Clack, shuffle, clack shuffle
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The sound echoed through the night air, though it was without a presence to cause it. The mist parted strangely at regular intervals, synchronized with the sound. Slowly ancient boots grew into the depressions in the mist, and the things typically connected to boots followed, and the rest with it, until a shabby and grimy form limped down the sidewalk.
Clack shuffle, clack shuffle.
Despite the limp, he moved quite purposefully, his hands in the pockets of his worn, voluminous coat. His head was down, lank brown hair hanging foreword over his face. The lights cast off from the tall office buildings that surrounded him seemed to conceal him more so than reveal him. And he walked.
Clack shuffle, clack shuffle.
He paused quietly just outside the spot light of a street lamp, it’s electric glow fluttery. The building in front of him boasted but one light, on the second floor. His head turned up to it, waiting. After a time, the light extinguished, without any motion from the man as he waited, and shortly, another man left the front of the building.
The other man was heavy set, appearing more so by being bundled up unnecessarily against the cool mist. His mostly bald head was covered by a hat, and there was a briefcase in his hand. As he walked he coughed a little, a deep phlegmy cough that echoed.
The shadow man followed. Clack shuffle.
The bald man turned towards the sound and it stopped. His eyes, still adjusted to florescent lights, and deadened by office beige and grey couldn’t penetrate the shadows and see what may have made the noise. After an uncomfortable silence, he moved on, heading towards the parking garage.
After a while, the sound began again, and quickly he turned as if trying to catch the noise before it escaped. As before, his dazzled eyes saw nothing. He hurried to the parking garage walking loudly so that he could no longer hear the disquieting clack shuffle, and therefore it wasn’t there.
Once he was well into the parking garage he began to breathe easier, slowing his steps, listening. The noise was gone. He laughed softly at his own jitters, and continued on towards his car.
After just a few short steps, however, the clack shuffle began again, and he cringed, turning to the sound behind him. “Hello?” He called in a shaky voice, the reverberation of his call not quite blotting out the quickening foot steps. He licked his lips and backed up, still not able to see his pursuer, his tiny eyes darting around the area before him. Suddenly, before him was the shadow man. He hadn’t been there a moment ago, but there he was now, grinning, baring stained teeth, and flashing ageless eyes.
The heavy man stared at the shadow man, ready to laugh him off: you gave me a scare friend, but it’s alright now, huh? A part of him knew better than that, though. His nerve broke and he ran. The echoes of his own steps sounded like hundreds were now following him, and he ran faster, sweating. Elated, his car now in sight, he started to put on some extra speed, gasping.
He never found out what suddenly made him fall.
It felt less like a fall than a push from behind, though he felt no hands on his back, he was just suddenly violently propelled forward. He fell full length onto the floor, belly flopping on the smooth pavement with a loud, meaty smack. He lay stunned for a few moments, the impact having knocked the breath from him, and he gasped uselessly writhing on the ground.
Clack shuffle, clack…
The footsteps stopped, and he closed his eyes, forcing himself to breathe. Shaking, he turned over. the shadow man stood over him, still grinning his rotten grin. Unsure, but unable to think of anything else, the sweating man tosses his wallet at his attacker. The shadow man’s eyes don’t even track it as it crosses his path, and he advances.
He had been unable to admit it until now, but the fat man was over come with dread that was beyond what the situation warranted. His attacker could be anything, from his appearance, the patina of dirt that covered him, he appeared homeless or a druggie. But the fat man knew that this wasn’t the case. The sheer terror he felt was external, like a vapor that this being exerted. This was no mugger, no psychotic homeless. The shadow man was here for him. It was simple, like gravity, like light, It simply was. And this business man didn’t know how he knew this , but he was certain of it. Shaking heavily he tried feebly to back away, but something in the shadow man’s eyes told him that this was useless, and he stopped.
Clack shuffle, clack shuffle.
The shadow man stood over the business man, and the grin fell from his face. For a moment, there was a shade of pity in his visage, a deep, sorrowing pity, but then it was gone.
Now without grin or pity, he leaned to the business man, his face turned towards the side of the other’s face, as though he intended to kiss his cheek. He paused for a moment, then whispered “She’ll have children one day, you know? And her second son will become a great man.”
For a moment the two locked eyes, the business man’s shocked and wide, but understanding. The other’s were grey and blank as slate. Without a further word he knelt, taking a knife from the top of his worn boot. The handle was dark with oil, but the metal gleamed brightly in the pallid garage light.
Gently, the shadow man placed a hand behind his sprawled victim’s neck, cradling it. The business man moaned, but made no other move to stop him. With practiced ease he drew the knife quickly across the fat mans throat, and laid his head carefully back onto the pavement beneath him. The shadow man stood, watching the life drain out of his unresisting victim. After a while, the turned and walked away, fading like the Cheshire cat, until only his sound remained.
Clack shuffle, clack…
Ellen sat on her bed, slowly dragging a tiny knife up and down the pale tender skin on her wrist and forearm. This time, she would do it, she told herself. There were tiny, older half healed scratches here, witnesses to this ritual many times. Ellen made a quick swipe at herself, drawing blood but missing the vein. Staring at the sticky redness dripping over her arm, she dropped the knife on the rumpled violet comforter, laid her head on her pillow and cried.
The bastard wouldn’t do it again, she swore to herself. She had never thought he would go that far, despite the things he had already done to her. She would die before he did it again. The ache in her arm almost paralleled the sharp pain between her legs, the hurt that had plagued her all during that long, long day. Sobbing she took her knife in her shaking hands again.
If he did it once, he will do it again, she told herself, her brown eyes still brimming with tears. She stared at the raw angry cut on her arm, and sighed. “If he did it once, he will do it again,” saying it out loud was different. It dried up her tears. She placed the knife against the vein precisely, and began to press.
There was a hammering on her locked bedroom door, and she jumped, the knife falling again from her hands. She stared dumbly at the door, not answering. Her mothers voice high with panic came through the door. “Ellen, open up, Right Now!”
Ellen’s mouth fell open. She knows, she knows and she’s mad. Ellen trembled on her bad, wrapping her skinny arms around her skinny coltish legs. After a moment, it sounded as though her mother was crying, her voice husky “Ellen, please, it’s important” At that she rattled the knob again.
Unsure, Ellen walked to the door, and turned the tiny switch that unlocked the door. As soon as she had, the door flew open, and her mother came into the room and pulled Ellen into her arms. “Darling, darling it’ll be okay,” said her mother, and began to rock her and cry.
She understands, thought Ellen, feeling relieved, maybe she’ll help.
After a few minutes she held Ellen back from her, looking in her eyes, not seeming to notice the bleeding cut on her arm. She put Ellen on the bed, the shadow of sorrow on her eyes.
“Ellen your father is dead, They found in him in the parking garage outside his office. The police are investigating, they think they will catch the man who did this.”
Ellen stared blankly at her mother, torn between relief and an entirely new pain.