The bus dropped him unto the dirt road that ran adjacent to the park.
The back lights of the bus disappeared around a bend as he walked along. The path he followed was bathed in the soft glow of the park lamps which skirted the park on all sides. He had walked it many times when he worked late.
He loved the quiet change that came over him here; so different from the bustling city life where he spend his days.
The lights blinked once, once again, and his world went dark. He looked back at the sky over the city he had left behind. No lights anywhere, a blackout. No cars came up this way, few people lived this far out.
He let out a small shiver; perhaps from the cold, more likely from the odd feeling of being so alone in the dark with no light to guide him. He would never go into the park at night, too many possibilities. Inside the park was for the daytime. This now felt like inside the park. The lights had always been on as he walked around towards his home.
Nothing to do but keep walking; Let eyes adjust to the darkness. Ahead, huge dark blanketed clumps, surely stands of trees. He glanced at the sky, hoping for light; none promised itself. Rain drops increased in intensity and thunder rolled in from the south. He needed to hurry or the storm would have him.
No sounds. Stop and pause a moment to listen. No movement of any kind; not even birds chirping. How odd. Yes, for as long as he could not hear any sounds he would be safe. He strained his ears to listen and prayed silently for nothing. Somewhere in the strengthening storm he could make out small sounds, most likely the rustling of wind against the bushes and the branches of the trees, nothing more; still he looked behind him, into the darkness, nothing.
Friday the 13th. It came to him in a flash. Each of the Fridays the 13th before had involved a killing in this very park. One had been during the day, a lady on a bike hit and killed by a car losing control. The other woman had been killed at night and the police said drug related. Such a silly thing to be superstitious about a day and a number. Lightening flashed. They were both women anyway; not men.
The rain pelted his head and his face, no raincoat or umbrella. He doubted even if there were light he would be able to see, given all the rain washing down his face. Only the sound of the rain now, coupled with the intermittent crash of thunder. He strained harder to focus on any sounds that might tell him he was not alone. Best to cautious. He turned to look behind him again; footsteps?
No answer, nothing.
He should run; he would catch his death of cold out here. His pace quickened and the urgency that overtook him made him break into a run; stumbling almost immediately on a branch that had been pulled from the tree by the strong gusts of wind riding on the storm. He cursed and picked himself up. He forced himself to stop; he had to face what was happening.
This might be Friday the 13th but he was not a woman. He peered off into the darkness. He was being followed. Best to cut through the park. His home was on the other side. It made no sense to walk around under these conditions. He headed into the park, but quickly found he was unable to navigate without constantly hitting a tree, a bench, a garbage can or some other obstacle unable to be seen in the darkness.
He pushed back out to the path, his clothes now drenched, his mind in tangles. By the time he made it to the bridge, his mind was racing with the possibilities of his own disaster. He had no belief in Friday the 13th, but he knew the sinister nature of people.
The town newspaper had run an article yesterday taking note of the coincidence, but making sure the folks who read the piece saw the Friday the 13th connection; and that two women had been killed.
Some sick maniac would read that and want the coincidence to be more than a chance happening. That sick mind would want to perpetuate the myth and bask in the stories of the Friday the 13th Park Killer.
But the victim had to be a woman.
He tripped over his own shoe lace that had become untied. The urge hit him to kick the shoe off and keep going. The gulp of air he forced into his lungs shook him in place. Deep breaths, one, two, three. Enough.
He turned around to better be prepared for what might otherwise surprise him from behind, and bent down to tie his shoe. He sucked in another breath as he stood back up, and turned to continue his trek; a light moving towards him on the bridge. He wanted to run. His attacker had somehow gotten ahead of him and was now confronting him.
The fear propelled him to full flight. He hit the attacker with every ounce of energy he could muster. His attacker went sailing over the bridge into the water. No hesitation to see if his attacker might escape the water, he kept running, stumbling, and picking himself up. His hands and knees were scraped and lacerated in pools of blood.
Tears mixed with the rain as he made it to the steps of his home. He pounded on the door, struggled to find his keys, managing to finally unlock the door.
The lights blinked back on as he stepped inside.
He almost fainted from the massive release that flooded his body.
Home. Slow down. It’s over.
He called for his wife. No answer.
He went to the kitchen, where a small candle sat on top of a note.
“Honey, gone to meet you with a flashlight. If I miss you I will go to the bus stop and back your usual path.”