Strangers

A woman notices someone, or something, following her in the dead of night.

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1. Followed

~~I walked briskly along the cold and dark pavement, wrapping my coat closer around me. I regretted staying so late at work, and wished for the light and warmth of day. I squinted in the dim starlight, the street lights proving ineffective against the pressing dark of night and the shadows that gathered around me. I winced at how painfully loud my footsteps were against the silent slumber of the streets around me.


A whisper of wind curled in the hollow of my ear, nearly masking the scattering of stones from behind me. Clutching my purse to my chest, I swung around to face the sound and saw a shadow disappear behind the houses that lined the street like silent sentries. My scalp prickled but I turned and continued on.


I heard it again and again, and each time I turned to see no more than a movement in the shadows. My mind tortured me with every horror movie monster imaginable. From Freddy to Jason and all those in between, I saw them all in the shadows around me. I quickened my pace until I was running full pelt, not even bothering to turn and look anymore. I sighed with relief at the sight of my house, the porch light glowing like a safe haven on the dark street. I jumped up the steps and pushed my way into my house, the door unlocking easily. I slid the lock back into place behind me and peered out the window at a hooded figure across the street. I stood in shock as the figure drew back his hood, looking forlornly at my house before turning and walking away.


I leaned against the wall to steady myself. He was just a kid. No more than seventeen years old. I let out a shaky breath to calm myself before clicking open my purse to run my fingers over the ultrasound picture that I carried with me everywhere. He would be that age now. Something made me make my way back out that door and after that kid.


I stuck to the shadows I had previously run from, following the kid across town. He wasn’t half as paranoid as I was, and this worried me. But I followed silently, my baby sitting in my back pocket, urging me on.


Finally he stopped at a small house and let himself in. I watched him, in what I hope was a surreptitious manner, through the windows. A woman greeted him in the kitchen as he walked in. I felt a pang in my chest, of longing at first, then anger. How could she be so irresponsible, letting her son go out late at night? I gathered up my courage and, before I knew what I was doing, I strode towards the door and knocked. The boy answered, his eyes widening when he saw me. My anger faded and my mouth went dry.


“Mum?” he whispered.

 

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