My day at the office started in a typical manner. Once there I proceeded to walk through the break room, grab a coffee and a donut, said my hellos, and walked to my office. I worked in the Division of Anthropology and led a team of researchers and explorers for the North American region. It was only my third year as head curator and my fifth year out of college. I was lucky enough to land such a great position and study under Thomas Bradbury, one of the greatest curators this museum had ever seen. I was hand selected by Bradbury to replace him when he retired and recruited to work there after college.
I studied anthropology at Harvard, having earned my PhD and spending several years in school. It was nice to finally be out in the real world doing what I love. I’m originally from a smaller town in Virginia, definitely an East Coast girl, but I have always been fascinated by the people around me.
I was working on a new project and hoped to explore a cluster of remote islands off the coast of Canada. They were completely untouched and until recently they hadn’t even shown up on satellites. The weird thing is that they didn’t show up on every satellite. We had a new Satellite that was on loan from some government agency. It was state of the art. Its official name was classified, so it was recognized by our systems as MNH-11. We often referred to it as classy since you can’t shorten Museum of Natural History past MNH.
I decided to try out the Weekly Writing Challenge.
“I tried to catch her, but I didn’t make it,” I told Steven in sharp, haggard breaths.
“Damnit, Cheryl, you said you’d be able to. What am I going to do?” He turned from me, hands on his head. I could tell he was upset. Who could blame him?
His apartment in the Bronx was damp and cold in the frigid winter. As he walked over to the small, bar lined window, I noticed how the gray sky was no different than his face: sad, solemn, lonely. Couldn’t this have happened on a better day?
“Do you know where she went?” head down, staring at the white sidewalk below, his voice cracked. I wanted desperately to fix this for him. But I couldn’t. Or could I?
I walked over to him, not sure what I would do next. My small hand decided on his back. Gently.
“I don’t, Steven. I’m sorry, there were too many people for me to see where she went. I’m really sorry.”
As his face turned toward me, I saw something I’d never seen in my friend before. Steven was 6’3″, muscular, a tough guy. But I saw a tear fall from his misty eyes.
I reached up with my free hand and gently brushed the tear away from his face. My hand stopped on the side of his face: my fingers reaching up by his ears, my palm along his jawbone.
Our eyes met, and his normally bright blue eyes looked icy. The warmth that normally radiated out of them gone.
“What am I going to do?” he mumbled.
This time when I awoke I was on the subway. I looked at my watch and saw that it was 6:00. Having left the office at 5, I knew I hadn’t missed my stop. It was only a 22-minute commute from my job at the Museum of Natural History to my apartment in Washington Heights. That means I had been asleep for less than 15 minutes. This was the second time this had happened to me: two consecutive days in a row. The first one was shorter. I had woken up in the clearing, saw something black coming at me, and tripped into the black hole. I was still trying to figure out what they meant. I wasn’t sure I’d ever figure it out.
I had an urge to pop my back, so I twisted to my right. My muscles ached and I knew I was going to be sore from running. I stretched my neck as far as it would go and something caught my eye. There was a man in the very back. Tall, well-built, dark blazer, slacks, tie, and shoes, sunglasses. In a subway? His hair was slicked back; I noticed the wire in his ear and my eyes quickly dropped to his waist. I was looking for a gun, but it was impossible to tell if he had one under the blazer. The man did not flinch. He just sat there, staring straight ahead.
A chill went down my spine. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was any connection to my “experiences” as I was calling them. It may have been a coincidence, but the resemblance to the figure chasing me seemed too evident. He was both tall and muscular and wearing black. Suddenly the subway came to a halt. As I exited I tried to see where the man went, but I was soon overcome by the typical New York rush and there was no way I would be able to find the man again. At least not today.
So this is the first couple sections to the short story I am writing. It’s been a slow process so far. Please note, that is my first draft. I am not letting myself make revisions until I finish. Feel free to post feedback.
It was still dark when I woke up. The world was pitch black around me, making it even harder for my unfocused eyes to make sense of anything. As my mind struggled to grasp my surroundings, the smell of rain and pine trees only confused me more. I reached to find my cell phone and leaves rustled beneath me. You’ve got to be kidding me. Not again. I rolled over and saw the moon through a hole in the top of the trees. It produced just enough light that I could see the dirt on my clothes, my hands, and the blood I just wiped from my brow. I sighed heavily and cursed to myself. It was only a couple of seconds later when the distant sound of footsteps quickly crunching needles and leaves caught my ear, and I knew it was time to run.
So I ran, or more correctly, I stumbled, through the forest. I could hear the footsteps getting closer, louder. I could feel my breathing get harsher. But I pumped my arms and ran. The foliage quickly became thick and I could barely see anything around me. With nothing but the North Star as my guide, I was almost certain I was lost. However, I knew I could not slow down. The footsteps sounded like they were directly behind me, and if I didn’t reach the—well I don’t know what it is, really. I just knew I needed to get there.
I had been using so much power and energy to run that when I finally broke out of the thick forest and into the clearing I lost my footing and started to fall forward. Not wanting to lose momentum, I quickly tucked and rolled without ever slowing down. All I needed to do was reach the mysterious blackness at the opposite edge of the clearing—about 100 yards away.
I was half way there when I heard a loud crash. I quickly stole a glance over my shoulder and saw the ominous, black figure struggling to stand up. He made the most awful noise. A scream that would have been loud enough to drown out a crowd in a packed stadium. Immediately after I heard his footsteps. Thump. Thump. Thump. I tried to run faster, but I couldn’t. I was 15 yards from the blackness when I felt his breath rush past me. When I was five feet away, I jumped, prayed I’d make it, and felt his hairy fingers brush my legs. Just out of his grasp. And then I dove into the blackness.