Darkness crept over the ailing sidewalk as my feet scuffed across the cracked cement. It had been a long day, and I was more than ready to call it a night. Each breath I took was tiresome as if the weight of all the events that had transpired rested solely on my chest alone. Pressure from work is nothing new; everyone must live with this necessary evil. Wafting a tired sigh, I continued on my way home for the night.
It was around 8:30 p.m., the hot summer air seeming to grow only warmer as the evening waned. I hated nights like these. It was so muggy; I doubted I'd even be able to catch much sleep. Figures. Just how my luck seemed to fall anymore.
Rounding another corner in this peaceful little slice of suburbia, I nearly walked straight into another poor soul meandering through this wretched evening. The soft blue of my eyes widen for only a minute before falling to a close as I muttered an awkward apology along with a nervous smile. Of course, gestures like apologies aren't accepted anymore anyway. People take them for granted, just haphazardly tossing them about to further their own agendas. Didn't mean I couldn't give it a try, especially since I had been raised to do so.
"Sorry! Not used to seeing anyone else out and about on this street at this hour. Y'know how that can go!" With a wide, awkward smile I tossed my hands up into the air to try and convey my sincerest apologies. My smile faded, my rosy lips falling into a line as the stranger completely ignored me. They just pushed past, their shoulders broad and bulky enough to push me aside as they headed along their journey as if it were the most important of quests. Well, that was quite rude.
Giving a little shrug, I considered the normalcy of the situation. Just another person, probably just as miserable as I was on this hot, muggy August evening. Returning my attention to getting home, I stuffed my hands down into the small pockets of my designer jeans. Casting the cornflower blue of my visions back down at the sidewalk, I watched the dark cracks in the cement pass beneath the rubber toe of my sneakers. That's when I first heard it. There was a distinct scraping noise coming from up ahead. At first, I thought nothing of the sound. It was just another poor soul getting through their evening business just as myself.
The sun had gone down a few hours ago, and by now dusk had begun to settle into night. As the twilight around me grew thicker, I allowed my ears to dwell on the sound echoing through the quit little street. It sounded almost like teeth on bone, but much louder. Perhaps someone digging? With nothing else to entertain me, I listened to the noise as I plodded on down the street. I only had a couple more blocks until I was home anyway.
The noise seemed to get louder and louder as I walked, signaling I was getting close to the source. Then, it just stopped. Slightly disappointed I might never know what the sound was, I sped up my pace just a little. Most houses on the street had yards trimmed with hedges, no doubt for the purpose of privacy. Usually, I didn't mind the landscaping, as I enjoyed the separation from the residents of this suburban paradise. Tonight, however, I felt myself slightly irritated. These uniformly trimmed little bushes were keeping me from the source of that noise. I don't quite understand my fascination with the odd sound, but it seemed so out of place. I'm naturally very curious, so I'll just have to attribute my strange desire to that. Well, that and the fact that nothing out of the ordinary ever happened in this neighborhood.
I had closed the distance of several houses before I heard the noise again, only this time is only last a few seconds. It was definitely much closer now, and much louder. Considering how quiet the street was at this time of night, I could make out the details much better this time. It sounded almost like something metal being dragged over concrete.
My brow furrowed a bit as I scanned the next couple houses the best I could. The first that I was closing in on with my comfortable pace had a patching hodgepodge of bushes lining its yard. They were not as delicately pruned as most of the residences, the yard containing several large plastic children's toys. There didn't seem to be anything too odd or out of the ordinary in the yard, so I moved onto the next house.
The next house was white with a white picket fence. The yard was perfectly trimmed, a rainbow of flowers dulled by the waning twilight. Nothing out of the ordinary. The next couple houses followed suit, all with little variance. Where had that noise come from? What in the hell was it? I seemed to be getting more and more frustrated by this strange sound. Logic escaped me as my pace came to an abrupt halt on the old cracked sidewalk. Giving one last look around, I decided to wait for a minute or two to see if the sound returned. If it did, I would find out for sure what it was and put this mystery to a rest.
As I concentrated on the quiet peaceful neighborhood, another very subtle sound stumbled its way into my ear amid the hum of transformers and distant air conditioners. I closed my eyes, focusing on the sound. Feet. I could hear the barely audible scuff of tread against pavement. My eyes flew open as I did a quick scan of my environment. I spun around, taking in all directions. I can't explain the irrational fear of the sound, but suddenly a sense of dread befell me. I felt like I was being watched, like eyes were burrowing down beneath the skin on the back of my neck. I saw nothing, however, as I searched with my eyes for the source of all these bizarre happenings.
Taking a deep breath, I gathered my thoughts. Obviously, I had spooked myself over someone finishing up some yard task in one of these highly manicured suburban backyards. With a soft chuckle, I smirked. That'll teach me. Giving a little shake to my head, I started back off down the street. Two more turns and I'd be home. At least something good had come from that strange sound. I stopped mulling over my shitty day. Silver lining.
No sooner had I passed the third to last house on the street did my anxiety return. There was a quick flash of black in the hedge of the last house on the street. The square bushes rustled, something thrashing on the opposite side of the bush. I stopped dead in my tracks. It had now grown so dark that the only light I had was what the few street lamps provided. The small yellow patch at the end of the street did nothing to illuminate the source of the new sound.
I stood completely still for a moment, eyebrows tensed nervously. What in the world was that? Then, the first sound returned. The scraping. This time is was close enough I could make it out much better. It was coming from the house on the corner. I quickly began considering turning around and finding a friend's house in which to stay at for the night. This time there was a barely audible accompaniment to the scraping. A very wet sound accompanied by a low grinding during the pauses in the scraping. Something or someone was eating something and making quite a racket while doing so.
Not at all sure I wanted to solve this mystery anymore, I spun around and immediately began back towards the main part of town and out of this seemingly peaceful neighborhood. As I walked, the sound grew a little quieter before stopping all together. Behind me, I heard a rustling in the bushes. Immediately my heart leaped into my throat. I could feel it pounding against my ribs feverishly as I turned my head to steal a glance back behind me. Whatever was going on, I definitely did not want anything to do with it! I saw nothing but a black flash around the corner of the hedge. I felt my eyes bulge, my skin tingling with a sudden and complete dread. Hairs all over my body stood, my pace immediately quickening to almost a jog. It was just a glimpse but I could swear there was a large dark patch on the sidewalk in front of those hedges that wasn't there before.
I had only managed to get past three houses before I heard the most terrifying sound I have ever heard in my entire life. I could never find the words to describe the sound as I heard it, but it definitely seemed to be some sort of scream. My blood ran cold, and my feet doubled their pace as I began to sprint down the street. I glanced back and could have sworn I saw a black shape dart across the front lawn of the second house. I could feel my heartbeat in my temples, my breath becoming jagged with fear. What in the fuck was that! There was another loud, absolutely horrifying scream, only this time it sounded closer. I began to sob as I ran, fear's fingers slowly curling around my heart. I was getting out of breath already; all I could do was silently curse myself out for smoking. Whatever was going on, I was pretty sure I'd solved the mystery of where the sound was coming from and I was pretty sure it was now closing in on me.
Reaching the end of the street, I could hear rustling as whatever was chasing me bolted through the hedges that encased well cared for lawns. I heard a loud smack, as if someone had slung a sack of flour against a huge piece of plastic. There was the sound of big hollow plastic pieces being banged and thrown. Again that horrible sound rang out, though it wasn't as close. I don't know what happened, but I began to silently pray as I saw the four corners that would lead me back out of this suburban hell.
Hardly getting any air, it began to hurt to breath as I continued to sprint towards the safety of town. There was a gas station around that corner, one of those 24 hour places. I just had to make it that far! Hopefully whatever that was had been held up long enough for me to make it.
There was a sharp pain in the back of my right leg. Right in the middle of my calf, it felt as if something struck me. My pace faltered, not voluntarily, and I nearly came to an abrupt stop. Fortunately for me I'd been an adventurous child and suffered enough injuries to rip right through the pain. That and adrenaline. Not even bothering to look, I heard that horrid scream again. It was farther back, but it sounded much more hostile this time.
Around the corner I went. I could see the sweet salvation of the convenience store roughly one hundred and fifty feet away. Suddenly, a burst of energy took me and I bolted part the corner house and into the well-lit parking lot of the gas station. I could hear the wheezing of my gasps as I began to slow my pace in preparation to grab to the door. There was rustling in the backyard of the house next door, and grunting. I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could, my hand shaking violently as I grabbed the handle on the door. Whatever was there I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to know. I was safe now!
Throwing the door back, I launched myself inside before slamming the door shut immediately. The clerk, obviously confused from their facial expression, stared at me inquisitively. Between gasps for air, I yelled for the keys to the doors. That same terrifying scream echoed outside through the empty parking lot. The clerk's face paled with fear, any questions they had vanished as they were replaced with the urgency of my request. They tossed me a small key chain with two keys. Without hesitation I jammed the first key into the lock on the bottom of the door. It didn't fit.
"The other one!" The clerk squeaked like a mouse as they called out to me. I fumbled with the keys in my hands, fear clouding my memory and thinking process. Which key had I just tried?! I was panicking, seriously panicking. There was a snarl outside, and close. I could hear the clerk whimper as I grabbed the right key. I jammed it into the lock as fast as I could; hit the door instead once or twice as I downright shook with dread. I turned the key and grabbed it back out of the door.
Not wasting a second, I crawled away from the glass doors, climbing to my feet as quickly as I could. Rounding the counter, I dropped on the floor beneath the cash register. Without any hesitation the clerk knelt down next to me, obviously just as scared as I was. They reached up above my heard to press the silent alarm, alerting the police that there was trouble. Whatever that was, it was over. Help would be here soon.
"Local Authorities encourage you to be vigilant in the area of Orchard and Grove streets until they can catch the animal responsible for several vicious attacks last night that left four dead. Police report that remains of three out of the four people were partially eaten and dismembered. They are uncertain at this time what kind of animal attacked these residents, but it’s clear that whatever it was should be considered extremely dangerous. Local authorities have asked residents to stay inside unless absolutely necessary, and keep your pets inside. In other news..."
I switched off the television as I reclined back in my chair. Tossing the remote aside I peer out the window beside me. The sunlight poured in through the white gauzy curtains just like any other beautiful summer day. I could see Orchard Street out past my small backyard, police tape cordoning off a white house on the corner. It all seemed so surreal; it almost felt like I was dreaming. Half of a severed arm lay in the middle of the street. As I stared at the discarded limb, I could have sworn I'd seen something large and black dart into my bushes...