When I was twenty-one, I was quite fit and enjoyed going for runs with my German shepherd, Vixen. We would typically leave around midnight, which I found to be the calmest time of night. That’s when the whole city is sleeping, and there’s nothing quite like avoiding the hustle and bustle of daytime Victoria. Not to mention, the moonlight makes everything seem more alive.
The night of August first, I decided to change my route. Instead of running the five square blocks nearest my house, I decided to run down to the riverfront and near the docks. I don’t remember exactly why, on that particular night, I wanted to change it up. Perhaps I wanted to see the glistening of the water, or give Vixen a chance to run off the leash. I suppose it doesn’t matter much why I did it, it was just a poor decision.
When we got there, we slowed down to a walk. There was something eerie about the place, as though it was too calm, too serene. I heard a muffled yell down a small alley, between two office buildings. I stupidly decided to go check it out. Peering in from around the corner of one of the buildings, I was shocked to see a man wielding a knife. He was stabbing someone–who was it?–repeatedly. The victim was obviously dead, but I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t run and call the police; I was mesmerized. The body was slumped over, and the killer was still thrusting his knife into it furiously, murmuring incoherently to himself.
Once I finally started to pull myself away, Vixen saw a squirrel and barked. I gasped, and the murderer’s head snapped up towards me. I ran as fast as I could, Vixen following by habit. The man barreled out towards us, but we were too far away for him to catch up.
When I got home, I was hyperventilating. Did he see me? Did he hear me gasp? Who did he kill, and why? Where is he now? I tried to remember everything that I could, with the intention of phoning the police immediately the next morning. He was stocky, I remembered that. About five foot ten, and muscular; I would be no match for him if it came to a fight. And his eyes; I will never forget those eyes. When he looked up, they shone; a maniacal glare behind a piercing green gaze.
I barely slept that night. I tossed and turned, waking up to the vision of his burning eyes boring into mine. I would hear a floorboard creak, and almost jump to the ceiling in fright. I was convinced that every creak, groan, and scratch was the mysterious man coming to kill me. In the morning, I went to call the police, only to find that my phone had been disconnected. This was a terrifying discovery: had somebody come in and cut the wires, to make sure that I couldn’t call for help? But alas, it had just been unplugged. Vixen must have walked into the cord and pulled it out of the wall during the night.
Thinking back, I decided that it had all just been a dream. After all, Victoria was a quiet city, and it was rare to hear of murders occurring there. For the next couple of days, I searched the news for signs that what I saw had actually happened. No disappearances and no found bodies; no witness accounts of a brutal murder. I would put the idea behind me. It had been a dream, and that was that.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was being watched. I knew that nothing had happened, but I still felt jittery when I was alone. I would imagine that the wind was calling my name; I would hear faint knocks on my door. Vixen would get up, bark uncertainly, and return to her bed. But it was nothing, as I had to remind myself every time I jumped at a new sound. My floorboards creaked, the blinds on my window would move, as though being blown by the wind; but alas, it was all nothing.
About a month after my imagination had run wild, Vixen ran away from home. She sometimes did this when she was in heat, but would come back after realizing that all of the male dogs in the neighbourhood were neutered and had nothing to offer her. Usually she would take a couple days to return home, but this time, she didn’t. At all. After a week, I put up lost dog posters, checked the humane society, but all to no avail. My baby had run away.
I still went on my runs however, but I was never compelled to frequent the riverfront again, nor did I run at midnight. Even when it crossed my mind that Vixen might be hunting small rodents there, I still shied away from the idea. Yet I still maintained that no murder could have possibly happened.
On September fifteenth, I received a note in my mailbox. Sloppily written, I could barely decipher the message. When I did, it sent a chill down my spine.
I know what you saw. I found you, and you cannot hide. Forever you will be haunted by the memory of what you saw, what you didn’t do, until it’s all over. You will have the same fate as your dog.
Be warned, for I will not disappear.
Accompanying the note was a tuft of fur, the same color as Vixen. I tried to tell myself that it was just a childish prank, a joke put on by one of the neighbourhood teenagers, but I could not stop myself from shuddering and glancing around nervously. They must have been hidden, laughing, I told myself. But my gut told me that was not true. It must have been him, the murderer, from all those nights ago.
I developed the habit of locking my doors, closing my windows, and hiding away in my bedroom. The creaks and knocks that had once seemed so harmless, now betrayed the location of somebody trying to kill me. I lost my appetite, and refused to leave my room for anything except to go to the bathroom. I never checked my mail, in fear of another note. That’s the benefit of working from home – I could get away with it.
It took me a month to get my fear and worrying out of my system. If he hadn’t come for me now, then he never would, I told myself. It was a prank, as I had thought initially, but I let myself get carried away. All this, over a dream? I scolded myself for being so immature, and finally got up the courage to step outside.
When I did, there was a shadow under the light post across from my house that quickly disappeared when I turned to look at it. Everything creeped me out– the leaves crunching under my feet, the way the cool October air gently brushed my arm. However, I needed to recover from my delusions. With that in mind, I commenced my first walk since becoming a hermit. I only made it a few blocks before getting so creeped out that I couldn’t move any further. Baby steps, baby steps, I repeated to myself.
I repeated my routine every night, and tried to return to normalcy during the day. I even decided to celebrate Halloween, which was only three nights away by this point. I stocked up on candy and decorations, making Jack-O-Lanterns and creating a huge display out of my house. I distracted myself from my fear, and it went away. By the time the big day rolled around, my house was the most elaborate in the city, with the most lights and effects that I could possibly manage.
Young children approached my house with fear, urged on by their parents, only to be greeted by a big, friendly clown. Teenagers dared each other to walk across the lawn and go to my door, where the clown became menacing and evil. A few even ran away in fright. It felt good to be the one invoking terror, instead of being a victim.
Near the end of the night, when the kids were going home and the festivities on the block died down, one of the last trick-or-treaters told me that the lights around the side of my house had gone out. I thanked him for letting me know, and decided to take a look as soon as he made it down my driveway. No longer scared by anything, pleased by how impressed everyone was by the house, I meandered around to the side of my house.
When I got to the string of lights that the child had mentioned, I bent over to check if they were still plugged in to the extension cord. When I did, I regretted it, for a cold hand reached around my neck from behind, and hot breath blew against my neck as frightening voice whispered:
“I know what you saw. I found you, and you cannot hide. I have returned, and it’s your turn to die.”
Then a blade sliced my jugular, and everything went dark.