8.22 Nightrider

One of my favorite things to do is ride my bike at night. It’s cooler and the roads aren’t as busy. I started nightriding through downtown on the various bike lanes connecting the city. This wasn’t enough. I learned the thrill of being in places that I shouldn’t be. So, I started finding paths in areas of the city that were closed or just pitch dark.

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting out near the Beaches, which is on the complete other side of the city from me. I was excited because I never rode from the beaches in the dark. Streets and paths become completely different places at night.

There is a particular stretch of pathways from Cherry Beach to the east end that runs through the woods and has no lights at all. As I entered the path, it’s like I rode right into a thick darkness and entered a different realm.

Almost right away, a small animal ran right in front of my bike, making me step on the brakes and almost topple over the handlebars. I shone my light deep down the path and saw crowds of bunny rabbits hopping across the path. They darted in and out of the light and didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t a good idea to run in front of me.

But hell, if the only thing I had to deal with were a bunch of rabbits, things were pretty good. The longer I am in a dark area like this, the more I get a feeling that runs up my spine. The feeling that someone is watching me and waiting for the best opportunity to pull me off my bike and devour me whole. Perhaps that is the exhilarating feeling of being a nightrider?

The rabbits started becoming less populous further down the path, so I upped my speed. Some street lights were up ahead and I came to a road. The path continued across the street and I was back in the darkness.

I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but there seemed to be a figure up ahead. My light flashed along the path and a person walked towards me. I veered around them, looked back and they seemed to not even see me. I turned back to the front and another person appeared. I adjusted my light to shine down the path and rows of people lined the walkway.

I steadied myself, told myself what I always say when I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be and I get that feeling: look straight ahead and just keep going. But, when this has happened before, I actually haven’t been confronted with a tangible something. It’s always just been a feeling. Now, there were people out here in the dark, not near anything and walking along the path like zombies. My brain started cycling through all of the possibilities: they were here for some kind of weird sex party, they were here to kill me, they were here to do any number of illegal things.

Look straight ahead and just keep going.

And then something happened that I will never forget in my entire life. One-by-one, the people walking along the pathway like zombies started transforming into bunny rabbits. I stopped in my tracks and shone my light down the path. They shed their clothes and their human bodies contracted, grew fur and shrunk into rabbits.

I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but I started pedalling as fast as I possibly could. When I reached the end of the woods and got far enough away, I stopped and looked back at the path. Nothing except the darkness and the trees.

I haven’t been back through that path at night since. Go see for yourself: enter at Cherry Beach at night, keep your eyes out for people walking along the path like zombies and watch for rabbits.

Paul Dore