First of all, thanks for the great suggestions for the ending of this piece.
They were quite ingenious and in many ways came very close to the ending I was using.
And for those with a terminal curiosity, here it is:
Don't walk down that dark hallway - Part II - Conclusion
The girl stared at menacing black-clad form. She could neither run nor speak. All she could do was to stand, helplessly frozen the to the spot as the figure slowly moved towards her.
Suddenly a flash of an image and her mother’s voice came back to her, snapping through her paralyzed terror.
She had a brief moment of remembrance, of a time when she had wanted ‘oh so badly’ to make the freshman cheerleading squad and had beseeched divine intervention.
“Oh please God,” she had prayed fervently with fourteen-year-old intensity from her pink and gold bedroom, while clutching her favorite girlhood stuffed Pooh Bear for moral support. “Let me make the JV team.”
God hadn’t answered, but her mother had. “Don’t ever call upon the Lord for something trivial and silly. He is quite used to answering important prayers. But let me also remind you my dear, that before you call for divine intervention, keep in mind that, ”The Lord helps those who help themselves.”
All the childhood memories passed through her brain in a split second and seemed to bounce off the inside of her skull as her shaking tongue mouthed the words…” Oh God, please help me.”
Then her childhood memories answered back and she again heard the voice of her mother reminding her, that the lord was most favorably disposed towards those who, “helped themselves.”
The memory broke the scream loose from her throat, and as the black clad form reached for her, she found her voice and screamed…” No!”
The shadow hesitated for a moment, seemingly stunned by the force of the scream…but when only the silence of the dust motes around the forty-watt bulb answered, it came on again.
A hand reached out across the weak hall light, clutched her arm, and the spell of immobility was broken.
Suddenly she remembered a night from last year’s Thanksgiving, after the food and dishes had been cleared away, when amid the laughter and teasing wrestling of childhood, her brother had showed her some army judo moves that he said were “guaranteed to make any horny, rat-bastard, SOB, forget all about‘bothering my baby sister’.”
She had laughed but also listened, and now… she remembered.
As a black gloved hand came out of the glare induced shadows to fasten around her throat, instead of screaming and running away, as every instinct told her to do, she took a step forward, pulled the black gloved hand towards her and fell backwards, letting her own momentum drag her head over heals and away from the apparition.
The respite was only momentary as the dark form twisted and
slithered like some kind of a creature that was part cat and
snake, almost instantly righting itself again.
But she had used that instant of pause to good advantage and
vaulted the fourth floor landing railing. She hit the stairs
in between the third and fourth floor and broke into a
desperate, dead run. She ran down the creaking,
wooden treads two and three at a time, too terrified to
look back at what she sensed was behind her.
She reached the second floor landing and now could hear the
pounding of feet just inches from her. A hand grabbed her
shoulder causing her to lose her stride for an instant before
she twisted out of her coat and with a desperate push, rolled
herself over the second floor landing railing - falling heavily
on to the cracked linoleum tiles of the apartment foyer.
She lay there for a moment…stunned, and out of breath. Then as she
desperately pushed herself up on to her knees, she saw to her horror
that the black clad shadow was now between her and the buildings
entrance door. She looked at the now impossible and impassible front
door for an instant and in one final desperate gamble, launched
herself into a dead run down the first floor corridor towards the
apartment buildings back door.
She heard the feet pounding after her and prayed she would make it…
A black-gloved hand caught her by her long, dark, curly hair and
dragged her down with a short, sharp tug.
She stumbled and crashed down onto the filthy linoleum, knocking
the breath from her. When she looked up again, she was staring into
cold, black, pitiless eyes. She felt something slip around her throat,
constricting her windpipe and slowly but inexorably, start to squeeze.
She tried to scream but couldn’t. She managed to slip two fingers
between her throat and the strangling tool. It brought her a
moment’s respite of air and a tiny, desperate breath, but in the
long run she knew, it would only mean that her fingers would be
crushed, right along side of her windpipe. Her vision was blurring
as she stared up into the two shiny black, lifeless, dolls eyes.
“Dear God…This was it? This was the end?” All the things that she
wanted to do…and had never…or told anyone about, and now never
would. And now…
The blood flow was cut off from her fingers and throat.
She couldn’t fight anymore. She was going out…like a candle
in the wind.
There was a loud thud of footsteps in the hallway. Then a sudden
shift of the weight on her chest and shoulders. A light, shuffling
sound, a click and slam of the back door to the apartment building.
And then…strong arms lifting her up.
The smell of peppermints and Lucky Strike cigarettes. A smell from
She slowly opened her eyes and saw her own gray/blue green eyes
reflected back from the face of the cop hovering above her.
A timeworn, broken-nosed, but still loving face.
Many, many thanks to all those who participated, and be sure to
watch for the next installment of; "What would you do ?"
Shadow of Innocence
Kunati - April 2007
You can pre-order a copy of Shadow of Innocence from: Amazon.com
Ric Wasley has spent almost forty years wandering through corporate board rooms and honky-tonk bars. He now divides his time between writing mystery novels – Shadow or Innocence – A McCarthy Family Mystery – Published by Kunati, http://www.kunati.com , and observing the really ‘juicy parts’ of the human condition
New from Kunati Publishing: SHADOW OF INNOCENCE - The Newport Folk Festival provides a groovy backdrop for this fun and exciting mystery set in the music and drug soaked sixties. The Baby Boomers and everyone else are sure to enjoy this appealing mystery featuring a pair of musician partners in love and danger. Don't miss Shadow of Innocence! From Kunati Publishing. Available now for pre-order at; http://www.amazon.com/gp/product
And don't forget to check out my fellow Kunati author Cheryl Kaye Tardif and her tragic yet uplifting novel Whale Song, the story of a young woman haunted by the assisted suicide of her mother and the mystery that surrounds her death. Read more about Whale Song at http://www.kunati.com/catalog_whale_song