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     By Maura Zimmerman

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The swing creaks beneath my weight. The cold, flexible plastic makes me shiver. I kick off the ground, sending woodchips flying. I barely take off. I hang my head and close my eyes. Drunken laughter. The soft legs forwards and backwards, slowly pumping. The creaks are no longer soft. They’re long drawn-out ordeals that sound painful.
I feel the warm still air brush past me and open my eyes. The world is a splash of shadows. There’s a soul sucking demon lurking in the sandbox. The wooden play train in front of me is overflowing with imps. The slides are slick with darkness. The moon makes a cage of shadows with the monkey bars. I look up. The stars are beacons in the sky and the moon looks close enough to touch. I reach out my hand to touch it, but it only parts the stagnant air as I swing back.
I clench the metal chains, and almost let go when they pinch me. I try to go higher and higher. The chains loosen and tighten, loosen and tighten. Prisoners shaking their chains.
Slurred voices sound and my feet slam the ground, almost jerking me to a stop. My body tenses, and I strain to pick up their words. The crickets drone almost drowns them out.
“Dude, that was so….”
“Did you…yeah…”
Their voices become a distant murmur. I’m safe, for now. My eyes dart around the part. That shape looks suspiciously human…and could that be a wolf?
I know I’m being silly now. I try to ignore my sense of dread and swing, but I can’t. A million beady eyes are watching me. I can’t sit still. I leap from the swing. My knees buckle, the woodchips bite me hard. I scramble to my feet, woodchips flying, striking the train. Hollow impish laughs fill the silence that even crickets can’t break.
I whirl around. Eyes stare at me from a tree. My muscles lock. Adrenaline pumps out from my adrenal glands. Fight or flight. My body wants to flee, but my mind is screaming at me to fight. I fumble in my pocket for my flashlight. A tiny spotlight illuminates a cat in the perfect hiding place. Its eyes squint at me and its tail swishes. With a hiss of irritation it leaps down and out of my sight.
I shake my head and laugh. The sound echoes back to me, mocking me. I tighten my hold on the flashlight and look towards the exit. Someone’s there. I dive behind the train and put out my light.
My heartbeat echoes in my ears. My breath comes in short gasps. Strength flows to my muscles. I peer around the train, squinting my eyes through the dark patches. No one there. Could it have been my imagination?
I look at my watch. 12:00. It’s that time of night. The witching hour.  The time of mad assumptions and wild imaginations.
My muscles loose some of their tension and my back slumps against the train. It makes a dull thud, the imps are protesting. I close my eyes and try to gather the courage to stand up and go back. Woodchips are being displaced. My eyes snap open. I whirl around into a crouch and peer into the darkness beyond the train. My eyes tell me there’s nothing there, but my ears tell a different story. I hop to my feet and sprint towards the exit. Footsteps behind me tell me my ears were right.
By the time I reach the exit my lungs are on fire, my legs are shaking. My body’s begging me to stop. My mind commands me to run. I make it halfway across the field when he catches me. A hand over my mouth muffles my scream.
I flail against him, but his body is made out of steel. I bite his hand, taste his blood, but he doesn’t even grunt in pain.
“You’re a hard person to find, Miss Levine.” His deep timbre of a voice warms my ears.
I relax into his grip; my legs tremble from the run. My lungs burn with each breath.
​He breathes into my ear, “Please don’t run anymore.”

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