Not everyone knows, and not everyone believes, that there are things that go bump in the night. As a practicing witch I am not supposed to believe, either.
But I do. I know better. There is something… some THINGS out there. Those things you catch out of the corner of your eye. The things you don’t want to or won’t let yourself see; those things that cause your gut to clench when you’re out in the dark and the hair to stand up on the back of your neck. You tell yourselves that there is nothing there, that the rattling bottle was just the wind, that the footsteps you heard were all in your head.
But maybe they were real. I know I believe.
I was alone one night, just walking. I am a nyctophile, I prefer the darkness to daylight and I enjoy walking under the stars. Even now, it is where I find peace, But that night, there wasn’t peace. I had been walking for about thirty minutes at a moderate pace, not enough to be winded, just enough to sweat a little. That’s when I heard it. Or should I say them. Footsteps. Pacing mine exactly. Soft, barely audible. If the wind hadn’t been blowing the sound towards me, I probably wouldn’t have heard them at all.
I paused just at the edge of a pool of light cast by a streetlamp and half-turned, rubbing my hands together against the Autumn chill. About fifty paces behind me was a man dressed in black: Black suit, dark shirt, dark long coat, a bowler hat… the only splash of color was the white of his teeth when he smiled. I smiled back invitingly and tried not to reach for the knife I always carry. Something about his smile creeped me out and made the butterflies in my stomach do a jitterbug.
The figure didn’t move. He just kept smiling. I shrugged and turned away, skirting the light and crossing the street to get away from the figure. When the itching between my shoulder-blades stopped, I looked back. The figure was gone. But unless he went into one of the pitch dark houses nearby, he had just vanished into thin air.
I scanned the street and strained my ears, but there was no sign of him. I shook my head and started walking again. Just a perv on his way home, smart enough not to mess with the local “nut.”
A few minutes later, he was back. The footsteps dogging my heels. I spun and walked backwards and there he was, closer than he’d been and somehow more menacing. This time I did reach for my knife. It is a “folder” with a thumb break so I can flick it open with one hand. Don’t worry, I have a license and training.
“Can I help you?” I called out politely
The figure just smiled again, those white teeth glowing.
“It is a nice night for a walk, but you seem to be following me,” I said.
The figure’s smile widened and he touched a very long and spindly finger to his hat. The gesture should have been polite, a nice if old-fashioned greeting. But somehow it scared the hell out of me. I forced a smile and turned away, walking faster. I thought I would have been making ground but when I looked back, he was still there, just taking longer strides to keep up, his footsteps still matching mine.
For one of the few times in my life, I ran. I live on a big loop and home was just a quarter mile away.
I rounded the top of the loop and started down the hill towards my house, the only one on the street that was still lit. Seconds later I leapt over my hedge and slammed into the door, fumbling with my keys as I listened to the stranger’s footsteps getting closer.
After about eighteen years I unlocked the door and slipped inside, slamming it behind me. I shot the bolt and reached for my trunk of Wicca odds and ends. I keep shield incense and charmed chalk around all the time. When you traffic in magik, you learn to keep some protection ready. Not everyone who practices is as nice as I am.
I poured the incense into a small brazier and lit it as Piper, my familiar, wandered into the room, concern in her blue eyes. I smiled at her and then turned to draw a line at the bottom of my door and a protective sigil on the door itself. I then peeked out through the sheers that cover my living room window. The figure stood at the end of the walkway, staring at the house. He raised his head as if sniffing the air and, by the light of the street lamp I have cursed every day since I moved in, I saw a wizened face and very very pointy teeth.
The figure nodded once at the house and raised a finger to his hat again as if he knew I was watching. He then strolled away, fading out of sight before he reached the street lamp.
A lot of…odd… things happen in my neighborhood. It is part of the reason I moved here; to try and help. A head was found in a drainage ditch at the bottom of the hill. A woman was found mauled to death less than 100 yards from my back door. Animals go missing, people go missing; my street sees more violent crime than the so called “bad areas” of the city by 85%. I’d always attributed it to bad people doing bad things. Not anymore. Now I know it is one of the Tall Men. And one day, I will find him.
Of course, I am a writer. I trade in fiction. This could be just a story, something to pass the time.
Or the things that go bump in the night could be real. Watch your backs my loves.