Walking home was always so spooky, but I liked it. The rustle of dead leaves in autumn was intoxicating, like the whispers of a black widow on her wedding night. I breathed deeply the scent of the rotting leaves on the ground. That sweet smell of death always set my head spinning. This path through the park in the middle of night during the cooling months of the year was my slice of forbidden heaven. It always felt like I was going to be horribly stabbed to death, or like I would find someone’s dead body laying in the ditch at the side of the dirt path.
I looked up, and my breath caught in my throat. The full moon was directly overhead. I felt my heart pound against my chest. It looked so close, like I could reach up and touch it. I turned off my visor so I could walk by moonlight alone. Certainly, it was stupid– visors were made to light the way, and mine had some minor vision corrective properties. I looked around. Everything seemed eerie. The moon bleached everything. My breath came and went faster as I continued to walk. Without my visor, everything looked so different! The rustling leaves no longer looked like fire, but instead like black clouds of evil hanging over the trees.
The logical side of me wanted the light back, because I was terrified. Another part of me was too excited to reach for the switch on the side of the handy piece of technology. I kept walking. The lights from the city faded as I went deeper. I hugged myself tightly and shivered. With my visor off, if someone murdered me, my body could not be tracked, and the GPS emergency setup wouldn’t be able to dispatch care to me.
Every step I took was filled with terror and excitement. Sometimes, it frightened me more that I wanted to find danger in the rustling woods deep in the park, at night during a full moon.
Statistically, more crimes occurred on the full moon than any other moon phase. Her psychology professor mentioned that during class. Most of the crimes were hate crimes or crimes committed by mentally disturbed people. They were people who could not be reasoned with.
I swallowed and continued to walk. Up ahead, I saw an area that was drowned in even more shadows than I was already walking through. If anything was going to happen, it was going to happen there. My stomach fluttered as I crossed the threshold. Looking ahead, I could see faint light, and looking back, I could see the way I came. My vision was blurry without my visor on, and the natural light of the world couldn’t penetrate these leafy trees.
Every step I took sounded loud. I tried to walk quietly, but the soft taps continued.
I stopped, and as I stood still, I heard another step. It wasn’t me I was hearing! I slowly brought my hands to my mouth to stop myself from screaming. Someone was in here with me. Slowly, I worked up my nerve and continued to walk. The soft tap, tap, tap continued. They were following me! I began to speed up.
The other person sped up as well. My breath was ragged with tension, and I felt dizzy from fear. I began to run.
The person behind me screamed. I couldn’t hear them clearly, and I screamed as something in front of me grabbed at my shirt and arm. The other person screamed again. I began to sob helplessly as I ran. I had no mace or knife to protect myself. I had no taser either. I could hear the other person’s footsteps speed up behind me. They were running, too!
Images ran through my head of what would happen. Perhaps it was a man with a knife or a gun. The idea that he might shoot my leg to keep me from getting too far ahead almost made me stop running. I imagined he would shoot my leg, right in the ankle, and I would go down. He would walk to me and say something like “Silly girl, you should be in the kitchen.” before he shot me until his gun ran out.
Maybe he would stab me in the back, then pee on me as I struggled to breathe despite a stabbed lung. He would taunt me, saying something like “Maybe you’re too out of shape for a midnight run.”
A tremor ran through my back, and I noticed that I couldn’t hear the other person running anymore. I slowed to a stop. I could see now. I turned around and saw shadow behind me that looked almost unnatural. I could make out bare shapes, but it was as though the area was painted black. Instead of feeling relief at getting out of the blackness, I felt disturbed.
Slowly, I lowered my cramping hands to my sides and merely stared. I looked like an idiot. Slowly, I began to laugh helplessly. I was an idiot! I fell to my knees laughing and crying all at once. I just ran from nobody in a forest while night-blind from having my visor off!
I could feel the hard, cold, packed dirt on my bare knees. My shorts dug into my stomach as I hunched forward. I watched as the vague shapes of my tears fell onto the ground. Never before had I done anything quite so stupid. I felt more alive than I had since I was little, though.
I heard footsteps behind me and looked up. I wiped my tears and frowned at the man. He couldn’t have been very old, from his height.
“Miss, are you alright?” he asked me.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine.” I shook my head. “I just psyched myself up and ran through that darker part of the woods. I swear I heard someone following me.” I paused for air. “I must look like an idiot.”
“Not at all. Here, if you’ll follow me, I can offer you some tea while you compose yourself.
I accepted his offer without thought, and he led me back into the dark part of the woods. His footsteps in front of me were my only guide, and they sounded so very familiar. “Watch your step.” he warned. “That first one is a doozy.” The ground dropped out from under me.