This one was an interesting write for me. I have been working on it over the past week and have debated if this was the route I wanted to take. I had four other endings for it that just didn’t seem to go how I wanted. This one felt like my best fit.
I hope you all enjoy!
There was a woman in a little town in the middle of nowhere America who ran every morning. She usually sticks to the same path, but now and then she likes to break pattern and go off the trail through the woods. She never listened to music as she ran. The sounds around her drowned out her thoughts. Her feet hit the ground left, right, left, right until she heard what sounded like another set behind her. She felt her legs begin to move quicker underneath her. Her adrenaline kicked into high gear and all she could hear was her own heartbeat and her breathing. She thought whoever was behind her could hear them just as loud.
The woman noticed a small little shed down an embankment and slid down as carefully as she could dropping as low to the ground as possible. The footsteps seemed to slow but kept moving past her. She held her breath and tried not to close her eyes. She took the chance to look up hoping that it would just be an animal that had followed her, but knew she was hoping for too much. The footsteps seemed further away now,and she raced to the shed moving behind it. She leaned against it trying to pull herself together before peering around the side. No one was there.
She didn’t want to risk letting herself rest any longer. She took off letting as much power as possible push through her legs and into the ground. Her fear was taking over. The woman had made it back through the woods to the clearing she had entered when the hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention. She didn’t want to stop, but there were others passing her. If someone was behind her she could yell for help.
There was no one there. Her eyes scanned the tree line once, twice, and a third time for good measure. Nothing. A hand touched her shoulder and the woman jumped. Had this been a cartoon her skin would have stayed in place as her skeleton bounced out and back in. She turned and sent a blow to the person’s stomach.
“Hello to you to.” Her brother was bent over trying to catch his breath. “I thought we were meeting here.”
“Sorry Gabe.” She felt the hairs stand on end again but she brushed it off.
“Can I ask one thing?” Her brother noticed she hadn’t fully brought herself to look him in the eyes yet. She was preoccupied with something else.
“Sure.” Her attention was still on the trees.
“What the hell was that?” She turned to face him finally acknowledging that she hit him and gave him a sorry didn’t know it was you face.
“I think someone else was in the woods.” He raised a brow and waited for more. She wasn’t willing to give more than that.
“Like running how you were in the woods, living in the woods, camping in the woods, or following you in the woods?” He tilted his head a little and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I don’t know. I felt like I was being followed, but maybe someone just took the same route as me.” He nodded slightly.
“They aren’t just your woods you know.” The woman laughed and smacked her brothers arm before stretching out.
“You were late.” He shrugged and began walking on the path toward the main street. She picked up her pace to catch up. “Why were you late?”
“I had some things to take care of. They ran later than I thought they would. I ended up late.” She didn’t believe him. Gabe turned to look at her and saw her eyeing him suspiciously. “My car was broken into, the office key panel didn’t work for anyone to get in so I needed to make some calls, and I had to talk to mom on the phone. You know how long that can take.”
“Your car was broken into?”
“I don’t exactly live in the most secure of complexes. Not all of us can live behind tall walls and gates with codes to get through each like you do.” She laughed at his insinuation.
“There is the main wall with one gate for the entire community, and the only code I truly use is for my alarm system at home. I feel that one is necessary.” The pair entered the coffee shop and joined the line. The people around them were each involved in their own little world. Nothing about any of them screamed a million bad things happened to me before getting here today, but sometimes people just hide it better than others. Then the feeling creeped in again and she felt someone behind her. She brushed it off thinking someone just got in line. Her brother looked over his shoulder and smiled down at her. Then it brushed past her ear and cheek. Someone’s breath. Turning around quickly she found no one. She was just paranoid from before. Her fingers were twisting around one another and pulling tightly.
“Hey. You’re up.” Her brother’s voice pulled her out of her anxious trance. She let her hands fall open as she ordered her coffee then moved to sit at a table and wait. “What’s up? You’ve been on edge since your run in the woods.” She leaned across the table to talk to him.
“Something doesn’t feel right. I have a gut feeling.” He leaned back and stared at her. “I am not paranoid. Someone has been watching.”
“Could it be possible that like us someone else just went for a run and wanted coffee?” She shrugged.
“Angela.” The barista yelled her name and she went up to grab her coffee.
“It could be possible, but I was running at every which angle in the woods. Someone runs the same random pattern as me, and then finds their way to the same exact coffee shop? There are four more in a two mile stretch. Why not just keep running until the next one?” Gabe set his cup on the table and leaned in.
“You don’t even know if you were followed for sure. You just have a weird feeling.” Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a shadow moving down the hallway.
“I’ll be right back.” She let her feet guide her slowly enough for her to check around corners. Angela watched the door close to the women’s restroom. She took two deep breaths and slowly crept in. All of the stalls were open. No one was in there. She shook her head and leaned against the sink. “There is no one here. Pull it together Ang.” She splashed some cold water on her face to clean her of the feeling. When she looked back into the mirror she wasn’t there. The shadow was. She couldn’t see herself at all. She backed up to the stall and watched the shadow crawl out of the mirror. She wanted to run. She wanted to hide. She wanted to scream but nothing came out.
The temperature dropped around her and the cold snapped her out of her trance. She got out of there as fast as possible. She didn’t stop just after leaving the bathroom. She ran out of the coffee shop with her brother running after her yelling for her to stop. Angela’s feet just kept moving. She didn’t have a car or bike to jump on, only her feet to carry her all the way home. There was no slowing down. Her brother probably had his car and would catch up to her later.
Angela pushed herself so hard that her legs began to give below her. She found a staircase to drop down behind and sat there trying not to focus on her everything burning. It found her again. The cool air, the feeling of being watched, the feeling of terror. It brushed by her and she dragged herself back to her feet. She wasn’t too far now. Far enough to wish she had a car, but not far enough to think she couldn’t make it. Her worst fear was coming into play. She had no way out until she reached the gate.
Car after car passed as she could start seeing the wall of her neighborhood. She pushed harder than before knowing how close she was. She could collapse in the safety of her own house. Her brother pulled up beside her and told her to get in. She looked around and let herself stop. He pushed open the passenger door as she made her way around. They stayed silent until the gate.
“Hello, back from your run a little early today?” The pair nodded to the guard, “Have a good day.” The guard was beaming when they pulled off.
Angela got out of the car slowly and her brother shut it off. “When are we doing dinner next week?”
Angela was pushing in the garage code and shrugged. “You pick. I am fine with whatever.” He followed her into the house. The kitchen was very open and the large glass windows let her see into the big yard. She smiled until the windows started shaking. This time Gabe saw something. She moved closer and closer until they were bending inward. Gabe grabbed her and dove behind a wall. The glass exploded into the kitchen. She couldn’t even scream. The shock had her clinging to her brother’s arm. They sat there for a minute both shaking from fear of whatever just happened. As they stood up the fruit bowl and glasses on the counter began to explode one by one each closer than the next.
“Get down!” Her brother’s voice boomed over the noise and Angela crouched down with her face in her hands screaming for it to stop. When she looked up he was gone. Angela ran through the house across the shards and out the back door checking the back yard.
“Gabe?” She waited to see if she could hear him. “Gabe!” She couldn’t find him. Angela fumbled through her pockets for her phone. She called her brother’s phone a few times, but it kept saying the number was disconnected. “It’s not disconnected he had it this morning!” She walked back towards the house yelling in this time. “Gabe, where are you?”
After a few more times yelling, some confused texts, and the phone still not connecting Angela called her mom. “Hello, well this is a surprise.”
“Mom, I just talked to you the other day. Did Gabe change his phone number?” Angela could hear her mom breathing into the phone, but she wasn’t responding. “Mom! This is important!”
“Angela, have you talked to Doctor T. this week?” Angela felt her anger rising more than before.
“No! I haven’t seen Doctor T. in a while. I am fine I don’t need to. Now where is Gabe?” Angela waited for her mom to respond and then hung up since she felt the conversation going nowhere.
After two more laps of the yard and house Angela heard a car door shut just outside. She looked out the window and saw her mom walking up. She flung the door open and walked back into the house. Her mom walked in following behind her. There was an air of caution to the situation she was walking in on.
“What happened here?” The glass covered the floor, Angela looked like she hadn’t slept in days, and her clothes were torn.
“I don’t know. The house was fine when Gabe and I got here,” her mom looked up at her immediately, “and out of nowhere the windows and glass shattered. Before I knew it Gabe was gone and everything was a mess. He was gone, his car was gone, and he won’t answer his damn phone!” Her mom walked over to her placing a hand on each shoulder.
“Angela, I think we need to sit down and take a minute.” Angela shrugged her off.
“I don’t need a minute mom. I need to find my brother.” Her mom looked at her with tears in her eyes.
“I called Doctor T.” Angela looked exasperated at this point.
“I don’t need Doctor T.” A moment later the doorbell was ringing and her mom made her way out of the room. Angela set her elbows on the counter and felt a small shard dig in. She was too tired to move and set her head in her hands. She just needed her brother.
“Angela?” Doctor T.’s voice was not a comforting sound. “Angela, I think we should talk.”
“No. We shouldn’t.” Angela pushed past her doctor to get to the broom closet. She began sweeping up the glass so people could move around her house. She wasn’t sure how this would help find Gabe.
“Angela, do you know what day it is?”
“It is June fifteenth doc. My brother’s birthday is this week. We are planning dinner with mom. Ask her.” Her mother shook her head.
“Angela, what year is it?” The doctor was inching closer to her.
“Angela, I need you to listen to me very carefully. It is not 2018. It is 2019.” Her mother pushed past the doctor and grabbed her by the face.
“We never had that dinner. We never got to. You and your brother went for a run in the woods. There was an accident. Other runners found you holding onto Gabe.” Angela’s body went numb and she dropped slowly to the floor. “He’s gone. Gabe is dead.”
“He was there this morning. I saw him. We had coffee.” The doctor helped her mom get her into the car. She kept repeating the same words over and over as the car started and moved down the road. As they passed the woods she looked intothe clearing and Gabe was standing there smiling while leaning against a tree.