Noelle Buehrer

Walking home alone at night was dangerous, and Angela knew that. But she didn’t have any other choice. The last bus had left half an hour ago and she couldn’t afford a taxi or Uber. The walk wasn’t bad though; only about eight blocks. Angela just wished it was warmer, and that she had better shoes with her. She was required to wear heels at work that killed her feet after each shift. It had been eight hours, and Angela couldn’t handle another minute in her shoes. She opted to take them off and walk home barefoot. The sidewalk was cold and uncomfortable on her feet, but it was much better than the heels. Especially since she was feeling a little woozy, and six-inch heels seemed like a tripping hazard.

Bare feet on concrete makes either no noise at all or a sort of slapping sound, as Angela knew, which is why she was startled when she heard the click-clack of heels coming from behind her. She quickly whipped er head around to see who was behind her, but to her surprise, she saw no one. And the footsteps stopped.

Her immediate response was that her mind was playing tricks on her. It had been a long day and she was really tired. She turned to keep walking, but as her footsteps resumed, so did the ones she was hearing. She stopped again and fully turned around, hoping to see what was making the noise. Again, she saw nothing. The street and both its surrounding sidewalks were completely empty.

Now frightened, Angela turned and picked up the pace in case someone was following her. The footsteps she heard were getting louder and quicker. Angela stole a glance behind her, but she was still alone in the street. She began to run, clutching her purse and her shoes. The footsteps no longer sounded like they were coming from behind her; they were all around her. The noise was coming from everywhere and Angela was terrified.

At last, she reached her dorm building. She scanned her student ID to be let in and booked it for her room on the first floor. She arrived at the door, unlocked it, stepped inside, and briskly shut it behind her. Rachel, her roommate, was already fast asleep–evident because of her snoring. Angela hurriedly changed into pajamas and climbed into bed, hoping to fall asleep and forget the night’s events by morning.

Angela awoke to her alarm at 9:00am. She didn’t sleep well, but she slept. Rachel was still asleep, so Angela tried to be quiet. Angela remembered she had a 10:00am lecture, so she hurriedly put on leggings and a t-shirt, tied her hair back, grabbed her bag, and went to get breakfast from the dining hall. The memories from the night before were almost faded, but they came right back when she left the room.

Angela was wearing sneakers and walking down a carpeted hallway. Any footsteps she made should have at least been muffled. Still, there it was again: the haunting noise of phantom footsteps. There was no one in the hall in front of her, or behind her as she discovered with a quick peek behind her shoulder. Angela’s heart sped up, and so did her pace. She hoped she could outrun the terror this time. Her attempt was futile because the footsteps continued to match her speed. Her brisk walk became a jog, and her jog became a run. She was about to start sprinting when she burst through the doors of the building and stopped short as she encountered a smattering of college students, all staring at the girl standing outside her dorm building, panting, while half the campus was still asleep.

Slightly embarrassed, Angela composed herself and continued on towards the dining hall. To her relief, the footsteps stopped, though she didn’t yet tie it to the fact that she was no longer alone.

Angela reached the dining hall where she filled her plate with scrambled eggs and French toast. She ate at a table alone, but the hall was noisy and crowded. She like that, though. She felt safe with company. She ate in peace and tranquility, surrounded by the humdrum of voices and the clatter of dishes. Anything was better than the footsteps.

Once she finished her meal, Angela hesitantly got up to get to her class. She decided to stop and use the bathroom before going to her lecture hall. She turned right before the door leading outside and pushed open the door to the girls’ bathroom. There were two other girls in there standing at the mirror. She walked past them into the handicap stall; she liked the space.

While she was inside, the other girls left, leaving her alone in the bathroom. Once she was done, she stood up and walked to the sink. She heard her own footsteps echoing off the bathroom walls, but they weren’t isolated. There was another audible set, coming from behind her. And in front of her. And next to her. The noise penetrated her ears from all sides. She tried to escape it, but she couldn’t. She stumbled and fell and backed into a corner. She covered her ears with her arms, trying to block out the awful noise. She couldn’t. She was trapped in her own personal hell with no escape. Surrounded on all sides. The noise kept getting louder and louder and louder…

Angela was found a few minutes later, sobbing in the corner of the girls’ bathroom. The girl who found her yelled for help, and an employee in the dining hall called an ambulance. She was taken to a mental hospital, where the noise continued in her ears, but no one else’s. She was kept in isolation for a long, long time, which is exactly what they should not have done.