Thudding feet against broken concrete and gravel. Bloody footprints left behind like markers on a map. Thudding heart. Laughter...
The antiseptic moonlight illuminated a waifish female form fleeting along the broken walkway that traced through the overgrown remains of the Dr. Albert Hawthorne memorial garden. The garden was mostly thorns and brambles now, broken occasionally by patches of tall grass that swayed in the mountain breeze. The path, if it could be called such anymore, was broken by monstrous mountain dandelions that warped the paving stones from their wonted formations and sent them reaching upward at jagged angles like a miniature tectonic event. One such craglet jutting out of the ground caught its first prey in the form of a lily-white foot, and sent the owner sprawling in the midst of a bushy juniper. A scream rang out, followed by a childish moan.
“Owwwwww... ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!” The girl whined, scrambling to right herself. “Time out!” she said imperiously. “I fell down!” But the shadowy form pursuing her in teetering bursts down the hill did not seem to hear, as it continued its shuddering shuffle toward the beleaguered girl. The girl managed to roll out of the bush onto the ground, but she caught her breath as she did so, clutching at her leg and lifting her white dress to inspect her knee. An angry abrasion shone red with rising droplets of blood in the moonlight, and as if smelling the odor, the shadowy form sped up its shuffle into a loping gait. “Boogers!” the girl said, pouting. She looked up, noticing her approaching pursuer. “Hey, I said time out! You can't tag me on a time out! That's cheating!” The figure kept coming, and as it neared, it drew out of the sheltering shadow of a nearby pine and exposed itself to the moonlight.
Bedraggled hair matted its head... where the scalp was still intact and hadn't peeled away to reveal white skull. One eye was missing, the hole posing a gore-caked gaping black partner to the other, which was clouded over and pale now, not to mention missing a lid. The mouth was surprisingly intact, sporting a lip piercing, which had only a few stray strands of hair tangled in it, dried blood dying them a muddy brown. The body was filthy, only minimally clothed in rags which looked to have once been somewhat fashionable teen punk attire. The boots scraped and squished as the thing tottered toward her, like a toddler reaching for the nearest surface to cling to. It's mouth cracked and a dry grunt escaped.
“I said time out!” The girl said, stomping one bare foot. She had risen to her full height now. Not a girl, but a woman, if a half-starved specimen, stood in the moonlight, small form half-drowned in a one-size-fits-most hospital gown. Her long black hair flowed over her shoulders and the wind pushed it into her face. Impatiently, she brushed the locks from her eyes and demanded the walking corpse a couple yards away and closing obey her “time out.” Ignored once more, the woman turned on one heel and marched a little way along the path. “Fine, if you're going to cheat then I don't want to play anymore!” she said. Declaration made, she took off once more, small bloody footprints leaving a trail in her wake.
The thing kept coming.
It found her once more in a stone courtyard. She sat near one wall on the mildew spotted mattress of an entire bed that appeared to have been pushed from a window on the second story and crashed into the courtyard below. Her feet daintily crossed, she ignored the shambling horror as it closed in, attention entirely focused on a little doll she had made by apparently wrapping strips of linen around a bedpost. As she fussed with the “doll's” ensemble, the corpse drew nearer, soggy boots kicking loose stones which skittered away into the shadows of the courtyard. “I told you I don't want to play anymore,” the woman said, voice high and petulant. It kept coming. “Go away, cheater!” she said, not looking up. It kept coming.
Suddenly, the woman went still. Her body seemed to relax, and her hands ceased their constant motion over the doll, clenching it instead in one pale hand. The thing came closer. The woman seemed frozen. But not by fear. It was as if the screw had wound out on a wind-up doll. She had ceased to respond. As the creature drew upon her, it reached out its hands and gripped her thin thighs, then plunged in, jaws gaping.
There was a crack, and the thing shuddered, falling to the cement, chunks of rotting brain flying from a concavity in the front of its head. The woman rose slowly, brandishing the “doll” by the broken off piece of post. The linen around the “head” was red now. Shoulders sagging, face utterly expressionless, the woman brought the “doll” down on the thing's head again, this time on the back. There was another ugly crack, followed by several sickening squelches as the woman pounded in the thing's skull until it resembled roadkill along the highway. Rising to her full height again, the woman took a few small steps away, then sighed and straightened, looking around her. As if noticing her playmate for the first time, she cocked her head to the side and shook it, a chastising look on her face.
“I told you I don't play with cheaters,” she said, then went to sit on the bed again. Inspecting the “doll”, she smiled and took up her humming again as she used her fingers to paint the coagulated blood on the bedpost into a smiling face for her dolly.