I went for a run the other night.
Faithfully keeping up with my 5k training program, the only problem so far is figure out when to run. I sometimes run with Carter in the jogging stroller while the PCA is watching Addison, but I like to make that my last resort. Learning to run is hard. Add in a stroller with a very chunky baby in a hilly neighborhood and it's almost impossible.
Therefore, the other day I waited until Aaron was home so that I could run solo. The only problem was, by the time he got home, it was dark. very dark.
So dark that if I held my hand in front of my face and wiggled my fingers, I couldn't even see the motion.
Add to that- our front light is burnt out and our front yard is over an acre. I stood at the front door looking out at the darkness, questioning my resolve to not miss a day of training. (all of a sudden, stroller running wasn't looking so bad)
"Are there snakes in our front yard?" I asked Aaron, picturing myself accidentally stepping on a snake that angrily rose up and wrapped itself around my throat while injecting me with poison.
"Oh, yes, but it's way too cold for snakes now."
Phew. I took my first step out.
"I would be more concerned about skunks if I were you."
"WHAT?" Skunks? That's it. I can't go running in the dark.
As I retreated back into our house like the city girl sissy that I am, Aaron retracted the statement, claiming he was of course kidding. But I could tell that he had been serious.
At his suggestion, I added a super sexy looking headlamp to my running ensemble. It made me feel slightly better that I could maybe see some of the path in front of me. (also, I was glad that it was so dark so that no one would be able to see me wearing this thing on my head)
I took off for my 5 minute of warm up walking...down the front yard...across the street...into the neighborhood where I usually run. Why oh why was it so dark? Would it kill the state to put in a few more street lights?
There was one street light for every ten houses, and almost every house was completely dark. My nerves were on edge. Sure, I had made it down the front yard without getting sprayed by a skunk, but here I was alone outside in almost complete darkness vividly remembering every episode of Criminal Minds that I had ever watched.
The headlamp was doing little to ease my fears.
I started running, slowly at first, warming up my legs to the concept of relentlessly pounding my feet into the pavement. Every shadow became alive and every noise magnified itself tenfold.
But I pressed on. Even when I ran through a spiderweb that I hadn't seen, stopped to momentarily to do the "Get-this-thing-off-me!" dance...I kept running, completely ignoring the creepy crawly itch that now covered every inch of my body.
"I can do this. I can do this. I can do this."
I wasn't even thinking about the hard work of running. I was too busy imagining the dark twisted goings on in the torture chambers set up in the basement of the dark houses. I ran especially fast past the driveways that had large vans. Who cares that they were mini vans designed to transport children. In my mind they were for the sole purpose of kidnapping.
Kidnapping those runners stupid enough to run past their house in the dark.
I ran and I ran, the heavy breathing only 50% due to the physical exertion.
As I rounded a corner, I saw a dark shadow at the end of the block. Standing still, waiting for me.
Fear clouded my throat and I struggled to breathe. Who was that? Why were they just waiting there for me? Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea.
The dark lump slowly began to move toward me and I wondered if I should run the other direction.
"Don't be silly"- I told myself. "It's surely nothing."
It wasn't until they were passing me that I saw the dark lump transform into an innocent looking walker with a dog who stopped frequently to sniff and explore the sidewalk.
Phew. Bullet dodged.
"Stop jumping at shadows." I told myself sternly. "You're a grown woman taking a short run in a good neighborhood in one of the safest states in the nation."
Pacified from my pep talk, I kept running. I was about halfway through the scheduled routine.
After a near heart attack due to an exceptionally large mailbox that cast a bigger than life shadow over the sidewalk and a strange yelling that turned out to be a lady calling out to her dog that I couldn't see until they were almost right on top of me, I was starting to calm myself and get into a good running groove.
Big sigh. Breathing returned to normal. I was doing it. I decided to add this to my resume: Conquered running in the dark.
I then ran past a couple strolling through the neighborhood. How nice. Aaron and I should take more walks together. I amused myself for several minutes thinking of the different stroller/front pack variations that we could use for family walks.
As I continued to run, I reflected on the sweet couple holding hands, out for an evening stroll.
Rounding the next corner, I thought I saw them again. It was hard to tell because when you pass someone so close on the sidewalk, it's the song and dance of when-do-I-look-up-and-say-hi-that-will-time-with-the-exact-moment-that-they-look-up-and-say-hi so then you mostly end up looking away so it's not awkward.
Now I was wishing I had looked more closely. Was that the same couple? Weren't they walking the other direction? Oh well, they must have turned around.
It was when I saw them a third time in a completely different part of the neighborhood that I started to panic just a little. How had I passed them three times? They were strolling, I was running- we were headed opposite directions. odd.
The fourth time I passed them, I forced myself to slow down and take a good look- something was not right here.
They were both dressed completely in black and they refused to look me in the eye even though I was staring quite pointedly at them the entire time that they were in my line of sight. Their skin had a weird yellowish tint which I couldn't decide if it was from the weird street lighting or perhaps a reflection from my headlamp.
Instead of walking deliberately, they were shuffling. Slowly and painfully.
I could hear their footsteps echoing throughout the silent neighborhood.
shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle
Looking around, I saw no one else. Just me and the weird couple. Even the few houses that perhaps had lights on before had now joined the party of darkness. The entire street was a ghost town, the only sound was the eerie shuffling of the couple that I could no longer see- somewhere out in the ink black night.
My panic in an instant ballooned to a full blown panic attack. I immediately turned around and started running back towards home. I could see my heavy breaths forming clouds in the cold night air. My shoes crushed many leaves under them as I ran for my life and sanity as I was convinced that "conquering running in the dark" was the last thing that I would ever do.
I couldn't even hear the satisfying crunch of the fall leaves underfoot. All I could hear was
shuffle shuffle shuffle shuffle
Every time I convinced myself that I merely imagining this because of the fear I had of the dark. And then without fail I would pass them again.
It was like they were following my run around the neighborhood of death, yet they never spoke or looked at me. What was going on here?
Each time they passed me, they seemed to get closer and closer to me on the sidewalk. Their yellowish skin glowed and their black clothing tickled my arm as I ran swiftly by.
They looked oddly familiar. Did I know them? Who were they and how did they keep passing me? Why did I keep seeing them?
It was when I was passing them for what seemed like the tenth time that I realized who they were.
They were the couple that had gone missing two months ago. Their picture had been all over the news at the time and their faces hard to forget. Disappeared without a trace- nobody knew why or how.
I wasn't sure what to do. Should I call someone? Was I imagining this? Why didn't they say anything even after they had seen me so many times? And yet, feeling a strange calm, I knew what I needed to do.
The next time I saw them, I was prepared.
I stopped running, panting and seeing my life flash before my eyes.
"Who are you?" I bravely called out, flashing my headlamp their direction and my phone poised to dial 911.
At first there was no answer.
They got closer and closer. My heart was beating faster than it ever had before, stars were flashing before my eyes, weird tones were ringing in my ears. I could taste the fear.
"WHO ARE YOU?" I desperately screamed out, hoping someone would take good care of my children after I was gone.
The shuffling continued, closer and closer until the freaky couple was standing directly in front of me. Their long bodies draped in black were now blocking my path of escape.
Shaking like a leaf, I saw them slowly lift their heads and for the first time look directly at me.
I gasped. Their eyes glowed an unearthly red.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to run. But I couldn't.
Paralyzed, I stood and watched them raise their arms toward me as if lunging in slow motion for my throat.
This. couldn't. be. happening.
Taunt faces stretched into smiles of evil and one final shuffle was taken to close the distance between us.
As the yellow tinged skeletal hands reached up to mercilessly end my life, I closed my eyes and whispered