I gasp for air in the drain pipe as my shoulder pounds in pain. My vision is swimming. Slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and my torn up palms trace their way along the bottom of the tunnel. Scrabbling deeper into the dark, I curl into a ball every time I hear that damn sound.
I had been walking home from my office when I heard it the first time. My boss, Parker, made me stay late again and I was starting to curse myself for deciding to jog to work this morning instead of driving. Taylor was trying to get me into shape for our upcoming vacation and I was doing a shit poor job of actually listening to her. I know she doesn’t want to be the woman hanging out on the beach with the husband equivalent of a beached whale, but getting myself to be motivated was harder and harder to achieve.
Walking alone down the darkened backstreets didn’t bother me. I preferred it to the howling masses that seemed to live on Main Street at this time of night, swarming between the bars and restaurants that dotted the road in the middle of town.
Alone with my thoughts and the quiet music seeping through my headphones, I made my way down the darkened alleys. I figured I was alone until I turned the corner.
“I don’t want to hurt you, man, but I will. Give me your wallet and your phone and don’t try any shit.”
The man, really a boy now that I think of it, couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18. Time stopped and I noticed everything. His eyes were ringed and bagged, fingernails ragged and chewed. He looked paler than I was, and the unmistakable tremors and sweating indicated some kind of drug use.
It’s easy to feel detached now, but then all I found myself focusing on was the boxy shape of a Glock 9mm handgun pointed directly at my chest. Adrenaline kicked in and before I knew it I was holding my phone and wallet above my head, as though they were an offering to the gods.
The kid was shaking the gun at me and yelling, but by this point I had no idea what he was saying. The sounds of the world were being droned out by the noise of blood pumping in my ears. He waved the gun, and I realized he wanted me to drop the stuff on the floor.
Practically throwing my phone and wallet, I dumped them on the floor and took a few steps back. The thief scooped them up and with that he was gone. The sounds of the world slowly faded back into perception, and I was left standing in the dark alley with nothing left but the encroaching feeling of nausea.
Then I heard the scream. The scream was panicked and primal. At first I thought it was an animal like a rabbit or something, but my brain connected the dots when I heard the clattering from the Glock hitting the asphalt.
I worked up my courage and approached the brick corner at the end of the alley. Peering around the edge, I could see the legs of the thief dangling from the rooftop as he was slowly being pulled over the ledge.
The smell of copper and ozone filled my nostrils and the only thing I could hear was a sickly popping noise. Every morning when we wake up, Taylor likes to pop her back. I hate that noise. It bothers me to my core and even though I ask her to not do it, she can’t help herself. She just grins at me and struggles to crack her back multiple times in a row. This was like that, but left me feeling like I was going to throw up.
Looking above me is when I first saw it. It’s head was shaped like an over-sized pumpkin. It’s empty, raw eye sockets stared back at me. Below it sat a gaping hole where a mouth should be.
I turned and ran. My feet pounding against the pavement as whatever it was began trailing me across the rooftops. As I passed alleyways and empty streets I realize that whatever it was, it was clearing the 20 foot gaps between the buildings as easy as you or I stepping over a crack in the pavement.
Whatever the thing is, it’s big. I can hear its joints pop as it lopes across the buildings next to me. I can hear a low dry croaking sound each time it lands after a jump.
I turn towards the river and hope to lose it in the forest lying along the shore when I make my mistake. I trip, whether it’s over a rock or hole in the ground, it ends with only one thing. I tumble down the embankment and slam my shoulder into the concrete drainage pipe.
Now, climbing through the pipe I realize that I can hide out here until morning. Then my heart sinks. I come to a locked security grate. I’m barely twenty feet into the pipe when I hear the sickening, cracking of joints and see a filthy and white bony hand work its way towards me. As I press my back against the grate, the thing leans further into the tunnel, plunging me into complete darkness.