Fight or Flight

The creature peered out of the shadows, its coarse hair dripping with a viscous ooze. Its  ears were pricked and pointed forward. Predator ears, she thought involuntarily. It had a low forehead and its eyes glinted as it looked toward her, reflecting a streetlight that suddenly flickered. Her breath caught in her throat, panic rising. Adrenaline was taking effect. Keep it together, she told herself, thinking of her early days of studying the effects of the neurotransmitter on rabbits, many of which had died of shock.

The creature moved its head from side to side in a feral motion, eyes wide. She thought of all of the animal attack stories she’d ever heard. Dogs. Bears. Wolves. Should she run or stand her ground? She couldn’t remember the advice, and she didn’t know if it would apply to this unknown creature, this city dweller, this mutant. The prickling sensation was coursing through her body. All of her own hairs were alert and at attention.

Stay calm, she told herself as she eyed the creature. Think. Its gaze never left her. It exuded a coiled energy. Her own muscles were tensed, awaiting a split second command. The streetlight flickered again and then went out. She began to move ever so slowly backward down the empty street toward light. The creature rose, and she realized it had been crouched over something. It was large, larger than any dog she knew of. Could it smell her fear?

On this busy Halloween Monday, she’d been forced to park a block away and walk to the lab. She rued staying so late. Not one to believe in the supernatural, she knew even a quiet neighborhood held its very real dangers. There was no otherworldly creature who struck fear in her quite like her fellow humans. Not until now.

She stole a glance behind her, looking for a place to run. The sleepy brownstones were dark, their  Jack-O-Lantern candles long since extinguished. Any parties had succumbed to the weeknight; the costumed revelers going home to get a few hours sleep before work or school. Joyous trick-or-treaters slept in candy-induced comas, face paint staining their pillows. Not a single late-night light illuminated the building’s face.

She looked back at the creature. It had its full attention on her now, eyes trained in laser precision, ears forward. She recognized the posture from her days in the field. She had seen it in wolves, in lions. The predator on alert. She was the prey.

She knew her bipedal body was no match for the spring of four muscular legs. The human brain had adapted to use thought and reasoning to survive. To hide, to create barriers, was the hominid protection. All of the barriers were closed to her now. If she could just get to her car.

There was a sticky sloosh as the creature started moving slowly forward through the thick puddle of ooze, each foot carefully placed in front of the other. Its head was low, shoulder blades alternating a slow up and down motion with each step. Her heart pounded in her chest. Another streetlight flickered.

She could see her car now. It was halfway down the block. Still backing up slowly, she pushed the panic button on her keys. Nothing. She must still be out of range. She picked up her pace, still backing up, always keeping her eye on the creature. It moved with her, slinking in the shadows, dripping, stalking.

Suddenly it stopped, alert, its attention drawn away from her. A small black cat darted across the road and into the creature’s path. In a flurry of fur and teeth and yowls, the creature and the cat became a violent ball of primal fury.

Now was her chance. She ran.

Grabbing her keys, she fumbled for the unlock button to the Prius. No time to look back now. A sudden silence told her all she needed to know. Grabbing the door handle, she yanked it open. She was just about to slide into the seat when the creature slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. Dazed, she found herself staring up at two soulless eyes at the other end of a blood-stained muzzle. Before she could scream, she felt sharp fangs lock around her throat. She pushed the panic button again.

The horn and lights of the Prius pulsed a bored and regimented alarm. Lights flicked on in the sleepy brownstones. As the minutes ticked by, doors opened and robed, middle-aged men and women peered out into the street.

One by one, people gathered around the open-doored, beeping car. They gasped and pointed. As if a giant sumi brush had come down from above, a dark red swath of viscous blood pointed back down the road toward the lab where, if one knew what to look for, a dark shape burdened with its prey was slinking back into the shadows.

In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Eerie

Happy Halloween!

Grim Reaper

Old Bob peeled himself from his recliner. Cable news droned in the background as he shuffled to the door. He peered out the side window, opening the curtain just enough for him to see out, but not enough for those outside to notice. There were three costumed children at his door – a superhero with his cape dangling dangerously close to the lit jack-o-lantern, some kind of homemade wild animal, and a very short grim reaper with a realistic looking scythe. He looked in his bowl–only two pieces of candy left. He grimaced and grabbed and apple from the table, then opened the door.

“Trick or treat,” the children sang out.

Old Bob looked them over, then gave candy to the superhero and the animal, then dropped the apple into the bag of the grim reaper. Fascinating costume, he thought of the grim reaper as he turned back to the news. That one deserves some kind of award.

Just as he had settled in to his recliner, the door sounded again. Shoot! Forgot to turn off the light. He shuffled back to the window and peeked out. There were four kids this time, and the grim reaper was back. He opened the door.

“Sorry kids, just ran out of candy,” he explained. Dismal groans ensued. He turned off the porch light as they walked away. The grim reaper stayed on the sidewalk, watching him. He scowled. Damn ungrateful kids, he thought.

He returned to his recliner. As the news droned on, he started to doze.

He awoke to a thwack! He was suddenly wide awake. Thwack! Thwack! 

He pulled himself once again out of his recliner and headed toward the door. He yanked it open just as an egg went sailing past his head and landed on the wall behind him, yolk oozing down. His temper flared. “You damn kids better get out of here,” he yelled into the darkness.

Thwack! Another egg landed on the doorjamb above his hand, splattering him with eggy goo.

“That’s it,” he cried. “I’m calling the police.” Let them deal with the little hooligans.

He turned to reach for his phone, but was surprised to see the short grim reaper in his foyer. The figure stood still, not even seeming to breathe. Old Bob didn’t know much about kids, but this seemed odd, even to him. All the kids he’d ever seen were somewhere on the fidgety scale, but not this one.

“What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “How did you get in my house?”

The reaper just stood there.

Thwack! Thwack!

“I’ll let the police deal with you, too,” Old Bob said, reaching for his phone. The small reaper slowly pulled out an hourglass. Bob looked at the sand that had almost run out.

“Funny,” he said, but he had started feeling very heavy all of a sudden. As he dialed, his breath caught in his chest. He brought his hand up, panicking. He stared at the reaper, who was slowly walking toward him. He went down on his knees. He looked into the hood of the reaper. “Can’t…breathe…” he managed to say before crumpling to the floor.

“911…What’s your emergency?”

The last thing Old Bob saw was an incredibly lifelike skull and the metallic glint of a raised scythe.

The news droned on in the background as the police investigated the scene.

“Looks like the old guy died of a heart attack,” the paramedic said, then paused. “But I just don’t understand this strange cut on his chest.”

Luminis Kanto / / CC BY-NC-SA

Taking liberties with the prompt this morning. Happy Halloween!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trick or Trick.” Let’s imagine it’s Halloween, and you just ran out of candy. If the neighborhood kids (or anyone else, really) were to truly scare you, what trick would they have to subject you to?