The Night Ride

Finalist in the 'The Inside Story 2020' competition

The moon was bright and full in the blackness and the sky was speckled with stars. A crisp breeze swept through the trees, rustling the leaves and sending an icy chill down his spine.
The headlight fixed to the front of his bike illuminated the path in front of him. It was the first of three lights he had packed with him, as he knew they were of poor quality.
The husky voices of several dogs barking madly in the near distance suddenly erupted out of the silence. He gulped warily.
'Must just be some dogs from nearby houses,' he thought. But no, that couldn’t be right. 'There aren’t any houses anywhere near here.'
He squeezed the brakes of his bike and stopped, standing motionless in the night. The foreboding trees hid the moon and its silvery light from view.
He didn’t have to listen very hard to hear the deranged howls of the dogs, and he knew they were getting closer by the minute. The faint smell of cigarette smoke lingered around his face. His mind drifted to thoughts of strange people lurking in the bushes, and he felt as if hidden eyes were peering at him through the shadows. Another shiver ran down his back.
'Who’s there? What if those are his dogs?' He thought, feeling uneasy. 'Or - what if they are strays, hunting in a pack?'
He swiftly decided that it would be a good idea to get out of there.
Almost immediately, he got back onto his bike and started riding towards the small wooden bridge that stretched out over the creek.
The moonlight shone off the creek’s water, casting an eerie, but elegant glow on the surroundings. The distant cacophony of the dogs was drowned out by the gentle trickle of the icy water in the creek.
A sense of relief came over him like a wave, but it was stolen right back as his headlight flickered, and all of a sudden he was plunged into darkness. He fumbled around his bag in the pitch blackness, looking up every few seconds, as if something was about to pounce from the shadows. Once again he felt as if creeping eyes were penetrating through the darkness, watching, waiting. He finally grasped his phone in his hand and switched it on, using the faint blue light of the screen to rifle through his bag and withdraw the second headlight. Moments after he had fastened it to his bike, it flickered and faded promptly.
He sighed deeply, his hands beginning to shake as he pulled the third and final light from his bag. His heart was racing and as soon as the light was attached, he took off.
He could hear the dogs barking recklessly again, gaining on him with every anxious breath he took. He rode faster and faster until at last, he emerged from the shadows onto the highway, cars zooming by. Just as his back wheel escaped the gloom, his third and final headlight perished.

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