Brand new flash fiction by G.A. Miller – May, 2022
With the power out again (for who knows how long this time?), my small house was stifling in the oppressive July heat and sleep was just not happening.
I gave up tossing and turning in the sodden bed, pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, and decided to take a walk, hoping a stray breeze might offer some relief. I saw candles through the windows of one or two fellow insomniacs, but most homes simply blended into the inky darkness of the moonless night.
I was surprised at how deathly quiet it was, not even the sound of a stray car braving the streets with no working signals on this night. The only sound was that of my sneakers on the road finding stray gravel to crunch now and then.
I’d planned to just take a walk around the block, but found myself heading to the park nearby, to maybe sit by the pond and hope for just a little moving air.
Soon after I entered the park to chase that elusive breeze, I felt goose flesh rise on my arms and paused. I couldn’t see or hear anything, but my adrenaline was racing, and that primal fight or flight instinct was coming on strong. The feeling came out of nowhere, having been tired, bored and irritable only moments before.
I didn’t know how, but I knew I wasn’t alone.
I squinted uselessly into the darkness, seeing nothing but black trees blending into the black sky above, no moon or even stars to help… and then I became aware of a deep rumbling sound nearby.
Something was breathing, and by the depth of the sound, something big.
My mind was racing now, debating which way to go, unable to see where the source of that noise might be. Turning around, I decided to retrace my steps toward the park entrance, my senses straining to pick up something, anything to determine what else was here and how close it was.
That rumbling was just a bit louder.
I scanned the path around me, trying to locate a stick, a rock, anything I could use as a weapon if I needed one, but it was just too dark.
I debated running, but dismissed that idea immediately. With my bum knee, I’d be on my ass in no time flat, easy prey for whatever the hell was making that sound. I didn’t even have a pocketknife in these shorts, and had left my phone home, having turned it off to conserve battery for an emergency.
Like this one.
“Fuck!”, I whispered to myself. How could I have left the house with nothing in hand in case something happened? I always drop a knife into my pocket when I go out, along with my wallet and keys. Well, always except this time.
I shivered then, and not from cold. My body was coated with a fine sheen of sweat and my blood pressure was hammering in my chest. My hands balled into fists, as I silently promised myself if I was going down, then I was going down swinging.
Just then, a set of headlights blinded me momentarily, as a car swung into the park entrance. I heard a loud rustling nearby, as though something large was pushing itself through the hedges. As the car got closer, I saw it was a police cruiser, and nearly sobbed with relief. I held up my hand and the cruiser rolled to a stop next to me.
“Evening sir. Everything all right?”
“It is now, Officer. I was taking a walk and thought I heard something behind me, just before you came into the park.”
“Something behind you? You mean someone?”
“I’m not sure, but it sounded big, who or whatever it was.”
“Did you see anything?”
“No, it’s too damn dark. I couldn’t make anything out.”
“Do you live near here?”
“Oh yes, I’m just a couple blocks west of here. I couldn’t sleep in this heat.”
“Oh, I bet. If you like, I can give you a lift back home?”
“That would be great, thank you!”
“Hop on in the back. I’ll let you out once we get to your house.”
I was confused at first, then it dawned on me… they don’t want the usual passengers in the back of a cruiser to be able to operate the doors. I got in, buckled myself and gave him the address. He finished his slow circuit through the park, then turned back toward the entrance as we talked about the unfortunate timing of a blackout during this heat wave. The air conditioning in the cruiser was a therapeutic blessing for me, calming and cooling me at the same time. I looked all around as he drove the route, but the park was even darker in contrast to the dashboard lights in the cruiser and the bright headlights cutting through the gloom ahead. The only thing visible was the road ahead, illuminated by those headlights.
I began to wonder if, being overtired, my imagination hadn’t gone into overdrive, creating the whole sensation out of nothing.
Moments later, we pulled in front of my house, and he opened the door to let me out. I thanked him profusely for being there and walked through the driveway to the back door, which I’d left unlocked as I hadn’t brought my keys with me.
I entered the kitchen and turned to face the door as I pushed it closed and turned the deadbolt handle to lock it. I exhaled deeply and stepped back from the door, turning around so I could make my way to the bathroom in the dark house… and stopped hard when I bumped into something very solid, very large in the middle of my kitchen.
“Fridge? But, how the hell… oh shit.”
It wasn’t my refrigerator. It was something else.
Oh, and it was breathing very deeply.