It was after my neighbour, Darren, started acting weirdly; as though he wasn't himself. It was after the neighbourhood went quiet and long after summer left our little slice of the world.
I remember feeling cold when I first saw it. A figure in the distance; it made my innards freeze and my veins run thick with fear. It stooped there, hunched on two legs, just beyond the boundary of the backyard fence. At the time, only a silhouette, I could never see its eyes. But I knew it was watching me. The figure gave no positive emotion; I couldn't read its body language. The way it stood there, an alien in a land beyond foreign. It just stooped there, hunched over the fence with its long, gangly arms hanging limply. Its arms, mere centimetres from the ground, swayed gently in the dying breeze. There were no words to describe the vibes that this thing sent me. It was fear. It was rage. It was entropy. Should my neighbours have been home, I would have run to them screaming. But they were not there. No one was there. Just me and it and silence. I think it was beginning to notice because it slowly cocked its head to the side. It reached out, imitating my arm as I reached for the chord that would inevitably close the curtain. I pulled the chord and the curtains shut with a loud snap!
After a month it became obvious that something was stalking me. I began going places that were more public, more in the open where the world bore me witness. It didn't help that this was Albany, Western Australia, and I lived in a suburb surrounded by tree plantation; a fair distance from the main city hub. I stopped going for night walks and my morning exercise routine was heavily altered. Sometimes I'd be walking down a street and I'd hear heavy, almost clumsy footsteps behind me; just out of sync with my own. I'd turn around and no one would be there. But things would change. I began picking up on small details. Sometimes I'd pass a single trash can only to turn around and find there were now two.
I found myself asking questions. Was that tree always there? Was that painting always so crooked? Have I ever owned paintings? Did something just move in the corner of my eye? What was that noise? Since when have I owned two hairbrushes?
I couldn't go to the police; I knew they'd never find anything. I couldn't reach out to friends; they would call me crazy. I couldn't seek help from others; for fear that my stalker may become more aggressive.
My calm demeanour, like a plaster mask, was cracking.
Mapping out the paths I walked and the suburb I lived in became first nature for me. Keeping track of everything I owned became vital to my state of mind. I sold off as many of my possessions as I could afford, leaving only single items. I couldn't allow myself to have multiple copies of the same object. I wrote lists every seventh day to ensure I knew exactly what I owned. This method would soon be compromised, however, as I began to realise that the thing stalking me was able to modify my list without me knowing; even when I was still holding it.
It was on such a day, as I was writing my futile list in the safety of my bedroom, that a shadow seeped through my window. Knowing full well what would be awaiting me in my backyard, I turned to look. It was the figure. This time it stood within the boundary of the backyard fence, head cocked to the side in what I wanted to believe was not interest. It carefully began to walk towards my window, more fast and less awkward than I had ever seen it move. The way it moved was familiar and yet I couldn't place it. As I had done in our last encounter, I closed the curtain. Before the curtain made that reassuring snap sound, the figure almost seemed to wave; flashing me a smile that was familiar but at the same time alien and horribly wrong.
That night, I was awoken by the sound of frantic knocking on my kitchen window. At first, I was hesitant. As soon as I heard the scream for help, I was running for the kitchen.
It's kind of funny. Your own voice is unrecognisable when you don't know you're listening to it.
The door hit the wall with a bang! I cautiously entered the kitchen, alert for any and all disturbances. There was nothing. The kitchen, once full of my possessions, was an ominous and empty shell of what it had been. Approaching the kitchen window, I stared towards where the disturbance had to be coming from; the backyard fence. In a tired slur, I almost thought I was looking in a mirror. The only mirror I own is in my bathroom. I froze as a perfect mirror of myself, mere inches from the window and the only thing visible in the darkness, waved; flashing the same grin it had given me that very day. That grin that was both familiar but, at the same time, entirely wrong and crooked.
It began to tremor, hands that were both mine and its clasped over familiar ears. Its form began to vibrate violently. I watched as it switched between forms. A trash can. A tree. A painting. People. Animals. Some of these transformations were not complete. It sickened me, but I didn't stop screaming. I figured it was my screams that were hurting it. I kept screaming, my vocal chords threatening to snap at any moment; the pain numbed by desperation and fear. The mirror of me that was now beginning to resemble some kind of monster, conceived from the drawing of a toddler, curled up on the ground. I watched as its muscles relaxed and it dissolved into nothing. Had I just killed it? I made sure my house was locked and secure before returning to my bedroom, assured of my safety.
Ever since then I've felt a degree of safety; but I know something is there.
I saw Darren yesterday, he waved his arm in a way that could have been a greeting. That familiar way he moved his arm, as though he was pulling on a curtain chord.
I know Darren is one of them, but I can't let them know that I know.
I'll keep my silence.
I'll keep my safety.
Things have calmed down considerably here.
Every time I am at home; my radio's volume is as high as I can stand to have it.
I have begun to crave silence; I crave sleep.
I want to believe things have calmed down considerably here.
Things are changing.
I no longer have two hairbrushes.
Now I have three.
Written by Oaura