03.19.16 – Reed encounters trouble on his walk home with something paranormal~
Reed had taken to doing a few extra miles of cardio to and from his Tae Kwon Doe classes during the early evening; it gave him time enough to clear his head so that he could focus on bettering his skills. Recently, however, he signed up for boxing. That was a much more intense environment and as such, put him slightly more on edge when he left around ten o’clock at night. Not wanting to take his usual path back home, Reed veered off his path and walked – stiffly – through a part of town he otherwise avoided. It was both eerily quiet and loud at the same time; every nerve screamed to retreat, take a safer route than this one, but that was a natural bodily response, right? Instincts and all. Or maybe it was just the fact that he decided to take a late night walk through the Bend to get to his home. Of course. Why waste gas and further pollute the environment when he could do what he does everyday: jog. Barely a third of the way through the dilapidated area, and Reed’s nerves were already skyrocketing far more than normal. He tried to rationalize it as him not thinking this shortcut all the way through, and that this simply was just…not a good place to be in at night but… That couldn’t be it. Still, he looked this way and that as he walked, arms kept close to his side as he became more attentive to his environment. This was definitely a bad idea. He should have driven.
Eloise usually paid little mind to where she went at night. The only people she was truly worried about were on the human side of the equation, and hunters and wardens both tended to avoid the area this time of day, and Slayers tended to stick to graveyards. Sometimes she didn’t even bother with invisibility when walking through this part of town – accurately enough, in this town many people assumed that if a 5’2" girl was out here alone, it was usually for a good reason. While the streets were not entirely deserted, the pedestrians gave each other a wide berth, and that was fine with her. And it was for that reason that a figure so obviously ill at ease with himself stuck out like a sore thumb when he walked right past her at an intersection, and Eloise paused, invisible, to stare at his face. The impulse to ask him if he was lost died on her lips with the realisation that he looked familiar. Asian ancestry, maybe Chinese, maybe Korean? Immediately her mind jumped to the tough guy she’d met at the theater a few days back. Reed… Huang? Han? The tough guy who’d insisted nothing could scare him. And she could smell him, too, feel the unease drifting off him, that delicious precursor to fear, but not fear, not quite. Not yet, anyway. Oh, this was just too good to be true. Eloise smiled brightly to herself and made sure she was both out of sight and kept her footsteps light as they could get, and waited until he was ahead of her a bit before drifting onto the same street to follow him, curious to see where he was going, and maybe make his trip a little more interesting.
Reed was giving himself a pep talk mentally, recycling the same thought over and over again: it’s all in your head. But then eventually that derailed, made him think of the answers he’d been seeking previously. If the supernatural – or paranormal – was real, how quick would he be to believe it? Because right now, that answer is: not immediately. He walked, feeling himself loosen up just a fraction, and kept a lookout all around him. It’s normal to rationalize everything, it was apart of human nature to justify why things existed and if there wasn’t a reason, then it would be to find the best possible answer. Yet, nothing about the Bend upset him. That’s not what was pushing him slightly over the edge. He considered it was everything else going on in his life then he paused, stopping at a street corner where the red signal lights glowed against him faintly. He stared into the light for a while, even when it shifted green, transfixed on his own thoughts. He really shouldn’t be stuck here, hands shoved into the front pocket of his pullover sweater, that was like an open invitation to be mugged; on top of that, he didn’t have his pocketknife with him like normal. So if someone had confronted him, with a gun, he wouldn’t know what to do. Roundhouse kicking anyone wasn’t gonna do him any favours. But he remained still, listening more intently but hearing nothing out of the usual, nothing that would reassure him his lingering paranoia was within reason. He sighed.
Eloise trailed after him on light feet, keeping a distance, every sense focused on him and the wavering signal of fear surrounding him, felt it shift. He wasn’t freaking out too badly, yet. She could change that. A wide smile on her face, Eloise quickened her footsteps, intending to catch up, then slowed down again, thoughtful. It wasn’t that she shied from using her abilities, but there was something about them that almost made things too easy. They were a shortcut, and a satisfying one, but this was an opportunity for something more – test both her knowledge of psychology and the science of tension-building, so maybe a more mundane approach might be more rewarding. She was hardly hungry, after all. Eloise looked around thoughtfully for anything to assist her and had to stop, struck by the fortuity of what she saw just to the side of the road – an old bike, rusted through and seemingly all but consumed by the chain link fence it was leaning against. Eloise’s grin widened. She shot a look at the man, still walking along in front of her, then reached for the bike and started wheeling it along after him. The wheels had barely begun to turn, issuing a loud, metallic creak, before she carefully leaned it against the fence again, her eyes on Han, so that when he undoubtedly turned around, it would look as if the bike had barely been moved at all.
Reed hadn’t even stepped off the curb yet to cross the street before a clearly audible sound came from behind him; naturally, he turned to face the sound where he knew the direction it came from – eyes fixated on the fence just out of reach from him. There was a bike, and after peering at it for some time, he noticed it to be rusted. Had that been the source of the sound? And after thinking about it further, while squinting at it still under dim streetlights… Hadn’t it been farther back? The hairs on his nape stood up reflexively and his entire body felt stiff again, muscles clenching together just as soon as they had started to relax. Fuck. Cautiously, with slow and hesitant steps, Reed retreated from the edge of the sidewalk towards the bike. It felt like he was being forced to confront the edges of his sanity and lucidity. Had he not walked as far a distance as he originally thought he did? Did his own fear make the walk seem much longer than it actually was? Had the bike really made a sound? Eyebrows pressed down in deep concentration out of concern to get answers now, Reed gingerly grasped hold of the bike handles with the sleeves of his sweater pulled down over his hands and pulled slightly. There was that softer moan of the chain again, replicated much more discreetly. Dropping his hands away, Reed stepped back, heart beginning to race. He looked around again, at every shadow and turn – anywhere his naked eyes could see – and couldn’t make out anyone. Had it been the wind? No. He would have felt a breeze that strong enough to make a louder creak. Jeez– He felt like he was really overthinking it. “Breaking news,” He murmured halfheartedly to himself, mocking his own anxiety, “Reed Han of Ashkent Creek is officially going insane. Updates to come.”
Eloise watched Mr. Tough Guy double back, poke at the bike, all while standing three feet away, her hands pressed to her mouth. Suppressing laughter was the hardest part of the job, but fortunately for her, she’d been practising since she was a child. Gratifying to have it confirmed, too, that he was who she thought he was, which meant now all bets were all. What an excellent idea – she’d barely started, and she couldn’t wait to tell Lainie about this one. The bike too was perfect, she had half a mind of stashing it somewhere after this, maybe giving it a name. Trusty Rusty. Or maybe Rustin Spokes. Eloise watched him, eventually, turn his back on the bike again, continue his hurried walk down the street. She waited until he’d had time to move a fair distance before she grasped the bike again, wheeled it further along the path, creakity-creak… and this time, didn’t stop moving it until after he’d turned around to look, and kept the bike upright in the middle of the path, seemingly holding itself up with no outside help.
Okay, now that’s freaky. Reed leaned one way to see if the bike was being supported by its kickstand only for that to not be the case at all. His eyes widened despite the overall confusion he was experiencing now. “Um…” He started, nerves feeling shot from the immediate spike in adrenaline and his mind no longer capable of rationalizing what was happening before him. “Could you stop?” He tried, timidly. Ghosts are real, right? He’s seen about four lifetimes worth of evidence documenting the supposed existence of ghosts, but logic was there to explain it. Was there a string? No, not with how it was standing – there was nothing for it to hold onto unless someone had a really elaborate plan set up to make it stand. But how would that explain the sound? Stop it, Reed, you’re thinking too much about– “This is ridiculous. I’m going home,” He stated more strongly, rolling his shoulders dramatically as if to forcing himself relax, then turned back around and continued down the direction he was originally going. Try all he might to ignore every siren whirring around in his body, the quick beat of his heart betrayed his efforts to remain blase.
Few things Eloise loved witnessing more than this curious aspect of human psyche – that cusp of uncertainty that prodded people to talk aloud, ostensibly to themselves, but also to a presence they didn’t fully believe was there, or were afraid to believe. Despite the now tangible fear she could feel spiking in him, he still chose to doubt his own perceptions rather than consider that he might be in danger. Oh, she hoped he was going home. He’d barely made a few steps this time when Eloise resumed wheeling the bike toward him, slow and steady but this time, she did not stop, only kept it moving toward him in a straight, inexorable line, the pained whine of metal echoing every turn of the spokes, and the pace ever so gradually speeding up.
How would other people react in this kind of situation? Was he being Punk’d? How would Regan work to justify this? Was he apart of some weird “social experiment” “prank” as the kids called it these days that he didn’t know about? He walked across the street, eyes focused ahead despite the clenching of his jaw. This wasn’t scary anymore. Should he run home? Should he stop and ponder the bike situation all over again? Should he question the first human he saw to confirm his sanity to make sure he wasn’t going delusional? What the fuck is happening? Is this the mystery the Ashkent police worked so hard to exhaust the truth out of? Really? Is this it? “I said stop,” Reed snapped suddenly, on the fringes of self-certainty now when he spun around abruptly, marched over to the bike and shoved it harshly down onto the ground. He read somewhere that the best way to get ghosts – if that’s what this was, if that’s what was truly going on right now – to stop, to go away was by exerting control over a situation. By not being afraid. And he’s not, at least not right now with adrenaline viciously pumping through him at such a high rate that he could probably beat a veteran boxer. He’s frustrated. Then he took a large step back, very aware of what he had just done, and he felt… A mixture of things. “I’m sorry,” He apologized to open air, eyes darting this way and that as if trying to find the source, “I don’t know why you’re….still here…trapped on earth… But…I’m a really boring person. You’d have better luck scaring the shit out of–” He stopped, feeling bad for thinking what he did. Reed pursed his lips then said, “I’m sorry.” I guess.
The bike lay pathetically on the curb for a few moments, wheels spinning while Eloise stood next to it, secretly dying inside. It was all she could do not to latch on to Reed’s wrist to soak up the adrenaline coming off him, but… patience was key. With her assistance, the bike shifted, slowly seemed to drag itself upright, turned to face Reed… and then wheeled forward to ram against him, as if trying to knock him over and pin him down, wheels screeching terribly all the while.
Reed tried to dodge out of the way of the bike but he reacted too late to such an unexpected move. So, great, bikes are sentient beings and he probably really pissed this one off. When would he stop pissing people off. “Please, for the love of all things alive, stop,” He said, not really begging but no longer sounding as irritated as he did before. Reed would just have to walk home. That’s just what he would have to do to escape this damned thing. Without further ado, he began his trek for what felt like the thousandth time and didn’t stop, even as the bike creaked and followed closely on his heel. He was going to get home and not amount of stalling would make him stop anymore.
Eloise kept the bike going after him for a short while, but it was difficult to keep up with Reed’s hurried pace, so eventually she wheeled it into an alley and hurried after him unburdened. She could feel the high-strung adrenaline in him wane just slightly when the creaking sound stopped. She hoped she wouldn’t have to walk far, she already felt bad about abandoning Rustin, even for a short while.
Once Reed made it home and was able to shut the front door, all of him collapsed; being in a familiar and safe environment immediately eased the tension that followed him all the way up to his front steps. “Thank fuck that is over,” He breathed, pulling his sweatshirt overhead and hooking it up on the coat rack near his door before proceeding upstairs to his bedroom. He was literally exhausted, both from boxing and from being actually stalked by a rusted bike. So climbing into bed and falling asleep was no difficult task. He just wanted to forget about this evening.
It was to Eloise’s relief that she didn’t have to stalk him for too long. The house he all but fled into was nice enough, and a quick peek inside showed her that he both had a convenient absence of house pets and had already fallen into bed. If he wasn’t asleep now, he would be soon. This really couldn’t get more perfect. She smiled to herself and approached his bed only to draw back again. She could feed later, on someone else. It would be much more satisfying to give him a more conventional source of nightmare fuel. And so Eloise doubled back, returned for Rustin the bike, wheeled it over to his home, carrying it in her hands the last patch of the way just to be on the safe side and not make noise. Eloise set it down by the door very very carefully. Stealth and silence would be paramount here. She slipped inside, made sure her gloves were still on before turning the key, pulling the door open – no sense in leaving fingerprints anywhere, especially after that incident with Kavanagh. Carried the bike inside, careful not to knock anything over, set it down, locked the door again, as if nothing had been touched. Carried it into the bedroom as gingerly as if she were moving on pressure plates, she set it down by the unsuspecting Mr. Tough Guy’s bedside, supported by the kickstand, all but looming over him. And how could she resist a last, finishing touch? She searched around for a desk, a tube of paint, anything to make a mark. With a red felt-tip marker, she wrote the words FEED ME on the wall behind the bike in large, jagged, unsteady letters, then stepped back to admire her handiwork. What she wouldn’t give to be here when he woke up. Alas, she would have to use her imagination, and hope dearly that fate would cross her path with those of Mr. Han’s again. Smiling to herself with the satisfaction of a job well-done, Eloise slipped out of the house, and vanished into the night.