Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Crunch. The day was perfect for a walk. The crisp autumn air, the blood-orange tint of the leaves, and the slight breeze made me realize that I needed to spend more time outdoors. Crunch. The sound of stepping on a leaf was a satisfying delight I forgot existed. Another leaf blew across the sidewalk. Crunch.
I had spent three days shut away in my empty house due to a project that my boss gave me, last minute might I add. If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with finishing by the deadline, I probably would have noticed how lonely it had been over those three days. It was only a few months ago that I relocated to this small bustling town and started a new job at Quantum Dynamics Inc. I had been spending so much time proving myself to my boss that I never really went out and met people. Well, I had met people if you count Akim, the cashier from my neighborhood grocery store and Jeanne who worked in IT at the company. I wouldn’t necessarily deem them my friends, but they were people who would ask me about my day when I came across them. I would continuously tell myself that after I got settled into my new job, I’d go out and meet new people, new friends. I wasn’t a shy person. In fact, when I lived in Los Angeles I was constantly upholding a social life. My best friend Jo and I were always heading to the trendiest clubs, dancing until our feet hurt, meeting loads of fascinating people including a few celebrities. If she hadn’t met her fiancé and moved outside of the city I probably would have never accepted this job offer. Not because I depended on her, but after she moved it just didn’t feel the same trying to lead the same life as before. Only if I had her here in this new town, maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone…
I was so caught up with feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t right away notice that something was off. This uneasy feeling started with just a thought that flashed in and out of my mind, but as I continued to walk the feeling crept up on me until it was prominent in every bone in my body. What was it? Just then I realized it had gotten a lot cooler than when I first started my walk and the sun was no longer shining. It was also peculiarly quiet except for the rustle of the wind dancing around the dead and decayed leaves. In fact, besides when I am stuck inside my house, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a world so still, so quiet. However, it wasn’t this that I realized had caused my disquietude. It was the fact that I had not seen a single person since starting my expedition. No traveling cars had crossed my path. Not even the houses that lined the street path had their tenants step foot outside. If it weren’t for the vehicles parked outside the desolate houses, it would look as though people didn’t even live in this town anymore. Maybe there was a big town event, and everyone was there instead of the small section of neighborhood I chose to walk. It could very well be a possibility that I just happened to not see anyone. Yep, that’s it. Just a coincidence.
After this thought, I turned around hoping to catch a glimpse of life behind me, but I failed to notice any signs of existence. Where was everyone? This town has had a reputation for being one of the fastest growing areas in the state and was constantly full of movement and hubbub. This is what made it especially strange that there was nothing. I quickened my pace, the unsettling feeling continuing to flip my stomach. As my pace grew faster, it seemed so did the wind and the clouds in the sky. The atmosphere was now almost completely grey, with no signs of the sun or its peaking rays. The once subtle rattle of the leaves became an angry hissing as the stray leaves seemed to whip around in the current of the wind. Was a storm approaching?
I continued with my rapid stride as I turned down the street that led to my home. Suddenly, something caught the corner of my eye. To the left of me across the street was a small park and amidst the trees something was moving. Hoping to see another person, I turned to fully face the park to investigate the source of the movement and was horrified when my eyes rested upon it. A ghastly figure stood in the shadows of the trees, no longer moving but instead staring back at me. It almost looked human except it had to be over seven feet tall with anatomically longer than normal limbs that looked so thin, they could snap under its own weight. It was completely black except for the eyes, which were more like round, iridescent sockets. From where I stood, there seemed to be no other facial features. That is until it moved again. The figure didn’t leave its spot but instead tilted its head curiously. Then my stomach dropped. The figure unleashed an ear to ear grin that was so inhuman, I felt myself relieve the contents of my bladder down my leg. The smile stretched over most of his face while his lips curled back to reveal a large set of square, white teeth. I was frozen to my spot, unable to sever my gaze from that smile. It seemed like an eternity of the figure fixed in that dreadful position before it finally moved again. It took its head and began to tilt it to the other side. It was this movement that broke my trance. I regained feeling in my legs and began to run faster than I ever thought possible. I kept fighting to look back to see if the thing was following me. I did not want to slow down my pace by looking back only to find the figure right behind me. I could see my house only three blocks away, so I pushed my legs to move even faster. Two blocks… One block…
I fumbled for my keys as I neared my house, remembering that I had to stop at the front door to unlock it first. As I approached the stairs that led to my front door, I quickly glanced behind me only to learn that nothing had, in fact, been following me. Still, I wanted to be inside the safety of my own home where I could keep the doors and windows shut and locked. I shoved the key into the doorknob and as I opened the door I took one last look over my shoulder to reassure that the creature hadn’t followed me home. To my horror, there it was. It was still across the road but further away than when I first crossed its path. It was still bearing that gruesome smile that sucked all hope from my body. This time however, I wasn’t glued to my spot and I raced inside and slammed the door shut. I quickly locked and bolted the door and then ran to my backdoor to do the same. My hands were shaking and sweating so terribly I had trouble turning the lock on my back door. I could hear the thudding of my racing heart in my ears. I grabbed my phone off the countertop and rushed into my bedroom and locked the door behind me. I didn’t want that appalling smile terrorizing me from the window, so I drew my curtains and buried myself under the covers in my bed. I could feel the sting of tears on my cheeks but did not realize that I had been crying until now. I lifted the phone up and began to dial the first number that came to mind, Jo’s. My hands were so weak and shaky that I had to dial each number slowly. 4-0-6-9-8— Just as I had my finger on the next button, a chilling sound flooded my room. It was the slow, but definite creak of my bedroom door opening. My entire body was shaking now as a soft whimper began to escape my lips. I could hear it move across my bedroom floor before feeling its presence right beside me, yet I couldn’t bring myself to lift the covers away from my face. It could sense my fear and I knew it was enjoying every last second of my harrowing terror. I kept my eyes shut so tightly that when it removed the covers off of my face, I didn’t see that it was no longer smiling.
It had been four days since Jo had received a strange voicemail from her best friend. It was very hard to hear her voice through the static, but she mentioned beginning a project and something about how her boss was a jerk. That wasn’t the weird part. It was that while she was explaining her project, she had stopped mid-sentence and there was nothing but static – for over an hour. After Jo couldn’t get a hold of her however, she began calling the only people who might’ve known what had happened, her friend’s parents and boss. The police were notified of a missing person and a search party had begun once nobody could provide details on her whereabouts.
It had been four days since Jo received that voicemail when her phone rang with an unknown caller ID. She answered and to her utter disbelief was greeted with her best friend’s voice. After hearing her reason behind disappearing for four days (Oh I was just too wrapped up in this project; I forgot my phone; I wanted to work in the library) she decided to meet up with her friend to give her a stern lecture on how worried she was. Jo drove over to her house and marched up the steps to her friend’s front door. How dare she do this to me! Jo threw open the door and was very confused when a rancid odor met her presence. She called out her friend’s name and from the bedroom she emerged. She looked absolutely terrible. Her eyes were baggy and sunken in and her hair was a tangled mess. It looked as if in those four days that she disappeared from the world, she didn’t get an ounce of sleep. Plus, what was that smell? Jo slowly started toward her friend asking if she was alright. Her appearance had Jo incredibly worried. When her friend didn’t respond she stopped. Her friend’s face began to contort as Jo finally was able to place the smell. It was of rotting flesh. Jo stood horrified as she watched her friend, still glued to her spot, tilt her head and reveal a nasty smile.
CREDIT : Paige Kauffman