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Followed by a Stranger
Rachel could hear the stranger’s footsteps. They were quiet, and very, very careful. Like a cat’s - a cat about to pounce on its prey.
Rachel didn’t know how long it had been since the stranger had started stalking her. Two weeks? Three weeks? A month? She remembered the terror she had felt when she realized that a man was following her. Then, just like now, she’d been to cowardly to look back and see the face of her stalker. It would just take a quick glance, but Rachel could never find it in herself to do it. Because of this cowardice, Rachel didn’t even know the face of her stalker. The only thing she could identify him by was his footstep.
Rachel took another step. So did the stranger. This time though, his step distinctly louder. Rachel realized, with a jolt, that the stranger had come closer. How close was he? Rachel guessed five meters. He was far too close for her liking - she could even make out his soft breathing through the thick silence of the night.
She quickened her pace, and came to a turn in the block. Look, she told herself. Look at the stalker, and end all of you troubles. But her resolve was short-lived. As she rounded the block, her chest tightened, and she kept walking, without so much as a glance behind her shoulder. She’d missed a chance to see the stranger’s face. Again.
Cursing herself for the hundredth time, Rachel continued her walk home. Two hundred more meters and she’d be at the front of her house. She started walking faster, but the stranger did the same. In a desperate last attempt to shake him off, Rachel broke into a sprint. But the stalker seemed to have no trouble catching up. Soon enough, he was close behind her again.
Rachel pulled out her house key and jammed it into the keyhole. Or tried to.
“Dammit!” she swore as she fumbled with the small key, her fingers shaking too much to hold it steady, let alone unlock her front door.
Now that she’d stopped walking, Rachel realized how defenseless she was. How she hated it all - not being able to face the stalker, being so hopelessly vulnerable in front of him, and not knowing when the stranger might venture to do something even worse than follow her. She vowed to bury all of this in the back of her mind one day, and live without ever thinking about that scary man who followed her home everyday.
It was just when Rachel thought this that the stranger had laughed. He had a harsh, maniacal laugh that chilled her bones and nearly made her faint right there on her doorstep. It was so unlike any laughter she’d heard before. The laughter she knew was warm and full of raw happiness. But this laughter was scary; it filled Rachel with fear.
Perhaps it was this fear that gave Rachel the power to finally open her door. She locked it behind her in hurry, and collapsed, panting, against her door.
Even years later, Rachel still relived the terrors of the stalker every night in her dreams. The fear she had felt would never go away. It had become a major part of her life - she found herself waking up in the middle of the night, the stranger’s laughter ringing in her ears. He would haunt her memories forever.