Buds in ears, music cranked, I start my morning run through the park.
The ground is slick; it must have rained last night. No problem, I’m not concerned—I’ve done the run thousands of times before without any problems. I know where all of the muddy parts will be. I just need to remember not to zone out this time or I’m likely to slip and slide again…
That was a painful day and it’s hard to believe it was only a few short weeks ago. The tumble started with a slipped foot, moved onto a lopsided dance as my body was thrown off balance, ending with a trip down the nearby hill of grass. Landing at the bottom, I had been alone, wet, and covered in mud. Sore, with my ego bruised, I made my way home and vowed never to run when it was wet again.
It did seem like a bad omen to break the promise to myself, but sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I need the span of the run to work out a few problems in my mind, away from the constant demands on my attention.
My stride increases as I warm up, the muscles in my legs lengthening as I pound the concrete path. I’m oblivious to the world around, concentrating only on the placement of my feet and the issues that swirl through my brain: should I paint the kitchen red; does Harry really need braces right now; should we get a new car; should I ask my boss for the promotion I know I deserve; the scenarios are endless and they eddy in constant chaos.
The music changes, the beat gets stronger, but there’s something else. I hear something below the thump of the bass. Is it footsteps?
I glance behind me, expecting to see another runner, but there’s no one there. I increase my pace, just a bit panicked at the absence of an explanation. I don’t hear the noise again and my heart beat slows as I do, falling back into my normal rhythm.
It’s back. The sound of footfalls in my aural periphery startles me as I weigh my options over what to cook for dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese or chicken risotto? I turn my head to glance over my left shoulder, then my right, thinking someone has to be there.
Nothing. No one.
I stop, this time sure someone will come out of the trees around me, just as stunned to see me as I would be to see them. No one approaches.
I pick up the pace again, turning the volume on my iPod down, hoping it will help me to discern if someone is following me. I run down the path, trying hard not to keep craning my head around, just concentrating on getting to the exit only a few short blocks from home. With people around, safety will come. No one can attack if there are people around, right?
The ancillary hairs on my neck come to life as a warm, moist wind blows across the back of it. It feels like someone’s breath has just caressed me and my arm flies up in acute panic.
I hit nothing but it doesn’t stop me from whipping my body around. The trail behind me is empty.
I feel the same breeze on the flesh of my neck again, goose bumps rising on my body, cascading down its length. I whip around, expecting to see no one, but I gasp in shock.
A man stands there, his face full of menace, his body primed to strike.
Copyright © 2014 Julianne Snow