Crunch

She needed to be home with George.

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The girl heard the sound of something almost directly behind her. It was a crunchy sound, the kind of noise you hear sometimes, as you walk in a field, right after a first frost. It was getting late and she knew George would have dinner waiting for her. It was a shadowy time of the evening. That time when it was dark, but if you looked hard, you could still see shapes around you. She pulled her sweater closer and wished she had her gloves in her pocket. Her hands were becoming stiff with the cold. Her stomach rumbled and she wondered what George had cooked for their dinner? The crunch sound came louder and she thought it sounded much closer. She shivered involuntarily and wished with all her might that she hadn’t had to stay late at the hospital tonight. Rose hadn’t shown up for her shift and they had asked her to stay until they found a replacement. Being who she was, Traci decided that of course she would stay for a few hours longer, to help out. Traci stumbled all of a sudden, as the night closed around her. She quickly regained her balance, and she had a sensation as if someone might be walking near her. She shivered and her blood seemed to drain from her head and she wondered if she might faint? How she wanted George to be walking beside her right now. Another crunch,  a quick, loud thud and a slight moaning sound pierced the dark, velvet like, night. Traci’s blood ran cold throughout her body. She wanted to run. She was afraid. She wanted to be home safe, in the warm comfort of the house she shared with George, in her bed, in his arms. Traci felt lifted momentarily off her feet. The sensation, shocked her, and darkness quickly shut down her thoughts as she lost consciousness.  

George looked at the clock on the wall, and he started to wonder why Traci hadn’t arrived home?  Earlier she had sent him a text, telling him that she would be late, but he realized that it was later than she had promised. He could smell the pleasant aroma of the roast that he’d made earlier. He knew she would come in later, so George had already had his dinner, the roast, along with potatoes and carrots. He heard the branches on the old Oak tree scrape against the shingles of the house, The wind must have started blowing, he thought. George felt an overwhelming urge to run outside and down the street, three blocks to the bus stop where he knew Traci always got off the bus. He decided that if she didn't answer his call, he’d put on his jacket and go looking for her. He pulled his cell phone out of his faded jean’s pocket and put in her number. He listened intently, as the rings started.

Traci felt a burning sensation in her left knee. She attempted to clear the cobwebs from her mind and she opened her eyes and tried to see around her. She felt cold, ice cold. It’s funny how she could feel so cold, yet her leg burned so much. She couldn’t see anything, it was pitch black, all around her. Why was she laying on the ground? Why wasn’t she home in her warm bed, next to George? George! How she wanted her big, slightly clumsy, good hearted, quiet, ever mysterious George, to pull her close and make her feel safe. Traci heard a deep, low rumble, another sound that reminded her of a dog growling, and that crunch sound. She felt a strange gnawing sensation, on her upper shoulder. The swift, sharp pain that ensued, made her feel as though she were going to vomit. In the few seconds she had to think, she wondered if she had seen too many horror movies on late night TV or if she was having a nightmare? She tried to scream for George. Darkness claimed her, again, only this time it was merciful.

George tucked the phone in his pocket and pulled on his warm, black hoodie, he shook his head and thought briefly about calling the police. He threw off that thought as he opened the front door and stepped out into the chilly, late autumn night.  He pulled on his gloves as he headed down the sidewalk in the direction of the bus stop. He shivered and thought that it might snow before morning. He stopped for a second, as he tried to remember if he’d turned off the low setting on the oven? He decided that right now, finding his wife was his number one priority. He walked faster. Off in the distance he thought he heard a train whistle. The sound made him feel strangely alone. Funny how he’d never noticed that there was a train close by. He had walked quickly and thought he had maybe a block left, until he reached the bus stop. He still had seen no signs of Traci. He realized, how much he needed to see her. Where was she? Why does tonight seem so ungodly black out? He heard a crunch, sound coning swiftly towards him in the night. He smelled a strange, earthy, slightly nauseating aroma wafting on the night breeze. The crunch came again, this time louder and much closer. It was the sound of someone or something running. George stopped suddenly. He had the sensation of being in a cold, black box. He began to wonder why he had come out tonight at all.  He trembled and thought for a second he heard his wife whisper his name. He stepped forward and his foot brushed something solid on the ground. He stumbled slightly and found his footing. That strange, copper like smell filled his nostrils. Traci! He needed her, wanted her, his stomach rumbled and he realized that he was hungry again. His foot again brushed against something nearby. He quickly bent over and felt around what felt like it could be a body. He shivered again and thought he smelled Traci, her perfume, her scent, amidst that sickly, copper smell. He used his hands and reached out. He touched cool flesh. He felt something wet seep through his gloves and onto his hands. He felt what seemed to be long hair. Traci! He wondered for a second why she was lying on the ground, he made a sound from deep within himself, that came out as a growl, the sound surprised and startled him. George stepped one more quick step with a loud crunch. His stomach contracted with hunger. He realized he had found Traci. Elation filled him! He had found her. He knelt and bent his head low. His lips contracted back over his teeth, and he began to feed.