I was all alone at the top of a mountain. The only light sources were the cities far below, the moon far above, and a small number of vending machines, their facades’ glowing as they tempted me with coca cola or cold coffee.
There was a bus stop there. It was far too late to offer me a ride home, but it did mean there was a road I could follow. I was hesitant to walk down the road, though, as I didn’t know where it lead. From where I was standing, it seemed to stretch away from the direction I wanted to go in. Instead, I retraced my steps.
It was simple enough to follow the path back to the cable car station near the top. From there I found signs which pointed me back along the path I had originally came on. I started my return journey, but I had reservations when I reached the edge of the woods.
It was too dark to see more than a couple of feet in front of me. The path was steep, and uneven, and I remembered how difficult it was even in the daylight to tell the route apart from the natural woods around me. A few signs were there to kindly remind me that boars, snakes and bears might be present.
It’s worth noting that when my playlist of podcasts ran out, around sunrise, my phone had gone silent. I had a cache of old episodes of Lore downloaded, ready to catch up on, and these started to play automatically.
Lore is a podcast about ghost stories, folklore, monsters and the macabre. It’s excellent, and always a little spooky. Alone at night at the top of a mountain, it was no good. I pulled out my phone and swapped instead to a playlist of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Shakira. Much more likely to keep me in a positive mindset. While I had my phone out, I rooted around in the settings and was delighted to find my flashlight setting.
I swallowed my trepidation and started the descent. The music helped a little, but very soon I was swallowed by the woods. There was no moonlight, no city streets and car headlights. All I could see was a short, grey cone of trees reflected back at me by my paltry light.
Every branch and root cast a shadow, curling around trees and over the dirt, slinking along the floor toward me as I and my light pushed forwards. A few leaves too close to me might make a silhouette of an attack appear in the canopy ahead. A gnarled branch to one side of me cast the enormous, unfurling leg of a spider on the other.
With only trees as far as I could see, and only a pale grey lighting to see them with, the horror aesthetic was strong. I stumbled, clambered, jumped and fell along the awkward path before me, my light swaying and faltering when I did.
Nothing is impossible when it exists only in the most unnatural twilight, when it lives only in the corner of the eye.
The cold night began to creep in but I was sweating nonetheless.
Eventually, I did reach the bottom. I hadn’t wondered off a cliff edge and plummeted to my doom, nor had anything devoured me or lured me into the underworld.
I marched back to my hostel. Thankfully, right next door is a Mcdonalds.
As I slumped down and tucked into my big mac, my legs ached from 13 hours of hiking. I’d seen sights and taken pictures to fill my Instagram account for a month. I’d been lost, I’d been found, I’d had an adventure.
I can’t wait to do it all again.