Many apologies for this being a good four months late.
Okay, not *many* apologies, but at least one or two.
I Walk In, Part 4: Alice
Alice could no longer bear to type. It was the evening after she and her mother had found her father’s dead body in the basement of the house and, being the analytical mind that she was, Alice felt compelled to make a re-enactment of her father’s last day. She had found a few pages of type on the desk downstairs, and from that and the state of her father’s body…
No, she couldn’t think about it, the whole idea was too sickening. The only consolation was that he died doing what he loved, but even that seemed sickeningly ironic when one considered that a blade had fallen on his neck, severing major blood vessels.
This wasn’t working, Alice needed to get out of the house for a while, clear her head, stop thinking about her father–she was nearly in tears by now.
Alice’s mother was staying at a nearby hotel for the night, perhaps longer depending on how well she took the loss, so Alice came up with the brilliant idea of keeping up the house while her mother was away. At this point, the idea was beginning to seem less and less brilliant.
The house was situated in a light forest, very secluded from the rest of the city, though there were more houses nearby. For the most part, the houses were at least an acre between, though, so it really made little difference. Alice was planning on taking an evening stroll to clear her mind.
Out on the drive, she spotted the tree she’d planted as a child and the memories poured back: memories directly dealing with her father, memories merely of her past, memories that really dealt with nothing at all. this house had been built right after her parents were married, after they’d moved to Oregon, and she’d lived in it all her life. Now she could barely stand to be in it.
As Alice stepped off the drive, she noticed how dark it was without the lights of the house on, but it didn’t really matter. She’d traveled this path so often as a child, she could have navigated it blindfolded and disoriented. In fact, she had on her 9th birthday playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
By now she was on the verge of tears, barely able to stay on her feet. She took a step forward, and everything hit her like a ton of bricks. Alice’s knees collapsed under her, and she was on the gravel road, hot tears welling up in her eyes until they were overflowing, then streaming down her cheeks in a constant current, finally dripping off her chin when there was no place else to fall. It didn’t matter how loudly she sobbed because nobody was going to hear her, so she just let everything loose and cried.
She cried for her lost father. She cried for her mother who would never be the same. She cried for herself, simply because she could find no reason not to. She cried for birthdays. She cried for graduations. She cried for Christmases. She cried for vacations. She cried for a good half hour before she could stand up again.
It was good, she reasoned, that she get that all out. She hadn’t been able to until then. For the first time since the horrible discovery, Alice thought she might be able to get through this. Despite a few early stumbles, her step soon gained more confidence, and Alice was soon engulfed in the darkness of the forest.
She hadn’t been here in years. The trees hadn’t really changed, but who could tell under the thick clouds that blocked out all the celestial lights? Every so often she’d pass a house, which took her mind off things, getting her to think about the inhabitants. Aside from those few times, she ambled along the path in near total darkness.
Alice realized she left her watch inside, but it had to be nearly 2:00 in the morning by now: she’d been typing for such a long while, it couldn’t be much earlier than that. If nor for this, she’d probably have gone in to talk to a neighbor or two. Nobody knew too many people that personally, but in such a small community, evetyone at least had a vague recollection of everyone else. She could have found condolence in any inhabitant that was awake, but none were.
As Alice got to one house that had its porch lights on, the Parsons, she looked around, taking in everything.
Mrs. Parsons had always kept a nice garden in the front, always a different assortment of colors for the different seasons. Right now, the flowers mirrored an Autumn motif, with yellows in the windowsills, a row of bright oranges lining the wall and deep reds along the front walk, which started at the porch and snaked around the yard, nearly covering the whole lawn in cement. Needless to say, there were a lot of red flowers. If Alice had paid more attention as a child, she’d have been able to name the specific specie of flower for every single bud, but all she knew was that the orange flowers were lilies. The red and yellow just looked like generic flowers to her. Knowing Mrs. Parsons, they were probably the very best generic flowers money could buy.
Following the winding path with her eyes, Alice started examining the two pine trees that formed a sort of gate in the mouth of the path. Each was easily twice the height of the house itself, and each seemed to be of the brightest green nature could produce. If one didn’t know any better, he would think the trees were plastic.
Turning a little, Alice noticed that Mr. Parsons had a new truck, good for him! His old one was at least a decade and a half old, and it could barely last a month without requiring some kind of repair. It had caused Mr. Parsons a lot of grief. This one looked like it wouldn’t need so much as a tune-up for a long while. It was probably more fuel-efficient too. It was hard to tell from the distance, but it looked like the truck was carrying a cargo of shovels and bags of soil. Perhaps it was mulch.
As Alice set her sights forward, she realized she’d nearly forgotten about the entire incident in her examination of the Parsons house, and she was happy. So happy, in fact, that she failed to notice a rustling in the area of trees just beyond the Parsons property.
With a freer mind, Alice was now able to really examine the surroundings, as her eyes began to adjust to the darkness again. The sky was beginning to clear up. The moon was still ominously hidden, but a few stars poked their heads out from the tree-framed sky. A cold gust of wind blew, shaking the branches, rustling the picture-perfect view. The wind makes some strange noises as it blows through the trees, and Alice almost thought she heard a grunt come from the wilds around her. That was a new sound, she thought, but then again, there really was no such thing as an old sound unless it was tape-recorded.
Up ahead, the road dipped a good 7 feet, but the road wasn’t steep at all. As she reached the bottom, she thought she heard footsteps behind her, but when she turned around, she didn’t see anybody. It was probably just her mind wanting there to be someone awake at this God-forsaken hour.
Though the sky was now much clearer than before, Alice began to feel cold, wet raindrops on her head and decided to turn back. As she made her way up the slope, she saw a form at the top. So there was somebody. As she got closer, though, this form began to look less and less human. If it was a person, the person was hunched over and facing the opposite direction. This person was probably very heavy of build as well. As she got closer, Alice called out to the figure, trying to get its attention, but the figure ignored. As she got closer, the figure turned its head, exactly as the full moon was finally exposed behind it.
Alice’s heart stopped. A muzzle. The figure had a muzzle. This wasn’t a human, and Alice didn’t want to find out what it was. The rain started to get a bit harder, and Alice more frenzied as the creature decided to head down the path. Directly towards Alice.
There wasn’t much she could do. Alice started walking away, careful not to make any sudden movements, but the creature noticed her nonetheless.
It began to give chase, galumphing at a steady pace towards Alice. The next house wasn’t for another quarter mile, so her only real chance was to try to confuse the animal and get around it to the Parsons’ place.
Alice took two strides to the left, off the path and into the trees, hoping the have lost the animal, but knowing she probably hadn’t. She made her way blindly through saplings and weeds, all the while watching the silhouette that followed her from behind, eventually itself making its way into the trees.
Her adrenaline was definitely pumping as Alice picked her way back onto the path, confident that she had made her way beyond the creature and could make it to the Parsons’ property before it, and hopefully the lights would scare it off.
Once back on gravel, Alice started running full force. She realized this was probably a life or death situation and didn’t even bother to look back as she screamed through the silence of the night for help. By now she figured she had caught the full attention of the beast, so a little yelling couldn’t possibly hurt her.
Alice could hear the heavy pounding of earth behind her as she first saw the faint glow of porch lights a few hundred feet ahead. her bloodcurdling screeches were still tearing through the early morning air as she tripped on a rock and fell face first to the ground. She tried to get up, but it was no use, after another two steps, she felt two huge paws slap her shoulders and drive her down again. As she fell, she saw more lights turn on and heard muffled voices from far ahead. By now, Alice could tell her pursuer was a bear, and that it had caught its prey.
Alice noticed a pool of blood that seemed to grow out from under her, and though she knew where it came from, she wasn’t especially in a lot of pain. As her vision blurred, Alice could see Mr. Parsons a small ways ahead, aiming his rifle at Alice. No, not at Alice, at the bear. He was trying to kill the bear.
Moments before the world went black, the bear turned her over, and she finally got a good glimpse of her killer. Small black eyes sunken into the skull stared down the big rubbery nose, looked straight back at Alice. Through the mouth, that hideous mouth dripping red drool over yellowed teeth, came the words “Hey, I think you dropped your wallet back there.”