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I was out in my garden, taking the washing off the line. It was late, after 6PM; I’d been watching TV all day and had forgotten all about it. I had just pulled the last few socks from their pegs and dropped them into the basket, reaching down to pick it up and carry it back into the house. I looked up and suddenly stopped. There, standing in the middle of the patio, was a man; a tall man, gaunt and looking slightly odd, though I couldn't put my finger on exactly what. He wore an old-fashioned grey suit with scuffed grey shoes. He stared at me, his face expressionless.
Over the initial surprise, I stiffened up and asked, “Can I help you?” He did not reply, standing motionless before me. His lack of reply made me nervous; I asked again, a bit more insistently, “Can I help you?” Again he said nothing, his expression unchanging. I stepped forward, placing the basket on the iron table that we used for barbecues during the summer, then moved closer to him. “You’re trespassing. If you have nothing to say, then you’re going to have to leave,” I was firm in my words, not wanting to let him know how nervous I was. He still did not reply, still not having moved from where I first noticed him. Then something sparked in my brain: I had not heard the gate. Our gate made a very distinctive noise when somebody opened it, it could be easily heard even inside the house but I had not heard it tonight.
I was suddenly very afraid. If he had not used the gate, then he must have climbed over the wall I thought. But why? Our gate couldn't be locked, he didn't have to climb the wall. I would have heard that too. I had no idea how the man had been able to get into the garden without me noticing. I could only guess as to his intentions. Was he here to rob the house? Was he here to hurt me? Kill me? All sorts of thoughts rushed through my mind, trying to make sense of it. I did my best to shake off my fear, taking a deep breath and raising my voice, “Sir! Please leave, or I’ll call the police!”
Unsurprisingly, he did nothing; he just stood there, staring at me. I summoned up all my courage and stepped towards him, grabbing his arm, pushing him towards the gate. “All right, out!” I shouted, pushing his stiff form towards the gate, pulling it open and throwing him outside. I got one last look at those cold eyes staring at me before I slammed the gate, silently cursing my father for removing the bolt many years ago, the remnants of it sitting there proud, almost mocking me with their uselessness. I grabbed the basket and headed back into the house, locking the door behind me. I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that it was all over and busied myself with making dinner.
I sat down with my pizza and watched a film for the next two hours, by which time it was dark outside and the wind was blowing loudly around the outside of the house. I headed upstairs, passing by the window that looked out over the communal courtyard we called ‘The Square’. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a figure standing in the middle of The Square. I moved closer to the glass, trying to make it out. It was the man. He was standing there motionless, staring up at me. My blood ran cold. My parents would be home in a few hours; what if he was still there when they arrived? Would he hurt them? I ran to my room, grabbing for the phone and dialled my dad’s mobile number.
“Hey mate, what’s up?” came his voice down the line. I launched into an explanation of what had happened with the man, telling him that after two hours he was still standing outside the gate staring up at the house.
“What the hell am I supposed to do? Should I call the police?” My father was a police officer himself, and we lived a stones throw away from the local station, though at this time of night it was closed.
“Yes, ask them to send an officer to move him along. The Square is technically still police property after all.” I hung up, picking up the phone again and dialling 999.
“Hello, you’re through to the emergency services hotline. Which service do you require? Police, fire or ambulance?” the woman at the other end of the phone asked.
“Police,” I replied.
“I’ll just connect you now,” the woman stated. I explained the situation to the police operator, telling her that the man had been trespassing and refused to leave, that I had been forced to eject him from our property but he was still standing outside hours later. I was concerned for my parents who would be home soon.
“Don’t worry, an officer has been dispatched and will be with you shortly. He will deal with this man and will come to your door to tell you when he has been moved along. Stay on the line until the officer arrives.” I brought the phone to my bedroom window, looking out at the man standing in the middle of The Square. He was still staring at me. About ten minutes passed when I saw the top of a policeman’s hat going along the alleyway outside my window.
“The officer is here,” I told the operator, watching the policeman walk towards the man.
“Alright, I'm going to end the call now, is that okay? You can call us again if you have any more problems.”
I sighed, seeing the policeman trying to engage the man in conversation. “Okay,” I replied to the operator, “thank you.”
She terminated the call and I put the receiver back in its cradle. I saw the policeman grab the man’s arm and lead him off back down the alleyway, releasing him and giving him a push down the street. To my relief, the man complied, skulking off down the street without looking back. I sighed again, as if a huge weight was suddenly lifted from my shoulders. I heard the doorbell ring and went down to unlock the door, opening it and seeing the policeman standing there on the doorstep, smiling reassuringly.
“I moved him along for you sir. Hopefully he won’t come back, but if he does don’t hesitate to call us again.”
“Thank you, officer,” I smiled back and he nodded, adjusting his hat and walking to the gate, giving a wave as he left. I closed the door and locked it again, going back up to my room and silently thanking any gods who were listening that the man had left.
Three years have passed since then, and I have not seen hide nor hair of the man, though he still occasionally haunts my dreams. I notice it starting to rain outside, so I grab the washing basket and head out to get the washing from the line before it gets wet. As I drop the last of the clothes into the basket and stoop to pick it up, I look up and see someone in scuffed grey shoes walking towards me…