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Crime Mystery Thriller

Falling, through a delirious tangle of dreams, vanishing like smoke, unsubstantial, unreal and indescribably strange. The world suddenly becoming focused and clear-cut as my steps turn onto a familiar road. The sun is dancing over the pavement, beautiful in the golden light, but my stomach clenches. I have been here before. 

I walk on, and an alleyway suddenly looms to my right, deep and dark and cavernous. I hesitate, but my feet pull me into the alley before I can stop them. My eyes adjust to the half-light, and I see an endless tunnel of dirty brick walls and broken windows twisting away into the dark. I have barely moved, yet my heart is pounding. I know what’s coming.

Stumbling through the gloomy maze, on and on and on through dark passages of wet stone and slimy walls, my dread growing...knowing I will see him soon, knowing he could be anywhere, waiting to pounce….fear rising and falling with every corner...I turn around a bend, heart suddenly racing, throat dry, waiting to see his eyes gleaming at me in the dark-

No one is there.

I stand completely still, unable to believe he is gone. I turn around slowly, studying the surrounding buildings. No sign of him.

I slowly let out my breath and turn to go back, limp with relief. Suddenly I stiften. Was I imagining the noise behind me? Or else…

I whip around, but I am not fast enough. He crashes into me, forcing me to the ground. His large, dirty hand is pressed against my cheek, and I can feel his breath on my neck, hot and sour. 

The moment stretches out, agonizing, sticky with fear, heart racing again, dread building in the pit of my stomach, nausea at the smell of his breath. I wait, knowing what will come…

I feel the weight of his hand shifting slightly, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him raise his arm. I stiffen, fear rushing over me in torrents. No, no, this can’t be happening, trying to scream, my throat constricting...

He brings the knife down.

My eyes fly open, dragging me awake. For a moment I lie completely still, shaking all over. I bury my face in the pillow, my eyes hot with tears. It’s alright, it was just a dream, just a dream…

I take a deep, shuddering breath and look up again. As I glance around the familiar corners of my room, I feel my heart begin to slow a little. Everything is safe, familiar, nothing can touch me here. And yet - something flickers in the corner of my room. 

I sit straight up in bed, biting my lip to keep from screaming. It can’t be he, how could have he followed me into my own room? The thing flickers again, and I realize it is nothing more than the curtains. 

That does it; if my own room is turning against me, I’m definitely not staying. I stand up, trembling all over, and stumble over to the door.

Downstairs, in the comfortable warmth of my kitchen, I fall into a chair and sit completely still, my head in my hands. I cannot remember when the nightmares first appeared but they have grown to haunt me every night from the moment I fall asleep. There is no rest from them, no shelter from the nameless man wielding the knife…

****

The first thing I realize is how horribly stiff I feel. I raise my head, groaning as my muscles shriek in protest. Why do I feel so terrible? I glance around my surroundings with sleep-bleared eyes and realize that I have fallen asleep at my kitchen table. Wonderful. I won’t be able to get the kinks out of my neck all day. 

I stand, stumbling over half-dead feet and go back upstairs to get my phone. I tell myself that this is the daytime and I have nothing to worry about. I have half-convinced myself of this until I catch myself looking around the door before venturing in. There is nothing there, though; my dreams have vanished with the night.

I grab my phone and scroll through my texts as I head back into my kitchen. One catches my eye; an old friend I have not seen in years has asked me to meet up with her at a coffee shop in the town I used to live in. I hesitate before answering; I don’t know her that well, and I do have things I need to do at home. I glance outside, however, and realize that it is going to be absolutely gorgeous. I quickly type a response; I’m not going to stay inside doing housework. 

A little after noon, I’m stepping off the train and heading into the town. It’s been years since I’ve been here, and I suddenly realize that I no longer have the same sense of direction I used to. Is the coffee shop down this street, or the next one? I hesitate for a minute before deciding to turn down the one on the right. 

I step onto the street, and my heart suddenly freezes. It’s the street from my dream. 

I can’t stop myself; my feet seem to have taken over as they drag me onto it. I can’t stop my eyes from moving, either. I’m looking desperately for the entrance to the alley; I know I will see it soon.

At last I see, dark and ominous and full of horrible implications. I don’t want to go in, I don’t need to go in...yet even as I protest, I step inside.

The darkness, all too familiar, surrounds me on all sides, deep and heavy and sticky with memories. Memories…

I suddenly stop short as my brain seems to explode. I have been here before; not in my dreams, but in the waking world. The day comes flooding back; it was a beautiful, sunny day, just like the one in my dream. I was walking along the street I had just turned off with one of my childhood friends, Beth. We must have been only eight or nine at the time. 

I close my eyes. How could I have forgotten Beth? Forgotten the bold tilt of her smile, the way laughter always squeezed up the corners of her eyes. She seemed to walk beside me again, tripping along with that same joyful gait. 

I remember, too, how we had passed the alley and how it had struck us with its strange, forbidding darkness. Beth, always the braver of the two, had wanted to go in, but I hesitated. While Beth was trying to persuade me, a man came out of the alley and stopped in front of us.

Even at that young age, I remember how I had instinctively disliked him. There was something sly and untrustworthy in his eyes that made me instantly recoil. Even Beth fell silent and stood watching him uneasily. The man gave us a slow, crooked smile.

“Thinking about going in?” His question seemed completely nonchalant and innocent, but I shuddered.  

Beth nodded slowly. “Yes, but my friend doesn’t want to.”

The man turned his gaze on me. “Doesn’t she? Well, I can assure you it’s worthwhile to go in.”

“Really?” Beth had bent forward, eyes alight with interest. 

The man nodded. “Yeah. Do you want me to show you?”

Beth was on the verge of answering ‘yes’, when I quickly cut in. 

“No, that’s fine, thank you. We have to go.” I turned away, but Beth grabbed my arm.

“No, please, can’t we go in?”

“No!” I glanced at the man and lowered my voice. “I don’t trust him. And we’re not supposed to talk to strangers anyway.”

Beth tossed her head impatiently. “Oh, you’re no fun! You’re just afraid; that’s why you don’t want to go.”

“No, that’s not true!”

Beth saw she had touched a tender point. “Yes, you are! Otherwise you would come with me! Please, can’t you?”

I looked into the mouth of the alley and swallowed hard. I didn’t want to go; a horrible feeling was growing in the pit of my stomach and I didn’t trust the man at all. But I would not be called afraid at any cost.

“Alright.”

“Yes!” Beth gave me a quick, hard hug and turned around to the man. “Please show us the alley; we really want to go!”

“Alright, little girl. I’ll show you - probably more than you bargained for.”

Beth did not notice the weight he laid on the last phrase, but I did. I looked up at him in alarm, but his face was completely expressionless. With a quick gesture, he beckoned us off the street and into the alley.

We stepped out of the warmth and light of the street into a place so dark and cold we almost seemed to be underground. The gray walls loomed on every side, and leaned so far over the street that we almost seemed to have walked into a cave. On and on we went, always following our strange guide. I felt my apprehension growing with every step, my stomach clenched tight in fear, a cold trickle of sweat running down my spine. I wished I had never come, wished I hadn’t given in. If only Beth had not been so persistent! 

I turned to look at my friend and saw that her normally laughing face had gone very pale. But she smiled at me when she caught my eye and gave my hand a quick squeeze.

We had been walking for I knew not how long, when our guide suddenly stopped. Beth almost ran into him.

“What’s going on?” she said, her voice a little sharp with her annoyance over the abrupt halt.

The man turned around. “It means, little girl, that this is the end.”

Beth wrinkled up her forehead in confusion. “What do you mean? Are you going to take us back now?”

“Not in the way you think.”

Suddenly, so quickly that I could hardly react, the man had whipped something sharp and bright out of his pocket. I heard a shrill scream, saw Beth falling to the ground, crimson blooming out over her pale neck…

I cried out and the man turned to face me, his face twisted in a horrible passion and his knife stained red with blood. I stood completely frozen, unable to move, to speak, to think...it was all a horrible nightmare. I would wake up any moment, Beth by my side, pretty and laughing as always. This was not happening, this was not real…

The man looked at me, and suddenly began to shake all over. I could not understand what he was doing until I heard a dry gasp escape his throat. He was laughing.

I turned to flee, but darkness was falling over my eyes, fading in and out with dimming waves of light. The world spun faster and faster, darkness rushing up-

I stumbled, and fell into blackness.

****

Shadows chased themselves across my unconscious mind, vague and irresolute. Suddenly one figure loomed larger than the rest: a man, bent over in horrible laughter and holding a blood-stained knife…

I came to with a start, gasping in fright. It was only a dream, nothing more. It could not hurt me. And yet - was I still dreaming? 

I looked around myself at the grim walls and broken windows and suddenly everything came rushing back. The man, the knife, Beth-

I looked around wildly. Where was she? I remembered seeing her on the ground, and now-

She had vanished. The man had removed all traces of my beloved friend’s murder and I was left alone, staring blankly at the dirty ground. 

****

My older self suddenly rose over the flood of memories that had come crashing over me and I again awoke to the present day. I realized I was standing on the very same spot where the murder had taken place so many years ago. No one had believed my story; they all said it was the imagination of a frightened child and that Beth had instead probably run away. They waited for her to come back, put out numerous ads, contacted almost every known police station, but it was all in vain. I had known she would never come back, even though I didn’t have a shred of evidence. Eventually, my own memories of the entire event became buried under years of trying to forget the horror - only faint traces still haunted me in my dreams. 

I sighed and shivered slightly. All those years, I had never known the causes of my nightmares. And now, I almost wished I still didn’t know. Remembering that afternoon felt as if Beth had only recently died, and I had to struggle with a fresh bout of grief all over... 

And yet, I didn’t quite regret it. Perhaps it was better to remember, and feel the pain than to never have known. 

For a moment I stood in the middle of the alley, staring down at the ground. I knelt suddenly, and touched my lips to where my last memories of my friend still lingered. Then I straightened and slowly walked away.

November 13, 2020 14:40

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7 comments

Richard Bishop
12:32 Nov 19, 2020

I appreciated your rich descriptions and an intriguing plot. One thing to consider is the number of adverbs. Several writing coaches suggest that adverbs be replaced with stronger verbs to add clarity and improve the story’s flow. Thanks for sharing your story.

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Grace Larson
13:31 Nov 19, 2020

Thanks so much for the feedback, Richard! I will definitely consider that in the future:)

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Soumya Garg
04:16 Nov 15, 2020

Also would you like reading my story: The Expectation in response to one of the prompts this week. Thanks

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Soumya Garg
04:15 Nov 15, 2020

This was an amazing piece. I really liked the way you described the dark alley and how the reality still haunts her. This story has to be one of my favourite!

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Grace Larson
13:52 Nov 15, 2020

Thank you so much!! I will definitely take a look at your piece too:)

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Malz Castell
14:55 Nov 13, 2020

Great work! This was really compelling. Your descriptions are amazing and your writing style is flawless.

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Grace Larson
16:17 Nov 13, 2020

Thank you!

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