It began as a tapping moving slowly through the night. I walked down the empty alleys and thought nothing of it. There’s always something going on out here. But, soon the noise turned into a long, amplified scratching on the walls around me. I had ventured into an area with no streetlights, so it was becoming increasingly hard to see if anyone was near. If there was, I could just hope they didn’t know these streets as well as I.

Behind me, the ragged sound of heavy breathing began to creep up, as if being carried on the light nightly breeze that swirled up these tight alleyways. The long, grating scratches had ceased, but there was an ominous rapid clacking that seemed to be gaining ground.

I turned and saw movement in the dark–a shadowy glimpse beneath this sky of clouded starlight. The fat, blazing moon was far to the east, but it served well in the absence of operating light poles in this part of town. Something was bouncing quickly towards me, hunched over, moving side to side. I saw long points on top of its head and shiny orbs beneath them that danced along the dim path. As my pursuer drew closer, I thought that the ragged breathing sounded almost hungry as it morphed into an eager growl.

Something was out there, and I was being hunted!

I’m not one to hang around and validate my fears. If I think danger is eminent, I take flight. My feet kicked up and I fled down the alley. The menacing grunts grew more urgent and the wind that blew in carried a wretched aroma of blood and decay to me; mingling with the stench was the pungent smell of unwashed hair and body odor, like a massive wet dog pulled from the mud. Anyone–or anything–that smelled like that and chased people through dark alleys was not someone I wanted to try and reason with. So, I put my feet in faster motion.

Down at the end of this alley, there is a broken door on the side of an old produce building. I have known of it for a long time. I pass this way quite often and, for some reason, I’ve always looked at that door wondering if the proprietor of the place–if there was one–would fix it. They never did, and I was hoping that would avail me.

Before I reached the door, something black flew over top of me, at least fifteen feet in the air, hit the wall of the building to my left, then bounced against the wall of the building to my right, hit the pavement about twenty-feet from me and rolled my way. From the flying black bundle of stink rose this unearthly snarl. When the creature sprung back to its feet, I stopped in horror, gazing into the eyes of a monster.

What I saw before me was nothing short of an embodied nightmare: black, wrinkled face; shiny white sabre-like teeth dripping blood and saliva; and, eyes that were cruel and hungry. The animal stood at least three-feet taller than me and probably weighed several hundred pounds, covered in coarse fur and displaying talons that could tear skin from bone with one swipe.

The door to the building stood between me and the monster. Even if I possessed the speed to beat it there, I didn’t think it would protect me. I had no doubt this abomination could crash down the door like it was made of paper. Nevertheless, I had to try. Standing there, I was sure to be obliterated inside and out.

When I made my move, the beast howled so loud that I thought I saw the moon shiver. I fell back and held my ears, swearing I felt flecks of concrete rain down from the buildings around me. The creature had its long, imposing snout thrust upwards while it leaned its head back and wailed beneath the moonlight. I took this moment to get up and run, with all my strength.

I was almost to the door when the beast stopped howling and made its move….

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