“Breathe...” I kept telling myself. “Slowly......breathe.”
It seemed to work and I tried to keep my thoughts focused on where I was headed and not be concerned about what was following me. Or was I just imaging it? The noise was a definite crackling sound, like footsteps breaking branches. I couldn't turn around. I had to keep going forward.
How in the world did I get lost? I knew this section of the forest like the back of my hand. I had jogged here three times a week for over four years. Yet, here I was, lost - and it was getting dark very quickly.
Nothing looked familiar. But then again, it was very difficult to see clearly. The brush was thick, the fog was rolling in off the water, and it was growing colder by the minute.
“I'm going for a quick jog on the waterfront.” I told my husband. It seemed like an eternity since I left but I was sure it was only about an hour ago. I doubted he would be worried yet and my thoughts raced with terror wondering if I would be spending the night in these woods.
There's that sound again. Something was definitely following me. But what? A bear? A dog? A person?
Which way would be the safe way?
It was almost pitch black now, and I could barely see more than a few feet in front of me. I decided to take the path veering to the left. Don't ask me why, I had no idea.
My hands were cold and how I wished I had brought my gloves. I put my hands in my jacket pockets and couldn't believe what I found. A candle! How in the world did a candle get in there? Then I remembered. The last time I wore this jacket I had been cleaning the garage and found a perfectly good vanilla scented candle. Well, it wasn't going to do me any good without a match.
Wondering if I would survive?
I stopped. Lit a candle and waited. Holding it in one hand and warming my other one around the flame felt so good. But I had a bigger task in front of me. I had to find the road back home.
I walked a bit slower so I wouldn't extinguish the flame; and the darker it got, the larger the flame seemed. I could actually see where I was going.
The path was well worn and I knew I had to be getting close to civilization. Then I saw it. I wasn't sure at first, but it looked like a building. I picked up my pace and realized I was heading straight into town, about three miles from my home.
Getting closer, the building came into view. It was a church and there were lights on inside making the stained glass windows the most welcome sight I had ever seen.
Instantly I felt warm and relieved and knew I would be able to find a phone to call my husband. He would be upset but that's okay. I learned my lesson. I would not try any new jogging paths ever again. I will always wonder what was following me, but am thankful that whatever it was, I found safety before anything happened.
Photo courtesy of geograph.org.uk