The spring mornings are the best. It’s not cold and it’s not hot. When the sun rises it’s nice and warm. When I leave home it is still dark but the air is still. Not like in the winter when it’s cold, sometimes lightly snowing, the wind turning my cheeks bright red. All the other children laugh at my bright red cheeks. They say I look like the little boy in our story book. His rosy red cheeks and red bobble hat. My bobble hat is pink though. I still wear it in the spring, I can take it off when the sun comes up.
The road is clearer in the spring too. There’s no fog, I can see where I am going. Some people are frightened of the dark but not me, I love it. The start of my journey is up the steep hill, my legs still not awake. By the time I reach the top they feel better, there are more hills but it’s that first one I hate. At the top of the hill I skip along the side of the valley. If I fall I will end up in the river, I can’t swim, but I do it every day so I know that I won’t fall. If my mother or grandmother saw me they would never let me go on my own.
I skip along the side near the valley because on the other side is trees. Trees that go back as far as the bottom of the mountains. I know I said I wasn’t scared, but the trees scare me a little bit. Only a tiny bit. I can hear things moving around, the leaves rustling, strange sounds from things I can’t see. Sometimes stones fly out from the trees too. I can only imagine what is throwing them. Maybe it is monsters, but I am wearing the necklace my grandmother gave me. She said if I wear it the monsters won’t be able to get me.
Past the trees, on the other side of the deep valley, my journey’s end comes into view. High in the mountain. Still another two hour walk away. The bridge marking the halfway point. Crossing the bridge I can hear the sound of the water below, the snow having started to melt on the mountain tops. Still too dark to make anything out, I imagine there is a big troll sitting below. He is not a bad troll though, he is a good one. He watches out for me every morning, making sure I get across safely.
Over the bridge is where I start to get scared. I know he’ll be there waiting for me. Sometimes he just sits in the middle of the road, other times he waits in the bushes and rushes out. He knows, he knows what time I arrive, he knows there is no other way for me to go but along his road. I can see his dark shape in the road. As big as me, sitting there plotting what he will take today. Each day I pray that a car or a bus will come along and frighten him away, but it is too early, none will come.
As I get nearer I feel his eyes on me. Looking up and down, looking at my hands, looking at my pink bobble hat. The hat is no good to him. He can’t eat it. I pick up a rock from the floor, he knows what I will do, so he remains in the same place, not even flinching. He senses my fear, he knows I won’t throw the rock, he takes advantage of my inability to hurt anything. Suddenly, he moves, bounding towards me, ready to snatch what he can. My mouth dry, wanting to scream but knowing it is of no use, he will only scream back at me.
And then, a miracle, two lights appear on the road. The whole road illuminated. His size has diminished, he doesn’t look so big anymore. He doesn’t look so scary either, his fur patchy and old looking. He stops, turning back to look at the car coming along the road, the first I have ever seen here at this time of the morning. I laugh, I’ve walked this road on my own for two years. Each morning when I arrive here it’s still dark. The large, dark figure that tried to steal my food, steal my books, scared he would one day steal me is just a small monkey. Now it is him that is scared.
He flees into the bushes and the car passes by, the two lights winding down the road and over the bridge. I carrying on skipping my way up the mountain road. Smiling and laughing to myself at how silly I am. I’m 8 years old and I’m scared of a stupid monkey. I won’t tell my classmates though, I’ll still pretend that there is a monster on the road. Tomorrow I will bring a piece of bread for him. He must just be hungry, stupid monkey.
Inspired by my time living in India where I shared the local children’s hatred of monkeys!