalypse is here! 10 years on, I’m no longer afraid some old fool will rise from dirt and take me down, nor am I worried about hoards of the undead rounding the corner. But, sometimes, when I’m alone, that familiar sense of dread that there aren’t any humans nearby creeps up on me, and suddenly I’m thinking about becoming neighbour Nancy’s next meal. I don’t consider this before I decide to walk to the lake on my own.
I take my shoes off. I pretend to be the type of person who enjoys the feeling of the wet grass beneath my feet, the smell of damp soil, and the tranquility of a solo stroll with nothing but geese for company. The ground is sprinkled with wild mushrooms, all shapes and sizes - flat, round, or stringy. The beginnings of autumn peak through the trimmed garden hedges - the natural colour palette shifting from vibrant greens, to burnt reds and smokey greys. A robin hops along a nearby fence. She watches as I stumble by.
The romance lasts maybe half a second. Perhaps there is no romance at all.
Predictably, I’m uncomfortable. I have pink hair, a tacky pink fur coat, an obnoxious pink bag. I’m all too aware of my clash against the English scenery. Pretty sure the robin thinks I don’t belong too.
The soggy ground squelches between my toe. As I navigate the uneven ground, I kick up the scent of an animal’s digested dinner. I don’t care for the silence, broken by the occasional squark from some angry bird. All I can see are winter greys and ashy browns. The cold air pinches my ears. There’s a bird corpse hiding between the grasses. I’m claustrophobic surrounded by empty fields.
I reach the lake. The opening I find isn’t supposed to be used, and stays concealed behind a long hedge. The cold breeze eases, and I feel less tense as I reach the water. Two cans of Stella lay abandoned at the shoreline. The geese rev their voices like engines, and amount to a final high-pitched imitation of a foghorn. I start to feel sick and uneasy again - the abandonment of human activity contrasts against the lack of real life alive humans. I don’t go into the water. Neighbour Nancy is coming.
In the distance, the groundskeeper’s lawnmower softly roars. I see a car pass on a far away road.
I go back. I eat a pasty and finish an episode of The Walking Dead.
This was a piece written back in October 2019 for the 'Writing in the Field' module in my Travel & Nature Writing MA with Bath Spa University.