Footsteps in the Dark
On a brisk, tempestuous winter's night, two young lovers stumbled home from the local pub. The clock read half past two in the morning and the call of John's snug bed propelled them further into the brutal storm. It had only been ten minutes since they left the safe confines of The Brew House Pub and Grill, and the temperature continued to plummet.
It was earlier tonight, that John had spied the coy glances of the woman now entombed in his long woolen jacket. She was the prize he had sought for some time, and tonight was the night that he would finally have her. Her name was Shauna, and she was a classic beauty with long auburn hair and the deepest brown eyes John had ever seen.
His coworker Bruce had been pursuing her for a while, but John had a hunch that she was his, if he so desired. To his astonishment, all that was required of him to "seal the deal" was a few hours of witty banter and a sequence of tequila shots.
Neither had spoken since the journey had begun, that was until Shauna whispered to John through her chattering teeth, "Are we close yet?"
John raised his head and attempted to peer through the veil of white blocking their path, "Just a few more blocks."
Feeling her shoulders tense up from his answer, John tried his best to relieve some of her discomfort. Grabbing her tight, John placed a kiss on her forehead and wrapped her up into a mighty embrace. "Don't worry my love, I'll warm you up soon."
His words caused Shauna to purr in lascivious anticipation for what was to come. With the thought of passionate copulation giving both of them a renewed focus, they trudged ahead in silence as the blizzard raged around them.
A few moments later, a distant sound caused Shauna to stop abruptly and look behind them, "What was that?"
John turned and scanned the street. To his chagrin, he detected nothing. "I don't see anything."
"I know I heard something. It sounded like footsteps in the snow."
Focusing his attention back to Shauna, John looked into her distressed eyes, "It was probably just the wind, or maybe a dog."
Skeptical, she turned back toward their destination, "Maybe. It sounded big."
John put his arm around her and gave her a reassuring squeeze before moving on. Once they were back underway, it only took another few feet before they were startled by the unmistakable sound of footsteps in pursuit.
"You had to have heard that," Shauna whispered, this time too terrified to peek.
John, now lightly trembling in fear, turned and looked behind them. As he gazed into the darkness, he was unable to see what had made the sound. "I definitely heard it this time."
He scanned the street once more before continuing, "If it is someone, we're far enough ahead. I wouldn't worry"
"Are you sure John? I'm scared."
"I'm sure. Now, we better keep moving before we freeze."
Gripping each other tighter, they continued on at a much faster pace than before. With each street they passed, it seemed like they had finally cast away their shadow.
As if sensing their relief, the sound of the mysterious footsteps returned and soon drowned out their own.
John grabbed Shauna by the arm and began to move as fast as the icy sidewalk would allow. Not only had the footsteps returned, but now they were closer than before. To his dismay, every time John tried to catch a glimpse of who followed them, the street was as desolate as before.
Forging ahead, John continued to lead Shauna through the labyrinth of streets that led to his home. Each step was now accompanied by the echo of their pursuer and just as he thought that the tension of the chase would get the better of them, the couple finally turned onto John's street.
Pausing for a brief moment to take one last look behind them, John sighed with relief at the snowy landscape. There wasn’t a soul within sight, and he knew that they were going to be safe.
Whatever had caused them alarm, wasn’t going to hurt them now that they had reached Main Street and with it the many eyes and ears of all who lived there. With a renewed confidence, John gathered up Shauna's hand and briskly led her along the well-lit road.
They soon began to pass the closed-up shops and café's that would be filled with happy shoppers in just a few short hours. As they passed by Joe's Bakery, it was then that John glimpsed something in the window that shook him to his core. The reflection that he witnessed was that of a cloaked figure, dressed in the deepest black he had ever seen. It was completely covered with the exception of a pale white hand that reached for them.
Hoping to catch it off guard, John released Shauna's hand and spun around to confront the specter head on. To his shock and surprise, he found no one there.
Confused and terrified, John turned back to Shauna, but all that remained of her was her scarf, resting in the snow.
Frantic, John turned in every direction, but he was hopelessly alone. His screams of agony and dismay did little to rouse the slumbering inhabitance of the neighboring homes. Rushing from entryway to entryway, John pounded feverishly on the doors with both fists. His cries echoed throughout the empty street, but nothing seemed to work.
Sprinting back to the spot that Shauna last stood, John began to question his own sanity. How could she just disappear?
John remained motionless as he allowed the reality of the situation to wash over him. Covering his face with his hands, he began to sob. Not out of fear or dismay, but over the concern and loss he felt towards the beautiful woman that had agreed to follow him into the dead of night. He was the reason she was gone, and the guilt was too overwhelming to bear.
Reaching down he retrieved the scarf and brought it to his nose. He inhaled deeply and relished in the comforting aroma of the auburn haired beauty. Wallowing in his own grief, John didn’t notice the presence that now hovered just inches behind him. The sudden realization caused John's body to stiffen in shock.
The entity moved its head from side to side, like a predator surveying its prey. The creature's acrid breath bathed John with an odor that reeked of decay. A boney hand now moved up and down John's shivering arm, skimming his coat as it proceeded along its route. As the hand moved back towards his head, it would eventually come to rest upon his shoulder.
With the thought of Shauna's well-being giving him the courage he needed, John slowly turned, coming face to face with the hunter. He would become numb at the sight of what stood before him. His hands fell to his side, dropping the scarf to the ground. Every nightmare he had ever suffered through as a child could not have prepared John for what stared back at him.
Shaking uncontrollably, John took a moment to find his voice. As he began to shriek, a cold wind kicked up a blinding sheet of snow and ice, enveloping the street in total darkness. Once the wind had stopped, the quiet street once again found itself devoid of life.
There were no footprints. No traces of a struggle. Not one sign of the events of the night. The only thing that broke the monotony of the wintery canvas was the maroon scarf, lying peacefully in the snow.