The Walker

Darkness gathers at the edges of the pavement, but the streetlights hold it at bay.  A solitary figure strides muffled in coat, hat, and mittens, a flashlight swinging at her side. Trees reached out, arching over her head and their branches melted into the night. She walks alone except for the bright coin of a moon and the cold pricks of starlight studding the cloudless sky.

Every night she walked the same country road around the same time no matter the weather. When she pulled her reflective sashes on over her coat, the weather took heed. It paused the rain, held back the snow and let a calm settle over the hill where her flat lay. And the night deepened, rolled back its clouds and pulled out its finest hues for the girl who walked at night.

Sometimes I’d look out my window and see things creeping in the shadows between streetlamps. But those creatures stayed off the pavement and out of trouble. Their eyes followed her bobbing flashlight, and they stilled when the girl passed. But not a single one dared cross her path. She was the secret the night kept, and her presence calmed the dark things, gave them someone and somewhere to protect.

When she turned for home after her hour-long constitutional, the dark things took up their watch. I switched off the light and laid down to rest, knowing we were all guarded because of the girl who walked at night. Nothing would threaten us tonight. Beyond the limits of our neighborhood, the world could go to hell, but the apocalypse would never touch us as long as she dwelled here in a little flat midway up the hill.

So I laid my head down and gave thanks for the girl and her otherworldly protectors. Maybe the night heard my prayer and maybe I imagined the darkness ringing my little town snuggled in a little closer to protect us and its special charge.