As first dates went, it hadn’t been too bad so far. I had met him at the local coffee shop and we had drunk a few lattes. He looked like his online profile, which was something, and the conversation had been light. He was studying computers and something that I didn’t catch or really understand and getting some side hustles with web design on the side. We shared a love of Doctor Who, agreed to disagree on Star Trek and I felt more relaxed with him than I had in a long time. I should have known it was too good to be true.
“Let me walk you home.” Ryan said. “It’s a shame to end the conversation. I feel like I could talk with you for hours.”
“I’m good.” I said. “And if you walk me home and we get talking there then I won’t get to bed early enough and I have work tomorrow.”
“Come on, let me walk you at least part of the way.” Ryan said. “Don’t pretend we haven’t had a marvellous time.”
“It’s been a great evening.” I said, “And I hope we have another one like it, but I do need to get up tomorrow.” What with one thing and another I would be lucky to get even a couple of hours sleep before work, even if he didn’t come in.
“Spoilsport.” He smiled at me and I smiled back. “Okay, let me walk you some of the way back. I promise I won’t go all the way.”
“That sounds like such a cheesy line!” I shook my head. I either gave in or he made a scene here. “But you said you lived over the other side of the city. Why don’t we walk as far as the subway terminus? Then you can get the subway back and I will be near home.”
“You aren’t that near to the subway terminus.” Ryan sounded a little sulky.
“Someone’s done their research.” I said. “But we can hang out together until you get on the subway, so we have a little more time.”
Ryan smiled. “I know you haven’t lived in this part of the city long, but I grew up around here. I know a great short cut, through the old park.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be haunted?” I asked. “I mean, I was warned about going into the old park after dark as it was dangerous.”
“Nobody believes in ghosts.” Ryan said, “And I can protect you.”
I looked at him thoughtfully. He was in good shape, but he didn’t look like he could take on a pack of muggers. What was worse, if we cut through the abandoned park, we would have to go past my home to get to the terminus. It looked like Ryan could be a problem. “I’d rather stay in public. You know all the advice that they give, about online dating, to stay in public for the first few dates and to be really careful who you give your details to? Perhaps I should just get an uber home.”
Ryan put a hand on my shoulder. Somehow it felt heavier than it should. “Please, we are having such a good time. Let’s just walk for a little while, carry on connecting and you can wait with me at the subway station.”
“And we can go past the supermarket.”
“Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure. There is nothing wrong with the park. It’s just neglected, that’s all.”
“It will be dark.” I said.
“It will be romantic.” Ryan held my hand and smiled at me. I felt incredibly uneasy.
The old park had effectively been abandoned by the council. Once it had been carefully landscaped but now it was an overgrown tumble of tangled bushes and trees with some worn tracks through the dense growth. It was dimly lit even in daylight. We walked through the rusted gates in the dark and away from the street lights and we were suddenly in an eerie dark. I dug a mini torch out of my handbag.
“You’re prepared.” Ryan said. “I admit, it’s darker than I was expecting, but I thought you would use your phone.”
“Wouldn’t that run the battery down really quickly?” I asked as I found a path. “Is this the way?”
“I think we need to go down here.” Ryan said, pointing to a different path.
“No, this way will get us through the park quicker and nearer the subway.” I insisted pointing my torch.
“But this way will be more fun, I promise.” Ryan said.
He set off ahead of me, and I sighed and followed. The park was not safe after dark just because it was so overgrown and badly lit. If he fell, he could hurt himself badly and not be easily found. I decided that I would see him off at the subway and then send him a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ text. “Hang on!” I shouted after him.
“The park is supposed to be haunted, you know.” Ryan said as I scrambled after him. “They say that you can see ghosts here and that vampires and werewolves come here to meet.” Ryan looked around as much of the park as he could see in the small beam from my torch. “It’s a shame it isn’t a full moon.”
“Vampires and werewolves, seriously?” I said, as I hurried after him. “We’ve left the path.”
“I grew up here, remember?” Ryan turned and smiled in the glow of the torch. “I know all the tracks, like this one here.” We stumbled out onto a slightly wider path that was heading downward towards the neglected artificial lake.
“I need to get home and you need to make sure you get to the subway in time for the last train.” I said. “This is silly.”
Ryan looked around. “I’m just trying to get my bearings. Does your phone have GPS?”
“I thought you knew this place?” I was trying to keep calm. I really didn’t want to have a scene. “Come on, lets get out of here.”
“Seriously, which way is North?”
I ignored his hand open for my phone and pulled up the map function myself. “It’s that way, and if we follow this path, we’ll come out almost next to the subway. And you won’t miss your…” I was interrupted as I turned to point to a path. Ryan snatched my phone out of my hand and threw it into the bushes. I whirled around to glare at him. “What are you doing?”
“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” Ryan said, in a low voice, running his hand over my arm. “You are in the middle of the haunted park, in the dark, possibly surrounded by werewolves, and with a handsome stranger. Anything could happen. And you have no way to call for help.” He tried to pull me towards him for a kiss, but I struggled free.
“Okay, that’s it. This date is over, lose my number.” I shone my pitiful torch where I thought my phone landed.
“I don’t think you understand.” Ryan said. “You are alone, in the dark, with a stranger. You are in no position to tell me what to do. I’m in charge.” He moved a little closer. “I could even be a werewolf. That would be something, wouldn’t it, to be rescued by a werewolf.”
I swore at him and headed to where I thought I saw a glint of grey. “What are you going to do? Leave me for the ghosts. Leave me alone.”
“Or what?” Ryan was smirking as he followed me. “There are no werewolves around to rescue you.” He pushed his hand into my hair and pulled my head back. “We are going to have a nice time here, and then we are going back to your place and by the morning you will see that I am the best thing that could happen to you. No werewolves needed.”
“You’re right.” I snarled, my fangs lengthening as I grabbed his arm and twisted until he was on his knees, screaming. “No werewolves needed at all.”