Hunted. Short Story.

Debbie sipped her drink, she always hated places like this, loud music, expensive booze, assholes everywhere you looked. If it weren’t for Abby they would have just gone to their usual spot, but she wanted to try something new, something fun. They had stood outside in the cold, for what seemed like hours waiting to get in, then almost as soon as they got their drinks Abby went off with some guy. Not that Debbie should have been surprised, Abby always ended up with some guy. Normally it wasn’t a problem, but everyone else had cancelled tonight. Debbie took another drink, maybe if she got drunk enough she’d be able to enjoy this place.

Debbie stood outside in the cold night air, cigarette in one hand. Normally she didn’t smoke, but it always seemed to happen when she was drinking. There was no sign of Abby, though Debbie hadn’t particularly looked for her. She took a drag from her cigarette, then a sip from her drink. She was definitely getting drunk, but the usual feelings weren’t kicking in. Normally she felt relaxed, smoothed out with a desire to dance, but tonight she felt off, on edge. This place just wasn’t for her and it seemed like everyone there knew it. She had tried to start conversations with a few people but each time she was shut down, most places she had been before were welcoming enough. She took another drag, she felt like people were looking at her weirdly, like she wasn’t welcome, even getting the cigarette had been a damn hassle. Her phone buzzed, Debbie grabbed it out of her bag, “Hey, I’m heading off with someone, hope you’re enjoying your night. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow xx” Debbie rolled her eyes and stubbed out her cigarette, of course Abby had gone off with that guy, she should have just left the moment Abby did her vanishing act. Debbie downed the rest of her drink, put the glass on a table and went back inside to grab her things from the coatroom.

As she walked Debbie felt a bit better, it wasn’t an amazing night but at least it got her out of the house, and she did get to have a bit of a chat with Abby. Checking the time she was pleased to see the buses were still running, it was earlier than she had expected, time had seemed to drag in that place.

Debbie stood at the bus stop, coat pulled tightly around herself to protect her from the cold breeze. She was surprised at how empty the road was, normally the place was busy up until four or five am, but tonight there were only a few people hurriedly making their way to where ever they were going. Debbie sighed in relief as she saw the bus turn onto the road, at least she wasn’t waiting too long. The rest of the night was a no brainer, she’d go home, stop into the chipper on the way, grab some food for soakage then watch some TV before going to sleep.

Debbie felt a little nervous, there was no one else on the bus, something that had never happened before, there was always at least three or four other people scattered about. She took a deep breath and told herself not to be silly. She was on a bus, what could happen? It was brightly lit and there were cameras. She looked out the window into the darkness as the bus continued along its route, Debbie smiled to herself, at least she’d get home quickly.

Debbie wanted to move seats, but that seemed like it would be a weird thing to do. The bus had finally picked up another passenger, a man in a long coat, he didn’t look dirty, but there was a musty smell that hung about him. She had sat upstairs out of habit, a habit she regretted. He had come up the stairs and looked around at the empty seats, his head swinging slowly from side to side, he moved down the aisle and took the seat behind her. She could hear him breathing, it was heavy and had a kind of thick quality to it, like he was breathing through a cloth. Behind her she could hear him shifting and movement of cloth, a second later the smell became stronger, a smell of damp and rot, of mould and of things that liked to live in the dark. Debbie’s heart started beating faster, there was something wrong with that smell. She felt something against the back of her head, faint and ticklish, Debbie stood up and turned around quickly, his hand was still in the air, right where he head had been, he had been stroking her hair. Debbie turned and without saying anything went downstairs. As she sat down again she noticed she was shaking slightly, she took a calming breath and told herself it was fine, it was over. She would get off at her stop, grab food and get home, maybe have a shower. God only knew where that man’s hands had been and he obviously hadn’t showered in a long while.

A few seconds later the man came down the stairs, Debbie felt relief flooding through her, he would get off at his stop and he wouldn’t see hers. He scanned the bus, as he had upstairs, then he moved down the aisle and sat behind her again. His breathing was heavier, the smell stronger again.  Debbie was frozen in place, she had always thought if something like this happened she would be proactive, she would shout or yell, but there was no one else around but the driver. She breathed slowly, she was ok, he hadn’t really done anything and if he did do anything again she’d march right up to the driver and tell him exactly what was going on. Feeling a little better with a plan of action she counted the stops until hers.

The man still hadn’t gotten off the bus and her stop was next. It wouldn’t be safe to get off at her stop, he could follow her. She considered getting the bus to the next stop then if he followed she would have time to lose him. The only problem with that plan was that getting off at the stop after hears would mean walking through some empty residential streets and alleys. No, better to get off sooner, where there were shops, people. Debbie waited until the last second then she quickly stood and pressed the stop button. The bus stopped with a sudden lurch, as she got off the bus driver glared at her. Debbie didn’t care, the man hadn’t followed he was still sitting in his seat. She laughed to herself, she was just getting worked up over nothing, as she walked towards the chipper she decided that she needed a glass of wine to help calm her down after that, her hands were even shaking a little bit.

By the time she had gotten to the brightly lit chipper Debbie was feeling almost normal again, she had just over reacted, that was all. She ordered her food and with the bag held tightly in one hand she left the shop. The walk home was only five minutes but she felt a little nervous, the streets were emptier than usual, she wondered if perhaps there was a match on tonight and she just hadn’t heard about it. Debbie paused, there was something wrong, but she couldn’t figure out what, she looked around herself but saw nothing. She started walking again, then it hit her, that smell, stronger than ever. Without thinking Debbie started to run, once she was home she’d lock to the door and call the police, she knew she couldn’t go back towards the shops, there was no way he had gotten ahead of her.

Debbie slammed her door closed and collapsed against it, breathing heavily. That smell had followed her, she never spotted him, but she could feel him chasing her, and she had known that any second his hand would reach out and grab her. After catching her breath she stood and looked out the peephole, there was no one in the driveway, but it was dark out and hard to see. She looked down at the bag of chips, still clutched tightly in her hand, she laughed a little, there was a faint edge to it, at least she hadn’t dropped her dinner.

Debbie sat in the sitting room, the TV was on and it made her feel a bit better, like she wasn’t completely alone. She had decided against calling the police, after all nothing really happened, she didn’t see him following her, and the smell could have come from anywhere. There was a knock on the door, Debbie froze, her heart thudding heavily. What if it was him? She stood slowly and carefully walked to the door, making sure to avoid any creaky floorboards. She looked out the peephole but there was no one there. Her hand reached up towards the lock, realising what she was doing she snatched it back. What the hell was wrong with her? Obviously she had drank more than she realised, especially considering she was just about to open the damn door to have a look around. She stepped back from the door, a thin thread of unease was slowly growing in her stomach. How long had it taken her to get to the door? If it was a wrong address or someone delivering food they might have left. She looked out the peephole again, trying to see through the shadows, to see what was actually there.

After a few minutes Debbie felt better, there was nothing out there that she could see and she had been looking. Just as she was about to go back to the sitting room she saw something, nothing more than an outline. Debbie watched as it detached itself from the shadows of a bush and slowly made its way into the street, Debbie’s heart thudded loudly in her chest, she knew it before he stepped out into the streetlight, it was him, the man from the bus. He took one last look at the house, then he turned and started to walk away.

Debbie didn’t sleep that night, anytime she dozed off she would snap back awake almost immediately. She had a bat beside her, a relic left over from a previous tenant, and her phone gripped tightly in one hand. The man had left so there wasn’t much point calling the police, and she felt silly calling someone to ask them to spend the night. She had a cup of coffee to help perk her up a bit, at least it was a Sunday so she didn’t have work. Feeling a bit more comfortable in the daylight Debbie carefully opened her door and peered out into the garden, there was no one there, there weren’t many places to hide now that it was bright out, the bushes were ragged and she could see through them. She sighed in relief and felt a little better. Maybe it had all been in her head? Just her own fears and a drunk imagination conjuring the rest. She stepped outside to look at where she thought he had been standing, there was something on the ground, glinting slightly in the light. Debbie moved closer and saw a knife. Immediately she turned and ran back into the house, locking the door behind herself and with shaking hands Debbie called the police.

 

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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