Nameless Encounter

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She sat expressionless, dazed by the events that were beginning to whirlwind around her. It all seemed so surreal, almost dream-like. Only this is the stuff nightmares were made of and never in her wildest did she believe something like this could happen.

It all started when she left work. She was the last one at the office, as usual, trying to finish up that last spending report. When she finally reached the end of her task she shut everything down and walked out the back door, locking it behind her.

She had never owned a car, she didn't trust them. It didn't matter, though, because small town life made it extremely easy to get around. She only lived about a mile away from her place of employment and the night was perfect for a stroll through the park.

Conway Park was just across the street from Home Town Insurance, where she was currently employed as secretary...for the past six years. It was almost midnight when she left the sanctity of the office and the moon loomed high in the sky. It was a beautiful fall evening. The breeze was light and warm and the night around her was all but on fire. Not only was the full moon a pale red, but the trees that lined the entrance to Conway Park glowed magnificent shades of yellow and orange.

The stars were leading the way as she began her journey through the moonlit park. She passed through Conway Park's brick archway entrance and set a course down its cobble stone path. A slight wisp of wind combed through her long, dark hair as she took in the regular sights.

To her right was the playground equipment. There was a solitary jungle gym, a tall, metallic twirly slide, and a row of swings swaying eerily in the autumn air. Beyond that lay the cast iron fence which provided an outlaying boundary for Conway Park. She walked on.

To her left was a multitude of trees that stretched as far as the eye could see. There were rows of oaks and pines, birches and cedars. All at once she took in the shapes and colors, her favorite being the deep crimson of the sugar maples. Beyond the trees lied the adjacent side of the cast iron fence, but, as the old saying goes, "out of sight, out of mind." She slowed her pace.

She was not in the habit of carrying a purse, she found them highly unnecessary. Instead she carried around what she needed in whatever pocket was handy. Tonight she had on her favorite petty coat and inside her right hand pocket, her favorite pack of cigarettes.

She pulled the cigarette pack from her pocket and snagged one from the mini, cardboard coffin. Replacing the pack in her right pocket, she reached into the little black petty coat's left pocket for her lighter. She drew the cigarette to her lips, lighter to cigarette. She resumed her prior pace, shoving the lighter back into her left pocket.

The first hit of that "after work" cigarette was always the best. She savored it and walked on. Ahead of her she could see her halfway marker, the memorial bench. It was still fairly early by her standards so when she reached the bench she decided to sit and fully enjoy her cigarette.

'In Loving Memory of Janis L. Hindermet,' the bench read. She sat with her cigarette and pondered what might have happened to poor Janis. It may have been something horrible, but she quickly pushed the idea out of her head. No person, in their right mind anyway, would want a constant reminder of traumatizing events.

She thought it through, cigarette in hand, as a lurking fog rolled in. Her cigarette was almost out before she realized the sudden temperature change. The fog and the cold had literally crept up on her. She leaned forward, snuffed her cigarette on the now damp ground, and stood from the bench, continuing toward her final destination.

The fog caught her off guard and the cold was starting to get to her. She buttoned up her petty coat and picked up the pace. A few more minutes and she would be in the clear.

It was then that she heard a faint whisper. She froze and listened. Nothing. She began walking, again, but stopped short. Someone was mirroring her footsteps, or so she thought. When she started walking again she was sure of it. It sounded as though the steps were coming from behind her. She picked up the pace and so did the phantom footsteps.

A hard lump began to form in her throat and tears began to cascade down her face. She wanted to scream, but through the fog she could see the end of the parks trail. She was almost there.

Then, as suddenly as the strange footsteps began, they stopped and so did she. She was mere feet away from Conway Park's alternate brick archway, but something in her forced her to turn around. No one was there, just the ghostly fog playing with the night shadows.

She took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her eyes. The thought of insanity crossed her mind, but she reassured herself that everything was fine. She was home free, exactly where she wanted to be, with her cat and her warm bed. She turned.

Only this time it wasn't the end of the path that invaded her vision. Instead, it was the outline of a tall, dark figure. A man stood before her, his broad shoulders hunched over and his right hand raised high. She screamed at the sight of the machete he held in his hand. He swung, the blade glistening in the night light, but her reflexes kicked in and she ducked.

She scrambled to her feet as he drew the blade back to its striking position, but she was already gone. She hit the tree line and got lost in the limbs. She began to cry again, this time in deep, heaving sobs. She could hear the man behind her hacking at the tree branches.

Her mind raced as fast as her feet. She frantically tried to come up with a plan. If she hit the fence it was over, it was much too high for her to jump. She could head back the way she came, but Main Street at this hour was dead. Even if she screamed at the top of her lungs he would get to her before anyone else could. Her only option was to go around him and make it to her house.

She veered left looking desperately for a place to hide. The man was still close behind; she swore she heard him laughing. Luckily, the fog provided enough cover for her to stay out of sight. As she was taking solace in the smoke-screen around her she caught a rock and hit the ground.

Control almost slipped her grasp, but then she saw it. There was a small cluster of trees ahead to her right. The gathering made a cave-like opening just big enough for her to fit in. She crawled for her life and made it...just in time.

She sat expressionless, dazed by the events that were beginning to whirlwind around her. It all seemed so surreal, almost dream-like. Only this is the stuff nightmares were made of and never in her wildest did she believe something like this could happen.

The sounds told her the man was getting closer. Any minute he would be right on top of her. She closed her eyes and clasped her hands over her mouth. She couldn't afford to let her gasps give her away. He was within inches of her location, she could hear him panting.

His footsteps paused and he let out a shrill laugh. A chill shot up her spine. She was sure he had found her, but she was too terrified to open her eyes. Much to her surprise, however, his footsteps took off once again.

She waited until the only thing she heard was her own heartbeat. Slowly she opened her eyes, sure he would be standing right in front of her. Nothing. She pulled herself from her hiding place. He was no where in sight, this was her chance.

With a mad sprint she retraced her steps. She dodged trees left and right, their stray limbs clawing at her. This was it, do or die, and she didn't look back.

She found her way out and realized she had back tracked. 'In Loving Memory' flashed in her mind as she bolted past her halfway mark. She pushed forward, every ounce of energy pulsing through her, the survival instinct taking over.

Auto-pilot was on by the time she saw the end of the cobble stone way. She knew if she could make it through the brick arch nothing could stop her. She was almost there. She pushed herself harder. That's when she saw it, but it was too late.

She passed through the arch and through his machete. He had been waiting outside the gate. He knew. She turned to face her attacker, but all she saw was black. Her eyes rolled back into her head as her head rolled off her shoulders. Her body collapsed motionless...he laughed.

Don't Move, Don't Breathe, and Whatever You Do...DON'T LOOK BEHIND YOU!