This story is both a stand-alone narrative, and part of a blog novel.  To read the other chapters, click on the links below. Please contact me regarding publishing or redistribution at tim@himtim.com.

I couldn't close my eyes, even when dawn broke.  Visions of a black, horse-sized creature charging at me haunted my mind.  As the morning moved along, the sounds of automobiles driving by and kids laughing or yelling at each other on the way to school comforted me.  Sleep, however, was no longer an option.

Eventually, I convinced myself that the monsters I'd seen, as well as the man who'd followed me home, the night before were just a result of my overactive imagination.  As a journalist, I had been condemned--or freed, depending on your opinion--to write in the "Opinion/Editorial" pages of the Rampart Rock Reporter.  I tended to exaggerate circumstances and blow up conflicts into conspiracies.  Writing that way made the news entertaining in an otherwise dull town.  People who liked my column, titled "Sadie's Satire," understood my flair for the absurd.  

Truth be told, I think most of our subscribers hated my stuff.  My editor, Jack, kept me on staff because I stirred things up, and my blog was really hot.  When people got mad at what I wrote, the Rampart Rock Reporter became a centerpiece in the resulting word war.  More publicity meant more subscriptions.  More subscriptions led to better deals with advertisers.  The facade of truth and neutrality in journalism was a thing of the past.  In my time, it was all about saying the most incendiary, offensive things you could to drum up rage and controversy among readers.  I was a tool of greed like everyone else.

In light of what I'd seen the night before, I started to think that my army of critics was right: I was cracking up in a not-so-funny way.  How could those creatures last night be real?  I asked myself as I laid awake in bed the morning after my weird encounter.  I'd been walking and jogging through Rampart Rock for years, and I'd never seen a predator, let alone some otherworldly monster.  I had no history of mental illness, but maybe my fear had made me mistake horses for things that wanted to eat me, not to mention passers-by in drag for stalkers.  

The cop I'd talked to in the early morning hours said I'd probably gotten spooked and made something out of nothing.  It was easier to believe him, rather than except what my senses told me.  As a final act of defiance against that nonsensical night of stalking men in dresses and predator horses with bat heads, I got out of bed and went on a run.

My bare feet danced along sidewalks and asphalt.  The shadows of hills, houses, and trees were long, but growing shorter.  I usually ran on trails to get away from traffic and noise, but not that day.  A deep-rooted creepy feeling kept me from going near the remote areas for the first seven miles of my run.

My loose jogging pants and hooded sweatshirt protected me from the morning frost.  I could see my breath, so I went faster to ward off the chill.  Many drivers scoffed as they passed me on the street.  I was used to it.  Bare feet confused people.  

By then, most Americans had forsaken their natural physical legacy for a life of laziness looking through LCD screens and windshields.  The consumer culture had taught them that they needed to shield their minds and bodies from the world, rather than participating in it.  The cult of "Must Wear Thick, Padded, High-heeled Shoes" was just an offshoot of this mentality.  Thinking of how both my head, and feet had been liberated from the status quo made me forget what I'd seen the night before.  I lost myself in the surroundings.

The cottonwoods were turning yellow, but the other trees were still mostly green.  I took in the spicy scents of autumn and ran even faster away from the evening horrors in my head.  I meditated on the rhythm and form of running until my fear relented.  Endorphins rushed through my veins.  A sense of peace and well-being overcame me.  I started to huff, and my feet tapped the concrete even faster.  I hopped on a creek-side trail without thinking.

A couple miles went by before a sense of dread dropped on my shoulders and yanked me down from my floating sense of tranquility.  Someone was on the trail behind me.  I could barely hear their footsteps.  In fact, their soft footfalls matched my own.  Runners wearing shoes tended to stomp on the pavement.  My stalker's strides, however, made a tap-tap-taping sound through a patch of fallen leaves.

I didn't want to look at first.  If I turned and saw something other than a run-of-the-tread-mill morning jogger, then my denial of the night before wouldn't work anymore.  Of course, I had to look back eventually--in the way that you just have to step into a dark room where you know your nightmares might be waiting.  Behind me was the guy, who'd stalked me the night before.  

I could make out his features much better in the morning light.  He looked gross, like a caveman, with a long tangled, blond beard and hair to match.  He wore a green plaid kilt, and nothing else.  The sweat on his bare chest gleamed in the daylight.  He reminded me of a mangy wolf.  I would have laughed at his apparent craziness if I weren't feeling mental myself.

"Wait," the creepy stalker guy said.  His voice carried a low, Colorado country accent.

Thinking about the night before, I ran faster.  I wondered if I was running from my own madness now.  If I wasn't nuts, and the creatures I'd seen were real like this guy, then they could be hiding anywhere in the woods surrounding the trail.  In the previous evening's nightmare, the hairy stalker had killed at least one of the monsters with a spear.  The other two had gone after him.  How could he still be alive then? I asked myself.

My pace increased to a near sprint.  The whole thought sequence seemed absurd.  I had to get away from it.  

I hadn't slept or eaten, but my adrenaline kicked in.  The distance between the hairball and I began to increase.  My body was using up what must have been its last reserve of energy.  

About a half-mile later, I tanked and slowed down to a trot.  I couldn't gulp in enough air.  Looking back, I saw my stalker gaining on me.

"Stop," he said between breaths.  "I just want to talk to you.  I saved your life last night, you know."

The hairy creep's tone sounded reasonable enough, but this situation had nothing to do with reason.  I mean, two monsters had attacked me, and some guy in a dress had chucked a spear at them.  Unreal.  I refused to believe any of it, so I kept running.

Rampart Rock ranchers had fenced in the trail on both sides.  The kilted freak and I were way out in the country now, and I had no escape route.  I would need to run another mile or two before I got to a populated area.  My muscles burned, but I kept going.  I couldn't push my body to go faster.  Eventually, I slowed to a near walk.  Fatigue had set in.

Just then, a strange sound--like a stick whirling through the air--came at me.  My legs just stopped and came together.  Something was wrapping around them.  I fell, face-first on the concrete trail.  The hard echo of my forehead hitting and skidding on the surface was the last thing I remembered before blacking out.


This story is both a stand-alone narrative, and part of a blog novel.  To read the other chapters, click on the links below. The Walker 2 and all other stories on Tim's blog are written and copyrighted by me, Tim Miller.  Please contact me regarding publishing or redistribution at tim@himtim.com.

Chapter One: The Mechanic

Chapter Two: The Walker

Chapter Three: The Mechanic 2

Chapter Five: The Hunter

Chapter Six: The Cop

Chapter Seven: The Hunted

Chapter Eight: The Escapee

Chapter Nine: The Mercedes Man

Chapter Ten: The Shooter
 
Chapter Eleven: The Monster

Chapter Twelve: The Yehasuri

Chapter Thirteen: The General

Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo 

Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian

Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites 

Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian

Chapter Eighteen: The Blighted

Chapter Nineteen: The Captive