Third pasta, I just edited a plot hole in it (around the end) so any compulsive error checkers or grammar nazis, be forewarned that there may be a few...
It was early Monday morning. I had about four hours before I had to go to work, as I was an early riser. The sun wasn't up yet, but a tiny glow on the horizon hinted at a beautiful sunrise to come. My breakfast was typical-oatmeal and cold toast. As I got ready for my morning run, I glanced over my small house, situated humbly on a street in the downtown slums of Merced. The couch, ripped up from long-term use,was strewn with my blankets.The broken toaster lay on its side, bolts and wires spilling out like guts from its underside.The hardwood flood bore the evidence of moved furniture and many spills. As I closed the door with finality, the door screeched in protest and sagged an inch lower, the screen popping out of its track and falling off the porch to the sandy ground below.
I sighed in frustration and stooped to pick it up. As I did, something in the dark recesses caught my eye. The spot I was looking at was no different from the rest of darkness under the porch, but a nameless wave of uncertainty washed over me. Something told me that if I moved, I would be in grave danger. I stayed stock still, gazing into the underside of the porch as the cool pre-dawn air kissed the back of my neck. After about five minutes, something huge rustled and in the near-pitch blackness, I saw something with sandy colored skin move and disappear again, a flicker of movement that I would have not noticed had I not been frozen. I exhaled a mighty breath as the wave of confusion and anxiety burgeoning on terror receded, leaving me tense and exhausted. To clear my mind, I took off down the street and as I did, the remaining fear disappeared. I reasoned to myself that it had only been a bear. They weren't plentiful in these parts, but there had been reports of one in the area, driven from the mountains by the drought. I would have called Animal Control to report a bear sighting, but because of a recent storm, phone lines were down and I was too poor to afford any sort of decent mobile phone. However, I told my next door neighbor and he assured me he'd check it out.
My mind quelled, I continued down the road towards the empty hills of the area. About half an hour into my run, I developed the sense of being watched. From where I didn't know, as the rolling golden hills provided no cover for any creature wanting to get close enough to watch without being seen. The sun's edge was just breaking through the cloud cover and I was almost halfway through my run. The area began to come to life, a few tentative bird calls relaxing me. I felt safe and happy, and all fear fled me. A few minutes later, slowing almost to a stop to enjoy the first rays of sunlight, I became aware of a light illuminating my back. I turned and saw what appeared to be a pair of headlights coming down the road behind me. I waved,slowed, and smiled, but there was no response, not even the sound of an engine greeted me. I slowed to a stop, confused, watching the car in puzzlement. I walked back towards it and shouted "Hello?" The headlights seemed to flicker, then began moving closer with a strange scratching sound. I began walking closer. Obviously a broken engine was the trouble. Then, a low, gurgling chuckle emanated from the headlights. I stopped and began to back off again, as the headlights came closer and closer.
Then a horrible truth settled over me. Those weren't headlights, they were eyes. I choked on my own scream as I turned to run, and time seemed to slow down as the creature scrabbled its way towards me. Claws or hooves, I don't know which, gouging into the asphalt, the creature swayed unnaturally towards me. It moved like a dog hit by a car and smelled hot and coppery, like blood in a furnace, but as it stood from its crouch, I saw it was at least twice my size.
I ran as hard as I could, heart in throat, feet hitting the ground hard enough to go numb, the air no longer coming so easily to my lungs. It began to lope, the sound bouncing off the low hills and echoing back louder and louder with each bound it took. Its hot breath touched my shoulders and I sobbed with sickening certainty that I was going to die now. Up ahead the sunlight parted to make way for the dark shape of a semi truck and in a sudden shriek of confusion, the creature's breath disappeared from my back and I heard the sounds of receding claws behind me. I chanced a look back only to find thin air where the beast had been. There was no trace of it save the screech still echoing off the hills. Gasping in relief and shock, I threw myself to the ground, crying and laughing at the same time. The semi pulled up beside me, worried and confused to see a half-mad woman laughing on the side of the road. I hitched a ride back to town with him, still giggling slightly. I kept checking the rearview mirror for those awful eyes, but the creature never showed. The trucker dropped me off at my house and I waved goodbye as he left.
I was about to walk into my house when I noticed something strange. My neighbor's sprinkler was slashed up and hanging in the trees, still dripping water. Dread began to rise in my throat, and I stepped up to his door. One hinge was loose, and it hung crookedly. I pushed it open and saw his body lying on the floor, half in and out of a huge hole in the floor. He was most certainly dead; he looked like he had been picked up and slammed into the ground by an awful force. I stared in horror, my brain going into shock. I numbly assessed the situation. It was obviously waiting for me somewhere nearby, most likely nearby, waiting for me to come home. I had no money, a half tank of gas in my car, no friends in town to speak of, and the only thing of value was my mother’s ring. I weighed the options for only a second before deciding, screw the ring, I’m getting the hell outta here. I hopped into my car, and reached for the keys...that were sitting on the dresser next to my bed. A sick sense of fear overwhelmed me as i realized what i would inevitably have to do.
I entered the house through the back door, creeping up the stairs silently. I hoped that I could get in and out of the house undetected. Up the stairs, careful not to make them creak, past the bathroom, careful now, that floorboard is squeaky. I reached my dresser, and snatched my keys, and started down. I almost made it down the stairs. The last one, fate, or fear decided to intervenes, and I stumbled. Just a faint thump, but I knew instantly it had heard me. I listened, muscles tensed, like a deer who knows the hunter is there, but also knows if she moves too soon, or badly, she will die. I stood, sweat trickling down the back of my neck.
Out of nowhere, the silence was shattered. An awful sound permeated the room. It sounded as though nails covered in sand were being scraped against wood. It came closer and closer, as though there was a ghost in the room. My heart rate hit the roof and I looked around wildly, but there was no trace of the creature or the source of the sound. As it moved to directly under me, I realized that it was under the floorboards. Too late, I tried to run, and huge arms burst through the floorboards, shredding the laminated wood like warm butter. They were hairless, and baggy, but seemed to be made out of black ooze. In the light, the arms seemed ethereal and wispy, but had ferocious strength belied by their looks. They wrapped around my ankle and waist, and dragged me to the floor. A freezing cold spread through me, and I was almost sure that my hip was broken. With a burst of insane strength, born from pure terror, I yanked myself free, rolling to the side, and staggered to my feet. I limp-ran at top speed, listening in horror at the scratching sound getting closer and closer. I almost threw myself out of the doorway, rolling, wrenching my shoulder, but “safe” as I could be. I got up, using the last of my strength to propel me to my car. I limped out of the door, intent of getting as far away as possible. I mustered my fading strength and walk-dragged my way to my car, and tried to start it. It caught on the second try and I was driving like a maniac down the highway after only fifteen minutes. Out of nowhere, soft at first, but building, I heard a strange noise coming from behind me. It sounded like scratching. And it was coming from the trunk. I found myself remarkably calm. I knew what needed to be done and I was going to do it. I was too far gone to care about my friends or family at this point. I just aimed for the nearest tree and let my tired mind drift away.