BLOODLINES

DEATH IS THE STRANGER IN THE NIGHT

By Jonathan Urban

Copyright March 9, 2000

Tom ran faster and faster down the alleyway. The harsh footsteps that trailed him, became closer every second. He had been running for what seemed years, but only minutes. Pure exhaustion was starting to set in to Tom. His legs ached, but he knew he must keep running.

The night was becoming darker, save for a few streetlights here and there. Tom was surprised he was still able to run, his heart felt like it was going to explode--it was beating so hard. Would he die of a heart attack tonight? He quickly put that thought aside--he was not going to die tonight. He kept running.

The thoughts racing through his mind were of no consequence. Would this stranger not stop chasing him all around the city? As if answering his question, he heard the rapid pace of footsteps behind him become closer. Every bone in his body ached; he knew he had to keep running. Every now and then he would turn a corner and get an odd look from some pedestrian walking by--forget them he thought, they would be running too if they knew!

Tom had lived a good life he thought. It was a solitary one, except for a few relatives here and there he visited. When he left his apartment this particular evening, his only goal was to get a few groceries--then he started chasing Tom.

Tom was breathless, more concerned of hyperventilating than getting groceries now. He continued to run--run like there was no tomorrow. He no longer heard the footsteps behind him. He paused and put his hands on his knees. He was about to pass out as he felt a cold sweat form on his forehead. He couldn't believe that the footsteps finally ended. Once composed, Tom looked across the street at a coffee shop and walked to it.

Inside the shop, he saw very few people--a couple at a table in the rear, a man in a suit sitting towards the front, and two women sitting in the middle of the shop, sipping their coffee. He went to the counter and ordered a cappuccino. He paid and sat down at a table near the man in a suit. Tom slowly sipped his coffee. It tasted so good to him. He needed it after a long run--though alcohol would have been much better, he smiled.

The man in the suit rose from his seat and came to Tom's table. "How are you this evening?"

"Not too bad," Tom lied, concealing his true thoughts.

"Mind if I join you...it's hard to find good conversation these days." The man sat down as Tom nodded.

"My name is Tom," Tom put out his hand.

"Mine is Quincy," He accepted Tom's outstretched hand.

Tom and Quincy talked for hours, reminiscing about their lives and jobs. Tom found Quincy's personality quite contagious as he had a great sense of humor. And Quincy seemed quite fond of Tom's company. It was becoming late, and Tom was tired--obviously from the run earlier.

"Well, it was a pleasure Quincy," Tom shook his hand. "Maybe if you are in the neighborhood again, we can meet for a drink at the sports bar."

Quincy smiled, "The pleasure is all mine," Quincy opened the door and out of courtesy motioned for Tom to go first.

Tom stepped outside...into nothingness. "What is this?"

"Well Tom, to be perfectly honest, I got tired of chasing after you. Most come willing to their death and accept it. You were a challenge--I figured I'd wait on you here."

Tom looked surprised. Quincy read his expression, "What, you thought you could run from Death?"