The bus stopped outside a café in a small town and we all got out for lunch. Fish and chips all round with cups of tea.
Six played along, taking pictures of his lunch. Then we took a few more selfies in the café. I left my phone alone until a text came a few minutes later.
“Got them all. Threat assessment coming up.”
Back on the bus, I flicked through the photos we had just taken – like a happy holidaymaker would. As well as the ones we’d taken, Silas had somehow added a load more – of the two of us in different locations in the area.
Something else struck me. Six was smiling in all of them – like he was a different person.
When had I last left my flat? I had no idea. It had been so long since I’d spoken to or had any contact with humankind, I was starting to feel like a different species. What if I wandered out and they saw right through me?
With a hat on under my hood, I ventured out under cover of darkness and lingered among the crowd watching the fireworks. I could feel every passing glance, every curious gaze in my direction. But all they saw was one guy in a hood standing alone in the night.
I ran out of food. Now I would have to leave my home during daylight hours. I showered thoroughly and tried to make myself look normal, certain that everyone out there would be able to see me for who I really was.
I took the long way, wandering around some other shops, beginning to believe that I belonged among humankind again. I could feel every time someone noticed me, but no one found me interesting enough to look at me for more than a second or two.
But when I left the supermarket, my eye was drawn to a car on the opposite side of the street. A pair of eyes inside the car lingered on my face like an itch. Shooting the odd glance, I couldn’t see through the tinted windows. I picked up the pace.
I stopped down the road from my flat and pretended to tie my shoe lace. The same car was parked at the top of the street.
I hurried up to my flat and made sure the door was locked and bolted. I peered through the window. The car was gone.
Of course it was gone. No one was following me. It was just my paranoia. Being Watched will do that to you.
But I’ve discovered the identity of the fantasy being stalking me. I’m writing now. I’m working with him. I’m safe, right?
I didn’t realise so much time had passed. I haven’t slept. I don’t remember drinking or eating anything, but the empty plates and coffee mugs around the place suggest I must have.
Sarasin Shade’s manuscripts lit a fire under me. I’ve read, reread, written and rewritten. I’ve never accomplished so much in such a short period. I can’t wait to get these stories out into the world.
It took me ages to notice ShadowAspect standing there. Maybe it says something for my state of mind that he brought me pizza and it doesn’t seem weird to me. After I write this, I’ll stop and eat before I keel over.
ShadowAspect placed a small pile of money on the desk. I remembered I hadn’t thought to mention payment at the time. Then he placed a note in front of me.
“You have two weeks.”
The second I woke up, I knew I had to get out of the flat, so I showered, got dressed and left as quickly as I could. I took a train, desperate to get as far away as possible, and found somewhere for breakfast. I wondered around, doing anything I could think of to wipe it all from my mind. But I had to go back eventually. And the intruder was all I could think of.
He appeared again. I was waiting, but I didn’t move once I saw him. I simply sat up in bed and watched.
After staring each other down for what felt like hours, he strode to my desk and produced a piece of paper. He left it there. Then he was gone. It was a simple note written in ink with a quill pen:
“His name is ShadowAspect.”
I need food. I haven’t eaten in days. No chance of an expensive takeout and I can’t afford a sugar or carb crash, so it needs to be something quick and healthy.