• The clock chimed midnight; its loud gong filled the cool night air. The sound had an eerie sense of finality about it, almost foreboding. A woman walked down the silent street, clutching her bag to her chest as the wind whipped around her. She looked around at the empty street from the soft glow of a solitary street lamp. "Maybe I should take the short cut" She whispered to herself, as though fearing that some unknown being would overhear. She looked about her at the cobblestone street, listening for the sound of any approaching carriage. She then directed herself to the narrow pathway through the woods. She looked up at the trees, their bare branches stretching up the cloudy night sky. She stepped carefully along the pathway, avoiding the deep ruts made by carts that passed through in the springtime.

    The dark and twisted trunks of the trees formed a wall on both sides, branches reaching down like massive clawed hands that were ready to snatch her and take her into the darker part of the forest. She looked behind her, feeling an icy gaze on her back. "I'm only imagining things," She told herself, seeing nothing behind her but the friendly glow of the street lamp. She continued walking, following the subtle bends and twists on the path. She held her breath for a moment, hearing the crunching of leaves again beneath a second set of feet behind her. She turned again, feeling an icy gaze on the back of her neck once more, as though someone were staring right through her. Her heart began to pound as she realized that nothing was there, and the only light was the small broken shards of moonlight filtered through by the massive arch of tree branches.

    She felt herself break into a run, feeling the thorny vines that grew alongside the path reach out and tear at her stockings, tearing into her soft flesh and bringing out blood. She heard the crunching footsteps behind her once more, keeping a steady pace as the icy breath of an unknown person ran down her neck. This time, she did not have to turn around. The picture of a man in a dark trench coat filled her mind; she had seen him in the news plenty of times to know who he was. His name was John Marshall, and he had been wanted for the violent murders of ten people. His style was unique to him, using a butcher knife to carve out various patterns in the skin of his victims while they were living, arranging them in strange positions, their faces twisted in pain and horror. He was eventually caught and executed, his grave near the prison. People still said that his ghost would wander about the night, still yearning for one final kill.

    Finally, the woman saw what she had been waiting for, the bridge that lead to her home. She broke into a run, letting everything around her become a blur, not focusing on anything more than the soft glow of a street lamp ahead of her. The icy breath of death was against her neck, the warm feeling of freshly drawn blood was at her throat. She let out a scream, and then all was silent. The distant chime of a clock struck midnight, as a woman hurried up the street clutching a bag to her chest. She walked into the small circle of light offered by a solitary street lamp on the cobblestone road