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It was a quiet evening; an occasional breeze stirred the leaves but otherwise the street was still.

Still and silent; her footsteps echoed like gunshots. Her smart red jacket, a striking fashion statement during the day, now felt like a target painted on her back.

She stopped, startled, her eyes wide. Was that – no, just a figment of her imagination. She looked around nervously. There was nobody in sight. At least she didn’t need to feel embarrassed for being so jumpy.

She couldn’t help it, though. She felt vulnerable and exposed. She hated this time of the year, when she couldn’t even get home from work before dark. She had been afraid of the dark since she was very little, and as much as she would like to shrug it off, say it was silly and laugh at herself, she couldn’t help but be a little jumpy.

She tugged her jacket tighter around her body. This is a safe area, she told herself. There are street lights, people live all around, and home is nearby. Nothing to be afraid of.

She walked on. The street inclined upwards and she had only a few hundred yards to go before she would reach the safety of her home.

Wait. There it was again – a sound. Not leaves, not her footsteps or their echo, but something else.

She turned with a gasp, but it was too late.

© Kari Fay