Jen glanced at her phone as the train pulled into her station. “I have got to stop agreeing to impossible timelines,” she thought to herself as she realised that the time was 10 minutes to midnight. No matter what bonuses the boss promised, it just wasn’t worth the late nights spent in the office. A hastily eaten meal at her desk wasn’t helping her mood.
There was no one in the station when Jen descended from the train. She found the lack of sound to be far more disturbing than the usual bustle of activity. With a light shiver, she rubbed her hands over her arms. The thin business jacket she had on wasn’t enough to keep the chill from her bones. Why did places insist on keeping the AC at arctic temperatures all year round?
Jen heard the clatter as the train doors automatically closed. She could hear the noise of the train pulling away from the station and for a moment, the noise of the wheels scrapping along the track was all she could hear. The rumble of the train grew louder as it picked up speed and then started to fade as it sped away from the station.
“Is there anyplace sadder than a station with no one around?” Jen pondered. She pulled her bag to a more comfortable position as she walked through the deserted station. Heels were seldom the most subtle sounding footwear but sharp click of her heels echoed strangely as she walked. She crossed her arms and hunched over. It seemed even colder than it had been a minute ago. Jen walked faster to warm up, her heels making even more noise against the tile floor.
“Home. If it weren’t so late, I’d take a bath before bed. As it is, I’ll have to be up again in 5 hours to start another day,” thought Jen. “At least home is close. I don’t know how long I’d have to wait for a taxi.” The clatter of her heels seemed to be even noisier than before, it echoed all around her. Jen frowned in exasperation. She wished her job didn’t require heels but her boss had made it clear that they were.
Her stride slowed when the station lights behind her suddenly went off. “Annoying,” she thought. “Hey! Can’t you wait for me to get out, please?” she called. How annoying was it that she said please to an unseen janitor? Worse, there was no acknowledgement of her request but at least the lights stopped going out.
She resumed walking to the exit. The combination of having no lights left on at the platform and the weird echoing of her footsteps was beginning to spook Jen. She could swear that each click was echoed dozens of times. Jen looked from left to right. The shadows of all the equipment seemed normal but there was something that Jen didn’t like about it. “It’s late. There’s no one here. That’s all. There’s nothing to be worried about,” Jen told herself. Her mind darted toward stories of women being abducted from lonely places at night and a shiver went up and down her spine. She looked around again to reassure herself that there was no one else around.
Jen instinctively held her bag tighter. She breathed a small sigh of relief as her hand touched the door handle. “I didn’t think I’d ever reach the exit tonight. It’s never seemed to be quite so far.”
She was surprised to find she was still cold. It had been a balmy evening when she left the city. “I wish I’d worn the heavier jacket. Though my feet would still be frozen,” she muttered to herself. She was so engrossed in that thought that she failed to notice the car behind her until the driver honked the horn when he was just a few meters away.
The young men laughed when Jen noticeably jumped at the sound of the horn. Then the driver put his foot down and the car roared off into the distance.
Jen halted, her heart pounding hard in her chest. “Bastards,” she said. She waited for a moment, wondering what she could do if the car went around the block. She was still two blocks from home, there was no way to get there quickly enough. Jen breathed in deeply, if the car came back, there were a few trees that she could duck behind. Her heart rate slowed and she exhaled.
With a bang, the street light closed to her went out. Her heart rate resumed its frantic pace. “If I click my heels together, will I get home Auntie Em?” With a small sigh, Jen resumed the walk home.
A few steps later, Jen looked around, frowning. It sounded as though she was still in the station, the echoes of her clicking heels resounding through the empty building. But she was outside now, there was no way that sounds should still be echoing.
Jen looked all around. She didn’t see anyone nearby but something was off. It was like somewhere under the trees, something weird was there. But with the dim lights, she couldn’t make anything out. She set off again, this time at the fastest walk that she could maintain in her heels. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest, her breath was in short puffs.
Jen kept looking behind her, trying to see what was making all the clicking noise. She was rewarded this time with a glimpse of a head. “A dog? That head would be almost even with my knee.” The dog had strange ears though, so long and thin.
She took another look and then Jen began to run instead of walk. That was no dog, dogs had ears and whatever the hell was following her had antennae. Also it had a lot of legs. She didn’t count but what she had seen was definitely more than four legs.
Jen cursed her high heels as she ran. They were awkward as all hell and yet she dared not pause to take them off. Not when that thing was racing along behind her. She stumbled for an instant and sprang up again. She was gasping for breath, her heart pounding in her chest. It seemed loud enough to Jen that she was surprised no one opened a door to find out what was wrong.
Jen would have sighed with relief when she was only two houses away from home, if only she had any breath to spare. As it was, there was a painful stitch in her side making it harder to inhale. Only the thought of the horror behind her kept her running at all. “Just a little further,” Jen encouraged herself. “Keep running just a little further and I’ll be safe at home.”
Jen started digging through her bag as she ran, searching frantically for the keys. Would she have time enough to unlock the door? A quick glance behind showed that the creature was closer than ever. Could she hurt it with the keys, at least a little? Jen shuddered at the thought of being close enough to hit it with keys. All those legs! The body of the beast looked scaly and not soft.
Jen had nearly reached the path leading to her door when another car drove down the street. The creature made a hideous shriek at the sudden light and vanished into the hedge next door. Jen dashed up the stairs and unlocked her door with a feeling of relief. Home at last.