The wind blew my hair into my face as I locked the door to bookstore where I worked. I was alone. I hated being the only closer. It meant I had to walk home alone. In the dark. Nights like this were the worst. It was dark and cloudy, with a hint of fog sinking down onto the slumbering corner of the city. The wind blew mildly, carrying the scent of rain along with the loose papers scurrying down the streets. I shivered. The sooner I got home, the better.
There weren't many people out this time of night. Who would want to be out late on a night like this? No one. Especially not me. It's not like I had a choice.
I walked down the street, staring at the sidewalk under my feet. It was dark. So dark. I could hear car horns honking from the main streets of the city. It seemed so far away, even though it was only a few miles away from the bookshop. It was amazing what a difference there was between the two places. There, it was loud, bright, alive even so late into the night. Here, it was dark, cold, lonely. It seemed as if I was the only person walking out so late at night. Wish I had a car. It would make nights like this more bearable.
I used to enjoy the walks home from the bookshop. I enjoyed being out in the cool night air, feeling like I was the only person in the world, able to be alone with my thoughts. Then, it happened. I shuddered at the memory. It happened just a few streets away from here.
Shaking my head, I cleared those thought from my mind. That was over a year ago. There's nothing to fear. He was caught. He's not going to hurt me anymore. He can't.
I passed a dark alley, glancing into it as I walked past. Big mistake. I could see those horrible eyes staring out at me. That awful grin twisted on a sneering face. My breathing sped up, and I again turned my eyes to the sidewalk.
"Get a grip of yourself, it's nothing. You know it's nothing. It's all in your head; it's all in your head." Somehow, my mutterings weren't very reassuring.
I shoved my clenched hands further into the pockets of my tattered old jacket, speeding up my pace. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Someone was behind me.
My mind screamed at me to keep my eyes ahead, but my curiosity got the better of me. I turned quickly before I had the chance to think. Nothing. It was nothing. I laughed, a quiet, nervous laugh, sounding more like a choke.
I walked faster.
I could feel someone, something behind me. I dared not look again, instead clenching my hands even tighter to keep them from shaking.
"It's okay, girl, you're fine, just a few more blocks. You can make it."
"No you can't," A voice hissed at me inside my head.
I nearly screamed. I knew that voice. He had found me. I broke out in a cold sweat, my heart beating like a drum.
"You can't run from me."
My teeth clenched. He wouldn't get me. I wouldn't let him.
"Oh yes you will, my dear."
He was getting closer. I felt his hot, sulfuric breath on the back of my neck. I could envision his gnarled, taloned hand reaching for me, tearing into my flesh.
A couple walked past me, holding hands. They were laughing together, not even noticing my plight. They didn't even look at me. I couldn't call for help. I was too...
"Too what, my dear?"
I couldn't say it. No. It was anything but that. Anything but –
An icy cold hand ripped through me, grasping my heart in its frigid clutches. He had me. I screamed the scream that had been welling up inside me since I passed that alley. He wouldn't get me. Not tonight. Not ever.
I ran for all I worth. I passed a young woman, scantily clad and leaning against a light post. She stared at me as if I was insane. I didn't notice.
Finally, I saw it. That shining beacon of light. My home. My shelter. I had less than a block to go. I could make it.
"No, you can't." The hand squeezed tighter around my heart, willing me to give in to its evil clutches.
"Yes I can!" I screamed at the top of lungs and threw myself up the stairs and against the door. My shaking hand grabbed the doorknob and turned.
I almost cried at the shaft of light that spilled from the aperture. Rushing inside, I slammed the door as hard as I could. I heard an awful hiss as the creature cursed, slinking away into the night.
Leaning against the door, I let out a shuddering breath. I was safe. I'd made it. Once again I had outrun that monster that threatened to capture me every night I made that walk. That monster that somehow seemed to be able to reach into my innermost being... That demon of fear that haunts us all.