Jack braced himself against an icy breeze as a myriad of stars shimmered above the cold dark alleyway. A crashing roar of thunder made him jump and he looked up to see a fast moving cloud of darkness swiftly covering the stars.
Disoriented by the harsh weather, Jack stumbled aimlessly down a sea of endless identical streets, his hope of getting home before the rain dashed by a sudden downpour and a raging wind which tore through his wet clothing, causing a sudden chill.
With shaking fingers Jack searched his coat pockets for his precious bottle, but when he uncapped it and held it to his lips, only a drop of the coveted liquid slid down his throat. He shivered, let the empty bottle fall from his numb fingers, and the glass shattered silently amid a roar of thunder.
Jack headed for home in what he thought was the right direction, when the sky grew quiet and he heard crunching glass. He turned, saw only shadows in the darkness, convinced himself it was nothing, and stumbled onward, streetlights flickering around him.
After wandering around for what seemed like hours, he at last recognized the name of a street and hurried along with thoughts only of a warm bed.
As Jack paused to get his bearings, he heard footsteps behind him, stopping when he stopped. He turned but saw nothing. “Are you following me?” he asked, taking a few steps backward.
When the other footsteps echoed his, he ran, stumbling over the garbage in the streets, and when he couldn’t take another step he stopped, panting and listening as the footsteps began to advance slowly. And now Jack could see the source, a faint outline in the shadows.
He forced himself to run again, veering unsteadily through the darkness, away from the shadows. Soon he could see his apartment building, identical to all the other dingy decaying derelicts which occupied this side of town.
Breathless, one block from his destination and underneath a streetlight, Jack dared to turn around. His pursuer appeared to have vanished, or been only imaginary, he hoped.
The elevator in his apartment was always ‘Out-Of-Order’ so exhausted though he was, he had to climb the stairs. When he reached the third floor he was beyond winded.
After he wiped the sweat from his face with the filthiest handkerchief in existence, he fumbled in his pants pockets for the door key, which he dropped twice before being able to open his door with it.
Jack looked fearfully down the hallway by the light of one dim bulb before he entered and slammed the door, locking it immediately. Now he felt safe and secure, the memory of his pursuer fading. He knew he had another bottle of liquor somewhere but he was too tired to search for it.
Jack stripped off his drenched clothes before he gratefully sank into bed. He covered himself with his thin frayed blanket and drifted towards sleep, dimly aware of noises which he assumed were just thunder.
With his face turned away from the window and his eyes closed, he couldn’t see the lightning flash that illuminated the figure now standing by his bed.
First published in Yellow Mama in 2020.
K. A. Williams lives in North Carolina. Over 200 of her stories and poems have been published in many magazines including The Chamber, 365 Tomorrows, The Creativity Webzine, Corner Bar, Altered Reality, View From Atlantis, Aphelion, and Trembling With Fear. Apart from writing, she enjoys rock music, and CYOA games.