The heavy panting of the ginger haired man reverberated into the foggy night. His legs demanded that he stop to give them time to rejuvenate, but the sharp and penetrating echos of the twigs that snapped merely metres behind him only perpetuated the adrenaline beating through his veins. The gut-wrenching fear that conjured up in his very being demanded that he avert his gaze to the source of danger – but even he knew that one slight misstep would spell his end. He pushed onward in the hopes of finding an escape, but he could feel the breath emanating from the monstrous beast’s nostrils grow closer and closer.
The beast that we talk of was almost unnoticeable, camouflaged in the dark of the night with its bloodshot eyes and short white fangs being the only indicators of its presence. It traversed the thick scrub of the forest with terrifying speed, and was quick witted and intelligent. Such a creature would fill any man, woman or child with everlasting fear.
Scurrying in leaps and bounds through the swampy marshlands, the fearful man finally recognised the marker he was desperately searching for. The large white boulder with the insignia of an antelope’s horns reaffirmed that he was scampering in the right direction, and more importantly that he was closing in on his destination. A place where he would be safe.
As the thick, dark storm clouds which had gathered in the evening sky gave a terrifying grumble, the man’s worries had been realised. The rain was light at first, but it quickly developed into a raging storm, with each drop of rain becoming heavier by the second. Suddenly the darkness turned to light. A crack of lightning shot through the clouds and was followed closely by a thunderous roaring echoing throughout the cold air. The running man’s thumping heart momentarily stopped as his mind tried desperately to overcome the terror of the night.
The progression of the storm increasingly muddied the rough trail that led to the place of safety. As he approached the fork in the track, the man suddenly froze. The large oak tree which was meant to point the way the way to safety could no longer be of any usefulness. The arrow which had been engraved into it had disappeared along with a large section of bark. Could it have been the storm, he thought. It need not matter though, as the familiarity of having crossed the path once before led him in the right direction. What he did not realise however, was that the small moment of indecision he had allowed himself to indulge in would be his undoing.
He was close now. Turning around the last bend in the trail, the man finally saw the place of refuge which he was seeking. A longing relief overcame his fearful body, and a small bit of excitement as well. He had done it. And now he would be rich.
Suddenly emerging from the thick scrub to his right was the very embodiment of horror itself. The beast had caught up with him, its bloodshot eyes and drooling teeth sending a shiver down his spine. As he stared death in the face, there was one thing he could not comprehend. The beast had intercepted him, as though it knew his destination. How could such a thing be possible, he pondered, as he resigned himself to his dreadful fate.
“But the tracks seem to end approaching this swamp”. The inspector was right. I looked towards the man who had thus far conjured together the pieces of the puzzle, expecting a response that would answer the statement with some brilliant yet ever so obvious explanation. Instead there was silence.
He began to pace back and forth along the water’s edge, deep in thought. “Our subject’s footprints, they are joined by another”. The footprints themselves were difficult to distinguish as the rain from the previous night’s storm had muddied the grounds, yet upon closer inspection there indeed seemed to be two distinguishable footprints of slightly different sizes. “Here, this one!” he yelled. “The forefront of this print, you can distinguish the individual tips of the subjects toes. But the other print, here, is flatted from cap to heel”. “Two men”, I confirmed. “One wearing the elongated leather shoes of a wealthy man, and the other barefoot”. “Precisely”, he shouted.