This is a story where two have been combined. My own experience, which I only came to realise was out of the 'normal' because my grandmother mentioned (the second story) there was more to it. Therefore this story will be longer than the others have been, but I hope you'll enjoy it nevertheless.
A small, modest, old village right in the heart of Norway, Heidal. That's where I'm from. As a fourteen year old girl it is safe to say there wasn't much to do. I'd either watch tv, climb a tree, build a tree house, visit friends whenever I could, or go for a walk. I didn't have much in the ways of technology so I found my fun in better ways. Like walking. The last of which I did several times a week.
My walks were my favorite thing to do. It got me away from my brothers as I was the only girl, I could have some me-time. I'd walk along the road, carry my discman in my belt and sing along to the only cd I had. I didn't even have to worry about someone hearing my awful voice because if someone else did turn up, they'd either be in a car, or I'd see them come walking long before we'd be close enough to greet each other, therefore giving me time to shut up.
It was a lovely day in July. The sun was hot, the breeze was mild, the skies were blue and clouds barely existed. I reckon it was the good weather in combination with Shania Twains beautiful voice that made me daydream and suddenly realize how far I'd gone.
Luckily I realized this just before the scarier part of the road began. There were trees on either side, and from that point on the woods were thicker, darker, people would be even rarer, and my great grandfather once encountered a scary animal there. I can't remember if it was a wolf or some other animal, but the forest is no longer its home.
I never walked alone once I got to that point.
It wasn't so much the woods as it was what could be hiding in them. I remember standing there with my music turned off, just staring down the road, imagining wolfes and bears. I turned around, picked up my pace and soon found myself on more safer grounds again.
" From this moment, life will go on " Shania sang in my ears as I drifted into daydreaming, again barely noticing my pace or where I was. Pretty soon I started singing too. I could hear myself through my earphones, and I remember thanking the heavens that there were no people around to hear me.
On repeat I sang that one song to myself. The more I sang it, the better I felt I got, and thereby ofcourse I made an attempt to sound better too, including volume. After a good while of walking, the sun was still hot, the breeze still mild, the day still beautiful, but I began feeling like I wasn't alone anymore.
The hairs on my neck began standing up, and through all the peace and birdsongs, I started feeling uneasy. So I did what anyone would do. I glanced back, quickly and discreetly looked over my shoulder.
About a good 20 meters behind me, there walked a man, clearly of an older generation. I remember this so vividly because his entire appearance struck me as oldfashioned. Never had I seen him before either. Not in the grocery store, not at the gas station, not at the diner, and I sure as hell had never seen him on that road before. As I walked that same road almost every day, I should've met him a long time ago, but I had never seen him.
He was bald on top of the head, yet had a very white, long beard. It reached him almost to his chest. He had a white sweater, suspenders, dark grey and old pants, and black, worn shoes. He walked slightly bent forward with his hands folded behind his back, and from what I could tell he had his eyes on the road, not me.
But this did not make me feel any better. I felt so embarrassed! I had been singing so loudly and really pretended that I was Shania Twain, and I knew that whilst I could hear myself, I could also hear the music, whereas this old man who must have been walking behind me for some time, could only hear... Me. Just me and the birds. This was excactly the kind of thing I never thought would happen, and now it had. The only reassurance I had, was the fact that I could see my driveway now. It wasn't far ahead.
Without singing another note, I picked up my pace yet I made sure not to look as though I was in a hurry in any way. The last thing I wanted now was to be 'outed' as a runner or a chicken by an old man. After having walked for a bit, I couldn't help myself but to glance back over my shoulder at him, once more to see how much space I had managed to create between us.
Perhaps it was only my imagination, or this guy played a game on me, but I had surely walked faster, and his pace had not changed at all, yet somehow the distance was still the same. I turned around and kept walking until I reached my driveway. A few meters down my driveway, I glanced back up towards the road. I could still see far down each side of it, but what made me stop was the fact that the old man was no longer there.
Somewhat hesitantly, and overly curious as to how this could be, I took a few steps up towards the road again, to see if perhaps he had turned around and walked on the other side of the road, where the trees previously had blocked my view. But no matter the direction I looked, he was nowhere to be seen. I imagined that he must have jumped behind a bush to spy at me, or he was really fast for being so old.
I didn't wait around to see if he showed up again. Instead I went down the road and back home. I told my grandmother about how I was singing and some old guy had heard me. About how embarressed I was.
I was seated in an old, brown leather chair in my grandmothers livingroom, when I told her about it. Everything from the singing, the uneasy feeling, the man and his appearance and how he was gone all of a sudden.
The more I spoke of this experience, the more she seemed to find it special.
It was as though my grandmother wanted to comfort me, and she tried to do so by telling me that I was not the first to tell her about this man. She had heard a similar story, many, many, many years previously.
I could feel my face twist into a horror expression. Sure, I'd seen spirits and dealt with them before, but this time was so very different! This time I had no way of telling him apart from the living. I truly believed it was one of the elders of our village that I had never met before, and one of the reasons I told my grandmother at all about it, was because I thought she could tell me who it was.
" My father once saw him too. " She said. I was ofcourse instantly eager to hear more, as always. This was one of her stories that I had not heard before.
When my grandmother was a young girl like myself, they lived up in her old childhood home, which lies beyond the ' scarier part of the road' as I mentioned at the beginning of the story.
Her father often walked when going to the grocey store or had other errands to do, as they did not have cars. " It was during winter." She said. Her father was walking home one late evening, about the time it got darker outside. Whilst walking, at some point on the road, just as it had with me, he noticed that he wasn't alone.
His company however, was infront of him. She said her father saw an old man walking slowly, dragging a slay behind him. " There were no homes for a good while yet, so this stranger and my father would be sharing the road, and he thought they might as well keep each other company. " Grandmother told me.
By this point I had nearly forgotten how we got into this subject, I was busy imagining everything she said.
Her father had spoken up, and asked the old the man if they could walk together, but the old man did not turn around, did not answer, he did not stop. So her father had picked up his pace alittle, and spoke louder, repeating his question. Still with no responce.
He didn't give up, and for each time he spoke up, he picked up his pace, trying to get closer to insure the old man would hear him. It would have been nice with company. But as I had experienced as well, it did not matter how quickly my great grandfather had walked, for the old mans pace remained the same, and so did the distance between them. Eventually great grandfather gave up and walked the rest of his journey home, staring at the old mans back in quiet.
The latter continued along the road past great grandfathers home, and he could see the old man slowly vanishing into the dark the further away he got, until he was completely gone. " He thought it was strange, but he didn't think of it or tell any of us about it, until the next morning. " Grandmother said.
Apparantly, he had gone out the next morning. There had been no snowfall during the night, and when he walked up to the road he could clearly see his own footsteps from the previous night. But it wasn't so much what was there, as what was not. The tracks of the old mans boots and his slay, were nowhere to be seen.
I have walked that road plenty of times after, and when using a bicycle I have felt brave enough to venture further than where my walks would stop. Into the scarier parts of the road, and all the way up to where my grandmothers childhood home used to be. (Relatives live there now, in new houses and a little higher up the field from where her old torn down home once laid). I'd stop and look, imagine all the stories grandmother has told me about the things she and her family experienced there. It's hard to believe that something so wicked and strange could occur at places so beautiful and seemingly peaceful.