I could just see the shadow slanting slightly like some willow bending toward the water. It turned toward me then, and I pulled back behind the corner of the building which I told myself hid me. What was I doing? The evening’s mystery had begun as an afternoon stroll through the park by my house. Isn’t that the way all trouble begins: Innocence pulled gradually by some subtle power until you’re standing behind a building a mile from where you should be, trying to breathe noiselessly though you’re sorrowfully certain your heartbeat can be heard a block away?
I had begun my walk to see the trees. They were golden this year. Maples splashed red here and there, but the air itself seemed mostly – well, like I said – golden. King Tut’s tomb. Pieces-of-eight. The lottery that changed things of value to a thin, printed paper of possibility. I digress, of course, to avoid the obvious.
You see, I was looking up as I walked, the better to take in the fire and shine of the season, when I bumped into something. At least that’s what I had immediately thought since it was immoveable, like a lamp-post. My abrupt stop and reverted sight line, however, showed me a person I would guess to be around 6 feet, 3 inches of mostly muscle knit together with intensity. He looked into my eyes for a split second while I stood fixed to the spot wondering how I would explain my disappearance to my dog who I had left at home as punishment for whining into the wee hours of the early morning. Then he was gone and I was shivering in the balmy air of the autumn afternoon.
I’m not being dramatic. He really was gone. I turned to look and there was nothing there. Any sane person would have cut her stroll short and gone home, but I told myself that I wasn’t going to allow anyone, even if they were a disappearing man, rob me of my afternoon stroll. So I kept walking until I got to the other end of the park. Then I thought what if I didn’t see him because he had hidden? That makes sense, right? Maybe I should go home like the sane person I wasn’t and lock my door. But then (I reasoned) if he was, in fact, following me, maybe I shouldn’t go straight home. Maybe I should take a divergent path to shake his trail. OR, and this is where the trouble really began, maybe I should try to find him, follow him, and prove to us both I wasn’t anyone to be trifled with.
At that point, I turned and started back the way I’d come, eyes darting behind every bush and tree. I kept walking beyond the park then because I thought I spotted him, and that’s when I noticed the golden light had turned to muted gray. Dark would follow in a matter of half an hour, fall being what it is, and I was a mile of crooked sidewalks from home.
to be continued . . .