The Stranger

Day 11 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

You’re walking home from work one night and taking shortcuts through a labyrinth of dark city alleyways to meet someone on time. Suddenly, a stranger parts the shadows in front of you, comes close and asks you to hold out your palm. You oblige. 

Only people who know the city well should do what I do when I’m in a rush to meet someone.  As is my usual practice, I am running late.  Although, in my defense, this time it really isn’t my fault.  I was wrapping up at work and getting ready to leave at five o’clock on the dot, when my boss asked me to make some last minute changes to a document.

I had plans for months to meet my friend Julie for dinner tonight.  Julie is someone I met long ago at a time when things weren’t going so well in my life.  She basically brought me back up to the surface.  So when we can schedule in some time to see each other, I don’t want to have to reschedule if I can help it.  That’s why I took every back alleyway I could to Connolly’s, the pub we actually met at over 23 years ago, so I could get there on time.

Because it was the dead of winter, it gets completely pitch black by 5pm.  The shortcuts I take are dark and devoid of people.  It’s downright scary walking this way alone.  My dad bought me a can of Mace a few months ago and it is in these times that I keep it wrapped tightly in my fist.

I’m in the back alley somewhere between 7th and 8th Avenue, when I hear a rustle.  I’m not very courageous so I don’t stop to try to find what it is.  Suddenly I see something move in the corner of my eye.  I know it’s not a rat because it’s far larger than that.  As the image and sound gets closer, I move faster.  All of a sudden it comes out of the shadows and steps directly in my path, preventing me from going any further.  I immediately hold up my Mace and point it toward his face.

He holds up his hand.  “No, please.  I come in peace.  I mean you no harm.”  What is this?  This guy sounds like he came out of a different era with his speech.  I stop dead in my tracks and pull the Mace away from him but still keep it where he can see it.  I can’t see his face because he has a black hood pulled down over his eyes.  “What do you want?” I ask.  “Please, listen to me.  Hold out your palm,” he replies.  With my empty hand, I very shakily and slowly hold it out, palm up.

He careful places something in my hand.  And as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.  Just like one of those stealth ninja guys.  I look down and see that he has placed a business size card in my hand.  I pull out my iPhone and turn on my flashlight app to see what it says.


“Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I say out loud.  I try calling her on my phone but I am immediately forwarded to her voicemail.  “I’m going to kill her.”  I stand there for a minute deciding if I want to play along or turn around and just go home.  I decide I have nothing better to do so why not?  It’s a Friday night anyway.  After a few minutes of reading the clue aloud, I figure out what my next step is.

An hour and a half and 5 clues later, I find myself in front of Obao Restaurant, my favorite spot.  The doorman hands me my last clue.  It says that I found my destination.  I am full of mixed feelings…happiness, exhaustion and, if possible, a little bit of annoyance.  I open the door and am led to a back room.

It is in this moment I realize that I have been completely fooled.  Every person who means something to me is in this room and they all yell “SURPRISE” at the same time.  Julie throws her arms around me and whispers “Happy Birthday” in my ear.  Standing next to her is Jim who says, “I come in peace.”  Son of a bitch.  I’ll get him…

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