I raise my head up, with water dripping from my face. The cool rush of adrenaline fills my system as the icy cold liquid slides from my chin, tumbling over my chest and arms as I straighten myself. I pull myself to my full height, and suck sweet oxygen into my lungs, expanding my chest as I stretch out. It’s almost painful as I fill them up, breathing deep and firm. I roll my neck, feeling the vertebrae at the top of my spine clicking as they prepare for the day ahead.
Behind me, light is blinding through the window. I can feel the heat of the morning sun against my back, magnified by the glass. With the warmth against me I feel almost like an electric car. The sun charging my battery, giving me the power to function through the day.
As the water feels to have completely run from my face, I slowly open my eyes. The lids part cautiously, sticking slightly together as they prise themselves apart. When they finally separate, my focus is blurred and the person stood in front of me appears as a blurred, grey figure. Gradually, they come into focus, and I take a short, sharp breath in as I am confronted by shock.
The bare chested man, staring back at me is not one I recognise. He looks like me, but nothing at all like me. His shoulders are hunched, and his eyes are sunken into dark, tired rings. He looks exhausted. His hair is unwashed and lank with grease, his face unshaven. He sighs deeply at me, a sigh that conveys sadness and despair.
I take a step back as I watch him through the glass. Who is this impostor? What is this strange, twisted reality? This sickness isn’t me.
I stare into his face. He doesn’t seem to notice me. I call to him, but he is oblivious, as if my voice falls upon deaf ears. I can feel frustration rise within me as I see him brushing his teeth, staring straight through me. It’s as if I’m invisible, anonymous, irrelevant. But I can see him. I can see him. I can see him.
How does he not notice me? I am stood, screeching, heart beating, blood pumping. My eyes are straining, wild desperation screaming through them as they penetrate his face. I can feel tears streaming down my cheeks as my eyes begin to dry out. I blink, and the salty water collects in my bottom eyelid like a pale.
I watch him as he turns his back to me, and begins to dress. He is lethargic in his movement, and it seems as though his limbs weigh a ton. He drags each foot behind him like it is weighed down with lead. Every small undertaking seems to eat through his reserves of energy.
Then I notice it, hung on his back. It’s long, jet black arms slung over his shoulders, weighing him down. I’m stunned in silent sickness as I see its grinning face, nuzzled against the base of his neck. I become more desperate than before, trying to warn him. I bang against the glass, pounding my frustration out.
He grabs a shirt from out of the scene, and pulls a heavy arm through it. I expect it to be covered by the material as he slings the shirt across his back, but it seems to pass through, unaffected, and is then clawing to the back of his clothes. Its fingers are gripping into his shoulders, nails pressing against his collar bones.
He slings a tie around the back of his neck, ties it, and tightens it. He leaves plenty of room for his top button to remain undone, but the long, black fingers creep down and pull the knot up toward his throat. He seems to shift uncomfortably, tugging at his collar. I can see the claustrophobia and suffocation etched across his face as he struggles against it.
Eventually he gives up, and his face looks like sadness, resignation. He turns his back to me again, and walks toward the door behind him. I call out to him in vain, trying to warn him of his unnoticed stowaway. As he steps through the door, he lingers for a moment. It turns to look at me, and I stare into its eyes.
I can feel coldness spread over me as our eyes lock. It has a mischievous glint in its eye as it stares. Not a playful mischief, but one of destruction and devastation. It knows how it weighs him down, and it takes pleasure in doing it.
Anger rises within me as it leeches upon him. It can see the fury written over my face as it stares back. A broken, tooth filled grin stretches across its face, almost splitting its head into two sections. I feel sick as I look upon it. And then something strange happens. It continues to stare into my eyes, as if drilling through my skull, and then it winks at me.
I keep staring at it, until I realise; it wasn’t looking into my eyes, it was looking through them.
A chilling terror rips through me, running up my spine, into my shoulder blades. I feel my arms begin to get heavy, as if I’m wearing lead gloves. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see long black fingers creeping over my shoulder, and resting down onto my collar bone. I turn my head to get a closer look, but can see nothing.
I’ll never notice it, but someone who looks a lot like me is banging on the other side of glass. Screaming to me that it is on me, pulling me down.
I won’t hear him.