A Hunger in the Night
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Robb Mathias
All Rights Reserved
**Warning** this story contains adult situations and language.
She left the bar at one a.m. Normally she would wait until after last call, but the big unkempt guy who had been ogling her for the last half hour went into the bathroom and she didn’t want to be there when he came out. It was all for nothing though, because before she could turn the corner at the end of the building she saw that he was coming out the door. He saw her, but he didn’t do anything other than continue lighting his cigarette. She didn’t quicken her pace until she was around the corner and out of sight. Then she started running, knowing that he was probably running now too.
If she had driven her Mustang to Ruby’s Bloody Mary, she could have gotten to her car before he caught up, but she hadn’t. She lived in an apartment building on the other side of the small wooded block that separated the neighborhoods from the city’s main strip. It was just a five minute walk. In the cool autumn evenings she relished the multitude of feelings traversing the urban forest allowed her. The feeling of being chased through the woods had come over her before, causing her to sprint all the way home. But this was no half-drunken “Little Red Riding Hood” fantasy. She was in good shape though, and since she knew she would probably be walking home, she’d worn her tennis shoes. She had on skinny-jeans, which didn’t go well with her balloon sleeved white blouse and black leather vest. Her jet black hair and dark-eyed, Gothic make-up deserved a flowing dress or, at the very least, black slacks and spiked heels. She was glad she was dressed somewhat normal, because she could hear him coming now.
As she entered the circle of illumination thrown by the street light at the back corner of the asphalt parking-lot, he came around the corner slowing to make it look like he hadn’t been hurrying. She knew he saw her plainly. She let her rushing adrenaline push her that much faster out of the lot, across the freshly mowed grass, into the tree line. His pounding footfalls came from behind her as he started running too.
She had pepper spray on her key chain, but it was in her clutch purse. She didn’t want to fumble with it while she was running. The last time she’d used the mace on an asshole it got into her mouth and tasted terrible. In the glove box of her car she had a high voltage stunner, and by the way this guy was catching up, she was starting to wish she had it with her.
She ducked a low hanging limb and cursed the lack of moonlight. An owl or maybe a crow jumped from a tree and noisily flapped away from her intrusion. The chill wind hissed and moaned as it passed through the near barren tree limbs. Leaping a small ravine, that she sensed more than saw, she landed on a wrist-thick piece of deadfall and went tumbling through the crunchy autumn leaves. When she came to a stop she held her breath and felt the ankle that had given way. In the silence she could hear that the weirdo had slowed his pursuit to a hesitant jog.
Winded from her run, she had to breathe, but she did so as quietly as possible. Her ankle wasn’t swollen, but she didn’t feel relieved. The creep was walking now, stopping every few steps to listen. He wasn’t anywhere close, but he was moving deeper into the trees. Soon he was between her and her apartment building. They had gone far enough that if she ran back the other way, he would probably be able to hear her, and then catch her. She decided to take a different, more direct approach.
She was trembling, but not so much from fear as from anticipation. She stood up as quietly as possible and hugged a tree for support. She listened for the man, but couldn’t hear him anymore. This alarmed her. Not knowing where he was felt worse than having him chasing her.
She tested her weight and found that her ankle didn’t hurt at all. Then she bent down and picked up the stick that tripped her. It was about the length of her old softball bat. It felt thick in her grasp, but she was pretty sure she could deliver a solid wallop with it.
Taking a few deep breaths to calm herself, she started walking toward her apartment, trying to step as quietly as possible. She expected to hear his footfalls crunching quickly toward her but didn’t. Above the canopy of sparsely leaved trees the moon’s light escaped from under the cloud blanket that had been covering it. The once familiar woods took on an eerie cast. Everything, even the roiling steam from her breath, was bathed in a silvery glow. Looking around for any hint of movement, she stumbled over a tangled root. She didn’t fall this time, but while correcting herself, she made enough noise to give away exactly where she was.