By Aryanna Falkner
I didn’t know why I was here.
I shouldn’t have been loitering on the street after making the decision to see Daniel at his apartment. He hadn’t even been there.
I clutched my coat close to me to stay warm. The wind sliced through my clothes like knives; the shivers wouldn’t stop. I crossed a street—only to find myself back where I started.
Great, I thought, I’m hopelessly lost. The thought made me shake more than the wailing wind. I mentally added In case I become lost to the list of reasons why I should have a cellphone.
It was Friday night; my whole class had planned on getting together for a party. All of them except me and one other person.
Daniel was always the exception. He made me impossibly frustrated, mostly because of my own response to him. I couldn’t help but think of the way he walked and spoke my name, or how it was effortless for him to sketch and paint. I could picture him now, raking a hand through his choppy, dyed-black hair.
I stopped dead in my tracks and commanded myself not to think of Daniel. Not now, at least. I couldn’t even find my car.
The street quickly led into an alley and with a sudden feeling of relief, I realized that the alley was a shortcut to the street where my car awaited my return. I silently cursed at myself for being too embarrassed to park in front of Daniel’s apartment building.
I trekked through the alley. I could see the end of it just ahead—a street light was flickering somewhere near the exit.
Then all of the hair on my arms prickled. It was a warning.
A long, thick shadow in the shape of a man was cast at the end of the alley. Without wanting to see the face of the man that the shadow belonged to, I spun around and picked up a light jog to go back to the entrance. I didn’t even make it halfway before the noises started.
I heard a voice hiss. The sound made my heart start with fear. I swallowed hard and forced my feet to move. I threw a glance over my shoulder and saw that the shadow was gone. I didn’t know whether that fact made me relieved or more fearful. Either way, I wasn’t going to risk taking the shortcut that I originally thought was a brilliant idea.
The hissing didn’t stop, but I made the effort to push it to the back of my mind.
It’s just the wind, I told myself. I kept repeating that until I felt a hand graze my shoulder. I let out a small shriek as I whirled to face the man.
But nobody was there. The whispers started to become clearer. It was just one word, but it was enough to knock the breath out of me. A cold sweat broke out on my neck and my forehead. I used the back of my hand to wipe away the perspiration.
“Grace.” Someone was whispering my name. My heart dropped into my stomach. “Grace,” it continued. My mind reeled.
I whipped my head back and forth—and caught a terrifying sight: The shadow had returned. “Hello?” I asked. “W—who’s there?”
Then I recognized the tall, lean stature of the shadow. It was Daniel. It had to be him! I started going toward him but he turned away. I had the desire to call out his name until I noticed that the shadow had fully disappeared. I stared incredulously at the empty alley. The hissing and whispers had stopped. I bit my tongue to remain in control of the situation.
I began walking again and nearly fell to the ground when I heard my name.
“Grace,” the voice was filled with relief. “I’ve been looking for you all night!” My shoulders slumped as he put his arm around me and led me out of the alley.
“Thanks, Jude.” He just nodded and continued walking. His fingers dug into my arm, almost painfully. He asked no questions as to why I was here, and I didn’t ask him. I could tell he was lost in thought as we walked.
The only thing that led me to believe he still acknowledged my presence was when he tightened his vice-like grip on my arm at the sound of a wolf’s cry.
I could have sworn the wolf howled my name.