Something has been following me. I’ve been seeing it in my peripheral vision, just out of the corner of either eye. Every time I turn to see it, however, it vanishes.
Poof! Gone! Go ahead, call me crazy if you want to. I don’t really care anymore. So far, this . . . this thing has been trailing me for weeks. Or has it been a month or two already? Whatever.
Forget it. Let’s just say that it’s been doing this for a while.
I first noticed something was amiss while I was running during track practice one day. Being one of the faster guys on the team, when I take off, it’s hard for others to catch up.
Despite this, I’m usually not in first place. While running that day, I noticed a shadow out of the corner of my eye, the figure keeping perfect pace with me.
Curious to know who my newest rival would be, I turned my head to see who it was. To my surprise, no one was next to me. In fact, the person nearest to me was about a half-field behind me.
Though it was weird, I shook it off, telling myself it must’ve been a figment of my imagination. That is, until it started happening regularly.
No matter where I went, the shadow would be there, right on the edge of my vision, only to disappear at the slightest glance in its direction. At the mall. The movie theater. In my classes.
While I drive. I even notice the creeper glaring at me while I shower. Trying to look at it in the mirror doesn't work, either.
When I try, all I see is myself—a tan boy with blond hair and a perplexed look on his face.
The strangest (and most infuriating) thing about my predicament is that no one else seems to notice the damned thing.
No matter how many times I say, “Hey, did you see that?”, no one can confirm its existence to me. Even my 10-year old brother, Darren, doesn’t believe me.
As younger brothers do, he pokes fun at me, saying, “You still believe in monsters, Jacob? Aren’t you a little too old for that?”.
His bright blue eyes light up and his dimples become visible as he giggles, delighted that he's able to pick on his big brother.
I don’t get angry at him, though, because he’s right: I look and sound ridiculous.
So ridiculous, in fact, that many of my friends have stopped hanging around me. Apparently, I’m “scaring them”, and I need to “get some help” for my “hallucinations."
Who can blame them, honestly? The way I abruptly spin around to look for the thing that’s been hunting me has gotten me plenty of weird looks from strangers.
It must be embarrassing for my friends to be associated with me. However, it still hurts to be doubted like this. My own mother thinks I’m crazy.
Why won’t anyone believe me? Why the hell would I lie?
I can see it now, leering at me with its deep, red eyes. I quickly move to get a look at it. It’s already gone, only to reappear once I turn back the other way.
This time, its mouth spreads into a grin, a row of sharp teeth gleaming in the light of my room. Saliva drips from its teeth. It’s mocking me. I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to end it. Now.
Hopping out of bed, I rush out of my room, slamming the door shut. My mom and brother are home, but I don’t care. It’s not like they’ll understand what’s going on, anyway.
Speed-walking, I make my way to the kitchen, finding the drawer I’m looking for. I cackle as I pull out my tool of liberation: a knife, complete with serrated edges.
This thing picked a fight with me. If it’s a fight it wants, who am I to deny it one? Now, I wait . . .
And wait. And wait. After a good ten minutes of looking like a madman in the kitchen, I relax slightly, confused. Hmm.
Maybe the bastard finally figured out I wasn’t playing its stupid game anymore and disappeared for good. Ha! Smart move.
Heading back to my room, I’m beaming, happy to finally be rid of that thing. It is then that I realize how quiet it’s gotten in the house.
Continuing my trek back to my bedroom, I begin to think to myself. Did my mother and brother leave, and I just didn’t notice?
Suddenly, it’s there again, its face cracked in half in a wicked smile. I swear I can hear it laughing at me.
Rage surges through me, tensing every muscle, every tendon, every ligament in my body.
“Get away from me!” I scream, swinging the knife to the side. I don’t look back, hoping the blade hits.
“Hey, Jacob, wanna keep playing this game with m-?” The voice is cut off by five inches of stainless steel.
The sound of tearing skin and shredding muscle lets me know that the serrated edges are doing their job.
A warm, sticky liquid doesn’t ooze, but pours out over my hand, alerting me that I’ve hit a vital, fatal spot. I rip out the knife, and the fiend falls with a thump.
“I did it! Yes! I did it!” I scream, my heart filling with joy. I laugh, the sound a mix of relief and hysteria.
Turning around to see my work, I am cut off mid-laugh, replacing it with a gasp. My hands go numb, and the blade falls from my hand. A loud cry escapes my mouth as warm tears blur my vision.
It was smarter than I had anticipated. I knew that it would disappear if I tried to look at it; how could I not have foreseen that it would try to protect itself from a direct assault?
Before me lies Darren, seizing about on the floor. His hands grasp at his neck in a tense frenzy, his fingers like dying spiders. I rush over to him, sinking down next to him.
The same thick, dark-red liquid that stains my hand is pooling on the hallway floor, discharging from my 10-year-old brother’s neck.
His wide eyes lock with mine, tears streaking his cheeks, and he tries to open his blood-stained mouth.
His lips form words, though pitiful, labored gurgles are the only sounds that escape his mouth.
Mom is out here now, screaming at me. “What happened? What did you do?” she wails. I yell back, telling her to call an ambulance, even though I know it’s too late.
I hit Darren square in the jugular, the serrated blade slicing it open.
While I sit here, cradling my only brother, I watch helplessly as he tries—and fails—to say something to me. Finally, he musters up the strength to mouth the word, “Jacob."
Then, he coughs, spraying my face and neck with blood. With one final, labored breath, the light leaves his eyes, and he’s gone.
His lifeless eyes stare up at me, tacitly communicating to me that this is my fault.
“I’m so sorry”, I sob, hugging his body close. The back of his head is stained red, blood matting and dripping from his once spiky, dirty-blonde hair.
On the floor, by his hand, lies NBA 2K16, the video game we were playing just yesterday. He loved basketball.
Through my tears, I notice something. Something with red eyes.
It’s smiling at me, laughing at my fatal error. A wail of anguish rips my vocal chords to shreds.
It’s still here. I can see it in my peripheral vision.