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“The Night Walker” by Aurora C.

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Posted on 10/31/2020

“The Night Walker”

 Aurora C. (small image)

By Aurora C., 12, of Alberta, Canada 

Lightning flashed above the blanket of obscure clouds, wind screeching as it broke through branches and bushes. Rain invaded the slick, foggy roads and sturdy trees, blinding the view of the rural gravel road. Another crash of lightning struck the ground, illuminating a blue old pickup truck that harboured a scrawny middle-aged man. The man sat behind the rusty wheel, squinting at the road in front of him. The squealing radio managed to spit out the words, “Weather warning….take cover...tornado in…” before sputtering and dying.

“Oh come on!” John exclaimed, banging a white knuckled fist against the dash. Up above, the sky darkened from grey to green, gliding across the sky like a snake slithering to find its prey.

An ear-splitting crash of thunder caused him to swerve his truck sideways. John cried out, as he viciously turned the wheel and slammed on the brakes to get a handle on his vehicle. He hit his head against the steering wheel as his truck finally lurched to a halt. John sluggishly lifted his head, his vision covered with black splotches. The truck's headlights framed a small distant figure. John’s breath caught; he had not seen a girl on the road before. Unmoving, the tiny figure stared prophetically at him. All of his instincts told him to drive away, to run or at least hide, but he stayed entranced by the girl’s gaze. She slowly glided over the pavement, her feet bending in awkward angles. John cringed away, his heart pounding against his rib cage. All of a sudden, she ran forward, her long obsidian hair gusting behind her. John was startled; the girl was no older than seventeen. Her long, but thin bare arms, hung at her sides like snapped twigs. Her full red lips were cracked and bleeding.

“Do you need a ride?” John called, with a hoarse voice through his cracked, half opened window. The girl slowly nodded her head, the ghost of a smile on her lips, before sharply jerking it to her shoulder. John quickly threw aside the tools that he had laying on the seat, brushing off the sawdust. The girl's tattered dress was soaked and John hurriedly rapped his jacket around her shoulders with a quick, “here.”

“Thank you Jonathan,” the girl giggled with a sweet unnerving voice, twisted, shutting the door and closing them both in. The hairs on the back of John's neck tingled. He met her unblinking black gaze.

“How do you know my name?” he stammered. The girl’s head jerked to the side again.

“I know the names of all of them.” she smiled, “Don’t they know better? It is very very bad behaviour. That is okay, I teach them. Just in case.”

Confused, John hurriedly got back onto the road, unsuccessfully trying to not gaze at his ominous passenger.

“You almost crashed,” she sang, her eyes unblinking and staring deep into his soul.

“Yeah it was...scary,” he finished swallowing the lump in his throat. “So where am I taking you?” The girl looked at him, almost questioningly but then gave him her address, eventually going back to staring at him emptily.

“I’m Mary, Mary Acton.” She giggled, fiddling with a large rope around her throat like a noose, flowers embedded in it.

“Nice to meet you Mary, I like your um, necklace.” She laughed again, tugging it down, to reveal what seemed to be a long purple bruise. John quickly looked away, bile lurching into his throat.

“He caught me,” she whispered. “He caught me,” she repeated, her voice was desperate now, as she scratched at the window.” He caught me,” she shrieked. John flinched away, her voice sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. She was now desperately scratching at the window. She tugged at her strange necklace. Then abruptly stopped, and slowly turned around to stare at John, her pitch black eyes meeting his brown ones. “It’s okay, I’ll save others,” she exhaled.

“We’re here!” John announced frantically, trying to change the subject. Mary stiffened. She stared out the window, her back to him.

“Do you like games? I do! He let me run and hide, then caught me. I’m it! I’ll let you run. Run.” John stared at her in horrified shock. She opened the door and backed out. “I’m letting you run. Run, run as fast as you can.” The last part she sang, and then giggled again, backing away. She skipped and twirled, until she reached her door, her eyes meeting his one last time before slipping into the darkness of the house.

John started to drive away, when he patted himself down. “My wallet,” he whispered, under his breath. “Shoot,” he growled, “in my coat.” He considered just leaving. He really did. Then turned his truck around, and found himself fearfully knocking on Mary Acton's door. He shivered in the cold rain as he waited for a reply. The door hesitantly creaked open. John looked down, a frail old woman stared up at him.

“Hello dear,” the lady's voice was quiet, and he had to strain to hear her. “Can I help you?” John looked at her in confusion.

“Um, I’m looking for Mary Acton. I just dropped her off here, and I forgot to get my coat back.” The woman's eyes widened, her face growing ashen. She silently stared at him, and he wondered if maybe she hadn’t heard him properly. “Oh that’s her,” John affirmed. He pointed at a picture that was displayed on the floral wallpaper. It was the same girl, with raven black hair that covered her face and hung down to her waist. Her eyes were different though, they sparkled brighter and happier.

“Young man, you could not have seen my granddaughter,” she rasped, her eyes welling up with tears.

“I’m sorry mam, I don’t think I understand, I was just with her a moment—” The woman shook her head, cutting him off, and placed a wrinkled hand on his.

“Sweetie, she died 10 years ago.” John froze. The words Mary had said came crashing down on him. ‘He caught me. He let me run and hide, then HE CAUGHT ME!’ The rope, the bruises, the scratching. A sense of dread washing over him like a bucket of ice cold water. John didn’t want to ask the question, but he needed confirmation.

“How did she die?” He whispered, trying to keep his voice from cracking.

“Mary was a fearless young girl,” she choked, “and was driving home one night when her car broke down. The nearest gas station was too far to walk, and she would have never burdened her old granny, so she decided to hitch a ride. The police reported a middle-aged man stopped, and offered to take her to where she wanted to go. She agreed and went with him.” John froze, he knew where this was going and cut her off.

“I’m so sorry, you don’t need to go on. Can I just ask you one more question? Where is her final resting place?”

“Rose Hill cemetery”

John spun, his heart pounding in his ears and started to run towards his truck.

“Where are you going young man?” she shouted, “the storm is getting…” but her voice was carried away by the wind. His car squealed as he pulled away from the curb. He was compelled to go to Rose Hill Cemetery.

Rain drenched the already crumbling tombstones. John jogged through the graveyard. A sudden flash of lightning illuminated a figure inside the window of the church, but the figure was gone with the vanishing light. John jogged further into the densely wooded area filled with rotted trees, swaying lifelessly in the storm. In the centre of all the old graves, topped with crosses and moss, was a larger tombstone. Some unexplainable force was pulling him towards it, urging him to look.

John approached cautiously, kneeling before the elegant monument. A serene girl’s sleeping face was carved in the center, eleven tally-like lines carved underneath her head. The girl's face was so realistic, with carefully designed lips and delicate eyelids that covered her eyes.

“Mary Acton, 1993-2010, a—” John's voice was cut off with a deafening growl of thunder. Weaved into the rumble, was a girl's elated laughter. John whirled around, looking down the narrow forested path. No one was there. He slowly turned back around and let out a gasp. On the tombstone draped his azure coat, dripping with water, rain pooling in the hood. He reached out a shaking hand, lifting it off the grave. His heart stopped. The sculpted girl’s eyes were now open, gazing at him with the same black empty expression he recognized from only a while ago. Underneath her lifeless face was the sentence:

“Tag. You shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers. I win!”

White hands suddenly covered his face.

His world went black.  

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