He's everywhere.

Whenever I look at a mirror or through glass, or in my dreams, he stands there, looking at me with his unnatural face. The unnerving, expressionless face that is his. I've dreaded every day, one at a time, and it has been the cause. Perhaps not quite though, for there is nothing to fear but fear, but then again, I fear he is fear itself.

I don't know why he first appeared, but it was after the day I was called to investigate a chain of events at the Garnatius Hospital for the Mentally Ill. Basically, it was an asylum. I was a detective at the time, a fine job for my years, and this was a unique case assigned to me.

You see, five strange things were happening.

  1. Every few nights, there would be footsteps in a corridor, usually stopping several second later than it had done previously.
  2. An hour after the footsteps stopped, there would be a scream coming from one of the patients cells and they were found dead in the morning.
  3. Patients would complain about a nightmare about a figure staring at them, and usually would have them until they took their own lives.
  4. A symbol would be found cut into the cheek of the murder victims. And...
  5. Security guards would sometimes find themselves stumbling into a dark room, only to return ten minutes later, with a broken sanity. For these reasons, they were nicknamed the Mental Apparition Case.

I could not, as I walked through white corridors that smelled familiarly strange, but help be utterly baffled by the string of events that had been recorded. Could this, I thought, truly be the work of something, well, human? It didn't seem so, at least not yet.

"Miss Campbell?" I knocked on the office door. A strange, pale woman greeted me. She wasn't inhospitable in the least, and she even offered me some coffee because I must have seemed "weary." Her blue eyes, however, kept me out in the darkness. Everything about her blended in with the atmosphere about us, cold and sanitary.

Finally, I brought up the matter.

"Miss Campbell, what do you have to say about the murders in the asylum?" I put the coffee down and looked into her blue, stone eyes.

"Why? Am I a suspect?" she asked me in an obvious Southern accent.

"No, Ma'am. We just need to interrogate the authorities."

"Well, then, you can call me 'Helen'. Pleased to meet you sir."

I realized that I was being overly formal. "Jack," I said, smiling. Then I reminded her about the matter at hand.

I did not receive much information from her. Just everything I had already known. Helen told me I could interview the patients there, if I were especially careful with them. I did not like the idea of strapping somebody down in a chair and demanding answers, even though quite a bit of my job depended on it, so decided against it.

But then again, the patients were the real victims there, or perhaps the cause. I walked out into the strange white corridors again, unsure.

I decided to investigate the bodies of the poor victims instead, as there may have been a clue. And sure enough, there was one: a black shard of something, embedded in the symbol. It was protruding from a man's left cheek, shining ominously. I took it away for analysis. Apart from that, there were no other leads and decided to call it a day. By the time I got to the station, it was closed, so I took the shard with me. No harm done, right?

That night, I had a dream. I was in the middle of darkness, while I was able to see everything before me. I thought I was alone, until I saw a boy.

He must have been in his late teens, from the look of him. His back was turned, and all he wore was a black cloak, the sort you see monks or priests wear at a church. His short, black hair was rough, but controlled. I could see a bit of his pale skin, but nothing more. Suddenly, as if he sensed my presence, he turned.

The boy had not much of a face. Instead of having all of his facial features, he only had a mouth full of teeth, teeth as sharp as knives. Two symbols were glowing red in the place his eyes should have been. The symbols, I realized, were the same as the ones those victims had. He leapt at me, teeth bared, and, as you can always count on the real world for saving you, I woke with a start.

The next day at work wasn't easy either. Everyone on the case seemed hostile towards me, which was not a surprise because I did have a few disputes with them in my early days at the police force. This hostility, however, seemed to be newfound, as if I were carrying something they wanted. So I spent most of my time in the asylum.

There, too, I was not let off easy. The patients seemed to be drawn towards me, and they scratched and clawed at the doors as I passed by. One sneered at me, and he seemed to have the same sharp teeth as the boy. Or was it my imagination? The only place that seemed safe now was Helen's office. We spoke a while, about anything but the case. Her eyes were harder than before, barely even twitching.

The thought of the cursed object crossed my mind. I shrugged it off, but then I realised that I had not given it for research. And I didn't want to. I never wanted to lose it, ever again. I would kill the one who tries to take it from me.

I'm a detective, I thought. I don't believe in the supernatural.

And yet the shard called me. Everyone wanted it, I had it.

I had the same dream that night as I dozed off on the sofa. The boy, turning around, and finally attacking me with inhuman speed. I could feel his razor sharp teeth digging into my throat, tearing it to bloody shreds. The pain... it was all too real.

And then, the reality of life that woke me up.

Tired and afraid, I walked into the bathroom and splashed water in my face. I looked up, and saw him again. It was impossible, I must still be asleep! But no, I wasn't, as I heard nails scratching the mirror's surface. I ran out of my home, running as fast as I could go. My hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.

Run faster, he whispered.

And then I stopped running. I looked back. There was no one. And yet there was someone.

Work wasn't better, though. I handed the evidence to my boss and drank some coffee. The cleaner asked me to fetch some cleaner from the cupboard, which I did. As soon as I turned on the light... there he was. I stumbled backwards. After I raised my head, he had vanished. Why was this kid following me?!

Walking back home several hours later, my neighbour asked approached me. He was a short, old man who had a small apartment next to mine. We exchanged greetings, and he was very pleasant, until he asked me how I had got scratched.

I had no idea what he was talking about, until I felt my cheeks. The right one had the symbol etched onto it.

I couldn't sleep, I ate in fear of him appearing, I couldn't go to work, and when my pals found me in my kitchen rocking back and forth with fear in my eyes, I ended up in the asylum.

It's only a matter of time. He'll kill me eventually. Why? Why won't he leave me alone?

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