I wrote these for three of my best friends (I won't post their names up here) and they're...
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Many people have a phobia – an unnatural fear they can’t control, but Stephanie’s phobia bordered on the fringe of madness. She would go into hysteria even at the sight of a small field mouse. Perhaps she had a right to be afraid, after what happened one night the year before.
It was evening when Stephanie left the small office where she worked, a real-estate agency in a small town. The city was visible in the distance, a big busy gathering of skyscrapers, factories and cars, but the small town was desolate. Because it was a warm evening, she decided to walk home and cut through the town park on the edge of a small lake nearby. Her apartment was on the other side.
She headed down a path surrounded by leafy trees. It was surprisingly dark on the path, dark enough for some deranged criminal to jump out or a stray dog to attack. Stephanie began to go faster, wanting to get to her apartment as soon as possible. She had heard stories about things, unpleasant things that happened to people in the park at night.
Then, coming out of the shaded path into an open area, she saw that the sky was still light. She decided to walk a little slower, but she still couldn’t forget the stories she knew about the park. She rushed through the park past a deserted playground and an empty swimming pool and towards the lake in the middle. Soon, another path loomed ahead, surrounded again by thick trees. Stephanie glanced down the path. Nobody seemed to be on it. She quickly turned around, checking to see if anybody was behind her, then she hurried down. There was no point in turning back.
Once on the path, she could hear nothing but the rustle of leaves. The sounds of the city in the distance had been drowned out by the rippling of the lake water as the warm wind gusted past her. Stephanie was almost at the end of the cold cement path when she heard a noise, a noise not coming from the city, or the wind or the water. She told herself it wasn’t real, that it was just her overactive imagination from the awful stories she knew about the park, but it was as real as everything around her…
It was the sound of heavy footsteps behind her.
She rushed down the path, her shoes thudding on the cement, but she gasped when she realized that the heavy footsteps were quickening as well, chasing her. She got to the end of the path, turned, and jumped behind a group of small rose bushes near the lake. Just a few feet away was the shadow of a man, ominous in the fading sunlight. The man went and sat on a bench a few feet away, his face hidden in darkness so Stephanie couldn’t see it.
“What if he’s waiting for me to come out? What if he never leaves?” Stephanie realized in fear, her wide eyes, looking from the man to the lake. All of a sudden, she nearly screamed. An ugly gray rat, it’s scraggly whiskers twitching and its teeth clicking dangerously, was crawling up to the man, stopping at his feet. A few seconds later, three more of the revolting little creatures joined from the darkness, letting out high unnatural squeals, their beady little eyes flashing creepily in the light.
“What if one comes up to me? What do I do? I hate rats!” Stephanie thought, starting to panic. She had always hated rats; from the second one crawled across her bed one night when she was six. She had to bite down on her hand to keep from screaming as a white rat with red eyes that glinted like rubies joined the four others at the man’s feet. Before she could even think, the man pointed his long sharp-nailed finger at the bushes where she was hiding, and the four rats began to scurry towards her.
Stephanie wanted to scream, to run, to be back in her apartment where it was safe, but she was frozen in terror as the rats crawled up to her feet, their noses moving weirdly as they sniffed the air. Stephanie couldn’t take it any longer. She stood up, backed away from the rats, and suddenly felt her foot sinking.
She had stepped in a rat’s nest behind her.
Dozens of baby rats scurried from the hole, squealing and squeaking in terror. Stephanie pulled her foot from the hole and shrieked as she looked down. Without even realizing, she had stepped on one of the baby rats.
Terrified, she began to run, bumping straight into the man who had scared her in the first place. She could see his face, but that only made her fear increase as he looked down at her. He wasn’t a man. He was a white rat with a narrow nose and ruby red glinting eyes, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie. He held out his clawed hand, beckoning for her, his tail twitching.
Stephanie pushed past him, knocking him to the ground. She didn’t want to look back, but she turned her head and saw millions of rats rushing out from the suit on the ground, the rat man gone. Stephanie never reported what she had seen. She never told the police or her friends from work or her family. She never even mentioned it. She never saw another rat as scary as the ones she had seen that day again… except for the rat man. He was always around somewhere… in her mind.