In the low pre-dawn light of the street lamps, it was the noise that caught my attention rather than the movement. An unwanted early wind brought them to life and, crab-like, the sharp edges clacking and crackling, the dead leaves skittered across the chilled concrete. My head snapped to the sound and it took a moment to find the culprit. The tingle down my spine indicated my thoughts had drifted away from reality.
The breeze seemed too slight for animation, but then what could have sent the leaves stalking along my path? There must have been a source, and my mind immediately saw the tiny devils hidden below the parched shells. Their red eyes cut through the darkness and the distance and my pace quickened to get me safely away from their clutching gaze. The wind thwarted my efforts and pushed my tormentors behind me in time to my steps.
I tracked their progress, despite the contorted pain of swiveling my head around, to ensure they did not catch me off guard. They stayed at bay, but, regardless, I was still assaulted by the cold, dry, air that set my skin to crawling and ravished my hands in nips and bites. I wrung them to fling the snapping demons from my exposed flesh, but nothing could shake them loose. They had latched on completely, their fangs gnashing down to the bone.
A primal scream bubbled below the surface, and I longed to release it into the echoing alleyway and sprint wildly into the darkness. I longed to free myself from the last tenuous hold of sanity and relinquish my thoughts and actions to the madness within. The wind whispered urgencies to give in to my desire. The shadows reached for me with welcoming embraces. The stars laughed like always.
One truth kept me tethered, kept me from washing away to complete insanity, and allowed me to safely navigate the morning. I have always abhorred the wind. It is my greatest enemy, and I refused to let my nemesis win. I let the dry demons feast on my hands and the devil leaves chase behind me and I strode forward refusing to deviate from my course.