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The Scraping Wheels

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"This sucks," I muttered to myself as I felt another bead of sweat form on my hairline. "What a great day to wear a sweater."

I could have sworn it was frigid cold this morning. Now, however, the concept of cold was foreign and distant as the sun beat down on my back. My Converse scuffled against the sidewalk, and I adjusted my hundred pound backpack to fit more comfortably. To no avail. So far, my week had been shitty, from my parents arguing again, to my boyfriend dumping me, to the loads of homework teachers seemed to pour into my hands. The walk home from school was not improving anything. My favorite black sweater clung to me as the heat drew every drop of moisture from my skin.

Aside from it being hot as hell, the alone time I got from it was pretty nice. No friends to start drama, people to whisper rumours about me as I walk past in the hall. Just me, the grass, the dirt, the trees, and any animal nearby at the time. And the sun. At a time like this, people were shut inside their houses, drawing the blinds, turning up the AC. So, naturally, I should have been alone out in the sun. But I wasn't.

I felt eyes boring into me, giving me goosebumps even on a hot day like this. My eyes flicked up instinctively. I wasn't wrong. Standing at the end of the sidewalk was an old woman, her withered face surrounded in cloth. She was layered up, even wearing a coat. Out of all the weird things about this lady, the weirdest was the baby carriage. It looked antique; it was white, with one of those sun shades over it. Its wheels looked old—rusty and uncared for. Even after I looked up, the woman continued to stare at me. I shrugged it off and forced my stiff legs to keep moving. I could always run to a house for help if I need it, I told myself.

Her eyes followed me as I passed her. It took all my strength to keep from shuddering. The sidewalk ahead of me was the focal point of my vision. As I continued forward, I heard a noise from behind me. It was squealing, squeaking, earsplitting. The carriage was moving. I walked faster. I could hear the old lady's footsteps. Every push of the carriage resulted in another scraping symphony against the sidewalk. I wanted to run, to go home and never leave again. I turned into the short alleyway that led to my house.

The noise stopped. I glanced over my shoulder. The hideous woman was still there, staring at me, unblinking, her precious carriage's handle clutched in her withered hands. Was there even a baby in that thing? I didn't want to know. Hurriedly, I unlocked the door with shaking hands and threw it open.

"I'm home!" I announced. And glad to be. A snack sounded like heaven, so I threw my stuff on the couch and headed for the kitchen. No response came to my declaration of presence, so I assumed I was home alone. Sweet. After some Oreos, I decided to tackle my mountain of homework. A few minutes in and the old lady with her carriage was behind me.

I glanced up at the clock at about 9 pm. It was almost past my bedtime. Where were my parents? I wandered downstairs and saw a bright yellow note stuck to the refrigerator that I hadn't noticed before. I snatched it up and read it aloud.

"Dear Joslyn, just wanted to remind you that Dad and I have counseling. We are going out of town and won't be back till tomorrow afternoon. Love you. Stay safe. -Mom."

Crap. I had totally forgotten. I had the place all to myself. But I was tired. Screw it. I was going to bed.

I woke up at midnight after the face of the old woman had floated in and out of my dreams. Tears of fear stained my face. I quickly wiped them off and went to the bathroom to wash with cold water. While staring at my face in the mirror, I pondered the woman. Reaching no conclusion, I meandered back to bed. It wasn't until I was staring at the ceiling when I heard the noise. Squealing, scraping, rusty wheels—coming towards my bedroom. It's my imagination. Just my imagination. My body was frozen in panic. The noise, the unbearable noise grew louder and louder until I wanted to throw my hands over my ears. I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. I just stared at my door frame. The sound stopped. There, in the door, were two pairs of red eyes. One small and one large. One woman and one baby.

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