Audrey excelled at running. Track, cross country, Saturday morning marathons were her specialties. But tonight, she was sprinting, nearly flying, through the thick blackness for a different reason. Fear.
The way it crept slowly toward her was unnoticed at first. It swirled around her body, tickling her skin. It climbed through her pores, sinking deeper, and deeper, reaching her every nerve. A sudden chill burst through her spine. Pupils dilated, goosebumps formed, heart pounded, teeth chattered, hairs stood at attention, and sweat formed a film on her brow. It finally arrived, settling in her core, shaking any feelings of security she had had, because of him. Raven.
No one knew his real name, but his greasy, gnarled black hair, beady, hooded eyes, and looming frame created a sense of anxiety with anyone he came across. He remained a mystery to all of the locals since he had showed up in the middle of a snowstorm last winter. No one had expected him to stay long, but he was now a permanent sidewalk show as he sulked around town day after day. He always seemed to be studying them as he brushed by. Staring.
Audrey had caught him lingering on her more than enough times as she went on her daily jogs. He had never spoken, or even approached her, but she could feel his eyes. They waited to catch a glimpse every day, boring into her skull, examining her every curve, and watching her muscles strain to push herself faster. Audrey changed her route multiple times, but he always seemed to appear â€“ on the park bench, behind the corner, or at the coffee shop. Finally, she found a trail hidden in the woods, following a river through town. A sanctuary from Raven and perfection after a long day doing what she did best. Living.
A late afternoon run was crammed into Audrey's busy work schedule today. Her alarm never went off in the morning, but luckily the sunlight breaking through a slightly frosted window woke her. She had made it to work just in time, and, although she never understood why so many people ordered flowers for Halloween, she arranged bouquet after bouquet all day. By the time she had returned back to her tiny apartment, trick-or-treaters were already beginning their rounds. Since she had forgotten to get candy anyway, a quick glance at her watch showed that she had enough time for a run before it was completely dark out. She popped her earbuds in and set off, smiling at the pirates, witches, and animals she jogged past. She finally reached her new trail, and picked up her pace. Freedom.
"Damn itâ€¦" muttered Audrey as her MP3 player suddenly stopped in the middle of her work out mix. Although she disliked running without music, she continued, listening to her feet crunch fragile leaves, her breath becoming heavier, and a faint heartbeat in her ears. She reached her normal turn-around point and hunched over to try regaining some oxygen for her lungs. She hadn't realized how hard she had pushed herself, and although she was flushed and sweating, a sudden chill burst through her spine. Then she felt his eyes, caressing her body. Panic crept through her veins as she stood up, slowly turning. There was Raven, leaning against a tree in the fading light, hands folded behind his back, with a satisfied smirk on his face. "Hello."
Audrey decided to ignore this ordinary but terrifying greeting. She began to jog past him, back home. She could hear his footsteps just paces behind hers. The fear she had finally discovered was morphing into dread. Her feet picked up speed, while her mind tried to decide what to do. She hesitantly glanced over her shoulder, to see him breaking into a run. The rising moon shown off of whatever was clasped in his hand, and a smile was plastered across his face. Terror struck and her feet acted on their own, sending her dashing off the path, darting between trees and rocks. Every move she made, Raven copied perfectly as he followed her deeper into the forest. He let out a laugh that unraveled her every nerve. She was losing focus, tripping over roots, twigs attacked her skin, and the increasing darkness continually reminded her of her vulnerability. Suddenly, her foot slipped, sending her crashing into the damp ground. As Raven made his way to her disheveled body, she could only think of one thing. Dying.
The pain pulsing through her left leg told Audrey that there was no escaping now. Raven knelt down beside her, beaming with success. With one swift motion he pounded her leg with the hilt of his hunting knife, blinding her with pain. Fright circulated through her as he bent to kiss her cheek. The soft pressure of his snarled lips against her flushed cheeks confirmed that her end was finally here. He placed the edge of the cool knife to her throat and leaned into her ear. "Scream with all your might." he hissed. "No one will hear you. You could cry, plead, and fight, but it would be useless." Slowly and gently, he began to dig the knife into her neck. Audrey gasped and sputtered as blood began to flow like red tears dripping from her skin. As her eyes fluttered shut, sinking into death, he softly whispered, "Good night. Love, The Raven."