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Night Walking

Never before had a sky so perfectly fitted mood and moment. The scurrying clouds blown by the unrelenting wind were backlit by a waxing moon, just a few days shy of full, so bright it hurt the eye and cast long shadows upon the night ground.

Tania, head down, thick knitted scarf pulled up around her ears, hands thrust in pockets, hurried down the lane towards home. She shuddered as she passed the wrought iron gates to the manor, abandoned now for some thirty years. She glanced to her right, peering up the long drive to the empty house and grimaced. All that was missing from this night was a haunted graveyard.

She smiled wryly. Andrew had offered her a lift, but she had never been comfortable in his company, unsure of his motives. She had often caught him staring at her in unguarded moments and he seemed to pay her more attention than was proper. The thought of being alone with him in a car on this dark, Halloween lane prompted another shudder. No, she had been right to politely decline.

A loud crash from somewhere to the left startled her. She paused, staring myopically through the gloom. From behind a leaning and twisted brick wall a cat yowled. A second crash told of a dustbin lid tumbling to the ground. Tania sighed and shook her head, forcing her unwilling legs onwards.

As a child she had always sung when she was nervous, reciting favourite nursery rhymes, carols or ballads. She attempted a soft hum now, not wanting to sing out loud in so public a place, afraid of drawing unwanted attention to herself. She could manage little more than a croak.

A gust of wind whipped up the papery leaves, flinging them along the lane and into her back. She scolded herself for allowing her imagination to frighten her so and struck out more purposefully.

Only half-a-mile to go now. Ahead was the dark corner by the old hall, overshadowed even on the brightest of June days by the towering yew trees, then the park with its wide open spaces, the short alleyway between the two housing estates, and, finally, home.

She willed herself onwards. The moon emerged from behind a cloud, turning night into low aperture day. Looking up at it she would not have been surprised to have seen a witch on a broomstick cross its face. Such nonsense. She was a grown woman now, not some silly scatter-brained schoolgirl.

Her journey took her from pools of silver to the syrupy blackness of the shadows of the old hall grounds. Beyond the wall the yew trees creaked in the wind. Something flew past her, almost brushing the bobble of her hat. She ducked down and stared up blindly, waving an arm to ward off her unseen attacker.

In the distance a dog howled, perhaps as disturbed by this foreboding evening as she was. She shuffled closer to the wall for comfort, protection, and stumbled on, furious with herself now for turning down Andrew's offer.

The wind whistled through the trees, emitting an unearthly low hum. A branch fell, landing with two thuds upon the unseen ground on the other side of the wall. She jumped and the start of a scream escaped her lips before she could stop it. She turned it into a nervous giggle and broke into a jog, anxious to be past the hall and into the open park.

She frowned. Barely audible above her own was another set of footsteps. She twisted as she ran, trying to see the lane behind her. Through the darkness she spotted him, a shadow of deeper darkness, running after her.

She gasped and turned back, pushing herself harder. The footsteps behind kept pace. She whimpered, praying for a passing car, or a late night dog-walker. There was no-one. Just her and her pursuer.

As she turned the corner she risked a backwards glance. The figure had almost caught up with her, his face hidden behind a balaclava of some kind. She screamed and stumbled. Sobbing in terror, she crashed on, reaching out for the wall to steady herself.

He was on her! He grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. She struggled and kicked, screaming with all her strength. He held her tight, catching her free arm easily and holding it in an unyielding grasp.

'Let me go!' she screamed, her voice cracking.

'Tania, calm down,' said a familiar voice.

She stopped, staring at the eyes behind the balaclava, then she sagged with relief, crumpling against the man's chest. 'Oh it's you, Andrew! God, I thought …'

'I offered you a lift.'

'Yes, I know. I should have …'

'Yes, you should,' his voice was hard, almost expressionless. 'It would have saved me a lot of effort.'

She tried to pull away from him, tentacles of fear feeling their way into her brain. 'Andrew?'

'I think it was better this way,' he said, almost thoughtfully. 'More fun.'


In one fluid motion he lifted her onto his shoulder and carried her to the driveway of the old hall. She kicked and thrashed, hammering his back with her fists. He seemed unmoved. He strode into the dark gardens, heedless of the low branches scraping at her face, and flung her down onto the ground.

She scrabbled on all fours to get away, but he reached down and dragged her back by her ankle. 'Now then, Tania. The chase is over. This is where the fun begins.'

The scream that rose in her throat was choked off by the sight of a silver blade, flashing in the moonlight. Too afraid to move, too stunned to scream, she could only watch as he lunged at her, repeatedly. Her instincts about him had been right all along. She had been right not to accept a lift from him. Not that it had made the slightest difference in the end.


© 2011 Kay Lawrence.


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