About five years ago I lived in a wee flat in rural Ayrshire.
I’ve always been a night person, so I would often find myself bored after the text messages from friends quietened down and Facebook and Twitter fell asleep. To pass the time, I used to fire on the iPod and go for a walk.
I spent four years like that, walking alone at night, and never once had a reason to feel afraid.
But all of that changed in just a few minutes of one evening.
It was a Wednesday, somewhere between one and two in the morning, and I was walking near the local health center, quite a bit away from my flat. It was a quiet night, with very little traffic and no one about. The street where the health center is, as it was most nights, was completely empty.
I turned down a short side street in order to loop back to my flat when I first noticed him.
At the far end of the street, on my side, was the silhouette of a man, dancing. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each ‘turn’ with an odd forward stride.
I guess you could say he was almost dance-walking. Headed straight for me.
Deciding he was probably drunk, I stepped as close as I could to the road to give him the most of the pavement to pass by me. The closer he got, the more I realized how gracefully he was moving. He was very tall and lanky, and wearing an old suit. He danced closer still, until I could make out his face. His eyes were open wide and wild, head tilted back slightly, looking off at the sky. His mouth was formed in a painfully wide cartoon of a smile. Between the eyes and the smile, I decided to cross the street before he danced any closer.
I took my eyes off of him to cross the empty street. As I reached the other side, I glanced back… and then stopped dead in my tracks. He had stopped dancing and was standing with one foot in the street, perfectly parallel to me. He was facing me but still looking skyward. Smile still wide on his lips.
I was completely and utterly unnerved by this. I started walking again, but kept my eyes on the man. He didn’t move.
Once I had put about a block distance between us, I turned away from him for a moment to look up the pavement in front of me. The street and pavement ahead of me were completely empty. Still unnerved, I looked back to where he had been standing and found him gone. For the briefest of moments I felt relieved.
Until I noticed him…
He had crossed the street, and was now slightly crouched down. I couldn’t tell for sure due to the distance and the shadows, but I was certain he was facing me. I had looked away from him for no more than 10 seconds, so it was clear that he had moved fast.
I was so shocked that I stood there for what felt like a long time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly.
I’d like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my phone or shouted or did anything at all, but I didn’t.
I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me.
And then he stopped again, about a car length away from me. Still smiling his smile, still looking to the sky.
When I finally found my voice, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
What I meant to ask was, “WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?!” in an angry, commanding tone.
What came out was a whimper… “What the fuu…?”
Regardless of whether or not humans can smell fear, they can certainly hear it.
I heard it in my own voice, and that only made me more afraid.
But he didn’t react to it at all.
He just stood there, smiling.
And then, after what felt like forever, he turned around, very slowly, and started dance-walking away.
Just like that.
Not wanting to turn my back to him again, I just watched him go, until he was far enough away to almost be out of sight.
And then I realized something.
He wasn’t moving away anymore, nor was he dancing.
I watched in horror as the distant shape of him grew larger and larger.
He was coming back my way.
And this time he was running.
I ran too.
I ran and ran until I was off of that damn back street and onto a street where I knew there were houses to get help. Looking behind me then, he was nowhere to be found. The rest of the way home, I kept glancing over my shoulder, always expecting to see his stupid smile, but he was never there.
For the rest of the time I lived in that flat, I never went out for another walk.
There was something about his face that always haunted me to this day.
He didn’t look drunk. He didn’t look high.
He looked insane.
And that’s a very, very scary thing to see when you’re alone in the street at night.