Deep in the dark woods, shielded from light pollution, I extinguished the lights and gave my senses over to the night. As vision dies in a receeding arc of borrowed light, smell, touch and – mostly – hearing step up to create some context of your immediate environment.
Apparently such an act of lonely insanity can bring forth an epiphany of oneness with the trails. The surprise was not that no such tree hugging rush enveloped me; no, it was the sheer naked terror that came as a bit of a shock.
It started with a creepy perception of being followed. My light creates a halo effect which I became convinced started some ten metres behind me. Yet every time I looked back, the man eating beast was just beyond the pool of misty light. But I could hear it, because while stuff crashing around in the undergrowth running away is absolutely fine, Doppler registered inbound traffic is on the twitching side of scary.
And while your peripheral vision is blind, imagination peoples the dark spaces with monstrous creatures slavering for blood and heading your way. And the problem with this neural bypass of the optical nerves is the thudding conviction created as it arrows into the hindbrain. You might not be able to see it, but it is definitely there. And it’s hungry.
A slow puncture was the thing of nightmares. Muttering tube logistics to myself did nothing but fix my position, through a smoke stack of expelled air, into the cooling night. And while my brain was salving the adrenal gland with calm rationale, an older and more urgent instinct chose flight over fight. Abandoning a proper repair, a few swift pumps provided sufficient inflation to pump somewhat more vigorous pedal strokes, as I made craven haste to civilisation.
All this frantic pedalling made little difference to my actual velocity on the unicog. This merely makes you look silly assuming the frightened expression can be shifted from your face.
Mild embarrassment followed as I slunk back into the car park having survived the unseen horrors of the oppressive forest. And of course it is pretty childish to be afraid of the dark, of the horror that only you can perceive. And I’ll keep telling myself that while the memory fades of something chasing me through the night – waiting to pounce – just beyond the power of my light.
Night riding is lighting up the middle of my week and, grunting astride the Monstre Vert is not without some comic merit. But not on my own again – oh no because out there are ghosts with a ray beam.