11 September 2022; written by Patrick Taylor

She looks back one more time, fearing the worst – and the man continues standing, staring at her, just as he was a moment ago. But he’s not any closer, nor any more menacing. This, at least, is a weird kind of comfort; how many times has she seen people spend too long staring at her? How many people don’t mind their manners enough to look away when you look back? Maybe it’s a generational thing; after all, even from this distance, he looks quite old. He wears one of those soft, pillowy little caps that men of a certain age wear; a plain black sweater vest over a typical old man’s paunch; and stands in that slightly lopsided way that says, “I’ll need a good lie down after this.”

But there is the matter of his glasses: those bizarre, old-fashioned ones with the long, thin, metallic arms and tiny black lenses. They always look too small to be real glasses, but just slightly too large to be the blacks of someone’s eyes; as if, from this distance, they belong to a grotesque, insectoid man with the bulging, dark eyes of an ant in a microscopic portrait. Deep, dark eyes; alien, impossible eyes; but still undeniably seeing. Somehow, just looking at them, you don’t doubt for a second that there is another mind on the other end, sizing you up just the same.

The man stares at her through his tiny, pitch dark sunglasses. Twenty metres away, maybe. It’s a short enough distance that he could easily catch up to her, if he started moving and caught her by surprise. She thinks this passively, without much interest or engagement, an abstract thought with no bearing on the bottomless little glasses she starts into from across the road. I’ve been standing here quite a while, she thinks. I should probably get going. But I would have to look away first. I should probably do that soon. Yes, I’ll look away soon. I’ll leave soon.

The man, raising all his legs, begins to walk.