Two blocks. She pulled her backpack’s straps, drawing it tighter. The pack’s weight, the taut straps, the warmth of her jacket, did little to comfort her. The light rain splashed off dumpster lids, flowed in streams from gutters, and gurgled as it wound its way down storm drains. A short ways into the alley a light flickered above a door. Two blocks and she could be home, but that meant going down the alley. She’d done it before, when it was day. When there was plenty of light and the shadows were short. But now the shadows were so long they joined each other and swallowed entire walls.
It was getting past the first block that was the trouble. If the alley was an unbroken path there wouldn’t be anything to fear. Alas, it was the intersection halfway down that chilled her to the bone. During the day, when she could see, it was no problem. Or—to be fully honest—it was less of a problem. Even then, when the sun was high, she picked up her pace when she passed the intersection. She’d tried doing the same thing during the evening. That’d been a few months back. As she’d gotten close to the end of the first block she was overwhelmed with a sensation of being watched. Not just watched, but preyed on. As if every step brought her closer to a massive maw waiting to snap close the second she stepped inside.
“One of these days,” she said. Her feet, soaked through, splashed in puddle as she continued on. One of these days I’ll do it. I’ll go home that way. I’ll run if I have to.
That’s what she’d been telling herself for months, “One of these days.” But that day still hadn’t come. She still took the long way home. It took twenty minutes longer when she skipped the alley, but at least she skipped the alley.