Walking in silence
A short story inspired by a photograph
I walked in complete silence. The crunching of the stones under my shoes sounded impossibly loud to my ears. Not even the birds chimed in, as if they could sense the mood I was in. The backpack I was wearing rubbed along the bottom of my back annoyingly, but I didn’t have the energy to adjust the straps to make it tighter.
“Say, do you know that your thinking is very loud? My ears are ringing.” The voice came from below to my left. I looked down, but saw nothing. I decided to pretend I hadn’t heard it and kept on walking.
A moment later I felt a small tap against my calf. “Huh?” I muttered, slightly annoyed. “What was that?” I let out a sigh. “Probably a pebble that hit the back of my leg.” With as long a stride as possible, I kept on walking, up the slope, which got steeper and steeper.
“You have no idea where you’re going, do you?” Again that same voice, and again I saw nothing when I looked in the direction of where the sound had come from. I stopped, threw my hands in the air.
“Okay, I give in. Who or what are you? What do you want from me?” I could hear the irritation in my voice, and even though I knew it wasn’t fair, I couldn’t help it. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a creature that looked very much like a white mouse.
“Yes, almost there. Just take a few more deep breaths.”
I gladly followed that advice. A little further on I saw a rock flat enough to sit on. I set my backpack down, took out my water bottle and a sandwich.
“Better huh?” The little creature was now in front of me. It had a pointed snout with long whiskers, its beady black eyes looking up at me kindly.
“Yes, better,” I agreed. Suddenly I heard a woodpecker drumming behind me. Somewhere in the distance, a crow cawed. I heard the sound of the wind rustling through the trees. The deafening silence had been broken.
“Much better,” I said. My sandwich tasted good and luckily the water in my flask had remained cold during my walk.
I looked at the creature again. “Is there something you want to tell me? Or is there something I can do for you?”
“Nope,” the little creature said. “I have everything I need. You just walk on, follow the path further up the hill. Enjoy the wind, leave your worries behind on the rocks along the path.” Suddenly he darted away, almost disappearing from sight before I realized it.
“Wait a second!” I called after him. I saw him stop for a moment. “Thank you,” I said. All irritation was gone from my voice. “Will I see you again?” I asked hesitantly.
“Maybe, you never know. Come back for a walk here on this path,” his voice came from far away.
“I will,” I said softly.
The last part of my walk was pleasant. The fog that hung in the forest earlier lifted was dissipated by the wind. I fastened my backpack firmly, so as not to be bothered by it. The crunch of the stones was now absorbed by all the sounds of the forest. When I came back home, I felt tired enough to finally get a good night’s sleep.
“Thank you sweet little mouse creature for showing me the way today,” I mumbled, already half asleep. For a moment I saw his face again, it was as if he was winking at me.
“See you soon,” I heard him say.
Photo: Dave Hoefler on Unsplash