Time for a "scary" story from my Fiction class ...
A woman leaves the Surf and Turf and rounds the corner onto a now wet, deserted street, the moon absent from the void black sky. No-one should be out this time of night. The night hadn’t gone well, with another and last argument with that now, thankfully, exboyfriend. In the distance, the sound of traffic looms, as the city never sleeps. She starts her way alone along the stained concrete, of urban sprawls whose dwellers sleeps in multicolored quilts or a lover's fold; minds imaginably filled with easy, pleasant dreams. She looks up at a flickering streetlight, lights a cigarette and curses, smoke whisking behind her in the breeze, jacket collar pulled high, head low. The orange glow of the streetlights was reflected by shards of glass and puddles of water.
There was a giggle from a girl and slam from the door and that was that, more stillness. The welcoming party ahead of her consists of a traffic-free street, adorned with burnt out butts, drenched newspapers and empty packets of cigarettes. The rain, as if to remind her of its presence, grows more intense for a second or two, then lingers in a mist. Now she just wanted to get home quickly before it’d rain further. The weather sure knew how to makes things depressing all the more. ‘Rain in January when it was supposed to snow? Where is the snow and ice, the white and diamonds that bend the light in all shades, bringing some life to the dirty muddy roads and melancholic grey trees?’
She was cold, her lips pressed together; she resumed walking the darkened streets towards home. Almost immediately she hears the tap, tap, tapping of someone walking behind her. ‘Time to be cool’ … she picks up her pace. Tap Tap Tap. ‘Damn, they are speeding up!’ She sees a cab across the street about a block ahead and begins to cross towards it, trying to appear calm and composed. Suddenly she thinks better of it and stops, returning to her side of the street. She has heard things about pretty young women in cabs at night. Best to walk it. She continues on, but the tapping is closer now. TAP TAP TAP. She doesn’t want to run, never show panic, that’s what she learnt. But inside panic is building … quickly. She keeps her eyes open for a lit window, any house will do, just want safety. With a sigh of relief she finds one, but it is still quite far away. She speeds up again, hoping that whoever is following won’t notice. But they do! TAP TAP TAP! That’s it! Had enough! She begins to run, looking cool be damned! Closer and closer to that door. But they are running too! Taptaptaptap. Trying to go as fast as she can, but they are catching up! TapTapTapTap. Reaching the steps of the house, stumbling slightly, she reaches for the door. But then, a hand grabs her shoulder. She spins around and …
… Finds herself looking into a pair of friendly brown eyes. It’s one of the bartenders from the club. He smiles, “No-one’s out to get you, you left your purse at the bar Miss, I followed you to give it back.”
She almost falls to the porch in relief but he holds her up. She manages to whisper, “Thanks.”
The barman chuckles softly, “Sorry, if I scared you. You sure that you don’t want that cab?” After she nods her pretty head no he waves, “Have a good night, be safe.” He walks off in the opposite direction and she is alone again.
Taking a moment to unwind, she continues to walk down the street. She hears the bells from the Holy Cross Catholic Church toll three; it is quite late into the night. The moonless sky overhead coupled with the subtle whistling of the wind sends chills down her spine. Plip Plip. Quickly swiveling her head, she frantically glanced around until she found the source; a leaky gutter, spilling droplets of rain water. Plip Plip. There’s a long sinister alleyway, shadowy and menacing, with its single source of light coming from a sickly amber light over a doorway, which causes her to quicken her step. Every once in a while she’d hear what sounded like a footstep behind her, but she knew that No-one in their right mind would be out this late at night, and that the depressing atmosphere was getting the better part of her imagination. The streets seem darker tonight, and the sounds seemed clearer. ‘It must be the cloudy, rainy skies,’ she figures …
She grew more tired with every step, but there are only a few blocks to go before she’ll arrive at her cozy little apartment. She stopped to tie her shoelaces under the peculiar Willie’s Deli streetlight. Tonight the light decided to be on and it seemed to be smirking at her. Such a joker, it never seemed to care what anyone thought of it, and thus it could decide to take the night off and decide not to shine. Whenever I was reported broken it shone as brightly as ever, like nothing was wrong. It must get huge kicks out of it, she couldn’t think of any other reason for such behavior. Well, other than just to piss people off. You never know …
She crossed the road and came to the entrance to the city park, which was so dark it made the street look as bright as day, as it seemed to suck all of the light from the area. She could not even make out the lights on the opposite side of the park. She nearly walked past the entrance, but stopped to ponder a moment. She knew that if she cut through the park she would save a few minutes from the trek, then again she was hesitant to enter. Her mother always had told her not to walk alone at night, telling her about grisly murders, always about the pretty young lady out on her own. ‘Why would anyone be in the park this late at night?’ ‘No-one,’ she answers herself. She mused a moment longer, she’s crossed it hundreds of times before, and then let out an uneasy laugh. Once more she was letting her imagination get the best of her. At last she reckoned that an extra fifteen minute walk, as she was dog-tired, did not warrant her to walk around the perimeter. She cautiously stepped into the entrance, taking a last drag off her cigarette and discarded the butt on the cobblestone walkway.
She stopped for a moment as though to capture some of the crooked light before going into the darkness. Home is not far away, yet this spot has always creeped her for some reason. She set off further into the park, but couldn’t help but to think that on this night it seemed oddly unfamiliar. A few more yards in she turned her head around to see he park entrance, seemingly the only beacon of light in the void black park, and then continued on her way. The trees above were glistening, wet and bare, which contrasted with the thankfully, now seemingly, not-so-dark-sky. She could make out the silhouettes of the gnarled tree limbs moving in the wind, which seemed to have picked up a bit. A burnt out light in the parking lot stood like gallows in the shadows, she wonders why they never fix it.
There it was again, the tapping sound on the stone, but then it stopped. Tap. Her heart sank, and the dread builds as the seconds tick by. “Let me be wrong.” A Northern Mockingbird takes flight. She now nervously smiled, “Just my imagination,” she whispered to herself. The entrance to the park was now well behind her, there was no going back. A flickering lamp came into view up ahead illuminating a bench, she pressed on. The tapping noise would start and subside at random intervals; she tried to imagine them as tree branches colliding in the wind, although she knew in her minds-eye that it was not. Nearing the bench, there seemed to be a sense of salvation, almost as though the light would keep her nightmares at bay. Perhaps it was foolish … Nevertheless she did not care. When she got to the light she found that she was short of breath, noticing how hasty she had been, her legs began to ache with fatigue. She reached into her pocket for her Marlboro’s, only to realize it was empty, she crumpled her pack and tossed it indignantly towards an open trash can. As her heavy breathing stopped, she tried once more to rationalize. The tapping was mute; her ears were playing tricks on her. Nothing more.
The damp, porous, wooden bench under her creaked, as though it felt to be called to bring her to terms. She knew what it wanted to say. She should go, because it was senseless to wait for something, which would never happen. After resting a minute or two, she turned and started on her way. But there it was again, the tapping on stone. Her mind ran wild picturing night prowlers, drug addicts, vampires and monsters of every kind rushing after her in the darkness. Ha! Later she’d lie in her comfy warm bed and laugh about what a silly unaware child she had been. In the distance the old Holy Cross Catholic Church sounded once more –one chime- three-thirty.
She continued on the long winding path, trying to ignore the sounds at her back when … Was that an animal? A quick but smooth movement caught her eye in her periphery. Must have been, No-one is out in the park this time of night. Without hesitation she quickened her step and moved on. The sound was more consistent now. Tap, tap, tap, and tap, each time sounding closer and closer together. Her heart begins pounding like thunder; she began to vigorously grind her teeth as she attempted to move even faster. The shadows danced at her back, heckling her futile attempt to escape their cold dark embrace.
Even at the end of her wits, and while her legs burned as if on fire, her feet numb, she thought over and over in her head: ‘No-one would be out at this time of night’, ‘No-one would be in a dark park at half past three in the morning,’ ‘No-one would be out at this hour.’ The shadows seemed to wrap around her from behind, closing its grip around her throat. She opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. She tried and tried to cry out but still no sound came. Thump, thump, thump. Her feet moved at a mile a minute, her mind raced even faster, but she seemed to go no-where. She tried yet again to let out a shrill scream for help, for mercy. But all that escaped was a small amount of air and a bit of saliva. Her feet thrashed, looking for ground, no-where to be found. She gasped for air, her throat would not allow. She felt a sharp pain at her side, and again, and again, and once more. The pressure from her throat ceased, but her cries for help revealed only a hoarse whisper as she stared up into the darkness trying in vain to see anything.
The now sure-to-be footsteps confidently dwindled away into the darkness. Now another sound joined the gnarled tree limbs moving in the wind, a pair of lips whistling “Silent Night,” tantalizing her. As it died away into the dimness of her fading conscience, her mind replayed over and over. ‘No-one walks the park this time of night.’ ‘No-one is out in the dark at three-thirty in the morning.’
She was quite right. No-one in fact was out in the night, and now only No-one knows where the pretty girl was, so late that January night.