Short Story: The Monster

Since I absolutely can’t think of anything to write today, I decided to just share another short story.

See my writing group has held quite a few short story competitions between group members, and I figured I’d share some of mine. They aren’t anything near publishable (all first drafts), but they were all fun to write, and hopefully fun to read. We allow a period of one week for the stories to be written, and it must be between 1 and 5 thousand words. Our competitions are based on a prompt given by another member, and the prompt for this one was:

Someone has been following me for a long time. Now I’m finally going to do something about it.

So, here is my take on that prompt.

The Monster

She could feel his eyes again.

They followed her from the rear exit of the school, down the sidewalk, past the parking lot and further still, on into the depths of her winding sub-division. No turn deterred him, and no matter how many times she cut through a backyard, he just couldn’t be shaken. He was a shadow attached to her heel.

Her steps were fast, but the eyes were unrelenting and tireless. She could feel them on her back and weighing heavy on her shoulders, wanting something from her, something she couldn’t and wouldn’t give up without a fight. They filled her with dread every time she left the house or the school, that dark stare always finding her again and begging for an answer to his unasked demands. She tried to not think of what he’d do if he ever caught her, choosing instead to leave the sidewalk and bolt across Mrs. Davie’s back lawn.

She sprinted, just a few of those running steps revving her heart to pound faster than her footfalls in the damp grass. The unkempt wall of bushes separating Mrs. Davie’s lawn from Mr. Bungle’s was only a few yards away. The bush had been there before either had moved in, and neither neighbor wanted to lay claim to the maintenance. It was overgrown to three foot high and a handful of wild inches, but she could make the leap over at that speed. When she was a foot or so away she did just that, but her foot slipped on the grass and she tumbled down on the other side.

Rolling on her side to ease the fall, she sprung back up onto her feet and kept going, dew and grass stains nothing compared to the adrenaline spurring her every step. She ran and ran, refusing to look back and meet the eyes chasing after. He wasn’t far behind, she could hear him panting to catch up, and she couldn’t bear to turn and see the hunger in his eyes. He’d salivated at the sight of her before and it filled her with a terror she hadn’t been able to shake for days. By the time she got to the front door her cheeks were flushed and her lungs burned as she fumbled with the keys.

“Come on, come on!” she pleaded with the metal, missing the lock once before slipping the key home at last.

The door opened and she rushed inside, slamming it shut behind her before securing the locks and leaning back against it, as if her small amount of added weight might stop him from breaking through. Her eyes closed as she tried to catch her breath. Then the sound filtered through; nails against the door, lightly scratching as if to say, “little pig, little pig, let me in.” A shiver ran across her skin and down her spine.

“Go away!” she screamed, jumping away from the door to watch the knob, afraid he might somehow find a way to get inside.

The scratching only continued for a few seconds longer, and with the following silence her shoulders sagged in relief. Another day survived.

Heading to her room, she tried to think back on when it had all first started and why, but for as long as she could recall he had been there, stalking her every day like some inescapable waking nightmare. She’d done nothing to deserve his unwanted attention. Her parents just laughed it off and called her paranoid, but they had never seen the hunger in his eyes or those gleaming teeth when he smiled so big. They didn’t understand the fear that gripped her heart and stole her breath, and they’d never watched him chase her to the door. He hunted her like the beast he was, and she ran like the good little prey he’d turned her into.

She shook her head and fell face first onto her covers, burying herself in their comfort to stifle a sob. This was something she’d have to handle on her own. There’d be nobody to save her, nobody to protect her. Her parents were barely around to begin with, both early to rise and late to come home. She curled into a ball, contemplating her options as she cried herself to sleep.

When she fled to her door the following day she took a nasty fall on the stoop. The skin on her knee tore open and her palms were shredded, both burning as she washed them under cool water in the tub. Staring down at the injuries she cried again, but where pure panic and sorrow had been before a new anger started to burn in her chest and claw up her throat. This wasn’t fair! He had to be stopped!

As she watched the blood circle down the drain a plan began to formulate. Maybe the answer was to let him catch her. She’d have to be ready for it though, have a weapon in hand. If she hurt him, maybe he’d reconsider the chase and give up. Another thought crept in though and she shuddered. What if she couldn’t fight him off? What if the weapon was useless and after he had her down on the ground there was nothing she could do to stop him. She was too young to fathom all the shades of horror that could happen, but she did know enough about evil to know it would likely hurt. Maybe he’d even kill her.

It took another week of terror-filled sprints for the door to gather up her courage and steel her resolve. For too many years she’d been driven by fear. It ended now. She wasn’t sure how the encounter would work out, but she was too tired of the chase to care anymore. Her mother had yelled at her for the ripped jeans and her father had told her there was nothing to be afraid of, that she was making up monsters in her head to get attention.

The following day she went to school with the supplies buried at the bottom of her backpack. She couldn’t bring all of it in, no weapons allowed on campus after all, but the rest of it would never be questioned. Of course she wasn’t even sure if her plan-A would be any good; her attacker might not be convinced to stop his hunt for an offered snack of surrender, but if he did, that might stop her from having to use the kitchen knife she’d hidden away in the bushes. She wondered what it might feel like to stab somebody, the idea of it turning her stomach. Even killing bugs was something she couldn’t stand to do, and yet here she was, plotting something far more violent. Still, it was the only option.

When the final bell rang it felt like there was lead lining her feet and stomach. Every step to the exit was slow and heavy, the weight of what was to come almost too much to bear. It felt like a funeral march, like when her nana had died and they’d had to walk from the car to her grave. Standing by the door, her hand hovered in place until somebody pushed her from behind.

“Move it!” a girl she didn’t know shouted at her before disappearing into the bright afternoon sunlight.

Taking a deep breath and swallowing down the lump in her throat, she finally forced herself to leave the building. As she walked toward the parking lot she could already feel him watching. Her heart sped, but she kept herself from running by digging out the plastic baggie from her backpack. It held a stick of string cheese injected with something from a blue bottle under the kitchen sink. She couldn’t remember what it was called, but she remembered the warning on the back and how serious it sounded.

At the edge of the parking lot she paused beside a shrub and looked around. Her stalker wasn’t visible but she knew he’d be watching, however nobody else was paying attention to her. Not willing to take the risk of being caught red handed though, she bent down to tie her shoe, having undone it while leaving her last class. She tied it with slow deliberation, then brushed off the top of her sneaker with one hand, the other snaking into the bush to pluck out the knife. Nobody caught her slipping it into her side pocket, and the eyes watching her were on the opposite side. She grinned and stood, her heart still hammering, only now with excitement as well as fear.

It was when she got into her neighborhood that she could hear the familiar steps behind her. They were far enough away so that if anybody looked it wouldn’t be apparent that he was following her directly, but she knew that he was fast enough to close that distance before too long. Sometimes she could scarcely believe how fast he was, his legs carrying him swift as the wind so that she could almost feel his breath against the back of her neck.

Well it ended here today.

With determination she hadn’t known she’d possessed until now, she took off running, heading straight for Mrs. Davie’s lawn again. She had it all planned out: across the lawn, over the bush then turn; across the lawn, over the bush then turn. The mantra repeated in her head, flowing to her footfalls and blurring the world around her so that all she had was the plan and her pursuer.

She sprinted across the lawn.

She dove over the bush.

She turned.

In one hand she held the knife, keeping it behind her back, and in the other she had the cheese brandished like a sword. A few heartbeats later he was over the bush, landing only a couple of feet away and coming to a startled halt at the sight of her. He’d been anticipating a longer chase as well, their daily ritual brought to a premature end. He blinked at her with dark and heavy eyes, panting for breath just as she was.

“I don’t want to do this anymore.” She started, a single waver of her words the only sign of distress she revealed. “I’m just so tired of this all so here,” she wiggled the cheese toward him. “I brought this for you. It’s a peace offering. I’m giving up.”

He said nothing as he inched closer, eyes darting from her to the cheese. There was confusion on his face, this unexpected turn of events leaving him more puzzled than ever. She forced a smile for him though, wiggling the treat again.

“I give up. You–you can do whatever you want.”

A few more cautious steps brought him within arm’s reach. She could stab him now, but she wanted to be sure. If he ate her peace offering first, then she might not have to stab him at all. Maybe he’d just leave her alone and take getting sick as a warning that she wasn’t to be messed with. He stared a second longer then snatched the cheese from her hand without warning, devouring it like the ill-mannered animal he was. So confident was he in her surrender that he hadn’t even looked at her while eating, but he ate the snack so swiftly that suddenly she was afraid he wouldn’t get sick fast enough. He grinned and took a step closer again, teeth bared, tongue darting out to lick his lips. His hunger hadn’t be satisfied.

He was on her then.

With a single dive he knocked her over, onto her back, and she watched with wide-eyed horror as his face descended down to hers. What his plans were she wasn’t sure, but her own instinct took over. She wouldn’t be his prey any longer! With a scream she turned her head away from him and stabbed up blindly, her hand coming in from the side and to his throat. She could feel the knife plunge into something soft, her hand pressing against his warm coat for a second before something wet fell onto her cheek.

There was only a single splatter before he yelped and tore away, taking the knife with him. She heard him rustle across the bush again, back to where he’d come from, but it took her many minutes to build up the courage to move again. First she could only open her eyes and turn her head to look up at the sky. It was a brighter shade of blue than she’d ever seen before. Next she reached up to wipe at her cheek, her fingers coming back red.

The rest of her journey home was walked, and for the first time ever she unlocked her door at a leisurely pace. There was no demons nipping at her heels this time, no monster lurking on the other side of the closed door. In a daze of relief and disbelief she went to the bathroom and cleaned up, washing away the blood with a grin on her face. Even a hot shower couldn’t wash the expression away. It was even there the next day when her mom made Saturday morning breakfast, shaking her head with disappointment.

“What kind of neighborhood is this turning into Dave?” she asked her husband while flipping the pancakes. She hadn’t noticed her daughter grinning at the dining room table.

“What do you mean hun?”

“I was out watering the flowers this morning and Shelly from down the road was walking up posting flyers. Apparently some monster poisoned and stabbed her dog yesterday! Said the vet didn’t think little Brucie would make it.”

“That’s a damn shame.” Dave agreed, paying more attention to his paper than to his wife.

Their daughter just smiled.

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