Silence

Nothing.  No reply, no blinking, only the scratching of the dry leaves tumbling along the sidewalk.  It was unseasonably warm, but Halloween would soon arrive, and the bare trees overhead were a reminder that summer was past, and that those dark clouds in the western sky would happily drop snow upon them any time now.  Still, it was unseasonably warm, and suddenly Hannah felt her lightweight hoodie begin to cook her.  She dropped the hood and looked both ways at the dark, deserted intersection before pressing flat to the ground on her belly, her hands under her chin, legs sticking out into the road.  The drain was only a couple feet away, and as she peered into its hidden depths she waited for some sign of movement -- or purple light.

She saw nothing and heard nothing -- aside from the dry leaves crossing the street behind her.  The warm breeze picked at the tendrils of hair at her cheeks and tickled her ears.  She blew the strays out of her eyes, and still she waited.  The dirty smell of cars was strong there on the ground, the smell of pavement, rubber, and exhaust.  A few leaves rustled past the curb, and past her nose.  Hannah scowled and focused her eyes ever sharper into the dark, waiting for sounds, waiting for purple light, waiting for something.

After a couple of minutes on her stomach, it occurred to her that the purple glow was probably from some battery-operated trinket which some kid had lost down the drain and would never see again.  Hannah shook her head and swore to herself for being such a ninny, and slowly got to her feet.  At least no one had driven past and stopped to ask her what on Earth she was doing on her belly at the side of the road, staring into the drain under the sidewalk.  She shook the sand from her chin and tried her best to wipe her shirt clean before some embarrassing headlights might come around the corner and discover her.

But no, the streets were thoroughly vacated.  Old Man Childress' book store was still lit a little farther down the road, indicating that old bugger was still trying to make a buck, but all the other store fronts along Main Street remained dark and ghostly.  The facades brightened momentarily as the full moon briefly peeked out from behind the clouds but it was soon swallowed by the night, and Hannah's world returned to darkness.  Scowling, she kicked a golf ball-sized rock into the dark drain and heard a satisfying PLUNK! as it dropped into the water below the street.  She heaved a solemn sigh and stuffed her hands into her pockets as she turned her head and looked to the right, the road she would follow until she turned left at Hickory and walked the two blocks to her house.  She needed to come up an excuse quickly; she set her mind to work on that.

She took one step away from the curb when something fast and dark shot out from the drain and grabbed her ankle.  Hannah went down before she even knew what had happened, and slammed her chin into the asphalt.  Pain exploded in a kaleidoscope of stars behind her tightly squeezed lids and one of her upper teeth bit deeply into her bottom lip, sending hot blood onto the dry and thirsty blacktop.  Tears burst from her eyes and snot dripped freely from her nose.  Her head swirled with confusion and pain.  What the hell had just happened?!  She came to a seated position and put the palm of her hand to her chin and pressed hard briefly.  When she pulled away, her palm was bright red.

That was the first time her heart surged with fear under her hoodie.

The End

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