Michael D. Griffiths
It was happening again.
He could hear the footsteps, but each time he looked over his shoulder, there was nothing there.
Now Adam wished he had never left the bright bar filled with his friends, however, he had to work early and had figured it was time to head home. He contemplated returning to the tavern, but instead he cursed himself for his foolishness. He would be fine; he only lived half a mile away.
They sounded again and he whirled his head around as quickly as he could.
This wasn’t the first time Adam had thought he had heard people following him, but the steps were never as loud as tonight.
When they sounded again, closer this time, Adam turned and shouted, “Who the hell is there!”
“Is someone there? Hey, this isn’t funny. You keep messing with me and I swear I’ll kick your butt so hard your whole family won’t be able to use a chair for a week.”
With a grimace, he began to power walk. It wasn’t much farther.
His blood froze and it was all he could do to keep walking, when he first heard the breathing. Something was right behind him. This time he didn’t dare look.
Regaining his determination, he started to walk even faster. No matter how fast he moved, the steps remained right behind him. He swore he actually felt it breathing on the back of his neck.
Nearly jogging now, he turned the corner onto his street. Adam was happy to be so close, but this relief was mixed with an increased dread for his smaller street was darker than the others.
He gave out a startled yell, when an icy hand clamped down on his shoulder. He tried to run, but the hand had his shoulder in an iron grip.
He cried out again, louder this time. Maybe his neighbors would help him. Looking around frantically, he didn’t see any lights come on.
Whatever had him, pulled him back. He could feel its chill breathe on his collar.
“Don’t you want to see me?” it whispered in a hollow voice, like gravel ground into sandpaper. “You wanted to before.”
“Please, just let me go,” he heard himself beg.
“Now, why would I do that after I went to all the effort to catch you?”
“Who…who are you?”
“I’m The Traveler. I’ve been traveling a long long time.” It gave forth a chuckle. “Traveling makes me hungry.”
“What are you?” His voice was barely more than a whisper.
“Nothing that your measly intellect has ever heard of, although much of your collective nightmares have been based on my travels. I am everywhere. I never cease.”
“But I tire of this, I have far to go yet tonight and you will help me maintain my pace.”
The tombstone cold hand shifted until it was grabbing him by the throat and Adam knew pain. A pain unlike any he had ever endured. Within seconds, he knew it was killing him. Just then, a car turned the corner and flooded the road with its blaring headlights.
Behind him the thing calling himself The Traveler hissed and its grip loosened.
Adam didn’t hesitate. Using all his strength, he tore away from the villainous creature. It was surprised by the sudden move and Adam lurched forward gaining his freedom. The sudden release of tension however caused him to loose balance and he went tumbling onto his hands and knees.
Without thinking, he looked over his shoulder. As soon as he did, he knew that he shouldn’t have.
A black and tattered cloak flapped around a bone white vistage, which had a pair of glowing coals for eyes. The eyes consumed him. Adam witnessed every horror ever experienced by man. Each tribe’s nightmare, every culture’s thing under the bed, the rasping in the dark.
* * *
Adam was still screaming when the car stopped before him and bathed him with its bright headlights.
* * *
He was still screaming a week later while Doctor Steward was updating Doctor Daniels, who would be the on-call doctor that weekend. Pointing his silver pen at the door to Adam’s locked room, Daniels asked, “What is his issue?”
“Let’s see, O5, he is one of our newer clients, Adam Philips. No history of mental illness. A neighbor reported finding him screaming in the street. He hasn’t let up since then. Even when his voice is almost gone, he keeps at it. You know I hate to ever put a client into an Observation room, but in this case I had little choice, for he was scaring everyone.”
“So do you think it’s his first schizophrenic break then?”
“Most likely, he has certainly not aged out of that possibility. Just keep him on the 2 500 miligram doses of Zyprexa and let’s just hope this wave breaks. Now this next client is one you are used to…”
* * *
Inside the room, Adam hadn’t heard them. Instead, he screamed out as the horrors the Night had visited onto all of mankind played before his eyes again and again.
Only one thought was able to struggle through his fear and pain, he wished he hadn’t been rescued.