Premonition by Kayla Krantz

As a young woman, I’ve come to understand that there are universal truths that all girls follow. They’re not spoken out loud, not all the time, but once in a while I’ll hear the warnings: try not to walk outside once it’s dark, don’t walk alone, don’t walk anywhere isolating. They’re all the classic horror movie mantras, but life happens and who has time to read the warning labels?

Not me. I’m rushing—as I usually am—to get to class after getting out of work. My second job to be precise. Being a college student in the Big Apple is a lot more tiring than all the happy-ending movies I’ve ever seen have made it seem. I work two jobs and go to school in between. I don’t sleep. It’s been so long that I’ve almost forgotten that it exists as a daily part of some people’s routine.

The last time I’ve been in my bed was three days ago. There are bags under my eyes that even the best concealer can’t hide, but it doesn’t bother me. I gave up on being beautiful around the same time that I stopped sleeping. In a way, I move through life like a zombie—virtually dead on the inside, pursed onward by only one goal. No. My goal is not brains, it’s something much harder to possess—success—and I’ll avoid sleeping for years if it means I actually achieve it.

So, when I make the clumsy mistake of turning down an alley well after sunset, I don’t think twice about the choice I’ve made until it becomes clear that it’s the wrong one. Even though I know it’s in my mind, the air around me suddenly feels as if it’s ten degrees colder. I wrap my arms across my chest and shuffle just a bit faster, but it doesn’t seem as if I’ve moved. The end of the alley looks to be as far away now as it had been a moment before.

I pause and glance over my shoulder, at the light from the main road I had exited a minute before. I stand there, contemplating my options. I try to think of what a girl in a horror movie would do, knowing that a smart girl would do the opposite. The horror girl would go down the alley, possibly calling out “hello” along the way. I smile and turn back toward the light, laughing at my own foolish decision.

But, when I take a step, I do not move forward. It’s like I’m glued to the spot, trapped between the darkness of the alley and the light of freedom. I move my foot again, convinced that I’m so tired I never tried to move to begin with, but the results are the same. I’m still here, trapped in the watery light in the alley.

I open my mouth, ready to scream from fear or frustration—I really can’t tell at this point—when an icy breeze ghosts across the side of my face and a voice whispers in my ear “Whatever you do, don’t turn around.”

I freeze instantly, somewhat from surprise, but mostly because I have the sinking feeling in my stomach that I’m not alone. There’s someone, something, here with me, and whatever it is, it isn’t human. Icy fingers snake over my shoulder, up the side of my neck, and cup my jaw, but I still don’t move.

I think about attempting to run, to bolt down the dark half of the alley, and moving on with the rest of my night, but my heart is racing, the blood pumping too furiously in my ears. For most people, adrenaline boosts them. For me, it turns out it makes me complacent.

“You want to be free, don’t you?” the eerie voice whispers in my ear.

Very slowly, I bob my head up and down, tendrils of black hair spilling out of my messy bun.

The fingers move again, trailing in the opposite direction they had first traveled. “Then you must listen to me and not look back. Only forward.”

All I can think about is how much I want to get out of the alley, but I’m still too petrified to do much besides blink and wait for the creature to speak again.

“Move toward the light. Stay in the light. Hurry home and never look back,” the voice whispers, and the fingers disappear, but I have the feeling that the creature is still lurking behind me, watching me.

I’m too afraid to look back and see. What would happen if I did look back? If I saw the icy creature beside me? I am absolutely insane, I think and raise a shaking hand to my forehead. I just need sleep is all. The skin on my face is ice cold.

“Go now!” the voice urges, desperation hardening the raspy tone.

I don’t need to be told a third time. My foot lifts and moves away from the spot I had been frozen too. Trotting at first, it’s not long before I’m full blow running out of the mouth of the alley, gaining the looks of everyone around me. I hardly notice. I’m tempted to look over my shoulder, to see what I left behind, but there’s a niggling in the pit of my stomach that warns against it.

I bump into a man just as I begin to slow my run and turn toward him slightly. “I’m sorry!”

He looks at me, shrugs his shoulders, and continues onward without a word. When I realize he’s headed toward the alley I just ran from, I reach out, my fingers grasping into the rough fabric of his jacket over his elbow, and he stops, looking at me through eyes narrowed in suspicion.

I pull my hand away quickly as I say, “I’m sorry again, but don’t…” I stop, trying to gather myself. What can I tell this man? Don’t go in the alley because there’s a ghost in there? He’ll laugh in my face.

The man smiles for a second, and I think Here it comes but he doesn’t speak. The smile is one of genuine irritation. He scoffs after a minute of silence and continues walking onward, set on his path. I take in a breath, feeling as if I’m drowning without water, and consider going after him, but I don’t want to even risk a glance in the direction of the alley.

So, I do the only thing I can do. I walk away. A second later, I hear the blast of a gun, the sound echoing down the blackness of the alley, and I hold a hand over my heart, knowing something I shouldn’t.

The creature in the alley had saved my life.