Out of a heavy sky, swollen with unspent rain that sagged toward the earth on a windy November morning, came a lean, sinewy man with deep-set eyes, the same dark brown as his hair. His face is narrow, with a patrician nose, high cheekbones, and a slightly pointed chin.

Dressed in sturdy hiking boots, jeans, and a short-sleeved, blue-plaid cotton shirt. Rick Jordan jogs out of a picturesque neighborhood,
along west saint-Barbara’s street, known to be seedy, grimy,
litter-strewn and mean. He passes California canteen, crossing sixth
avenue before taking a right turn to grace-field on his twenty-ninth
birthday, November 18.

He appreciatively glanced at familiar houses as he passed it, and occasionally, he glanced down at his pacing shadow, but the the stormy clouds overwhelmed the sun and his dark companion vanished as if it had seeped into the earth returning to the underworld.

Rick checked his watch as he ran across the liquor store: two minutes after seven, he mumbled. He always aimed to complete the loop in thirty minutes, but today is one hell of a special day.

“The innocence, enthusiasms, joys, and voracities of youth can be
recalled but perhaps never fully regained, he thought.”
He began to sing to himself as men frequently do when they are alone.

He was on the second verse, when a sudden chill climbed the ladder of his spine like melting bits of sleet, trickling down a window pane, making him unaccountably stop.

He was not a man given to premonitions, but as the icy quiver ascended to the back of his neck, he was overcome by a sense of impending danger.
Then his gaze dropped to his elongated shadow, that has returned from the netherworld.
He noticed something in his shadow was not right, a jagged distortion, a menacing quality. His heart hammered as hard as a fist on a door. He recognized the absurdity of his fear, but his awareness did not diminish his anxiety. Terror courted him and he stood hand in hand with panic. He was intensely frightened of his own bizarre behavior, of his utterly uncharacteristic loss of control.
Rick heard a brief thrumming like frantic wings, a scrabbling noise,
sounding like clutters of dislodged stones, a faint rustle of dry
brush, the sound was amplified as it echoed. Turning and glancing up,
he half expected to glimpse a sea gull, but not a single bird was in
sight, neither was he expecting to see an approaching assailant nor a
hustling car. Instead, he was alone in the quiet residential street.
Nothing rushed towards him with lethal purpose. The only moving things were those harried by the wind. Trees and shrubs, few crisp brown leaves skittered along the pavement.

For interminable seconds, he could not understand why the noise itself
had set such a powerful currents of fear through him. He knew his
response was irrational but the prickly sensation along the back of
his neck and the iciness In his gut were symptoms of a purely
superstitious terror.
It chilled him as if a cold wind had come with it, but the air was utterly still.
In the severe angle of the morning sun, the shadow which stretched the close-cropped grass, draped the curb, and folded onto the cracked concrete pavement seemed to throb with the thick slow beat of its own heart. Staring at it, he was overcome with dread.
Inexplicably, his uneasiness swelled into an alarm. He shivered
sensing that he was in grave peril. He felt a blade of ice touch his
palm, and he jerked his hand back, even as he realized, too late, that
it wasn’t ice but keys to his apartment. He looked down in time to see them hit the pavement.
“Shit!” He said, feeling immeasurably foolish.
So this is what panic attack feels like…
Still uneasy, yet feeling ridiculous, perplexed and frowning, Rick let
out a breath that he had been holding when the exhalation whistled between his teeth, he realized that his jaw were still clenched and he let out a sigh.
He raised his gaze to the sky again, worriedly surveyed nearby houses,
wondering if somebody had been at the window to see his peculiar
behavior, hoping that he hadn’t actually looked odd as he had felt.
Somewhere at the back of his mind, Rick had the spooky feeling that something was peering at him from the oily black shadow…something
beyond the ordinary…something smart, not just dumb, something with motionless shining eyes, something he knew could rush out and gobble him up alive if it really wanted to. An invisible intruder, eager and ready to kill.

This piece was brought to you, courtesy a brilliant, budding young writer.

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