The wind whistled sharply on this cool October evening. Darkness had seemed to fall before the sun was down. Leaves rustled in the wind like a pack of pariahs seeking easy prey. Forboding premonitions come easy on such a night. The air carried a hint of moisture that would turn to fog when the wind calmed.
I buttoned my overcoat to the top, held on to my hat, and hoped for the best as I trudged along the deserted road. The car had died a mile or so back. Since I was only about three miles from home, I decided to walk. Now, that decision was not seeming very wise. Not far away was the sound of a solitary dog barking as if being confronted by an unwanted intruder.
Step by step, the road continued its march past me. Overhead, the clouds thinned, and a sliver of moon peeked through the wisps that swirled through the sky. The fog was becoming more pronounced. It seemed to engulf me to slow my progress and aid my enemy. Straining to see, eyes appeared to from from the darkness at the edge of the woods. Eyes not too far from the ground that were like something or someone crouching; watching; waiting. For a moment, I believed I could see the vapor of hot breath pouring out from beneath those eyes.
My steps quickened. My heart pounded. Fearing to look longer at what might be lurking beyond the trees, I focused on the road and continuing my journey. Hearing seemed more acute. Every sound was loaded with meaning. Footsteps crunched through the brittle leaves. Walking became a jog. Soon, it would be a run. I gasped for air as my pursuer seemed to match my every stride.
I had another mile to cover before I reached my door. It seemed as though it might be a marathon. A bird cry piercing the gloom seemed to be an ominous warning of doom. Maybe I should stop and confront the stalker. I had no weapon and no plan. Stopping would place me at the mercy of whoever or whatever it was. I could not run forever. My body was screaming for air and respite. My mind was losing focus. Sanity was giving way to panic and overwhelming fear. The legs that carried me forward were becoming more leaden with every step. I could sense the end of this ordeal was coming near.
The steps seemed closer. They were louder and more determined with each second that passed. How much farther? Was it still a mile? Maybe by now it was a only half of that distance. I tried to judge my pursuer’s position. The sound was perhaps only a hundred or so feet behind me. The steps seemed large and strong. A stench reached my nostrils. It was the smell of dead and rotting flesh like one finds when a large animal has met with an untimely end.
Thoughts rocketed through my brain. What was this place? These woods were old and storied. Tales dated back for centuries. Land that had special powers. Some said that it had the power to raise the dead. Curses were put on these woods. Here on the eve of All Saints Day, these tales now gathered a life of their own in my mind. What as this behind me? Was it some forgotten ghoul that I had offended by walking along its hallowed ground? Did it see me as prey or an undesired guest?
The smell increased as the sound of steps grew ever closer. I was sure that I heard a deep rumbling moan overtaking me. This was not how I wanted to die. It could not end like this. I shouldn’t just disappear here on a deserted stretch of road so near to my home. I tried to cry out for help, but my breath was being stolen by my burning aching legs. My chest was on fire. My legs were beginning to fail. I felt it. There was a touch. It brushed my arm. Now, it is on my shoulder.
Hot breath covered the back of my neck. The smell of death filled my sinuses. My heart moved into my throat. This was it. I could see my gate a hundred yards ahead. I wondered if they will find my body dismembered at my own gate. What can I do? Headlights pierced the darkness. I heard a squeal as the vermin behind me was bathed in light. I turned to see it. The creature had turned from me. Its form was grotesque and horrible. I watched as it stumbled into the darkened woods. Gasps of relief flooded my being. Turning to see the lights that had saved me, another form stepped toward me, but the laugh that came forth from it did not sound like good news for me.