Lucy

The short cut through the park never scared Lucy, even though everyone told her it should.  She knew all about the stories, about the people who had disappeared, but it had never concerned her.  Surely, those things happened to other people, in other places.  Lucy worked the evening shift in a small coffee shop and always walked home afterwards.  Her colleagues offered her rides home, but with the short cut she only lived a couple of miles away.  Truthfully, even if it was ten miles, she would probably still want to walk.  She loved the cool, still night air, occasionally it was misty and she loved the feeling on her skin.  The cool blackness was always very comforting to her, as if she was safer in it that in the bright lights of work.

As she headed out of work she felt the cool touch of the mist starting to settle and smiled.  It was a wonderful contrast to the hot, sweaty air that she worked in for 10 hours straight.  Lucy had always had a very sensitive sense of smell, and after hours of working next to the hot espresso machines, no-one was their best.  It wasn’t that she didn’t like her job, quite the opposite.  She loved her customers, most of them were regulars and she had established a certain rapore with them.  The advantage over the morning shift was that she didn’t have to deal with people who hadn’t had their morning fix.  Plus, she was always a bit of a night-owl.

She could feel the slight dampness of the mist on her face as she headed away from the shop and towards the entrance to the park.  She could feel the tension in her shoulders start to relax as she walked, feeling more at home and more at peace in the pale glow of the streetlights than anywhere else.  Lucy had no family, and very few friends, so there was rarely any particular reason to rush home, especially at this time of night.  Sometimes, she would stroll slowly through the park, breathing in the smells and listening to the sounds of the various creatures that undoubtedly were waiting for nightfall to come scurrying.

Tonight was no exception.  She listened for the slight scurries, the cracks and rustles of twigs and leaves as the sounds of the night-breed all around her combined into a symphony of sounds.  She always felt connected, like she was part of it, part of the park itself.  She was about halfway through when she started to hear something out of place.  It was like a note out of tune in the middle of a beautiful refrain, it stood out as clearly to her ears as a clanging symbol.  She stopped to listen closer, and the noise stopped.  As she started walking again, the noise came back.  For a second, she considered if she was hearing her own footsteps, somehow echoing, somehow sending ripples into the blackness.

It was then that she smelled it.  A rankness hit her nostrils like a hammer, something offensive and vile.  She spun around it time to see a shadow lunging at her.  Her whole world went into slow motion as the shadow became a figure of a man, reaching out to grab her, the blade of a knife in his hand catching the soft glow of the streetlight and focusing it into a short, sharp line.  It was a hunting knife, jagged down one side, and 3 knotches has been cut into the handle.  She could see him reaching out with his hand towards her throat, he clearly intended to grab her.  Then, as if someone had flipped a switch, everything changed.  The world became many shades lighter and she could see everything in perfect clarity.

She brought her hand up with a speed she didn’t know she had and batted away the man’s arm.  With her other hand, purely as a reflex, she pushed the man squarely in the chest away from her and took a step back.  The world sped up again to normal speed as the man stopped dead in his tracks.  He stood for a moment, with a look of surprise and fear on his face that seemed almost comical.  Had he never had someone fight back, or did she just catch him by surprise?  It was then that she noticed that his right arm had gone strangely limp, and the blade dropped from his hand.  She could see that his face was white with fear and he turned to run.

She didn’t know why she ran after him, it was as if she had been taken over by a primal force, something deep inside her was responding to an unheard call and was driving her forwards.  She covered the gap between her and the man quicker than she should have and as she reached him, she felt herself leap and landed on top of him with both hands and feet.  As she looked down as him, she could see that her hands were dark, with a thick layer of fur.  Her nails were still the pink color she had painted them, but were now shaped like claws.  There was a notice board just ahead of her, and the plastic covering gave just enough reflection that she could see why the man had fled in terror.  The next few minutes were a hazy blur of red screams as the wolf that lived inside her took full control…

The next morning, Lucy woke up yawned, stretched and climbed out of bed.  It was still early, but she felt like she had slept well.  She got up to make some coffee and paused.  What was it she dreamed?  Something about the park, and a dog?  She sighed, she never remembers her dreams, why start now?  She headed into the kitchen, unaware of the newly washed knife sitting on the counter.  It was a hunting knife, with 4 notches in the handle…

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