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Too Late to Run: Horror Flash Fiction by cam

Updated on June 27, 2016
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Too Late to Run

A wintery blanket covered the trees and ground of the woods, a result of the quirky weather of late November. The light from Jack’s headlamp penetrated the darkness and sent shadows fleeing to swallow up the path behind him and the imprints left by his running shoes.

He passed beneath the leafless canopy for the second time that morning. The tracks from his previous lap ran ahead and around a bend. He entered the turn and the beam from his headlamp swept the scene, revealing an unexpected set of tracks which led out of the woods and merged with his own.

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Jack stopped and knelt down to examine one of the new footprints. Its maker had been traveling on two bare feet. He placed his shoe beside it. The barefoot print was slightly larger than his size 10 1/2 trail runners.

The prints seemed to be human except for some kind of extension off the end of each toe. Claws? He ran forward a few yards. Yes, the barefoot, claw footed visitor had been behind him. Relax, he told himself. The fact that it was behind me doesn’t mean it’s following me. He proceeded on in the direction he had been running.

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Bare hardwoods gave way to tall evergreens, changing the forest from moderately dark to what seemed like the blackness of a cave. Jack's light bored its way into the night until he was forced to stop short. Across the seven foot wide trail lay the trunk of a fallen tree that had not been there on his first lap.

The strange tracks he was following were scattered around the obstacle. A snorting sound, such as a deer would make when alarmed, came from behind him on the trail. Jack darted into the woods on the right to go around the dead tree. More snorting sounds came from the direction he was headed. Either his pursuer had gotten there before him, or there was another, or others.

Jack moved farther into the trees. Dawn had not yet begun and he hid among the shadows. He knew this woods very well and it was too small to get lost in. He had to get back to his car.

He heard sniffing, like a dog that has found a new scent. He was being hunted, but by what? Tingling fear crawled down his neck and back.

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Jack resisted the temptation to run. He needed to know more about his pursuers. Who were they? What were they? He could climb a tree, but the idea of being caught with no way of escape chased the thought away. He retreated even farther into the trees. Would dawn ever come? He looked up. Clouds. Only clouds. Then he remembered the snow that had fallen. It would be a gloomy sunrise at best.

He moved toward where his car was parked. The snorting was more distant and hope welled up inside him. He pulled the car keys from his pocket. If he got close enough, he might be able to outrun whoever was chasing him.

The sound of footsteps pounded in his ears. At least one of his stalkers was onto him, but still Jack did not run. He had been trained as a marine and knew how to fight. He would stay and learn something about these hunters. He grabbed the only weapon at hand, a sturdy oak branch.

The first sight of the enemy struck Jack with a paralysis that would not be shaken off easily. It was too late to run. The creature was upon him. The fur covered beast leapt into the air like a cliff diver. Jack recovered from his immobility and swung his club at the canine face, its fangs bared, snarling, clawed hands reaching for his throat.

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Jack was running before the unconscious devil hit the ground. He ran with the speed and stamina he had been developing for years. This time it wasn’t to win a medal or recognition, but to save his life. The howling began while he was running through the trees toward the trailhead. They were on both sides and behind him.

The car was a hundred yards away. Jack and the creatures emerged from the woods at different points. He could see them in the darkness, because their eyes glowed green. He fumbled with the key fob, thumbing buttons at random. The trunk flew open. The alarm wailed.

The howling became snorting as the beasts closed in. Jack grabbed the door handle and pulled. It was still locked. He squeezed the fob. The lock clicked. He jerked the door open and slid in toward the seat. Fabric and flesh tore as claws ripped across his back.

He was in the car with the door pulled closed as far as the fur covered arm and clawed hand would allow. He grabbed his wife’s metal fingernail file from the drink holder and stabbed it into the back of the monster’s hand. Screams from the creature and gravel from the car’s tires filled the gloomy dawn air.

Jack skidded into the driveway, nearly ramming the back of his wife’s car. Inside, she held him as he shook them both with adrenalin and terror. He tried to explain, but the words were nonsense. Blood dripped from his saturated shirt, pooling on the hardwood floor.

That night, after returning from the hospital emergency room, his wife slept beside him. Howls drifted across the landscape from the woods as if calling to him. Jack lay with his eyes open, and a green glow filled the room.

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 15 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      William, thank you for dropping into HubPages today to read my story. I appreciate the kind and thoughtful words.

    • profile image

      William Thomas 15 months ago

      Chris, that was a bit of good, old fashioned, direct, and straightforward narrative of the "something wicked this way comes" variety: a scary monster coming to eat you!

      Its nice to see a classic form executed so well.

      Take it easy.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 18 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Frank, thanks for reading this little bit of horror. I think the wife might want to move to the guest room. Nice to see you today.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 18 months ago from Shelton

      Cam you certainly know how to pull out all emotional stops.. love the story line and the sage played out here awesome story-telling my friend :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      bethperry, I'm glad you got a good dose of chill out of this one. Thanks for reading.

      Larry, I'm glad this held your interest. Good to see you here.

      Shauna, I don't know what they are. I was hoping you could tell me :) Thanks for reading it though.

      Deb, I'm glad the story had some scare to it. That was my running trail for several years. Now it's a subdivision.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 19 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Beautifully done. The harrowing experience shines through.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 19 months ago from Central Florida

      The green glow in the bedroom would leave me sleepless for the rest of my life. What are those creatures and what do they want? This story leaves the reader begging for answers to many questions.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 19 months ago from Oklahoma

      A quick paced nail biter all the way. A thoroughly engaging read.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 19 months ago from Tennesee

      Chris, you got a pertinent amount of chill-factor in such a short story. Good job!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      MsDora, I appreciate your kind words about my writing and the story. I'm looking forward to writing more stories using the things I've learned recently. Thanks for visiting.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 19 months ago from The Caribbean

      Good story teller and good story! You paint fear very effectively and you had me running with Jack. Well told from beginning to end!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 19 months ago from SW England

      It's so easy to miss those things when one proof-reads oneself, even when you're looking out for such things. I'm sure you'd have seen it eventually!

      Your stories are always great and so original.

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Bill, thanks for that. I really do sense a faster pace when I read this. All the "AS so and so was blah-ING, really slowed things down. I never realized it. I used that pattern a lot. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, Thanks for the heads up on the o. "Tingling fear crawled down his back." Why didn't I see that? That's exactly what I'm attempting to do. Personify, paint a picture, anything but telling it. Thanks for that one too.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Always a great read....to me it's a good story the way it stands. Entertaining, fast-paced....well-done.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Thanks Eric, This one is choppier, but it is because I need to combine some sentences etc. Flash fiction is all about fast pace and immediate action, so I'll get the hang of this.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 19 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic, I thought he was a gonner for sure. I spent time running in early morning snow covered trails so I really felt it. I am a bit cold at the moment -- good job.

      Just for me, it seems a bit choppier without the extra words. I get the point about a story about a story but in reality we all see things as though we were looking at them from outside so it seems natural to me.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 19 months ago from SW England

      Ooooh, scary stuff, Chris! I love it. Paragraph sub-title should be 'Too...' , you missed an 'o'; just a typo, and is it 'this wood' or 'these woods'?

      How about personifying fear? - 'Tingling fear crawled down his back.' Just echoing what advice you had at the start.

      Otherwise the pace is fast, literally! I'm there with him, running scared, and we get the sense of panic and urgency.

      Thanks, too, for passing on that advice you've had from the competition community. It's good to bounce ideas off others and get the general consensus, isn't it?

      Great story!

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Christine, thanks for reading and for the comment. I just knew he needed a weapon in the car. Nail file seemed to be something he would find there. Nice to see you here today.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 19 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      John, this was a short story I wrote years ago. It is based on a place I used to do a lot of running. I decided to turn it into flash fiction. It is basically a werewolf tale, which is so overdone it is hardly worth trying anymore. But I thought I'd see if I could improve my writing with it at this time. Thanks for reading it and for the comment.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 19 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Good to see you back from the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, Chris. You are still going so well done. This story is fast moving with plenty of tension. Good work.

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 19 months ago

      Chris,

      I don't know if there is anything I can comment to push you back to your hub and change for any reason; you apparently are tracking your writing with care. Your note before telling your story is good information for fellow Hubbers- thanks.

      I can say:

      A buoyant story. The object-nail file, particularly his wife's, and its location for his reach made all the difference for me in your conclusion to this mans animated panic.

      Christine

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