My heartbeat quickened in my chest as, for the second time during my stroll, I heard a crack of a twig in the woods behind me. I craned my neck, trying to see if someone was there. With a start I realized that something was watching and approaching. I took a step back, nearly tripping over a decaying log, then laughed at myself.
A raccoon chattered, waddling past me, a shiny treat held in it's paws. I sighed and turned to continue my walk and ran straight into a man looming behind me. I screamed, seeing the dim moonlight glint off a knife in his hands, and he laughed at my terror. I threw my heavy knapsack at him, driving him back so that he fell over the log, and took off at a run.
The hard rocks on the forest trail dug through my flimsy sneakers, making it hard to keep my footing, but I dare not stop running. Twigs and branches lashed out at me, tearing the skin off my hands and face and tangling in my long hair. Sticky burrs wrapped themselves in the wool of my sweater, waiting for me to carry them to a new home. I could hear loud crackling sounds behind me, and knew that if I paused for a second he'd be on me. My lungs burned as I drew deep ragged breathes, running for dear life.
I tripped suddenly, face scrapping against rough concrete and the skin shearing from my palms. I cried out, then realized that I'd come upon the sidewalk at the edge of town. With new hope I pushed up and took off again. I heard nothing behind me and took my chance, running into a dark alley littered with hiding spots. I dove behind a pile of boxes surrounded by old tires and trash and bent over, hands on knees, catching my breath. Who was that man? I shook my head, brushing back snarled tangles of hair. Slowly regaining my senses, I heard a sound and snapped my head up. The man stood at the entrance to the alleyway. A streetlight behind him made him appear like just a shadow, but I could sense his large grin, and the pure hatred that radiated from him. I took a step back, careful not to make a sound.
"I know you're here, honey pie. I saw you come in and I know there's no exit." He scraped his knife against the brick wall of a building, setting my nerves on end.
His smile widened, as if he could see me. "Don't be shy, precious. I'm not going to hurt you.. much."
My gaze shot about, looking for anything to help me. I saw a broken piece of pipe on the ground before him. I knew it would be a risk, but I was a sitting duck without it. With a quick second's thought I dove out of my hiding spot, flying for the pipe.
He seemed to anticipate my move and kicked the pipe back, grabbing my sweater and forcing me, on my back, on the ground. He placed one hand around my neck, the other holding the knife above me. A sadistic grin lit his face as he murmured in my ear.
"Hello there, baby doll. Time for the party to begin."
With a hiss I spit in his face, my hand reaching for the pipe.. it seemed only inches from my fingers. I could feel them brush the cool metal.
The man roared at me, hatred pouring from his dark eyes as he lifted the knife. My fingers slipped around the metal and I lifted it just as the knife plunged into my chest. Amidst the sounds of the man's laughter, all went dark.
*** *** *** *** ***
Bobby sighed, looking to his video game with a pout on his young face. His older brother, Tim, came up to him.
"Come on.. it's time to go. Mom's yelling at the doorway. We're late."
Bobby hung his head, Tim's fingers encircling his tiny arm. "Come on, numbskull! She's gonna ground us!"
Bobby made no protest as Tim began to drag him out of the arcade in the mall, towards their mother, but as they got near the door he stopped. His tiny hand felt around in his pocket, searching every crevice for one last quarter, one last ray of hope. He withdrew his hand and opened it before his eyes and sighed. Only pocket lint and a couple pennies.
"Boys, come on, we're going to be late for the movie!" His mother called from the arcade doorway.
Bobby gave one last sullen look back to his game. The image of a dark face with evil eyes sat laughing at him, mockingly. A woman's body bent on the ground beneath him, blood pooled about her. Dark red words sprawled across the screen, seeming to drip with blood. They read, Game Over.