Excerpt from my book, ‘Fragments of Fear, Collection‘.
I always liked to run. I never really knew why. I wasn’t running from anything or toward anything, I was just running. It soothed me. There had been times when I had noticed strangers watching me, and these times always brought to mind the same thought.
For the most part, I ran in my little world. I had earphones in, but the wire just ended in my pocket. It was a great way to avoid any conversations I didn’t want to have.
Mostly I ran in the morning or evening. Before or after work always relieved stress. On this particular day, I had to work overtime. I got home late and debated about skipping the run, but the weather was so beautiful I went even though the sun had set an hour before. Twilight had begun and the sky was glowing a brilliant red. The scent of the pine trees mixed with the flowers that lined the path always exhilarated me.
The park was deserted. I only saw a few people and all one at a time. The lights that lined the path had just begun to flicker to life. For some reason, the lights comforted me. I could see just fine without them, I just felt safe when they were on. Like nothing could hurt me near the lights.
As I ran, I approached a spot of darkness amongst the lights. One of them had burned out.
Hmm … nothing to worry about, just a blown bulb.
I tried to convince myself of that, but I failed. Approaching the burned out light, I saw a shadow leaning against the post. It was tall, thin, and dark. I couldn’t make out a face, but his eyes were following me.
It wasn’t the same as when the others leered at me. I felt no sexual attraction, only fear. I hadn’t been pushing myself hard enough to really sweat, but my heart was pumping now, and it had nothing to do with exercise.
My pace quickened as I passed the stranger in the darkness. Aside from his head, he never moved. My pace slowed just slightly with the return of the light on my path.
Just as I was chiding myself for being so stupid, another dark spot inflicted itself on my path. Approaching it I saw the impossible. The stranger was leaning against that pole as well. Again he merely watched. I ran even faster trying to get past this pole.
That’s not possible. How could he get here before me?
My fear abated, but not as much as the first time. A nagging feeling was settling into the back of my brain.
He’s following me.
I glanced back at the pole and I could barely make out the Stranger’s silhouette, still standing against the pole. I nearly fell when I turned back around and the approaching lamp was out. Not only that, but the stranger was somehow leaning against it.
Cold sweat ran down my back. I broke into a dead run. I was near the end of the path where it ended at a street. Suddenly my worst fears were realized. The remaining path lights winked out one by one.
The stranger leaned against the pole, but was no longer still. He was coming toward me. Somehow I reached deeper into myself and found a little bit more speed.
Come on, come on. I goaded myself to go faster.
Glancing over my shoulder, I could see the stranger gaining on me. My eyes must’ve been playing tricks on me because it didn’t look like he was running. If I had to put a word to it I would say he was floating.
I was running for all I was worth. The street was only fifty feet ahead. I could see the street lamp bathing the sidewalk in beautiful light. I redoubled my efforts to reach the safety of the lamp. But my pursuer was gaining on me so fast that I would never make it.
Desperately I clawed at the air, trying anything to move one iota faster. I could feel his hot breath on my neck, I knew he was just about to
At first, I wasn’t sure what happened. I remember flying through the air, landing hard, feeling a snap, and incredible pain.
I was staring up into the night sky, I could feel something warm running down my cheek and into my eye. I remember feeling helpless. I looked over to see a metal bumper hovering over me. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, but I could hear just fine.
Shadows surrounded me, I could barely make out what they were saying.
“Did you see that?”
“She came out of nowhere.”
“Someone call an ambulance!”
“Give her mouth to mouth!”
“How? Her face is smashed in.”
The voices started to fade away like someone was turning down the volume on my hearing. The last thing I saw was the stranger step into the crowd of onlookers …
“That was a harrowing tale.” the Conductor said. “Are you alright my dear, you seem to be sweating.”
Emily looked down and sure enough her palms were wet.
“I … I’m fine,” she said unconvincingly.
“Perhaps you could use a little refreshment, why don’t you come to the dining car and I’ll get you a drink.”
“That would be nice.”
“Everyone is invited of course,” the conductor said, starting toward the door.