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  • R.L. Pope

The Night Walker

Updated: Aug 18


I wrap my scarf around my neck as the door clicks shut behind me, blinking out the light and the last bit of warmth from inside. I pull my jacket tight and grip my cane. My papery skin stretches over the bones in my hand, the moonlight making my gnarled knuckles gleam. My years always find a way to be seen, even in the dark. An exasperated sigh escapes my lips in a tiny white puff, leading me down the porch steps, which creak in protest as I hobble forward, revealing their age as well.


The brisk air nips at my nose as I step off the curb onto my street. I take a moment to appreciate the stillness of the night. I like walking when the city is asleep, tucked into its blanket of quiet. The night is when I can clear my mind. The darkness offers me tranquillity the light of day cannot, and tonight is no different as I begin to make my way down my soundless street.


The neighborhood is motionless. Everyone is safe inside, their deadbolts in place and drapes drawn. Only a few slivers of light escape the windows, finding their way to me on the black pavement. I look up at the homes as I pass, admiring the hard work my neighbors have put into their lawns and gardens. The moonlight caresses the grass and flowers in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve been transported back in time to a movie set of an old film noir. My stomach churns with longing for my younger years. I shake my head, scattering the memories of my past before they get a chance to consume me. It’s a shame the residents of my block don’t get to see their homes in the beauty the darkness offers, but they are afraid of the night. They fear The Night Walker.


I suppose I should too, but I don’t. I reached the age some time ago, the age where you stop worrying so much. I know I’m going to die one day, and I’ve come to grips with the fact that day is fast approaching. I’m not scared of death. I’ve lived a good life, a full one. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes I’ve made and found peace with regrets I once had. If I happen upon The Night Walker on one of my nightly strolls, I’ll accept my fate.


Still, the thought of him sends a shiver down my spine. I tighten my grip on my cane and pick up my pace, my wheezing breath forming a steady stream of vapor. The Night Walker's presence has sent the entire city into a buzz, with stories so absurd circulating through the area one would assume they came from a summer camp rather than the local newspaper. Each tale feeding off the one that came before it, resulting in the entire town being terrified to leave their homes after the sun has set. They believe The Night Walker to be a modern-day Jack the Ripper. Sightings of him are rare. Those who have seen him swear he is not an inch shorter than seven feet tall, and more than one has claimed he carries a scythe the grim reaper himself would fear.


I pause mid-stride, cocking my head, listening for footsteps. An owl hoots in the distance, but otherwise, all is still and quiet. Nevertheless, I steal a glance behind me. The darkness has grown heavy, and fog has rolled in. I can’t see more than two feet in front of me. Still, I’m confident I’m alone.


I realize I'm holding my breath. I release it with a chuckle. I'm too old to believe in ghost stories. I carry on walking, the rap of my cane lingering on the pavement behind me with each step. A rhythmic tap I once found to be an annoying reminder of my deteriorating body. Now I find it comforting.


Tap.


Tap.


Tap.


I take a right down Broadway when I reach the end of my avenue. The flickering street lamp marks my usual route and the start of the historic district. I slow down, taking extra care on the cobblestones, making sure to lift my feet with each step.


I drink in the dimly lit street. The historical society has made a point to restore this part of town, and as far as I’m concerned, they've managed to turn back time. It’s like I’m stepping into 1951 each night.


Tap.


Tap.


Tap.


If not for my cane’s constant reminder echoing off the old buildings around me, I can almost imagine I’m a young man again. I smile, taking a moment to pause in front of the old stone building, home to my favorite bake shop. It’s where I met my wife. She worked here during the school holidays. I’m not sure if it was the warm, inviting smell of baked goods or a glimpse of my Margaret’s dazzling smile through the shoppe window that pulled me into the store initially, but I still thank my lucky stars every day that I did. She made my life.


I close my eyes and take a deep breath, savoring the memories. Some nights I can almost smell the sweet scent of sourdough still lingering in the air.


I let out a sigh, not tonight.


I open my eyes. It’s a gift shop now.


Shouts bounce off of the buildings around me, pulling me back to the present.


“Are you sure?” A man yells.


“Yes! I heard him. He’s coming!” A woman says, her voice near hysterics.


Butterflies erupt in my chest, my panic rising to match the stranger's. She means The Night Walker, I'm sure of it. They aren’t far. The need to help rises in me. I walk as quickly as I can manage in the direction of their distressed murmurings.


Tap, tap.


Tap, tap.


Tap, tap.


My hurried clacks reverberate down the street. A gust of wind stirs dried leaves in the middle of the road, creating a mini-tornado and carrying the woman's whimpers to my ears. I’m very close. My heart is pumping harder than it has in years, reverberating through my bones. I'm not used to this exertion, but I push on. They need my help.


I round the corner. It’s a dead end.


The woman lets out a shriek as a beer bottle slips from her partner's hand, smashing to pieces on the pavement around their feet, the golden liquid splashing onto their shoes. “The N-n-night Walker!” She points a shaky finger at something behind me.


A lump forms in my throat, my heart drops to my stomach. The street lamp is casting a shadow against the brick wall the couple is cowering against, a form no less than seven feet tall, a long staff in hand, looms over me. I try to gulp away the lump as it dawns on me that it's not a staff. It's a scythe.


My cane clatters to the ground. I yell to the strangers to run as I whip around to face what can only be certain death.


The street is empty.


The couple darts past me, not giving me a second glance as they kick up pebbles in their rush to escape.


I turn back towards the ally. The Night Walker’s shadow is still towering on the bricks, but it doesn’t look threatening anymore. He dropped his scythe.


My heart sinks with my slumping shoulders. I let out a sad sigh, watching as my breath floats away into the darkness. My knees creak, shattering the silence that has draped itself back over the night as I bend down to retrieve my cane.


I make my way through the quiet streets in the direction of home, the sound of The Night Walker haunting the night as I go.


Tap.


Tap.


Tap.




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