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“Walk in the Dark”

The sun had gone down hours before, and the summer’s heat had gone slowly with it. So when Selena stepped quietly out of her house the night air was cool and comforting.

Since the beginning of summer, when the world around her began to warm, she’d been taking walks after long days of work. They helped her clear her head of stress and ease tension. She slept better at night, too.

On this night, same as every other night, Selena walked the paved road that lead to the house she shared with her parents and younger sister. They were always fast asleep when she tiptoed out. Her mother, had she known of her daughter’s dead-of-night habit, would have been upset.

They lived on a hill in “middle of nowhere” Eastern Kentucky. “There could be anything out there!” Her mother would have said, had she known.

But the walks helped Selena, more than anything, and she enjoyed the calmness of the night air.

Tonight she walked in silence, contemplating the stresses of the day. The sound of her feet hitting the pavement in rhythm was in the back of her mind as she walked and thought.

After a moment the sounds of the woods surrounding her seemed to strengthen. Though she knew she was alone, the sounds of the unseen animals moving in the trees and the night gave the eerie impression that she was being watched.

Feeling the unease the night music seemed to create, she reached in her pocket for her cell phone and earbuds, intending, as she had done every night, to plug in and listen to her favorite music as she continued on. The tunes would drown out the night, help her relax, and prepare her for the walk back. But upon reaching into her pocket, she immediately realized the earbuds weren’t there. Checking both pants pockets multiple times did not ease her disappointment, but she decided to continue on a few more minutes anyway.

But her unease began the get the best of her, and the sounds surrounding her seemed to deepen and multiply. She heard a hoot there, a squeak here, and a scurrying through ground leaves.

When she heard what sounded like a heavy foot breaking a twig close by, she jumped in surprise, a small squeal of fright escaping her lips. “Better turn back,” she thought to herself, knowing that had she had her earbuds, she’d likely walked a few more minutes, without realizing it.

But when she turned she saw a movement in the darkness that couldn’t have been what her frightened mind told her it was. She stopped in her tracks, hoping her eyes had just been playing tricks on her. Though the moon shinned bright overhead, the trees—which now seemed to close in around her—blocked out much of its full light.

Her breathing quickened, her heartbeat pounded in her chest, but she told herself nothing was there, she had to move on. She took a shaky step forward, and then another. But when the figure stepped out of the darkness and into her path, she stopped, a breath caught in her throat.

“You shouldn’t be out here.” The deep voice said. He had a trucker cap on, pulled down low over his face, hiding his eyes in darkness. “It’s not safe out here.” His thick Eastern Kentucky accent told her he didn’t get out of the holler much. He took a step forward, and Selena took a step back.

“I—I was just taking a w-walk.” She told him. “I was on my way home.”

He stepped closer, and now she could see he held something in his hands. All she could make of it was that it was long handled. “Doesn’t matter.” He drawled low. “Shouldn’t be out here.” He said. “Shouldn’t have come.” He stepped closer, loud boots seeming to stomp forward, the sound carrying. This time when he stepped forward, he did so into a beam of moonlight that’d been unimpeded by the trees. The light gleamed off of the heavy head of the ax he held in his hands.

Selena had to make a decision of what to do. Running home was not an option, the tall, barrel chested man blocked her path on the narrow road. He was much bigger and likely much stronger than her. She wouldn’t be able to outrun him or fight back. Her only other option was to run further into the night, away from home, from the safest place she knew. She felt her pocket as discretely as possible, touching the slight bulk of the cell phone in her pocket. “If I can get enough distance,” the thought, “I can call for help.” She tried not to think about the alternative.

The man must have seen a change in her. “Don’t you get any ideas, now.” She saw his grip tighten on the ax handle, and her fear grew.

Selena took a deep breath, and before she let herself think it through, she turned and ran. As she took off she heard the man bellow an inaudible curse.

Though she’d driven this very road for years, it was very different, and much more frightening when on foot in the dark. As she raced on she heard the smacking of her tennis shoes on the pavement and tried to ignore the darkness that seemed to seep out of the woods to close in around her.

Selena pulled her phone from her pocket, hoping to call for help. As she ran she unlocked the phone and opened up the dial pad. Still running, she hovered her finger over the number nine, the first number in that very important emergency number, but also the speed dial number for Selena’s best friend, Crystal.

She glanced at the signal bar, knowing service was spotty in the area, and hoped for enough of a signal to make the call. The signal bar seemed to jump back and forth between nothing and something, further distressing a now very winded Selena.

“A little further,” she told herself, knowing there was a curve coming up, where foliage seemed to allow a better signal.

She looked back, in desperation, to see where her pursuer was. When she did so, she missed seeing a deep crack in the pavement, caused my this springs heavy rains. The toe of her shoe dipped into the hole, and Selena lost balance. She heard the sound of a pressed button then lost her grip on the phone. It slid several feet in front of her and she fell, hands outstretched to catch her fall.

Her weight was caught in her hands, her wrists cracked under the pressure, her head smacked the pavement. Selena screamed in agony, groaning as she rolled over.

When he was standing over her, her pain and fear became misery, and she saw her fate in his angry eyes and white knuckled grip on the wooden ax handle.

Selena sobbed once more, and closed her eyes.

“You shouldn’t have been out here. It’s dangerous in the dark.”

The sun began to rise in the rolling Eastern Kentucky hills. It’s bright yellow light filtered through the green leaves, filling the wooded expanse with colors of a summer morning.

Blood ran over the cracked and broken pavement of a poorly kept county road, around a cell phone with a cracked screen. Displayed there was several missed calls and a full voicemail box. An incoming call message displayed a goofy face and the name “Crystal”. Then the battery died and the screen went black.

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