#instagramstory #shortshort #microfiction
No one ever went back that road. There were houses on either end, but it was the places in between people told stories about. They said there was more to that land than strange noises and walking shadows, more than a mere haunting at twilight. There were things in those woods. Even though I drove home that way every night, I’d never seen anything. Until the night I had a flat.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there. I rarely saw that place in full dark, but driving through that night I could see how people got ideas. Stories about things that go bump in the night are easier to tell when there’s dark isolation and no witnesses.
I must have hit a nail, and at a horrible angle. The POP shot through the air, but the woods swallowed the noise. I threw the shifter down to first, yanked on the old parking brake and turned the engine off.
Always be prepared. Isn’t that somebody’s motto? I wasn’t prepared. No pump, no tire iron, no spare.
I was a couple of miles from home. I could walk it.
Even though it didn’t make any sense, I knew someone was following me. Paranoia crept down my spine and I kept holding my breath, straining for any odd noises. Everything I heard was normal though, and my darkened vision revealed nothing but still trees and overgrown foliage.
But I felt eyes on me. And they kept pace.
The dirt road dipped into a curve as I approached one of the half dozen spots where the creek crossed with it. The slope hid my quickened pace, and I trudged through the ankle deep water.
I came back up the other side and somehow felt more stalked than before. My heart was shuddering and despite the fact that I was the only thing in motion –
My foot caught short, my balance ripped from under me. Pain exploded through my ribs as I hit the ground hard.
I couldn’t get enough air into my seized lungs. My momentum and preoccupation with something chasing me added up to one laughable tumble. I blinked stars from my night vision as the agony sharpened my sense of reality. There was nothing following me. There was nothing in these woods but a stupid man who hadn’t replaced his spare tire and then gotten into a panic over nothing.
I looked back to see what I’d tripped on. Just an ordinary root.
That was when I saw the eyes.
My chest was on fire as I inhaled hard and reflexively. Spots blurred my vision as bone creaked. I tasted dirt and blood and my sight was full of iridescent eyes not ten feet away.
I might have been able to handle the pain if my entire body hadn’t seized on the eyes. And even then they weren’t so bad, until they blinked.
Panic hit me like a railcar barreling downhill at full speed. I stumbled back to my feet and bolted, away from the eyes. They vanished out the corner of my vision and for several horribly painful inhales I didn’t have the courage to look back.
If I kept up at this pace I was only a few minutes from my house. Teetering on that edge though, morbid curiosity got the better of me and I looked back. I didn’t see the eyes anymore.
I lost my wind about a minute later, but kept moving towards what I supposed to be safety. The night hadn’t gotten any lighter, but at least now I wasn’t jumping at every tiny little sound – nothing was louder than me gasping and wheezing. I kept looking back, searching for the eyes, and I kept not seeing them. Had I imagined them? Were they a trick of weak light, maybe glinting off a very real but very ordinary cat watching me? I knew what I’d seen, but I wasn’t brave enough to go back.
When I reached my house, I was ready to fall over; my legs were so wobbly they hardly held my weight. I climbed weakly up the porch steps, and then stopped cold, this awful knot in my gut.
I’d left the keys in the truck.