Just another short tale …..
Ingrid flung her suit jacket over the back of the sofa as she stomped out the front door. She began steamrolling her way down the sidewalk.
Exene. That lying, manipulating, lazy excuse for a manager. Ingrid clenched her fists as she charged down the street on what was usually her evening stroll to relax and unwind.
Ingrid replayed in her mind the scorching exchange she had that morning with her co-worker. They had argued over a project that Ingrid had developed and implemented and for which Exene took all the credit. This was not the first time Exene had pulled this stunt, but this time it was more than Ingrid could tolerate. The conversation had ended on an ugly note.
Ingrid passed into a pool of yellow light. It evaporated as the streetlamp snapped off.
“Great,” Ingrid muttered as she peered at the broken concrete in front of her. “All I need to make this a perfect day is to trip and break my neck.” Ingrid sidestepped the upturned concrete slabs. There was no moon, and Ingrid had difficulty navigating in the darkness created by the low hanging limbs of the giant magnolias that lined the street. She was relieved to finally enter another ring of light at the corner. As she rounded the sidewalk and started down Cedar Street, the light extinguished just as the other had done.
“Oh, c’mon! What is going on with these lights? Is it me?” For some reason, Ingrid thought of Kristen, her other office mate, who was always commenting on Ingrid’s “erratic energy.”
Kristen also bore witness to Ingrid’s daily battles with Exene. Ingrid snorted. “Kristen’s a whack-job too.” Most of the time Ingrid enjoyed Kristen’s sweet, chirpy disposition. Not today. “‘Maybe Exene doesn’t realize what she’s doing. She’s under pressure too, y’know,'” Ingrid mimicked. “Give me a freakin’ break.” Both of them were driving her completely nuts.
Ingrid stormed down the street past her neighbors’ houses. Up ahead she could see another large break in the sidewalk where tree roots had pushed up the concrete. As she stepped off the curb into the street to detour the obstruction, she passed by the grated cover of a storm drain. She heard a faint rustling coming from just inside the drain and slowed her stride to get a better look. A louder scratching sound erupted from it. Ingrid gasped and jumped out of what she thought would be the range of an angry raccoon’s charge.
“I hate those things!” Ingrid picked up speed and moved on. As she settled into her stride, her thoughts returned to the conversation with Kristen. “Ingrid, I know Exene gives you a hard time, but being angry all the time with her doesn’t change things. It hurts you more than it hurts her. All that negativity you have towards her is going to turn inward. You need to forgive her for your sake, if not hers. If you don’t, that anger and resentment will be like a monster eating you from the inside out.”
“She has a lot of nerve telling me to forgive her,” Ingrid grumbled. Kristen had not been at the company for that long so she certainly did not understand the history Ingrid had with Exene. “What does she know about it? I have every right to be mad!”
Ingrid had worked her pace up to a near jog. As she approached the next corner, she passed between a sprawling jade bush that partially obstructed the sidewalk. As she brushed by the plant, a rasping, coughing sound came from beneath it — something akin to a growl.
“Bloody hell!” Ingrid did not stop to look at what had made the noise. It could not be a raccoon. She took off and rocketed down the street at a full run.
Out of the corner of her eye, black shapes seemed to pulse from between the houses, the trees and the shrubbery. The shadows seemed to be reaching towards her. She could not find her voice to cry out, but she knew that no one would come to her aid if she did.
She heard the sound of running footsteps come up behind her. Her breath coming hard now, she did not slow her pace to look behind. She had to get home. She had only a block and half to go.
Ingrid rounded the last corner onto her street and nearly stumbled as she came to a halt. Standing before her was a massive, black shape — a darkness so deep that she could not see through it. The shape stood between Ingrid and her front door.
It looked somewhat human, but she knew it was not.
She knew exactly what it was. Trembling, Ingrid sank to her knees as the being lumbered towards her.
A single thought flew into her mind and she muttered:
“Kristen, you were right.”