Brianna knew she was being followed.
She quickened her pace, listening to her high heels click-clacking on the sidewalk. She was surrounded by gated mansions and villas, but none of them had any lights on.
Clutching her house keys in one hand and her leather bag in the other, she wished she could call a taxi to drive her home. If only her mobile hadn’t run out of batteries as soon as she had left her friend’s place.
Brianna wondered if perhaps she should just walk back to Kathie’s house. They both lived on the same street, but at opposite ends. She was at the halfway point, so she could easily turn around and go back to her.
Besides, the thought of returning home to him made her stomach turn. He had tried to call her three times that night and she had ignored each one of them.
That uneasy feeling of being stalked crept up on her again and she turned her head around.
There was nobody behind her. All she could see were dim streetlamps and a single, lonely road. But that feeling never left her.
On second thought, she really just wanted to get home. It was late, surely he’d be fast asleep by now. Her grip tightening around her house keys, Brianna continued down the quiet, empty street.
That was when she heard the moan. It was like a long mournful sigh which echoed down the street.
Goosebumps dotted her skin and she walked even faster. Just a few more metres to go, she told her reassuringly.
She felt a warm puff of air brush against the back of her neck. It felt like someone was breathing on her.
Without a second to lose, Brianna began to run.
Houses rushed past her and she could see her own sharp, panicked breaths leaving her mouth. It was summer, yet it felt as though the temperature had dropped by about 15 degrees.
Brianna could hear someone right behind her. Their footsteps sounded like the erratic beating of a drum. How could one person make so much noise?
When she understood what was happening, it was as if someone had slipped a cube of ice down her back. There had to be more than one person chasing her.
Tearing down the street, she could see her house coming into view. That was when her foot caught on something and she tripped.
Brianna fell face first onto the cement. Shakily getting to her knees, she could feel a fresh bruise forming on her cheek. Her hands and legs had been scraped up too, making it all the more difficult to get to her feet.
The footsteps had stopped but loud bellowing sounded again. This time it was closer than before.
As she started to jog, she noticed one of her feet hit the pavement long before the other did. She glanced down and saw that one of her high heels had broken in the fall.
Cursing, she kicked her shoes off, grabbed them and sprinted to the front gate.
When she came to a stop just before the gate, she couldn’t hear anyone following her anymore. She whipped her head around to check. Nobody was there. No serial killer, no jealous ex-lovers, no Freddy Kruger. It was just her and Adelaide Street.
Letting out a relieved sigh, Brianna unlocked the security gate that surrounded her home. She scolded herself for letting her imagination get to her. She was a little tipsy, after all. Nonetheless, she wanted to get inside as soon as possible.
Brianna glanced up at the path leading up to her front door and froze.
Standing on the grass was a bulky creature Brianna had never seen before. It was roughly the size of a small car. Although it was half shrouded in shadows, she could see that it’s body was nothing more than a skeletal frame. The creature had a pale, strangely angular head and four cloven hoof which it was pawing the ground with.
She heard a low moan rumble from deep inside the creature as it stepped towards her.
Letting out a shrill cry, she fell backwards onto the path.
It lowered it’s head to her. Light from a nearby streetlamp shone off of the smooth, bleached surface.
Jesus Christ, that’s a skull.
The thing let out a softer moan and Brianna could sense something in it. Sadness? Guilt? Agony?
Brianna made eye contact with the skull’s ocular holes and she felt a great sense of grief overcome her. The young woman began to sob.
She thought about when she had visited the doctor only a few weeks ago. Brianna didn’t want to think about it, but it was as if her mind was being controlled by someone else.
The doctor had examined her thoroughly. She had felt uncomfortable and invaded. But she needed to know what was wrong. She needed to know why there was so much blood.
In the end, she had been given the results she had always secretly known.
I am sorry Brianna, you’ve had a miscarriage.
That feeling of loss pulsed through her body like an electric shock.
It hadn’t been fair. She was sure she had done everything correctly, right down to the smallest detail. What sort of twisted universe or God or whatever allows this to happen?
“I just want to know if it was my fault.” Brianna murmured, holding her hand over her stomach.
Despite not having eyes, the creature seemed to gaze at her knowingly. Brianna wasn’t afraid of the being anymore. It was as if they were kindred spirits that were tied together by their pain.
Coming back to her senses, she felt the ghostly creature tugging at something on her arm. She turned her head and saw it was using its large, exposed teeth to tear at her bag.
Brianna dumped the bag in front of it . Using a cloven hoof, it held the bag’s handles in place as it tore as much of the leather off as it could.
Shrugging its massive shoulder, the small cloth fell before the creature. Brianna noticed that the cloth was made up of several different colours – red, blue, brown, white – and it seemed to all mesh together without a sign of stitching.
The being nudged the patchwork cloth open. The shape of it reminded Brianna of one of those cattleskin rugs in a leather shop, but it was so tiny – too small to come from a full sized bull. A small chunk was missing out of the right shoulderblade of the rug.
The creature placed the remains of Brianna’s bag on top of the hole. The leather stretched out so that it fitted into the hole, like a final piece of a puzzle.
The skeleton let out a low and gentle rumbling. To Brianna it sounded reassuring, like a mother comforting her child during a thunderstorm.
The ghost picked up the cloth in its mouth and, after giving Brianna one final glance, passed through the fence beside Brianna’s home.
Brianna sat on the pavement, her eyes watery. She reached into the remains of her bag and pulled out her dead phone.
She wondered if he had tried to call her again.
Stumbling to her feet, she ran to the front door and opened it.
He was just across the room, waiting for her. Brianna ran into his open arms, tears falling down her cheeks.
“Hi babe, I’m sorry I’m back so late. I’m okay, I am. Babe, I know what I said before, but you know what? I really want to try again. I want to have a baby with you.”
This started out as a simple ghost story about a cow trying to find pieces of itself but it became something more when I found out about the calf leather industry. I wonder if cows grieve for their young the same way we humans do?