Copyright © 2017 tylorkranyak.com
All Rights Reserved
Tylor Kranyak
Author of Legacy of Krazatan
Claws
     The sun had already set by the time Kim left the library. She had an exam to write the next day, so she had stayed at the college for a few hours to review her notes. She couldn’t do it at home since her family was so noisy she wouldn’t have been able to hear herself think. She studied and reviewed until she thought the material would spill out her ears, and when she packed up her things and left it was well into the dead of night.
     She decided to walk home tonight. She only lived a couple blocks away and she was low on bus fare. Besides, the streets were well lit and the air was warm tonight. These were safe streets, too, there was a police station not too far from the college so the area was frequented by patrol cars. Kim wouldn’t have to worry about any unsavory characters slinking out of the shadows and trying to take advantage of her. As she strolled down the sidewalk she noticed the streets were unusually empty. Not a single car drove down the brightly lit road. Kim thought it strange since even this late there were still people going about their business, or was it later than she realized? No, it couldn’t have been that late, the library had still been open when she left. Besides, her parents would have called her if she had stayed past nine. Still, she took out her phone to check the time and if she had any missed calls.
     Kim pulled her phone out of her pocket and touched the screen, frowning when it didn’t respond. She tapped it a few more times with her thumb, but the screen remained black. It couldn’t have been out of power already, she just charged it last night! Before she could start complaining about the hunk of glass and plastic, a sudden freezing wind blew past her. Kim sucked in her breath at the sudden blast of cold air, suddenly feeling inadequately dressed in the unexpected cold front as she rubbed her arms for warmth. Something cracked under her foot. Stopping, she looked down and saw a patch of ice on the sidewalk. Why was there ice in the middle of summer? It had been humid all evening thanks to a sudden downpour that afternoon. The street light above her started flickering, soon followed by the rest of the lights lining the road. That’s when she finally noticed the homes and buildings around her were pitch black. Even the sign on the twenty-four hour convenience store at the end of the street was out.
     Then, she heard something across the street. At first she thought it was a cat sneaking through someone’s bushes, but when she strained her eyes to see past the flicker of street lights and into the darkness, she noticed the outline of a body. The figure rose impossibly tall, its movements slow and jerky and accompanied by sharp noises resembling the popping of joints. It was thin and lanky, almost like a skeleton. It seemed to be carrying something in each hand, but after a moment Kim realized that wasn’t the case. Those were its fingers. No, not fingers, claws, claws so long that they dragged along the ground as the figure moved, toward her.
     The street lights gave one last flicker before finally going dark.
     Kim bolted, her instincts urging her to run for her life. She barreled down the sidewalk with only the moon and stars to illuminate her path. She knew these streets like the back of the hand, so she quickly mapped out the shortest path home in her head. She had to get home, she’d be safe there from that thing.
     Her feet suddenly flew out from under her as she slipped on a patch of ice. She hit the ground hard on her arm, cried out from the sharp pain that shot through her limb. She struggled to get back to her feet and continue running, cradling her arm as she did. There was ice everywhere now, not just on the sidewalk and street, but on the buildings, encasing bushes and flowerbeds, and hanging from streetlights like stalactites.
     She spotted an alley between the local pizza shop and a three-story apartment complex. Normally she would never take the path, but she knew it led straight to her street. She turned into the alley, careful not to slip on another patch of ice. She sped down the dark passage between buildings toward an “L” turn that would put her facing directly toward her house. But, when she came to that turn, she stopped. Her path was blocked by a wall of ice so thick that not even a jackhammer would get through it.
     Her blood froze when she heard the popping again. Slowly, she turned to face the mouth of the alley and saw that thing walk into sight. It turned, its claws raking against the asphalt as it took a slow, jerky step toward her, then another, and another. Kim put her back to the wall, felt her bag slip off her shoulder. She wanted to scream for help, but she was paralyzed from the terror that ripped through her being like a knife. Her legs gave out as she slid to the ground, unable to do anything as she watched her death approach.
     The alley was suddenly illuminated when a side door opened, blocking her view of the figure. A man in a dirty white apron carrying a full trash bag walked out of the pizza shop, stopping when he saw Kim. “Hey, what are you doing back here?”
     “I.. I..” Kim tried to speak, but couldn’t seem to form any words past the terror that still clouded her mind.
     The look of irritation on the man’s face softened to one of concern. He swiftly tossed the bag into a nearby dumpster before going to her side. “Are you okay, Miss? You don’t look so good.”
     Kim let the man help her to her feet. As he reached down to grab her bag for her, she strained to look down the alley. The figure was gone, and when she turned she noticed that the wall of ice was as well. Had she been hallucinating? Had all that excessive studying gotten to her head? The air was warm again, and she noticed the street lights were all back on and ice-free. It was as if nothing had happened.
     When Kim took her bag from the man’s hand, she said, “Thank you, I’m fine.”
     “Are you sure? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
     “Yes, I’m sure. I just need to get home, my house isn’t far from here.”
     The man nodded, though he still looked worried. “All right, just be careful.”
     Nodding, Kim turned and made her way through the rest of the alley. She was still shaken up, so when she heard the side door close she bolted. She didn’t know what she had just experienced, but she was desperate to get home as soon as possible, where she knew she’d be safe. Her house was like a beacon of warmth in the night. She climbed the front steps two-by-two, stopping at the top to catch her breath. When she was confident that she had her emotions under control, she reached for the door handle.
     Her body jerked as something red splattered across the front door. Pain ripped through her body, but the shock of it all prevented her from screaming. Slowly, she looked down and saw five long claws coming out of her stomach. Her lips quivered as she tried to make sense of everything, but couldn’t. Then, she heard that awful popping noise again as a large, dark hand with more long claws slowly reached around her body and covered her face…