June 5th, 2008
Tapawingo Drive Extension
Ryan walked along the side of the road towards the south end of campus where the bulk of the student apartments were located. This side road, recently completed, was still unlit and rarely traveled. He kicked the gravel at his feet as he nodded his head to the beat coming from his headphones, pausing occasionally to air-drum or air-guitar along with the song.
Silently stalking him from the wooded area nearby was a gruesome creature that stumbled towards him, plodding determinedly. Its uncoordinated movements atop the gravel gave it a distinctive shuffle that went unnoticed by its preoccupied target.
Ryan paused and knelt to tie his shoe, and the creature lessened the distance with a slow, awkward shuffle. Only a few meters separated them.
As he reached the edge of River Road, Ryan paused to look for traffic. In the summertime this late at night there were few cars anywhere on campus, much less there at the desolate intersection. The creature continued to gain behind him, making no attempt at stealth. It came within arm's reach before Ryan stepped off the sidewalk and briskly crossed the double lane road and started up the hill.
The creature continued its chase.
Reaching the steep hill slowed Ryan somewhat, but the creature showed no such hesitation. As it continued to plod along with fixation, it let out a soft moan. This coincided with the fade-out of the current track of Ryan's mp3 player, which gave him pause.
To get a better listen, he fumbled for what he thought was the pause button. The smooth symmetrical design of the device, however, meant he ended up with a "smooth jazz" speaker balance. He felt a sudden force at his back, a jolt of something grabbing at his bookbag that jarred his headphones loose.
"What the f-"
Adrenaline coursed through his veins as he reacted to the assault. Leaning forward against the unknown force separated the bookbag slightly from his body. He quickly drew his left arm in and squirreled it through the strained shoulder strap, and then spun clockwise. The creature held onto the bookbag as Ryan ripped free and stumbled forward, unbalanced.
As Ryan regained his balance, the creature dropped the bag. There was a pause as the creature seemed to realize its target had shed the item like a second skin. Moaning loudly, it staggered forward once more with arms outstretched.
"Hey, whoa whoa whoa!", Ryan said defensively.
The blanket of night obscured all but the silhouette of the assailant. Ryan reached for his pocket knife, backpedaling quickly away from the unknown to the edge of the sidewalk.
"Listen, buddy, I don't want any trouble. You jus- aaack!"
He stepped backwards and lost his balance on the curb, tumbling backwards into the street. Lights blinded him as a vehicle quickly approached, blaring its horn. It swerved to miss him, and in doing so drove partially onto the sidewalk between Ryan and the monster.
There was a loud thunk as the front of the car collided with the creature. Flesh and bone smacked violently onto the hood. The airbags deployed with a burst of air, and Ryan took full advantage of the distraction, scrambling to his feet and darting across the street. He looked to put some distance between himself and the attacker, and used his knowledge of the surrounding area to slip behind a row of bushes. He paused, chest pounding, trying desperately to quiet his loud breathing. Scanning through the foliage for any other threats, he steeled his nerve to make a wild sprint for home.
He took a deep breath, took one last look around, and rushed parallel to the bushes to the end of the apartment complex. He took a sharp turn right, ran through an empty lot and between another pair of houses, skidding to a stop at the edge of the building near the drainpipe. A quick look past the corner to make sure the coast was clear, and he sprinted once more through a series of backyards. A fence marked the boundary of the last backyard, but he slid through a hole in the bottom and paused once more. His apartment was now in sight, just across the street.
Heart still pounding, he fumbled for his keys. The only lumination on this side of the fence was a nearby porch light, and he was content to try and find the door key until a moan in the distance sent him into a panic. He took off, nearly losing his keys in the process, sprinting wildly for his door. He reached his apartment unchallenged, and the only distraction from finding the right key was the need to keep an eye out for another attack.
The only copper-colored key on his keyring was the one, and he plunged it into the lock and twisted, shoving the door open as if the monster was at his back. He ripped the keys back out of the lock so fast it nearly snapped, and he slammed the door shut, locked it, and summarily collapsed against it.
Heart pounding, pulse racing, he waited several minutes for any sign of danger before relaxing even slightly. He pulled his phone from his pocket with shaky hands and dialed the campus police. The voice on the other end of the phone was less than comforting:
We're sorry. The Purdue Police Department is currently experiencing a high volume of calls. Please try again in a few minutes, or stay on the line and the first available representative will take your call.
"Damnit!" he said aloud in frustration. He hung up the phone with a face of disgust and pitched it across the room.
No longer immediately in danger, Ryan suddenly felt very tired and weak after such a run. He slowly rose to his feet, stumbled to the couch, and flopped down face first. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Several minutes later, he had drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
The gentle hum of the air conditioner obscured a low moan outside, just a few doors down.
Current Word Count: 5,250