That’s Not a Person
It’s out there.
I can’t see. All I can make out are the treetops. That’s where the stars stop and the black begins. The endless ring of black. I spin in a circle, looking. I’ve just looked at it. I don’t know when, or where, but I must have. It’s somewhere around me. I listen. It’s useless. The river drowns out all nearby sound.
Thump-thump. Thump-thump. My heart pounds, blood pulsing through my body. My breath curls up past my face, snaking through the leafless branches of the trees. My coat rustles. Every sound it makes covers the sounds around me. I don’t want to move. I can’t see. I need to hear.
A shuffling somewhere. I don’t want to turn my head. My coat would make too much noise. Besides, it’s too smart for that. It has some kind of plan.
Then, in the darkness not ten feet away, I see a dark mass at the foot of a tree. There’s movement where the head would be. That’s not a person. It’s too slow, the shape isn’t right. It’s looking at me. It speaks, in a deadpan voice; “Hey. C’mere, man. I need help. C’mere.”
I spin and take off. That was wrong. I’m the only person out here. I hear footsteps behind me, moving at the same speed as mine. It keeps talking to me in that horrible monotone voice. “Hey man. Can you give me a hand? I’m lost.” A visceral jolt shocks through my chest. Nausea. That’s not a person. I push harder and it starts to fall behind.
The footsteps suddenly bank right. What’s happening? I slow down and crouch, quickly, in a depression. I hear the footsteps growing further still, off in the distance. The river’s far away now. Everything’s just quiet. A dense, unpleasant quiet. It feels so quiet that any noise would be stifled, overpowered by the dull roar of… of nothing.
I feel a cool breath on the back of my neck.
That’s not a person.