Ponderings from a Procrastinating Prognosticator

Short Story

Posted by samatwitch on November 15, 2011

I recently have been encouraged to post some of my writing where it can be read so I’m taking the ‘dare’.

I don’t normally write – or read – short stories, as I find I can’t get as deep into characters as I like, but I have written several for contests or challenges. Here’s one I wrote several years ago for a Writer’s Digest contest.

THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT

I glanced left and right, then took a first cautious step into the wide open field. What was it about the dark that seemed to change even familiar places into potentially menacing ones? During the day, the empty field with the high grass didn’t seem so big or so threatening. The grass was green and fresh-smelling and when the sun was shining, it was one of my favourite areas to spend time. But tonight this same field stretched endlessly before me, the safety of my home on the other side invisible in the dark.

I knew I should have left the neighbour’s barn dance earlier, but I was having so much fun with my friends. The food was good, with several different types of cheeses I had never tasted before, served with bread and crackers, followed by crumb cake and tarts, and chocolate that melted in one’s mouth. And the music! It was all I could do to sit still until I was asked to dance. My toes kept tapping in time to the beat (I have very good rhythm).

But now the music was over, the food was gone and my friends had scattered to their own homes, leaving me to cross the field alone. Bravely, I took another step into the high grass, which was so tall and thick that I couldn’t see above it. Surely it was safe. I had walked and run through this field many times. It was my neighbourhood and I knew it well. Nevertheless, a feeling of dread came over me. I froze in place. Was that breathing I heard? Was there someone or something behind me?

I looked over my shoulder, but could see nothing but shadows, as there were in front of me. I tried to tell myself it was imagination working overtime, but I wasn’t very convincing. Slowly, I started walking again, picking up speed as I became convinced that something was following me. If I turned around quickly, I could see the grass move behind me – but it might be the late evening breeze. Any sounds I could hear over my own pounding heart could be attributed to normal nocturnal activities. Why then this feeling of dread?

I looked to my left and right. How much farther did I have to go? There – up ahead on the right – what were those darker shadows silhouetted against the starlight? Could my pursuer have passed me and now was waiting for me to come to him? My heart lurched within me, then went back to its quickened rhythm as I realized it was just the stand of birch trees that marked the halfway point across the field. How absurd, I told myself, I’ve been out after dark by myself before and have come home safely. There was no reason to think I wouldn’t do the same this time.

I paused to calm myself, and in the silence between one breath and the next, I heard it. From somewhere close behind me came the faint but unmistakable sound of breathing. The hairs on the back of my neck – and everywhere else on my body – stood up, and I started to run, dodging in and out of the grass. The wind whistled in my ears as I sped around a large rock. I knew that rock. I was getting close to home. But would I make it? I risked a glance behind me.

He was keeping pace with me, but his breathing was almost normal, while mine was so ragged, I wasn’t sure where my next breath was coming from. My heart felt as if it would burst through my skin at any moment and my skin was cold and clammy. My next glance revealed him even closer. My fright became panic and in my panic, I tripped over a tree root which had been left behind when they cleared the field. Head over heels, I tumbled down the slope on the other side, coming to rest at the base of another large rock.

It was big enough to hide me from my pursuer, at least momentarily, and I took advantage of the respite to catch my breath. I was small and fast, but he was big and just as fast. I risked a peek from behind the rock. He was standing by the old root, looking around in what appeared to be a puzzled manner. Maybe he hadn’t seen me fall down the hill and thought I was hiding in the grass near the root.

I watched for a moment as he circled the area, head down. When he looked in the opposite direction, I darted out from the protection of my rock and fled towards home. He must have seen me from the corner of his eye, because once again he was chasing me, and this time he meant to catch me. I wasn’t sure what he wanted from me, but all of my senses were telling me I was in danger.

I ran as fast as I could, not daring to glance back at my pursuer, but putting all my strength into making the last distance home. He was no longer making any attempt to be quiet, but ran swiftly through the tall grass, gaining on me the longer we ran. As my home came into sight at the end of the field, my body stirred to even greater lengths. Just a few more feet and I would be safe. I felt his breath hot on my neck and I demanded more from my body than I had ever had occasion to do before. He was so close, I could feel him gathering himself to pounce.

Just as he leaped for me, I darted into the mouse hole that was my home. And as my family gathered around to welcome my safe return, I remembered the 11th Commandment of the field mouse: Thou shalt not tempt the neighbour’s cat by roaming into his territory when he is outside.

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7 Responses to “Short Story”

  1. I found this in the Writing Tag feed on WordPress and I love the story! I was totally caught off guard by the last paragraph, but it answered so many questions I had while I was reading (‘how can they feel their pursuers breath but not see them?!’). I love your descriptions and the pacing. Great job!

  2. samatwitch said

    Thank you. This is a risk for me so I appreciate the comments. I went to your blog and enjoyed your postings as well. 🙂

  3. saalon said

    I’m so happy you posted this for us. High five! Great success! I don’t approve of mice escaping from cats as a rule, but I guess I’ll make an exception. Good work, and I hope this isn’t all we see from you! Dare, dare, dare!

  4. samatwitch said

    Thanks, E. As a rule, I don’t either, especially if the mice are in my house! 😀 You may be sorry you asked. I have several more short stories and poems!

  5. Mere said

    Nice work, Sam — I didn’t see the ending coming at all! And am very proud of you for taking the dare. You should post your work more often!

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