There they were again. Eyes watching her, red and shining in the dark and fog.
Elise stiffened, trying not to show it, and turned from the alley that lead toward home. She moved instead down the main avenue, scuttling from light post to light post, each lamp creating an island of illumination in the sea of thick gray night. She could feel the eyes upon her as she walked. She had always been able to feel their eyes, the men who came to watch her dance on a stage that smelled of sweat and desperation. Other dancers, she knew, could turn off, just go somewhere else in their minds as their bodies gyrated on automatic pilot for men with glittering, staring eyes.
Elise never learned that trick; she was always aware of their eyes, felt them roving over her, studying her as more skin was uncovered. This was the same, yet not the same. Compared to the hunger in this gaze as it followed her, those staring men tossing twenties her way as she peeled off her clothes had given her but a casual glance. These eyes, and that’s all she saw through the murk were eyes, were hungry. She felt the hunger, almost tangible; caressing. The miasma was thick, like a damp dirty tissue in her throat, and she came near to choking as she marched, stiff-backed, from light to light, moving as swiftly as she dared; never able to see farther than the next lamp, trying not to look like she was running.
If it knew she was running, it could start chasing.
She glanced sidelong into each alley to as she passed, and in every dark passage between the tall buildings the eyes waited, shining crimson in the swirling fog. Always the same eyes. She could tell. She’d felt them following her since leaving the lights and crowd club behind— they’d been drawing steadily closer. Now they were preceding her, beating her to each alley.
Watching her pass.
At the first alley, the one she’d meant to turn down and take a short-cut home, she had nearly run headlong into them. She had paused, staggered really, spotted those orbs glowing in the night, and changed direction. It had been the smell. She traveled down that alley every day and she’d never smelled anything like this in there: spoiled meat and turned milk tainting the musty-cellar smell of the vapor around her. It had been enough to wrinkle her nose, caused her to misstep, and might have saved her life.
Her feet, mincing rapidly along in spike-heeled shoes that added a good five inches to her height, skidded to a sudden halt on the mist-slick concrete as she barked a quick, harsh gasp. There, ahead of her, was the next light post in line… and the eyes. They were out of the alley, not quite in the light, lurking in the shadows just outside the radiance cast by the bulb high on the pole. No shape, not even a shadow; just the eyes, staring back at her and in her chosen path.
She wheeled about, nearly upsetting from her perch high atop her shoes, casting about wildly about for help. She didn’t care any longer if it knew she had seen it, she just wanted to find someone, anyone to turn to now. The street, though a public thoroughfare and usually filled with people, was empty at this hour, nothing but clouds of vapor filling the air. She spun in place, trying to scan for help while still watching the eyes. Her breaths were quick and short, panicked, and she started feeling light-headed. She caught what she thought was a flash of motion from the corner of her eye and spun back to face the eyes once more. What she saw froze her breath in her throat.
The eyes had moved from next lamp in line to the shadows between the lamps. She hadn’t seen them move, but move they had.
Halving the distance between them.
Her own eyes were wide as her lungs gave a mighty pull, forcing air down through her locked throat, fully intending the scream of her life. It was that instant between inhale and exhale, that tiny pause as her lungs reset their stance and prepared to push as hard as they had pulled, that she heard it.
Footsteps. Behind her, away from those eyes.
“Help! Help me!”
She inhaled and heard the footsteps again, pounding now, hurrying in her direction. A dark shape hurtled toward her out of the fog and she let loose a full-throated screamed like a movie actress from the 50’s. The shape reached out two arms and she felt something grip her shoulders.
“Are you alright, Miss? What’s wrong?” the cop said, supporting her as her legs gave way.
“Back there,” she gasped, pointing toward the next lamp post in line. “Eyes! Eyes in the—”
She broke off, staring.
There was no sign of the eyes; not a hint, not a glimmer, not by lamp nor by alley.
“I… I thought I saw something… following me…”
“Oh, people see all kinds of things in a fog,” the officer said, a man her father’s age who gazed at her with kind eyes. “Especially a fog this thick, and this late at night. Tell you what. You tell me where you live, and I’ll walk you there safely. That sound okay?”
Not knowing what else to do, Elise allowed him to walk her home. He saw her to her door, wished her a good night and moved on, disappearing back into the fog. She locked the door to her third floor apartment and, too exhausted from the night’s events fell upon the bed fully clothed and was asleep in seconds.
So fast did she fall asleep she failed look outside her bedroom window, thirty feet above the street, where the fog parted to reveal the kindly face of the old cop, staring at her sleeping form with red, shining eyes…
~ ~ * * ~ ~
This month on Friday Frights the prompt is "Writer's Choice of Artist". There are several artists who have donated some of their work for this little project, and our job is to look at the available art, choose a work that speaks to us and write a story based on that inspiration.
The Eyes Have It is the tale that popped into my head when I saw the artwork to the left, a piece titled Mysterious by Sue Mydialk.
Image created by Sue Mydialk