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A Woman Walks Alone at Night by Milly Allinson

CW: implied sexual assault, implied murder

I mean, it tells itself really. That title.

‘A woman walks alone at night.’

There's a woman. She's walking alone. Night is falling.

You see the scene unfolding before you. The night sky behind clouds, the sounds of distant traffic. A long path stretches ahead of her, passing council estates, derelict lots and silent parks, lit only by the erratic flicker of streetlights.

A woman walks alone at night.

She could have a name perhaps, this woman. Aisha. Susan. Beth. Priyanka. She might be carrying a tote bag from Matalan. She might be allergic to soya. She might have emigrated from Jamaica only three years ago. She might have held her father's hand, reading him crossword clues as he lay in bed after lung surgery. She may have just started her transition, estrogen slowly introduced into her bloodstream. Her favourite film might be Dirty Dancing. She might have a terrier called Bob. She might be a dental nurse.

Or she could be another woman entirely.

Maybe she pulls her coat around her. Hears a sound - footsteps or a car door shutting? Perhaps she glances back. Sees only swing sets and footpaths submerged in darkness.

She could be any woman, because every woman does it.

Because there's something else. Someone else. Lurking behind it all.

She's not really alone, is she?

Because it tells itself really.

If a woman is walking alone at night, and that act becomes a story…

A man.

Yes, there is a man in this story. There he is, hiding behind the title. His presence draped around each and every letter, touching all the syllables.

From here on, we can easily infer the plot line. I mean, they're not going to set out a dinner table and start serving roast chicken in the middle of a lonely street, are they?

You know exactly what's going to happen.

A woman walks alone at night.

It sends shivers up your spine. Because you've read all the dates and heard all the stories. Maybe even Googled a few, a woman’s smiling face popping out at you from image results and video thumbnails. Maybe you skimmed through a Reddit post detailing how she came to walk this lonely, moonlit path - and why she never reached her destination. Maybe you thought, ‘how terribly sad’, then went on with the rest of your life.

A woman walks alone at night.

What kind of woman does that? Hasn't she heard all the warnings, read all the signs? Clearly not thinking of her own safety. Why not bring a friend with her? Why even be out at all? Couldn't she have stayed in? Watched Netflix, enjoyed a pizza? What kind of woman walks alone at night? Too poor or too cheap for a taxi? On the lookout for a punter to pick up?

‘A woman walks alone at night.’ These words hold promise, as well as fear. Because stories always need a good twist, don't they?

Let’s look at what we have: A woman walks alone at night. A man is implicit. There is an incident between the woman and the implicit man. And then...what?

Maybe she’ll get the better of him... We all love to see a villain get his comeuppance.

Or possibly she was mistaken all along, and the implicit man only wanted to hand back her lost purse. Even better, a dashing hero could arrive in the nick of time to save her - a policeman, perhaps.

A woman walks alone at night.

Yes, these words hold promise. A promise that she can be saved. A promise that ‘a woman walks alone at night’ might simply be an innocent statement of fact - no more, no less. A promise that we can all return to a time when we never knew this woman who walked alone.

Then, we might close our curtains on that lonely, dark street, and turn out the light. We can return to our slumber at last, bed covers pulled close around us, safe in the knowledge that no woman is walking alone tonight and never will again.


Milly Allinson (she/her) is a writer and creative based in Lincolnshire, UK. She has been published in Radical Art Review, and is currently working on a collection of anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, intersectional Noir stories. She loves cats and radical acts of kindness. You can find her on Instagram @millyallinson.

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