By Jerry D. Haight
The sickly yellow of the sodium vapor lights sucked the street dry of what little light emanated from dust laden, poorly lit doorways. Scattered along the street were a few die hard shops, Like prison cells, their windows and doors crisscrossed with heavy bars. Their almost defunct signs advertised a bar and grill, a tattoo salon a tobacco store, and. a massage parlor. A sausage factory stood ominously in the dark, the last remnant of prosperous time, a day long past. Only the decaying walls adjacent to the sidewalk were left from the old factory. They were built of brick and mortar, what, maybe a hundred years ago? Those still standing were calcified and the rest crumbled leaving gaping holes. Bits of mortar no longer adhering to the brick jutted out in sharp jagged patterns creating what looked like foreboding shadows. Occasionally flashing neon penetrated a long dark alleyway but cycled off before his eyes could adjust enough to see what might be lurking. Thus, the blackened corridors remained mysterious, menacing and even, perhaps, deadly.
Very briefly he caught a glimpse of movement out of the right peripheral, or so he thought, but when he turned, it vanished. Then there were more shadows on the brick fascia, their source? Unknown. The shapes grew large, came closer, danced away, and became smaller; independent of the man’s movements. No. Someone else was near, perhaps following or maybe plotting to attack. This was after all, the seediest part of town and just two days ago the paper reported a couple murdered? Where was that . . . oh, wasn’t it just in the next block?
Something white caught his attention. He looked up, saw two pair of gym shoes dangling by their laces from overhead wires, the tell tale symbol, he was on gangs turf. He felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. Near panic, as he crossed a blackened alley, he noticed two, three or maybe more glowing amber tips, cigarettes; evidence he was not alone and was outnumbered. Another cold chill crawled down his spine. He wanted to stop and listen . . are there two of them? Are they coming near? “Should I run?”, he thought and noticed his legs already running on their own volition.
His side ached, his breathing labored and his lungs cried out for air. He had to stop, even if for only a moment. Then It was quiet, too quiet, except for the pounding within his chest and the pulsing in his temples. Yes, walking through this neighborhood was foolish, Yes, he should have taken a cab, but it was only eight or ten blocks and the minimum cab fare was twenty-