Panther Shape

Panther Shape

This story dates back about a decade, when I was short and skinny and nerdy as all get out. Pretty much an outcast. 

I didn't get much of gossip, I was never really spoken too. I was invisible- I raised a voice, or a hand, and a world of conspiracy would ensure I went unheard.I had picked up on the rumors, nonetheless.

For weeks, we'd been hearing about bad stuff happening. Not from our parents, from other kids. Something was out there, something bad. Pets were going missing, turning up butchered. Footprints were seen, too big to be a dogs. 

I had seen these footprints myself. Three times the size of my pre-teen hand. They always seemed to be where I was. I can't tell you when I became certain something was following me, just that there was.

It was winter, it got dark early, I lived in a small country town, just on the outskirts. As well as choir on Sundays, and swimming on Saturdays (both inner city) I did orchestra on a Thursday night.

It wouldn't finish till eight or so, and as it was only a short walk, my parents would make me walk home alone. 

After five minutes the houses and the streetlamps stopped, abruptly. To my right was just an old, stone wall, crumbly and covered in green life, now grey in the moonlight.

To my left, nothing but open fields, for as far as the eye could see. And as my sensible school shoes stepped on the road, I walked into that darkness. 

And something was there with me. 

I can't explain the sudden, overwhelming sick terror that hit me. My house was five minutes away, but I know it wouldn't matter. I knew I wouldn't make it tonight. Out of the corner of my eye a black mass was keeping pace.

Too far away to touch, or to see properly, nevertheless it was moving. Softly, gently, like my cat when she stalked mice. I picked up my speed, and so did the mass. 3 minutes to home. It was moving closer, and I could hear, just on the edge of hearing, a low growling. I ran.

I ran faster than I ever managed in P.E. Had that black mass been stalking me on school sports days I would have won. My shoe flew off my foot, into the road behind me and I didn't stop, jsut kept stumble-running over gravel and grass and stone to get to my house.

Before I knew it I was at my door, slamming on it with both fists, begging and sobbing for my dad to open it for me.

In the thirty seconds it took him to open it I thought- what if it got here before me?- but he opened the door, concerned and frowny and wrinkled and stinking of cigarette smoke and wearing jumper with a hole in it and I was home and safe and I slammed the door behind me. 

They tried, but they couldn't make me go out to get my shoe. I wouldn't leave the house alone, The wouldn't, couldn't make me. They tried to make me, telling me to face this fear, but I had a panic attack just thinking about it, so my dad got a knife, and his biggest heaviest mag lite and went out with me to pick it up. 

The thing was gone. We collected my shoe. 

Three days later: 

I used to do guide choir, and was stuck between two nasty, snoby girls who would try their best to make me cry. I spent a lot of time ignoring them, staring out of the large plate glass windows. 

We practiced on Sundays in a school. Standard 60's construction British school, all ugly concrete and huge expanses of windows, with lots of green mobile classrooms dotted over the playing fields. You couldn't imagine a place less conducive to flights of fancy. 

But as I looked out the windows, I saw a familiar shape. In broad daylight this time. Bigger than the biggest dog I'd ever seen, blacker than pitch, moving with the sleek energy of a hunting cat.

I saw it cross the path outside our window for five minutes until it was out of sight. Sometimes, when I'm alone in the dark, I can still see that shape.

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