I’ve hit a serious dry spell. I need to get the creative juices flowing, and wouldn’t you know that as I was thinking about it, an invitation to look at 500 writing prompts to help beat writer’s block showed up in my email. How did they know? Well, what DON’T they know these days? Nothing is really private, folks, so be careful, little tongue, what you say. Especially if you have an Alexa, as I do, or some other gadget that can rat you out. Big Brother has become an e-reality.
Anyway, I won’t promise something every single day, like Sunday will probably be a day off. There are several categories, so this is the first prompt from the first category: Mystery and Thriller.
(You find strange, muddy footprints leading up to your front door.)
Darla struggled with her bags, purse, and keys. She tried to arrange things so that she could put her key into the lock on her front door without dropping everything. Just one of the problems you learn to solve when you live alone–especially when it’s raining like the biblical Flood, and you don’t want to make a second trip.
She splashed up the sidewalk from the curb, not paying attention to much beyond getting inside where it was warm and dry. Glancing down, she noticed footprints that seemed to come from around the side of the house. Big, mucky, sloppy footprints. Up her steps. But NOT back down. What? Who–where on earth–
She stood stock still, realizing that the only place those footsteps could go was inside her little house. The door was shut tight. There was no clear damage. No broken windows.
Her heart started ramping up, her fingers holding the keys shaking and her stomach churning. “Someone is inside. Waiting for me. Can’t go in there. What. . . .I know!”
She turned around and unlocked her car, dumping everything into the back seat. She rummaged for her phone, pulled it out of her purse, and with shaking fingers managed to punch in 9-1-1. As it rang, a shadow covered her window.
Terrified, Darla punched the door locks. She couldn’t tell if whatever was out there was friend or foe, and she was afraid to look.
Whoever it was, the person started banging on her window, yelling. She refused to put the window down. The yelling continued, and finally there was a response on her 9-1-1 call.
“HELP! I need help! There’s a large person banging on my car window! Yelling! I saw big, muddy footprints going up the steps to my front door, but not back down. Please help me!”
“Ma’am, I’ve put in a call to the police. Someone should be there in just a short time. Do NOT open your window!”
“But I didn’t give you my address! How do you know where to send the police?”
“Your phone has a GPS that pinpoints your location, Ma’am. Can you start your car and move away from the person at your window?”
“Yes, sure! But don’t I have to be here when the police arrive? Whoever is out there isn’t going to stand around and wait!”
Darla worked hard to keep from hysterics. The banging and yelling hadn’t stopped, and she was certain her window would be broken soon. She touched her brakes and her ignition button. There was no one parked in front of her, so she pulled forward and to her left, giving the car a little gas before she took off, checking that there were no cars coming up behind her.
Whoever it was out there, he (it had to be a “he,” or an unusually large woman!) grabbed her side mirror as she pulled away. She was sure he would break it off! She kept going, though, determined to escape.
She heard the CRACK! as the side window was broken off her car, and then she heard an ominous THUD! She glanced into her rear vision mirror and saw a heap on the ground, but nothing else. And then, to her immense relief, a police car careened around a corner and pulled up beside her. An office put his window down. Before he could speak, she was talking.
“I’m so glad to see you! I made the call to 9-1-1! Footprints to my door, but not back down the stairs. Big–something–pounding on my car, he broke off the side mirror. . . . “
“Okay, Ma’am. We see what could be a man on the ground behind your car. Did you hit him?”
“What? NO! I was trying to drive away, and he grabbed my mirror, broke it off. . .I told you. . .”
“All right. Please stay in the car and wait for us to see what’s going on.” The officers stepped out of their car, pulled their weapons, and carefully approached the heap on the ground. It didn’t move, and was throughly soaked by the rain. One officer place his foot carefully on what he assumed was a shoulder, but there was no response. Squatting, he rolled the man over, felt for his pulse. “Call an ambulance! He’s alive, but his pulse is slow, hard to detect. Skin very white, blue lips. We could have a heart attack here.”
As the second officer placed the call and did what he could to make the man comfortable, the first officer motioned for Darla to lower her window. His hat dripped all over the car and on her, too.
“Ma’am, it’s hard to tell until the medics get a look at him, but I kind of think this man was looking for some help. There’s something wrong with him.”
As he spoke, Darla had an adrenaline reaction, finally dissolving into tears, shaking like a leaf from top to toe. “You mean–do you mean. . . .to say. . . .he could b-be dying? and I w-was too afraid to help h-him?”
“Ma’am, under the circumstances, you can’t blame yourself. You weren’t wrong to be afraid. We still need to figure out the footprints. Are you sure they didn’t come back down the steps?”
By this time, the ambulance had arrived, and there was a great fuss as the man was loaded onto a gurney. As they wheeled him away, the second office saw his feet. Very big feet, covered in rubber boots that were caked with mud.
He told his partner about the muddy boots, and again the first officer told Darla to wait in her car. The two policemen walked up the sidewalk, saw the prints coming around from the side of the house, up the stairs–and then followed them as they stepped in the exact same prints they had made climbing up the stairs. The print wavered in the grass, back around the side of the house. The man was dragging his feet, leaving ruts. It looked as if he’d stopped, turned around, and then made his way down to Darla’s car.
Describing what they thought had happened, they tried to reassure Darla that she was not to blame, could not be expected to notice the detail they had seen, persuaded her that she had every reason to be afraid, and that she had done the right thing.
The next day, Darla called in asking for a personal day at work. She was still tearful, and hadn’t had a very restful night. At least, though, she knew what had happened. Her neighbor from three houses down felt sick, tried to find someone at home to help him, and the rest of the story told itself.
Darla picked up a bouquet, drove to the hospital, and took the elevator up to the second floor. She was looking for his room number when a tall, hefty man came walking toward her. He was connected by his IV to a rolling cart, and had an oxygen tube in his nose.
“Mr. Carter! Oh, Mr. Carter, how can I ever tell you how sorry I am! I didn’t recognize you, I thought–I thought—“
“Darla, I understand. You had every reason to be afraid. Best thing you did was call 9-1-1. I don’t know how this would have turned out if you hadn’t.”
“So, what happened to you? Are you going to be okay?”
“Of course. My old ticker was just letting me know there was trouble. I’ll be fine. My son is coming tomorrow to take me home. . . . .say, have I ever introduced you to my son?” he said, beaming.