once upon a time, there was a man. a black hearted, short tempered man. his one passion in life came in the form of leaf collecting. he was obsessed with them. he thought them beautiful. he started his collecting at the start of autumn, when they turned from fresh to dead. fresh leaves held no pleasure. their colour uniform and standard, he thought them dull. but the copper, brown, red, bronze of the autumnal leaves made his blood fizz. he kept them all in books of blotting paper, leather bound to ensure the pages didn't escape. he'd filled maybe ten volumes already this autumn, keeping the books stacked on a table in his substantial basement.
his house was truly beautiful, one of the best he'd ever occupied. victorian. new jersey. surrounded by trees. the house was older than most others in the area. it was a huge, white imposing thing. the kind of house that most people wouldn't want to stay in overnight. they were a perfect match, him and his house. he'd been in jersey for three years, the longest he'd ever stayed anywhere. he knew it was time to move on, but he couldn't quite bring himself to. preservation of self dwindled when the illusion of safety was created.
he collected leaves early in the morning out of habit. the less people around, the safer he felt. it'd always been that way. always. he wandered through the park near 3rd, leaf spotting, and people watching. it'd only just turned 8, and the morning was pretty overcast, so the people to watch were minimal. stooping to select a fine golden leaf, he noticed someone approaching in his peripheral vision. snatching the leaf from the wet ground, he turned quickly, retracing his footsteps to his car.
'wait!' a woman's voice called out, shrill in the damp morning air. she was behind him by about ten feet, he figured, and slightly to the left. his car seemed to be as far away as the sun. he wiped at the sweat beading on his forehead, wondering whether he should run. 'sir, it is very important that we speak. i have come a very, very long way for this.'
he broke into a run, leaf slipping from between his wet fingers. his car was three blocks away, parked down a side street. he wished he'd parked in the middle of the road now, his caution meant nothing. he risked a glance behind him as he ran across the road. black hair, black pants. shoes, brown. cell phone clasped to her ear, recording his presence. one more block to his car and safety. he could see the corner of the street where his beloved mustang sat. fumbling for his keys, he took one last look behind him. she was half a block away, leaning on her knees, breathing hard. perfect. he ran full pelt to his car, beeping the lock and slamming into the drivers' seat. key, ignition, drive. screeching past her, missed her parting shot. 'shit,' he gasped, finally allowing his held breath out in a long rush. he didn't want to move again. ever again. 'shit shit shit.' how had they found him this time?