I had meant to be home before dark, always try to either arrange my transport in advance or be in the house safe and warm before the streets turn themselves over to the night. I’m sensible not cowardly but in truth am a bit scared of the dark corners and empty doorways.
We’d had a bad day at work. The system had gone down twice and then Charles, the boss, was in a foul mood. You have to understand that Charles is not a bad boss but he is a boss with a hard life. He has a demanding wife, troublesome kids and continual hassle from head office. We try to be understanding but once he’s slammed his door and closed the blinds then everyone knows it’s best to keep your head down and hope he doesn’t single you out for a roasting.
That’s all by the by of course, a bad day in our office equals a mass exodus at the click of five thirty and a reconvening ten minutes later in the Oak Tree pub down the road. Everyone had a good old moan and then the usual, “You think today was bad, I remember when the system was off for two whole days, disaster for an estate agent, and then on and on all the old horror stories which lead inexorably to the comedy tales. Then Mandy suggested we eat something and Jack said why not buy some bottles because it works out cheaper and well you know how it goes and before you know it you’re into a long session.
About eleven I walked out of the pub with Trudi and missed the bus by a hair’s breadth. Then we couldn’t find a cab and in the end had walked so far that it seemed silly to carry on looking for one.
We went down the High Street, by now it was drizzling with rain and the lights looked pretty reflecting on the glossy paving. Not too cold and to be honest I was quite enjoying it. Then Trudi turned off leaving me on my own.
The High Street meanders through town up towards the church and of course what do you have when you have a church, yup you get a church yard. What do you get in a church yard, yup creepy, dark and gloomy graves.
Okay, I know you’re sitting there thinking, well why the heck did you go there. Walk the long way, but that would have meant retracing the last half mile and I was warmed with wine and still carrying quite a lot of alcohol bravado and it is so much quicker to cut through and I’m a grown up after all.
I pushed open the kissing gate and stepped in. The church porch has a light in it that they never turn off and the street lamps light the graveyard quite well for the first bit. By now I was lonely and starting to feel just ever so slightly insecure. The noises from the street were muted by the hedge and the old stone wall. The light was dimming the further in I went and I was very aware of the clunk, clunk of my shoe heels on the path.
Pulling my coat collar up around my neck I kept on clunk, clunk, clunk. The path was a dark tunnel between the trees with the shadows of the old stones deep holes in the grass. I glanced behind, not because I thought there was anything following it was a natural reaction to the loneliness and the dark, just a glance. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, yes literally they did and they prickled and that made me shiver. Quick as a blink I turned back, my stomach clenched, throat constricted. I had seen something, coming through the gate. I told myself that, no of course I hadn’t. Take a breath, steady keep calm. Clunk, clunk, clunk faster now.
Ears straining, breathing speeding, nerves jangling, there was something there wasn’t there. I could hear it, feel it, sense it.
Don’t be ridiculous. What could be there. Stop, turn round.
A shadow there passing that tree, tall human shaped a dark threat in the gloom.
Clutching my coat tight around me, breathing in short sharp gasps, don’t run, clunkclunkclunk, don’t run.
Faster and faster down into the gloom, heading to the far gate and the wall. Steady, steady, quick glance behind, something there beside the wall, dark and threatening coming closer, faster than me.
Run, run now, slippery flagstones, inevitable stumble, down into the wet grass.
Painful knees and stinging hands on the hard paving, sobbing and reaching out to the old stones to hoist myself upright.
Glance back, where is it, where has it gone, I know it’s there. A marble angel leers down at me as I stagger forwards looking back. There it is, there down behind that mausoleum, heading for me, oh what is it.
Can’t think now panic obliterating thought, running clunkclunkclunk got to reach the gate. Let me reach the gate. Bag slips from my shoulder, leave it, no turn snatch it up. Clunkclunkclunk.
I can see the gate, the streetlamps on the far side. Quick glance back, it’s still there, its running now gaining on me, eating up the space between us. I see it I am doomed.
“Sophie”, it knows my name, “Sophie” it calls to me in the night. “Hang on Soph I’ve still got your laptop”.
“Oh thanks, Trudi.”
“Hey are you OK, why did you run away, I didn’t scare you did I. Did you fall over just then?”
“No, no I thought I saw a bus coming. Scared me, good heavens, no. Thanks for the laptop, sorry I forgot it. Okay see you tomorrow. Bye then.”
Clunk clunk clunk.