EncounterMature

The cold morning breeze almost stung at Roger’s face as he cycled to the train station on a bicycle that could easily have been as old as he was. Every pedal squeaked in pain as he pushed against the rust that fought to conquer the cheap metal frame. The bike had once belonged to a good owner. Somebody who cared for it, but now it belonged to Roger, and he didn’t have anywhere to store it out of the rain. Unfortunately, it just lay propped up against his small bungalow, hidden amongst the long unkempt grass, to prevent any burglars from spotting it. The likelihood was that nobody would want it anyway, but he had always preferred to be safe than sorry.

It was fairly early. As Roger had grabbed the toast that popped up and dashed out the door, he had caught a glimpse of the clock reading ten minutes past five in the morning, but this was actually much later than he normally cared to leave. Roger’s train arrived at the station at around half past five, and would not come again until three hours later, meaning that he would be late for work. However, he was running rather late this morning, and it normally took about twenty minutes just to get to the train station from the small street that Roger lived on, along with several other unmarried people who liked to keep themselves to themselves.

Roger was thankful for that. The fact that he lived alone with minimal disturbances seemed to suit his situation. He would have preferred to be able to socialise with people more often, but the situation he found himself in didn’t make that easy. The rumours of a threat also made him feel uncomfortable, and so he tried to avoid unnecessary movement around the city, as he had heard from the media about the various ‘seemingly unrelated’ murders occurring around the city.

Something was out there, and it intended to pick them off one by one.

Roger was happy, despite the seclusion of his living arrangements. He had never let anything control his life, and as it had all started, he had not bowed down to anything. He was not going to start now, simply because there was something unexplainable happening. That had been his attitude, and it had remained with him since then. And it had worked. Things were not going to change now, either. Tuning them out was the only thing Roger felt he could do to stop them telling him what to do, because although the threat seemed to apply to him, he was reluctant to do anything about it, for fear of getting involved and making things worse.

Trying to take his mind off everything he had been warned about, Roger tried to examine the scenery with his keen artistic eye.

As the curator of one of the city’s many art galleries, Roger was happy to admit he had only accidentally stumbled upon this position simply due to the fact that none of his own work had ever been worth anything, let alone recognised as artistic brilliance. Most of his time as a result was spent alone in his bungalow, painting his feelings, and trying to improve upon his work. He had lost the passion for the work he did years ago, but he aimed to continue, simply to prove to himself that he could do something productive with his artistic ‘talent’.

The frost was visible this morning, clinging to the abandoned spider’s webs that were casually strewn about the early morning. The whole morning looked grey and bland, but somehow beautiful despite this, and it made Roger want to take a moment to sketch it out in pencil, even though he knew his recreation could never be as wonderful as the scene he found before him. This was one of the few areas of the city that urbanisation was yet to demolish and replace with a department store. No doubt that within time, more and more small bungalow estates would be built, ravishing the natural beauty of the rural areas and turning everything into concrete jungles.

The area in which Roger lived was one of the few preserved places in the city, and Roger wished that it could stay this way forever, as a permanent subject for his art practice, so that he could finally perfect his talent.

Although the city was busy, and most of his friends and family lived there with him, his small estate was far away from the nicer, well-built structures, meaning that it would take him two trains just to visit his friends. He frequently met with family for special occasions, and his friends would meet up after work sometimes, if anybody was available, but Roger would never go out of his way to get the trains. The route to work was enough of an inconvenience.

The lack of a car never had helped. Growing up, Roger and his family had had money troubles, meaning that anything unnecessary was out of the question. Learning to drive and buying a car fell into this category, much to Roger’s disappointment.

But he was more than thankful for the lack of ease in travelling now. Well, in retrospect, he would not be so fit now if not for the need to cycle everywhere.

As the small patch of natural land was left behind him, Roger found himself entering what people referred to as the ‘heart of the city’, in the sense that it was always beating. Something was always going on.

Realistically, that was far from the truth. Especially at five o’clock on a Saturday morning, when all the young people would be recovering from the previous night, and all the older people would have the common sense and survival instincts to not come out for fear of being attacked by any youngsters that remained from the night before. Again, this never happened, but Roger had always thought that the level of irrationality in the elderly – especially in regards to the young – was ridiculous. Older people were always scared of things they didn’t understand. That’s why Roger had never opened up to his parents about what was inside him.

A small sound to his right alerted Roger, and he almost lost his balance. He had not been expecting anybody out and about this early, and the slight mist of the morning was not making him feel any safer. It was probably just a cat or something like that. Unless somebody else in the area was as desperately eager to get to work as Roger was, it was probably just an animal. He ignored the sound and continued cycling down the road.

Roger barely had time to get back to his daydream, and was not even able to check the time on his watch – which he had only just remembered about – before he heard another small rustle. Judging by the amount of plant that sounded like it was moving, Roger came to the conclusion that whatever was making the sound was bigger than a cat. Maybe a dog that had got out of the house. Roger hoped it was not a stray.

Trying to ignore the sounds again, he looked down to his watch for the first time in his cycle ride. It was twenty past five. It couldn’t have taken him ten minutes to only get here. He should probably ignore his imagination and focus on getting to the train station, or face missing his bus. It had probably not been a good idea to stay up late and watch that quiz show. As a result, Roger was now tired, and late for work.

Pushing harder down on the pedals, Roger ignored the slight stitch that had appeared in his side. He should have made time for a healthier breakfast. He had overslept, and now everything was going to hell. Next time, he’d time things better. Set his alarm for earlier, go to bed earlier, whatever it took. He hated being late. It had only happened a few time, but he hated it.

A load cry in pain shocked Roger again, and he lost his balance in a sudden jump, falling off his bike but landing on his feet. Remaining absolutely still in the early morning, Roger could have sworn that he had heard a person crying out in pain. Hopefully it wasn’t anything serious, but Roger could not be sure. He didn’t have time to wade through the mist looking for a stranger in danger, so he hopped back on his bike and began to cycle once more down the street.

Barely five feet ahead of where he had gotten on, Roger heard another scream, louder this time. What the hell was that? He didn’t stop this time, but the shout sounded closer, and Roger was becoming increasingly concerned.

Looking to his right, to where the voice seemed to have been produced, Roger could make out a silhouette in the mist. It was getting bigger. It was coming towards him. Another shout. Roger slowed down on the pedals, mesmerised by what was happening in front of him.

Within a second or two, Roger was on the ground, a horrible pain pulsating through his body, originating from his head. The silhouette was here, now, pinning Roger to the ground, stopping him from moving.

Struggling was futile. The stench of the stranger’s breath overpowered Roger, and he had to breath through his mouth to stop himself from retching.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

Roger managed to get a question in, but was interrupted by the cold steel of a knife brushing swiftly against his neck, silencing him. A peculiar warmth flooded Roger’s entire body, and he shuddered for a moment, then let the darkness take him.

No doubt this was it. This was what he had been warned against. It was coming for him. It had won. A final scream echoed through Roger’s mind, but it was no that of the attacker, as it had obviously been before. These were the Voices, screaming painfully in unison. They were dying with him. Roger was dying.

The Dark took him.

The End

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