Every time she turned a corner, slipped under a bridge, turned into an alley, he was behind her. There! Blocking her escape and casting his enormous, soundless spectre over and through her, creating an airless space in which she could not breathe or move or think…
Until she found her heart again and made her legs move forward, lunging now, flats scuffing the macadam, twisting brief tornados of dust around their soles, onto her stocking feet, then filtering between her toes, which were bleeding from the hot friction of her desperation.
And he was there, light behind him, always the light, always behind him, always closing in on her, always stealing her sense of victory as it rose in her throat, just as she had to choke it down again, gulp a lungful of fresh air, then lunge into the night, looking for an option that would mean relief from the hideous strength that towered above, around, under her frailty, clasped in its party frock and dark leather jacket.
Her clutch was long ago thrown in a bin as she hoped to prevent the insult of thieving from multiplying her troubles. The plastic beads, pastels, off-whites strung on a bit of thread, she had picked up at a local street fair clacked against each other and her collarbone, sounding out their cheapness, their hollow, muted cry for attention with every leaping stride she took. Down another alley, behind another bin, out into the open street, empty except for a descending fog diffusing the light, creating a strangeness she could do without.
And the light! Always behind him, always casting its sepulchral grasp her way, wrapping her in cold fingers, grasping, then releasing whenever she bolted again, away from the trap of stillness and away from his grim menace, blocking the light, which was a presence like a cloak thrown around his shoulders and back, never showing him for who he was, shutting down his speech, strangling it in his throat before the words emerged.
One more place to hide, beyond where he could go, where she knew he could not reach her. Down the ramp to the sea, to the dark, wet sand where the furtive wriggling of late-night couples had gone to hide from the light and the shadows that marched over them, engulfing them in the threat of insinuation and gossip, the promise to tell everyone what they had done, with whom.
She scuttled along the wall, past the gyrations of foreplay, past the groping for zippers and bras, past the half-nude bodies slipping around on undone clothes and rasping sand, lubricated by salt air and sweat and musk. She was in her own shadow now, her shape blending with the darkness that was part of this time, this night.
And he was gone. For now.