Emma M.Murray is a mother, wife, teacher and writer. She spent most of her twenties with a rucksack slung across her back, travelling extensively around the world. She returned to her native Donegal, in the Emerald Isle, a few years ago. She has had short stories and flash fiction pieces published by Rue Scribe, 365 Tomorrows, The Galway Review, Ireland Writing Retreat and others. She was named as a finalist in the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards competition, in both the creative non-fiction and fiction categories in 2021.

Not All Men

By Emma M.Murray

I watch as the smallest hand of the clock slowly comes full circle.
Every second feels like a minute, every minute like a life time.
Then I watch as the smallest hand in the house grips my finger for comfort.

It’s 7.10am before my husband saunters lazily into the kitchen, the wiry toddler in tow.
“Did ya not hear her crying?”
“No, is she teething?” he asks absently, preoccupied on his search for a clean cup.
He casually fills the kettle, flicks it to boil and I realise that if I don’t get out of this house soon I’ll scream.
“I’m awake all night Tom, I really could’ve used your help!”
“Why didn’t you say so?”

Oh what’s the point!

“I’m going for a run.”

Anger and adrenaline surge through me as I sprint from my troubles.
When my lungs finally give in, I slow, gulping mouthfuls of the cool morning air. Only then do I notice how dark it is
Street lamps shine in sporadic stretches, but most of this country road is blanketed in darkness.
My chest tightens.
It’ll be bright soon…

My usually protective high-vis vest, does nothing but expose my vulnerability.
I shine like a beacon in the night.
Passing cars have become lurking predators, or opportunistic beasts.
And I, their prey.
A week has passed since the nation grieved the loss of a beautiful young woman.
A young woman who was going for a run.
Here I am.

A place I’ve been a thousand times before, but everything is different now.

The sound of a twig snapping startles me.
What was that?

Stop being so stupid!

You’re safe here…

But wouldn’t she have thought the same?

Sleepy houses dot the rural countryside. The blue light of a TV screen catches my attention as I hurry past an old cottage. I involuntarily peek inwards.
Without warning, two beady eyes return my stare.
My blood turns cold.
Suddenly I’m back there. A leering barman’s pungent breath on my neck. A sweaty palm too low on my back, another too high on my leg. An incoherent vision sprung from the murkiest dregs of my memory.
Monstrous and ashamed.
I can’t breathe…
Me too?

My speed accelerates.
He saw me…
I try to rationalise.
Not all men…

8.02am and the sun still hasn’t risen.
An act of defiance against me.
I need to get home, to a mundane Saturday, that I crave wholeheartedly.

The street lamps distinguish their lights like dominoes, as I spot a lone figure in the distance. Head down, dressed in black.
All thoughts turn to my beautiful daughter, and her future.
Running like me?
Running like her…
Not all men…

A syncopated dawn chorus hides within the trees, but my ears drown in the footsteps of ghosts.

Eventually I collapse into the safety of my home.

My husband watches as I sink to the floor.

“It was dark…”

An empty explanation for the flood that follows. For the fear I didn’t have at twenty-three years old, but will have forever more.
A sad understanding echoes between us.

He holds me close,
“Not in here.”