Standing Still

Standing Still

I probably should have left the bar when my friends did.

I probably should have never walked home alone.

But something in the way that cute little brunette at the end of the bar smiled slyly in my direction kept me hooked. Something about her bright yellow shirt constantly bought my attention. She could have been looking at the door behind me. She could have been zoning out altogether. She might have never even meant to make eye contact at all. But then again… maybe she did. I had to stay and find out. So I told my friends goodnight and promised to catch them the next day, and behind by myself.

I told myself I would buy her a drink. I told myself I would at least say hello. I pictured a thousand different scenarios for what might happen next. We could leave together. We could go on a date. We could exchange phone numbers. We could even just have a pleasant enough conversation that ultimately ended in my rejection. But even talking to her would have been a wild achievement for my woefully undeveloped ego and painful shyness. Any of those endings would have been better than another defeated night at home alone.

Of course, it didn’t matter, because I choked.

I sat at the bar and tried not to stare. I tried not to look weird. But then I started to think so much about trying not to look weird, that it looked weird, you know? I bought a round of six shots for her and her friends. When the bar tender asked who they were for, I panicked, and said me. So he brought them to me. Six shots. Then he left to help another customer while my social anxiety screamed obnoxiously.

One of the friends caught me looking at them and shot a skeptical glance across the bar. She saw all the alcohol sitting in front of me. I saw her whisper to the brunette. I saw them look at me and laugh quietly.

I escaped to the bathroom to avoid the embarrassment. By the time I got back, they were gone.

But the shots were still there.

Wind and drizzling rain pounded at the wood door to our shitty dive at the edge of town. I knew I would have to leave my car there. I knew I would have to walk home through the woods. It would not be the first time. I guess… in my youth and inexperience, I hoped the shots would warm me up. The temperate promised to dip below 32 in the early morning hours.

And so I shouted ‘bottoms up’ drunkenly to the closing time crowd and sank all six to the sound of disappointed murmurs and half amused snorts.

Of course, that never warmed me at all. It just made me more drunk.

I don’t remember getting kicked out.

I don’t remember leaving the place at all.

The next place my memory places me is on the path through Bayview Woods. In the rain. By myself.

Thousands of trees sat between my home and the bar. Their roots tied together like the twisted electrical trees in your house. Boy scouts had removed the undergrowth months before, but nobody could prevent the jagged roots from sticking out and catching careless feet. I stumbled quite a few times. On more than one occasion, I fell on my face.

The rain had turned to sleet, at that point, and I tried my best to shield it with the back of my jacket pulled over my head. The dirt on the clean green path quickly turned to mud as my feet sunk and slurped unhappily.

It took me too long to realize that I lost the path. The landmarks suddenly appeared unfamiliar. I stared through the endless array of oak and pines and piteously tried to figure my way back. The weird weather started to fog my glasses.

But somewhere, in the distance, the color yellow jumped out through the woods like the sorest of thumbs.

I saw the girl from the bar standing about twenty feet away, in the rain and wind and whatever else. She was standing absolutely still.

In my inebriated state, I called out to her immediately. I guess I temporarily forgot the collapse in confidence only twenty minutes prior.

Hey, what are you doing here?

She started to turn slowly. And so I kept talking.

Ma’am, there are bears and wolves in these woods. You should not be out here alone.

Great advice considering the obvious.

Can I help you find your way back?

She didn’t reply. I walked closer towards the yellow jacket in the distance. My glasses blurred so badly I had to take them off. That, combined with the lack of light this deep in the woods, made it almost impossible for me to see anything.

Are we back on the path? I think I am a bit lost myself.

The girl stared at me oddly. My instincts scratched the itch and groan. I was close enough now to see the look of utter boredom and amusement in her pale blue eyes. That was a weird thing to see, given the circumstances. She stared quietly for what felt like the entirety of five minutes. I was not sure what to do. I could walk away. I could keep talking and try to guide her back towards safety. But something in the way this girl looked at me made me feel just… uncomfortable.

Then she did something even more odd.

She lowered herself to her knees and started to use her hands as legs.

I tried to ask what the fuck she was doing. I tried to ask her to stop. But my words turned into slurs, and I backed up from her the same way a dog might analyze an approaching threat.

The girl she said nothing.

Instead, she lowered her shoulders and started to charge.

I ran.

I ran so fast that the scenery started to blur beside me. Rain whipped my face. Underbrush and branches jumped back wickedly and cut me all over. I thrashed about desperately trying to find my way. I could hear the girl still following me. I threw stuff to slow her down. I tried to change direction. But nothing seemed to change her mind. I heard a hideous growl escape from her mouth before she leaped at an intersection and pinned me against the cold hard ground.

Please. Ma’am. I’m so sorry. Please. I have a family.

I begged my attacker as if she were human. As if she were understanding the fucking words coming out of my mouth. But there was no comprehension on her crazed features. At such close range I could see it all. Blood dripped down from small scrapes and slices against her cheeks. Her teeth looked absurdly yellow and her breath stank like hot manure. Her nails felt long and jagged against my skin.

I rolled around piteously as the girl growled again. It was a deep, guttural, sound. Like an animal about to feast. I reached for any sort of weapon I could find and found a heavy rock leaning up against a tree. I wrapped my hands around it and brought it down without hesitation.

Her head cracked like a watermelon.

There was no reaction, at first, on her plain features. There was no words from her twisted mouth. She simply paid me one last confused look in the pouring sleet of the evening. Then she fell to the side while blood seeped into the leaves.

I ran home.

I never reported my encounter to the police. I’m not really quite sure what the hell they would say.

I never really told anyone about it. Part of me expected to wake up the next morning and hear about a body found in the news. But none of the papers reported any such news. Nobody talked about a dead girl in town. I checked my clothes for blood. I found nothing. I checked the spot where we fought, to the best of my memory. Nobody was there.

I started to blame the booze. It had to be the most reasonable explanation. As the weeks and months passed, I began to accept it wholeheartedly as fact. It had to be a crazy, drunk, tripping experience of some sort.

I went to the same bar again last night. For the first time in a long time. My friends stayed with me. Call it a group attempt at conquering my growing irrational fear of the bar and woods.

I stayed late. I ordered rounds of shots with my friends and enjoyed the closing minutes of our favorite football team. The place was packed. People milled in and out to smoke cigarettes and hide outside. Around ten o’clock, an old familiar flash of yellow entered the door and grabbed a seat by the bar.

She smiled slyly. She could have been looking at the door behind me. She could have been zoning out altogether. She might have never even meant to make eye contact at all.

But then again…

Maybe she did.