A movement from within the shadows sends my pulse racing. I slow my footsteps involuntarily.
‘Anyone there?’ I call, without even realising why. Before anyone can answer I quicken my pace and clutch my keys in my hand, ready to stab at whoever approaches me.
I walk on the road; the glow of the street lights is brighter, unobstructed by tree leaves and verandahs.
A tree branch snaps behind me.
My heart beats so fiercely I can feel it in my fingers. My steps slow; I turn to look behind.
My breath is the ocean’s waves crashing on the beach. I am still, unmoving. The beam of light from above is dim. It’s eery, unfamiliar. Am I even in my street?
Somewhere, my brain registers this as outlandish. This happening to me, now, as a mature woman. What sort of depraved lunatic attacks older people? It’s normally young, blonde and slim girls in their teens or early 20s. Not chubby, unfit women in their 60s. And then, deep within, a fight rises up. I decide this will not be my fate.
I scream. Shrill, loud.
A dog yelps. Lights in the front room of the house I’m in front of switch on, then the porch light. Good.
‘Who’s out there?’ It’s Barry, my neighbour.
‘Help! Barry! Come outside. Call the police.’
Barry opens his door, his mobile at his ear.
‘Rita? Is that you?’
Before I can answer him, a figure moved into the open from behind a tree, turns and runs.