In the Shadows

Excerpt from an old journal:

I’m shaking.

So…I was a bit late for my jog tonight. It was dark by the time I got started, and I’m not used to running up this street yet. Normally, I do my runs at the park, on dirt trails that are fairly flat–but this street has steep hills, and running on pavement is hard on my joints.

About a mile into the run, my calves were on fire. I was winded, so I turned around and headed back. To my left, there’s a scattering of apartment complexes with woods in between–pretty dark and secluded, with only one streetlamp on the sidewalk.

Traffic was light at this hour, but there were still cars out and about, so I’d been smelling exhaust fumes during the run. But all of a sudden I caught a whiff of something more pungent. Not car fumes, but some kind of smoke.

Cigarette smoke. And it was close. Really close. I was practically walking through a cloud of it, in fact, but I was alone on the sidewalk. That was when I realized the smoke was coming from the wooded area. Someone was in the trees, smoking a cigarette, and they were REALLY close to the sidewalk.

Really close to me.

I scanned the tree line, expecting to see someone (or at least the red, glowing cherry of a cigarette). I couldn’t see anyone, and I couldn’t hear anything because EDM was still blasting full-volume in my headphones.

Nevertheless, I sensed that someone was there.

As if to confirm my intuition, I caught another whiff of the cigarette smoke. Someone was definitely there, and they were definitely close by. Way too close for comfort.

I’ve experienced adrenaline rushes before, but normally they’re the excited kind–like when you score a goal in basketball or slide into home plate during a softball game. Never have I ever experienced an adrenaline rush like this.

It was pure, unfiltered FEAR.

As my nose continued registering the cigarette smoke, but as my eyes still saw no one, a jolt of adrenaline shot through me so hard and so fast I can only describe it as “jumping out of my skin.” That’s a colloquialism, of course, and I know it’s cliche, but that was exactly how it felt. It was so abrupt and so jarring, I also physically jumped off the sidewalk.

There were a couple of cars traveling up the street by this point, and relief gushed through me. After they passed, I broke into a dead-sprint. My calves had been burning moments before, but no longer (or if they were still burning, I couldn’t feel them).

I didn’t, at all, feel like I had been running up steep hills for a mile-and-a-half. I did not stop. I did not slow down. I just ran until I reached the golden glow of Mom’s apartment complex.

By the time I reached the gate, I was shaking all over. I don’t know why the whole thing freaked me out so much. It’s not like someone actually attacked me. I guess it was just freaky that someone was right there, hiding in the darkness, and I realized–that person might’ve been in that same spot as I had been running past the first time (up the hill), or even on other occasions when I had run past that spot.

What if he (or she) was a rapist or killer?

What if the person was watching me?

What if I hadn’t smelled the cigarette smoke? What if the person really was a killer and had been trying to stay incognito until the smoke gave him away?

I am seriously freaked out. You never know what (or who) is lurking in the shadows.

-Written July 29, 2011

And it was all purple