Kelly hopped up the curb and onto the dusty path that ringed North Hollywood Park. The loop was just under a mile, and she figured she could get two laps in before dusk dissolved to night and burn enough calories to enjoy at least some of her son's Halloween candy.
Ahead, the trail was empty. Everyone was either trick or treating or preparing for a night of revelry. But before she'd run five steps, out of the corner of her eye she sensed movement. A boy in a dirty white tshirt leaned against the scarred wood of one of eucalyptus trees lining the park, studying her with wide eyes.
Her initial smile faltered when the boy didn’t smile back. His reaction was not a reaction at all; instead he continued to watch her, eyes hooded, unblinking and malevolent. He gripped something brown and furry. She extended her legs in longer-than-usual strides, suddenly anxious to put some distance between them.
She heard a scratching sound behind her and glanced back, hoping to see a fellow jogger. Someone normal. But it was the boy running behind her, keeping pace. His sneakers made no sound on the path, nor did they kick up dust like hers did.
He quickened his pace to close the gap between them. He drew near enough that she could see the brown furry thing in his hand was a squirrel. And it was dead.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as tall as acupuncture needles. She cut off the main path to a shortcut she knew would get her to the main street faster. She closed her eyes and ran for her car, parked under a streetlight 100 yards away.
With shaking hands she opened the car door and slid into the driver’s seat, only to see the dead squirrel laying on the passenger seat.
She screamed. Perfectly framed within the rearview mirror was a reflection of the boy's eyes, dark and reptilian. Impossibly, supernaturally, he sat in the back seat.
The knife glinted in his hand.
Love it… as always.. Makes my morning and Friday!