Anne’s first clear thought was that her mind was moving faster than her feet. Her next was as familiar as the pounding of her heart as she forced herself to stop running.
“Which is more likely to drive me mad… seeing things that everyone else insists aren’t real, or realizing that I am the only one who isn’t blind?”
If she had any breath left she would have laughed hysterically. Instead she just stops moving, and presses a trembling hand against the stitch in her side. With a sigh, she glances at her surroundings. Just another city street with ordinary people carrying out their routines, bustling in and out of stores, and offices as traffic rumbles by and she settles her purse onto her shoulder again.
Throwing a nervous look behind her, she sees no pursuit, but knows she is still too close for safety. Fighting another tide of panic, she turns and jogs towards a bus just pulling up to the curb. The sound of its brakes brings up a sob that she buries with the back of her hand. She blinks away the blur of tears as she hurries to the back and grabs a seat. There she can fight it no longer, hiding her face in her hands, the image of what happened rises before her closed eyes and the tears quickly fill her palms.
Everyone at the bus stop had been waiting for the bus with varying degrees of patience. A group of weary children had been keeping themselves awake by fighting for the attention of their harried mother and their growing volume had just begun to spread a ripple of irritation when the old man had strolled around the corner and taken his place amongst the waiting crowd. The children had drawn his attention almost immediately.
Such a sweet-faced dapper gentleman Anne recalls, older but not yet living beyond his years with his hat at a jaunty tilt and an elegant cane in his hands. He had caught the eye of one of the crying children, tipped his hat and begun to do tricks to amuse them. Captivated, one by one the kids had stopped harassing each other and pulling on their mother as he balanced his cane on one finger with his hat whirling atop it.
Anne remembers the faces of the crowd as the tired resentment that had been growing faded and was slowly being replaced by smiles. Anne herself had laughed out loud with the children at his funny faces and flawless antics and the world around them had seemed a little less gray, a little less bleak as this stranger ran through an amazing array of tricks. She had just been thinking that he must have been a magician, clown or perhaps a mime once upon a time, when the feeling came over her.
As if in a dream, she was no longer part of the crowd, time and movement seemed to slow and stretch. All the forlorn colors and hopeless grime of the city’s street seemed to grow as if the small figure that appeared were gathering itself from these elements. Dark, oily looking skin over a misshapen body only about two feet high, the creature leered at the old man with a feral gleam in its reptilian green eyes.
The sounds of laughter were dim as Anne looked to the faces around her, knowing beforehand that no one else would see this imp of malice as he moved toward the old man. She didn’t know what was about to happen, she only knew with sick certainty that it would be bad…and no one but her would ever see what really happened.
As the tears trickle through her fingers and fall into her lap, she relives that horrible moment. Herself calling out to the gentleman, pushing against the crowd as he pretends to walk a tightrope… The bus was just a looming mass of speed and sound that rushes into the foreground as he turns towards the voice of warning. Anne’s own horrified astonishment when the man looks directly at the evil little creature and recoils from it!
She stood frozen, too far away to help him, too shocked by realizing that he was seeing It too and in an instant it was over. He had tried to hit it with the head of his cane, but the malevolent beast had merely dropped to it’s belly and shot toward him like a snake, leaping at the last moment to rebound off the man’s shoulder and increasing his swing into a street-ward sprawl as the bus tried, too late, to stop.
Anne pulls tissue from her purse blindly, begins to pull herself together as her well of tears runs dry, and looks out into the darkness at receding lights of the city. She had turned away from that final moment, instinctively protecting herself from a memory she did not want, but turned back when she heard the hot sticky laugh of the creature no one else could see.
Around her, strangers reacted to what they saw as a shocking tragedy but all Anne was aware of was the malicious gaze of that deadly creature as its mouth stretched in an impossibly wide and toothsome grin. Before it could coil itself to leap at her, she had turned and run for as long as her terror could sustain her.
“What will happen to me now?” She thinks, “This… is a whole new game.”
Anne had been seeing impossible things for as long as she remembered, but they had never noticed her before, never been so close, and no one else had ever seen them either.
“Oh yeah,” she thinks as she leans her clammy forehead against the cool window, “if he saw it too….it isn’t just me. ...And now they know I see them.”
Looking out the grimy window once more, Anne tries hard to see only the beauty of the world around her for a moment and salve her aching heart. Only a few more moments and she will be home but she knows beyond a doubt that she will never again find safety in the life she has known.
With a heart weary sigh, she begins a mental list of all that she must take with her. She dares not ponder how long she may be able to run before they find her. With all her heart Anne hopes that there is a safe haven to be found somewhere in the world. As the night begins to brush against her window, she struggles against the dark hollow within her that is filled with a sick certainty that even if there is such a place, she may not be strong enough or run fast enough to find it in time.