Authors: Sky Winters
Copyright 2016 by Sky Winters- All rights reserved.
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By: Sky Winters
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There was no moon tonight, nor were any stars visible. Clouds obscured the night sky, plunging the city into darkness. Pale streetlights illuminated the sidewalks, but they did not provide enough light to make Stella feel safe. The city had gone dark minutes after she'd left Missy's apartment, and it felt like more than just a coincidence. For a moment she considered turning back, but Missy had put up with her for the last week, and Stella knew she'd overstayed her visit. When she'd asked if she could camp out at Missy's place because she didn't feel safe alone, Missy hadn't been expecting her to stay for so long. If she turned back now, their already strained friendship might snap under the pressure. Missy had her own life to lead, and Stella had to accept that — no matter how scared she felt. It wasn't as if whoever was after her had caused a city wide blackout, after all. It was time she grew a backbone.
It had been two weeks since the paranoia had set in, but Stella had no idea how long the strange goings on had been happening before she first noticed them. The first time she'd noticed something had been amiss, she'd been heading through the downtown core at twilight. The sun stretched her shadow out across the sidewalk in front of her as she headed for the subway, and she'd had earphones tucked in to avoid unnecessary conversation with panhandlers. When the shadow had appeared in her field of vision, gaining on her from behind, she thought it was just a pedestrian in a hurry to get by her. Respectfully, Stella hugged the wall to allow him passage, but although the shadow grew to its full potential, its caster kept behind her. As the seconds passed and it became obvious the man was trailing her, Stella had hugged her purse to her side and turned her head.
There was no one behind her, and when she turned to look ahead of her once more, the shadow was gone.
Pinpricks of fear had shot down her spine, and the rest of the way home she'd thought about the strange shadow. Had it been a figment of her imagination, or a trick of the light? Stella wasn't sure. But by the next day the oddity had faded from her mind, and she'd continued on as she always had.
Only the shadow hadn't been ready to move on just yet.
The next time Stella saw it, she'd been gazing through a storefront window at an electronics display. Unemployed as she was, looking was all she could afford to do. When the shadow had darkened the glare on all of the screens, Stella had turned her head and was half way through an apology before she realized that not only did no one stand behind her, but that there was no one in eye sight on the street.
When the shadow had returned not six hours after she'd seen it at the storefront, Stella knew that something wasn't right. The next day, when she woke up to find three of them stretched across her floor in the light cast by her bedroom window, she had left her ground floor apartment and never looked back.
But Missy had been skeptical about these mysterious shadows, and Stella hadn't seen any more since she'd gone to stay with her old friend.
"Maybe," Missy had said in her infinite, catty wisdom, "you're seeing shadows because you are lonely. How long have you been unemployed now, Stella? I know that losing Will was tough, but eventually you're going to use your savings up and then where will you be? It's time you got a job and got back to work, time that you started meeting some people and having fun again. I think embracing life is going to fix these 'shadows' more than staying with me ever would."
At least when it was this dark outside, there weren't any shadows to be seen. With no light coming from any buildings to brighten the light, it was almost too dark to see her hand in front of her face. The advanced hour meant that there were few motorists, and Stella hadn't seen a car for a good ten minutes. With the subway down for the night, she was left to walk the distance between her place and Missy's.
"What are you doing out alone at night?" The voice spoke so close to her ear that Stella was sure the man was leaning over her shoulder as she walked. There had been no footsteps to forewarn her of his presence until he was already far too close for comfort. She'd shrieked, but the sound died quickly on her lips; the man clamped a broad hand over her lips and pulled her close.
"Do you want to die?" he asked. "If I wanted to, I already could have done plenty to make your life hell. Don't you think that if I was going to hurt you by now, I'd already have done it already?"
Caught in the darkness, all Stella had to go off of was the hand clamped against her mouth, the feel of his body against her back, and the sound of his voice. His chest was flat, hidden behind a thick layer of leather. The hand was gloved, but his fingers were bare. And he was tall. As Stella let her head fall back against him, she only hit his shoulder. She'd been right to be paranoid — someone had been stalking her, and he'd finally made himself known.
"If you want to live," he told her, "you're going to keep those pretty plump lips of yours closed, and you're going to come with me without a fight. You break away from me, I promise you you'll be dead — or worse — before you get three blocks. You follow my direction, you be good, and you'll get to keep your life. Nod if you understand."
Stella squeezed her eyes closed, praying to break from this nightmare, but when she opened them again she saw the darkness of the night and felt his gloved hand upon her. Tears beading in her eyes, she nodded. If only she'd turned back and begged Missy to let her stay just one more night, but it was too late for regrets. She'd been caught, and now she had to figure out how to get out with her life.
"Good girl," the man praised. The hand across her mouth dropped away, and he grabbed her by the wrist instead. Unable to see, he pulled her through the darkness and across the street. Stella nearly twisted her ankle on the curb, but even as she staggered, her aggressor did not slow. Wherever they were going, they had to get there fast.
Up another curb, and then along the side of a building. Stella's lungs began to burn as she struggled to keep pace, unspilled tears weighing down her lower eyelid as they crept along the surface of her eye. The man directed her around a sharp corner, then brought them to a stop.
"Don't move a muscle," he whispered through the darkness. Stella breathed in heavily, choking back a sob. "Stay tense. Do what I say."
Without further instruction, he released his grip on her wrist. Stella couldn't hear his footsteps, but instinct told her that the man wasn't standing next to her anymore. She was right. Seconds later, he swept her off of her feet and into his strong arms. Stella was only sure that it was him because of the fingerless gloves he wore.
"I'm going to put you down so you're sitting. You're going to keep your balance for me."
"Okay," she whispered. Whispering had to be fine, since he couldn't feel her nodding anymore. In hostage situations like this, as long as she didn't scream out for help, he wouldn't turn on her. Right?
"Putting you down now," he grunted. Thick, hard upholstery ran between her legs, but did not support them. Leather, had she to guess. So much leather. Her legs hung from either side, and before her, pressed against her groin, was a sturdy, metal compartment. When the man hopped on behind her, his heated body pressing against her back, Stella knew exactly where she sat. This was a motorcycle, and the man behind her, in the leather jacket and with the fingerless gloves was—
The bike roared to life all at once, and Stella jumped.
"Hold the fuck on," the man behind her barked. The headlights flicked on, and Stella saw them. The shadows. They stretched out from the surrounding darkness, reaching out for her. With a shriek of terror she clamped onto the hand grips as the stranger behind her kicked it into high gear. The hog ripped down the street, engine roaring as if to issue a warning. When Stella turned her head to look into the darkness they'd just left, she saw half a dozen sets of red eyes glinting through the darkness.
They'd been coming for her.
And as they shot down the street and skidded around a corner, Stella saw that the eyes were following, moving at an unnatural pace.
"Holy shit!" she gasped.
"Keep 'em closed!" the man behind her snarled. The sound of his voice was primal and fierce, and it was enough to shut Stella up. Unable to watch their advance any longer, she turned her attention back to the road. They were heading for the highway, speedometer chasing eighty through the twisting city streets.
Right as they swerved to take the on ramp, a second hair of headlights joined theirs. Another engine roared its greeting as a second bike fell in line beside them. In tandem the two riders hit the highway. Streetlights lit the roads here, and they wove around other drivers to a symphony of honks and shouts. Stella glanced over her shoulder to notice two things. The first was that the sector of the city they'd just left was plunged in total darkness. The second was man on the hog at their side. He was lean, but sleek. A full helmet covered his head, black visor glinting beneath the streetlights, angular black casing giving him a futuristic appearance. He wore a black leather jacket and riding gloves, dark jeans and black combat boots. It was as though he'd wanted to blend into the shadows.
The shadows and their ghastly eyes had given up the chase. Had the wind not been whipping at her so viciously, Stella might have sighed in relief, but the wild ride left no time for that. Instead, she contented herself with the sight of the city disappearing behind them. They'd hopped onto the interstate, and although she had no idea where it was going, Stella had a feeling that she would much rather be in the company of these two men than the legion of shadows behind her.
"Just keep holding on, girlie," the man behind her cried above the deafening wind. "We got you now."
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