Do you ever get the sense that someone is watching you? It is a pretty common feeling, and most people experience it at some point in their life. Chances are it is just a minor form of paranoia. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes… someone is watching. Or ‘they’ might be the better term. ‘They’ are following.
Behind You is June’s flash fiction that brings readers into a psychological horror of paranoia. Enjoy the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
I used to enjoy life. Outside has so many wonders to see. The world is much larger than most people give it credit for. Sure, the Internet has drastically made things smaller by connecting people around the globe. The Earth itself, however, is astronomical in size. Anyways, exploring outside is something all of us do as a kid. I know I did. Not so much now. My mom and dad wouldn’t let me go too far. They always said the streets were dangerous. I didn’t understand why. It looked like a pretty safe neighbourhood from what I saw inside of my home. Perhaps I wasn’t visible from the window, being a small child, peeking out into the dangers.
Now, I understand why my mom would get mad at me if I stared outside for too long. Or if I wandered too far away from them without supervision. Mom said there were ugly people in the world. She said there were horrors out there. I believe her now. There’s a certain level of bliss that you have when being a kid. The innocence of a child overlooks all of the terrible things that are in the shadows, in the cracks, or those that are peeking around the corner. What was that cliché again? Oh yes, the devil is in the details.
Over the years, mom and dad were growing tired. Maybe they let their guard down, or perhaps they decided that there is no point in fighting the inevitable. The impending doom. They are always watching. You might not know exactly where ‘they’ are, but I guarantee they aren’t far behind. You know that feeling of someone watching you? It’s them. Whether you’re home alone, or on the sidewalk, or the grocery store, it doesn’t matter – they are there. They always are. It’s the reason for that tingling feeling on the back. Your hearing amplifies. It picks up the most subtle of details. Then, when you turn to look, you see nothing. I’ve dubbed them the Lightless Ones. We’ll get to that definition.
Most of us just write these experiences off as if there is nothing there. Easy to do. Just say it’s just our own paranoid delusions that are confusing us. We’re all a little crazy, some more than others. I sometimes wonder if I am the craziest of them all. The Lightless Ones started watching me from a young age. I know that much. I don’t exactly know what they want, even to this day, after a couple decades on. I’m not the only one aware of them. Conspiracy theorists, crack monkeys, delusional fools, pick your title, they know about the Lightless Ones. They all are willing to admit there is something more to that feeling. The sensation of something being near. The Lightless Ones are behind you. I know it. You know it now.
It all started when I was in my senior year of high school. I took the same path as I always did across the football field to the bus stop. In that field, I saw a man walking on the outside of the fence of the school property. It was at the corner of my eye. For all I knew it could’ve been a strand of my long hair that got in my face. It was windy. That’s what I thought the being was. Yet it seemed to walk with me. The closer I got to the edge of the school property I got; it was still there. I could easily distinguish limbs in a walking motion. Yet, this man was as black as my hair – hence the name ‘Lightless Ones.’ I stopped. I looked directly at the man, but they vanished. It was as if they were never there. I spun around a couple of times, trying to see where they were. I couldn’t find them. It was weird, but I made the conclusion that it was just my head playing tricks on me.
The wind-hair theory only lasted a week. More subtle signs started showing up. In the classroom, I could see someone watching from the window of the closed door that led into the hallway. Just like in the field, I could see them from the corner of my eye. When I looked, the person was gone. Apparently, I was ‘daydreaming’ as my math teacher put it. He said I should focus more on my grades. I truly tried to. The Lightless Ones kept distracting me. I don’t think their goal was to have me fail high school, because I eventually graduated. I didn’t have any remarkable scores, though. Oh well.
Dad was the first to die. It was from a heart attack. None of the neighbours seemed to care too much when my mom was wailing in pain at the discovery of her husband on the kitchen floor. Poor mom. We had a funeral. A few relatives that came by, but that is it. A lot of people began to distance themselves from us as I got older. I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school. There was Scratchy Jim and Hot Jane. I did have a thing for Hot Jane. I don’t think she really knew. She always liked the pretty boys. My acne-infused face probably wasn’t much of a turn on for her. Scratchy Jim and Hot Jane tried to keep me distracted from the death of my father. It worked for a while, until my mom took her own life. I’ll always remember the silhouette of my mom hanging from the ceiling in the garage. That silhouette, a human shape, all black, just like the Lightless Ones… always at the corner of your eye.
She had left a suicide note. It talked about them, the Lightless Ones. The silhouettes. The whole letter was about five-and-a-half pages long. Most of her words seemed like ramblings. Probably because of the empty bottle of Jamison’s on the floor beside her hanging body. I still have that last note to me. She mentioned that she saw them all the time. It is why she wanted to keep me safe indoors. That explained the homeschooling. My dad convinced her to let me go to high school. He believed it was good for me to interact with other kids. Mom was too scared and now I know why. In the note, Mom mentioned that the Lightless Ones spooked my father, causing the heart attack. My mom was tired and had given up. She apologized greatly in the note and said how much he loved me. Yeah… she loved me so much she left me to deal with them on my own.
My parent’s deaths were only a couple months apart. This was a year after high school. I inherited the house and all of their possessions. Technically, I was an adult now so I was on my own. I had considered postsecondary education but was too depressed after their deaths. I continued working at the grocery store down the road. I took the same route there five days a week, passing through the neighbourhood, the bar, and the apartment complex.
Mom and dad were gone. I had a home. High School was over. That’s when I started to see the Lightless Ones more frequently. That tingling sensation. I swear my ears twitched anytime a rattling sound occurred. I can’t even make them move – they did that on their own. I would frantically spin around, trying to see where the sound came from. Sometimes I’d see one of the Lightless Ones, as always, from the corner of my eye. People would watch me, thinking I was crazy. At first, I felt ashamed until I realized that they weren’t just any people. These people were familiars of the Lightless Ones. Or maybe they weren’t and just wanted to watch a delusional freak spaz out. Either way, all eyes were on me. Especially when I was shouting at the Lightless Ones to stop following.
I tried to tell Scratchy Jim and Hot Jane. Scratchy Jim was a little more open to hearing my story. He’d say he was there for me in that typical raspy voice of his. Hot Jane wasn’t so accommodating. She had a stud for her boyfriend and was accepted into post-secondary education in the next province over. My confessions of seeing the Lightless Ones was the last time I physically saw Hot Jane. I miss those freckles. She moved with her boyfriend and started her new life. She had no reason to keep Scratchy Jim or myself around. Despite the Internet making the world really small, Hot Jane had vanished entirely. The world is a big place. You can disappear still. It makes me wonder if she felt sorry for me in high school and was never really my friend. Scratchy Jim stayed around, at least for a little while. He was one of those guys that liked to experiment with drugs – of all kinds. It started with snorting prescription pills, some weed, speeds, and eventually down to the smack road. That’s when he began to distance himself. He would hang around those heroin dens. I tried to visit him, but he wasn’t exactly there. My last visit I spotted a Lightless One in the den and freaked out. Sorry Scratchy Jim.
With Hot Jane gone, and Scratchy Jim chasing the Golden Dragon, I didn’t have a lot of other people to talk to. I still don’t. My coworkers at the grocery store were either old people, or they didn’t speak English. A lot of the other kids from high school had now graduated postsecondary education or moved away. They wouldn’t want to hang out with someone like me.
My walks to and from work became more stressful. The Lightless Ones weren’t just at the corner of my eye anymore. I could see them walking right past me. They showed up more often late at night. On my walks home, I’d think it was a person in the dark until I got close enough to them to realize that light didn’t cast on their forms – they were pitch black. I would try to walk on the other side of the street as they continued to walk. Eventually, I’d pass them. It worked a couple of times, and I began to wonder if they were simply ghosts or something co-existing in our world. Then the Lightless Ones started to turn around and follow me. They were fast. They’d hit things, causing loud sounds to echo down the street. I would run down the middle of the road, keeping as visible as possible. The Lightless Ones didn’t care, they would chase me until I made it back home. I locked the doors. They waited outside. I kept the lights off so they wouldn’t know exactly where was. Home seems to be the only place they didn’t invade. They could only watch.
Eventually, I started to keep the curtains closed all the time. I did this more frequently in the mornings. The Lightless Ones are easy to spot during the day due to the high contrast of their black forms and the sunlit environment. I could maneuver around them, but they would appear around corners, trees, or in windows. Seeing them in windows confirmed my theory about the familiars. The Lightless Ones would be beside the humans watching me in the windows. These people worked for them. The familiars were on the street too. They’d act like they were looking at their phones or newspapers, but I could see their eyes. They were watching, taking note, and seeing what was going to do next. Some of the familiars would follow me to work and act like they were buying something. That wasn’t going to work on me. My mom warned me about what they were doing in her note. The familiars wanted to take me to the Lightless Ones. They want to make me one of the familiars, forever enslaved.
My manager saw my performance at work start to decline. I had shouted at some of the customers – who are actually familiars – and they filed complaints against me. My manager changed me over to the night shift so could stock the shelves and have less interaction with customers. At least there was the premium pay for nighttime work. The dark was dangerous. The Lightless Ones had camouflage. I started carrying a knife around with me. I really had no idea if the Lightless Ones were capable of experiencing physical pain. The worst-case I could at least attack one of their familiars.
My manager started to give me fewer shifts. Every walk home, I would firmly grasp my pocketknife that was tucked inside my hoodie. My heart raced. The Lightless Ones and their familiars would walk around me. I would shout at them – telling them to stay away from me. I threaten them with my knife. It worked. Except for one walk home, they were more aggressive. From every corner, their blackheads peeked out. The windows had familiars watching me. They were in cars. At the bus stops. They were behind me. I ran as fast as I could down the road.
I swear that some of the familiars tried to run me over in their cars. I couldn’t help but wonder how long they have been watching. If the Lightless Ones were stalking my mom, and she managed to avoid them until her death, did they stalk my grandmother too? Or my grandfather? I had no idea. I just knew I had to run. Eventually I made it home, struggling to get my keys out of my pocket. I dropped them once. Snagging them I found the right key to the unlock the door. With my hand shaking, I managed to twist it open, pushed the door aside, and stepped inside. I could feel one of them grabbed hold of my back. I slammed the door shut and locked it. Panting heavily, I collapsed onto the floor as tears began to run down my face. They were everywhere.
Best Course of Action
That’s when I decided I couldn’t work anymore. I stopped showing up for my shifts. My boss must’ve been concerned because the police eventually showed up at my doorstep. Part of me wondered if they were familiars too, but they seem to be okay. They interviewed me asking if I was on anything. I wasn’t on drugs. I’m not that kind of person. I was stable. I had a good sense of judgment. That’s how I noticed the Lightless Ones. They will drive anyone crazy. The police determined there was nothing wrong with me and decide to leave me alone. Now, I could stay safe. I covered every window with curtains and taped tinfoil to prevent the Lightless Ones from seeing inside. Rarely do go I go outside. Anytime I take a peek through the glass to the outside world, I see them. I tried to take photographs, but they always come out blurry. They must have some sort of electromagnetic field that distorts technology. It makes you wonder: are they aliens? Other dimensional beings? Or am I merely suffering from paranoid delusions? I have no answers. I tried to connect with others on the Internet – the world shrinking device – to see if anyone else has seen the Lightless Ones. There are similar stories. Some of these people also believe in Bigfoot. Where else was I going to turn to? It’s not like anyone else locally saw sees them. At least I can vent to people on message boards. That is one good thing about the ever-shrinking world, it connects those who are trapped. The Lightless Onesa choose who they show themselves to. They select specific people to be their familiars and they sure as hell aren’t going to convert me. I’ll fight this to the bitter end.
This is where I find myself today. Alone. I document as much of it as I can online. I wonder if the Lightless Ones are getting smarter, or if my judgment is getting worse. Either way, I have had a difficult time determining who is