Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Ever Watching Part 1 of 2

(A short story by Jonathon Best©2011)

Once again I receive a call from my socially insecure friend. You can always tell when it’s him because he speaks as if he has just been asked a confusing question, or as if the ‘telephone’ is still a new ‘thing’ and he is still learning how to use it.
He asks me if I’m busy, because he has had a bad day and wants to talk (complain) about it. Nothing new. I weigh up my options. Do I really need to listen to his bullshit? Or is making an excuse sounding good ‘roundabout now? Not that I’m ever busy, and he knows it. So, like always, I reply with ‘Sure man, just gimme 5 minutes and I will head down.’

He only lives a few houses along. I guess that’s why we see so much of each other. There can’t be many other reasons, really. We never find much to talk about, or rather, we always end up talking about the same thing, more or less; Why society is fucked. Why god is a stupid notion. Why most people don’t see things the same way we do... It’s all the same, and it all lost its intrigue about a year and a half ago. Still, though, we walk most nights, throwing back and forth our rhetorical questions, hitting each other with intelligent quotes or statistics that may change the other persons mind, even though we are usually on the same side anyway. It was all a complete waste of time.

Ahh, there’s the old bastard!
He is only one year older than me, though when it comes to age in our group of friends, you’ve got the oldest, the youngest, and the rest of us. He was the oldest.
I greet him with an animated salute, and he throws a large bow back at me, leaning into a roly-poly and landing back on his feet, arms in the air. Ta-dah! How amazing! You know, if I didn’t see this same act at least once a week, I may have considered being impressed. Not at the bow-roll-thing itself, but rather at the fact that at some point between our phone conversation and our seeing each other on the street, he had decided he would greet me in that way. Who the hell does that?
If there was one thing I could say about my friend Jerry, here, it’s that he sure has his problems, but that’s what makes him the character he is. Who says I, or anyone else, have the right to try to change the things that define him?
Well, whatever he has chosen to be his problem tonight, I’m sure I’m about to hear all about it.

“Hey buddy!”
He says, folding his arms back into place and continuing his walk towards me. I nod and give him a nasally ‘Hows it goin?’.
‘Well, funny you should ask’... is usually how these things started, or maybe a ‘ohhh never guess what happened to me today...’, or maybe even a ‘I hate uni...’. I wonder which one he will pick?
“You won’t believe what happened to me at uni today...”
Oh, he mixed it up a little! So, this story must be exciting. Please, tell me all about it...
If there is one thing that I am good for, it’s listening to people’s problems, because as long as they are happy with the odd grunt or ‘mhmm’, I can pretend to listen all day. Wait for a pause in the story and you chuck in a grunt. Wait for them to sound like he’s asking you a question, and... you guessed it! You chuck in a ‘Mhmm’. Just hope they don’t ask for something like an opinion. That’s when you pretend you don’t understand what they just said, and when they repeat themselves, you actually need to listen. Pfftt.

Despite all this complaining of my own, there’s something about these night walks that I like. I think it’s the fact that I’m able to free myself. Not physically, but mentally. I can forget the troubles of the day if I wish, or I can dwell on them, if I feel they need my attention. I can think about the coming days, my life’s direction, or maybe my job, or lack thereof. I can invent little creatures that tell their stories in my head, ready to be scrawled upon the folded paper in my pockets. It doesn’t matter. Because during the night, in my quiet suburb, I am alone to think. Alone while with company. Alone in my head, though walking with another human being, who is there when I have something to say, and blurred out when I’ve finished. I often wonder if to him I am the same. An entity that removes loneliness while not invading your personal space. Someone to call upon when all you want to do is sit in your room and think, but you are sick of sitting in your room.
I suppose I should tune back in for a moment.
“And she really hurt my feelings because...”
Zone back out.

Everything affects everyone in different ways, I understand that, but I’m sure that most people would have the same response to this problem of Jerry’s. ‘Toughen the fuck up.’
Having girlfriend problems is one thing, but complaining that a female friend of yours didn’t speak to you with utmost respect this one time and although you are highly offended you are inner conflicted because of your secret attraction to her ‘radiant beauty’(as he had put it) is just a load of crap. Who knew a young man of twenty years old could get his panties in a knot over a friend saying something he disagreed with. Why do I put up with this?
This is a recurring question in my head, but the answer is just as vivid. I don’t like to believe it, but I like having that ‘entity’. Someone to talk to when things go rotten, and as much as I complain about pretending to listen to Jerry’s woe-is-me stories day in and day out, I still do it, or at least pretend to. It’s because I know that if I ever need the same treatment, he would do it for me.
It’s the perfect balance, really.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should bother telling him what is on my own mind. Would he listen? Does it matter?
We start walking down our road, towards the large field and children’s playground that sits on a corner plot. Still, Jerry rambles on about the problems he’s facing with people these days and their lack of respect.
When will he finish, I wonder? Finish crying to me about how girls won’t have sex with him after he’s stared at them for a whole five minutes, even though he’s apparently the good guy and the rest are all creeps. Stare a bit longer, maybe, that usually works!
Fucking idiot.
I don’t know how many times we need to tell him – To meet people, you need to put a smile on your face. Talk a little, loosen up. All he does is choose the one he wants and gawks at them, or at least that’s the first half of the night. The second half is him bitching to one of us about how she probably thinks he’s weird and how she didn’t give him a fair chance and he doesn’t know how to act around her.
“so I sent her a text this morning saying that I was really sorry for snapping at her but I had just had enough of her raising her voice at me...”
Seriously, I need him to shut up soon because I don’t know exactly how much longer I have. I decide to start paying attention, so that as soon as he finishes a sentence I can start my own.

“...But I’ve not talked to her since then.”
I tell him not to worry about it, and that if she makes him feel this bad, he’s probably better off without her anyway. He goes silent for a few seconds, probably to think about what I had just said, and I seize the opportunity. Maybe a little too keenly, but it doesn’t matter. It was my turn.
I tell him what has been on my mind. I tell him that I think he’s returned. Jerry knows exactly who I’m talking about.
“oh no!” He says, shaking his head. He looks down at me now, as if I’m the one with the problems. “Look man, I know you think it’s real, but we both know it’s impossible. Maybe I can bring you along with me tomorrow? When I see my phsyc?”

The S.O.B. thinks I’m crazy! Of all people, how can Jerry be calling me crazy! I’m disappointed, and I let him know. He’s fucking real, I’ve seen him. In fact I’ve spoken with him, only once before. We spoke for what felt like hours, despite the sun not moving an inch during the course of the event. We even laughed together, on a few occasions, though I’m sure it was out of courtesy when the laughter came from him. How could he possibly find anything I had to say, funny? Or even slightly interesting, for that matter. But we talked, regardless. I remember that day clearer than ever, though when I recalled its events to Jerry, here, he tried to make me see someone about it. Said I needed professional help.
Because I had met fear, himself? Or was it the fact that I managed to gain his personal attention, if only that once?

“... so do you think he’s here now?”
I only caught the end of what he said, but it was all I needed to hear. I respond with a sharp response and sting in my words. I didn’t feel the need to fully explain myself to someone who was now insulting me for everything I said.
“You’re just being paranoid” or “Maybe it’s some sort of social anxiety.”
What the fuck! You’re the one with social anxiety! This guy goes on about alien sightings as if it’s an everyday topic, but shoots me down for talking about something I’ve seen with my own eyes?
Paranoia my ass! I stop his list of mental illnesses and continue speaking. I tell him he has returned, and I think that he should steer clear of me for a while. Not that Jerry would have a choice. Once I’m with Mr. Fear, Jerry couldn’t find me even if he wanted too.
Maybe that’s what I like the idea of most. That would be my total escape from life, while still being able to live. Living in the shadows of broad daylight. Completely hidden from view in plain sight. I think this is the part where I lost Jerry the first time. The conversation with ‘someone’ is believable, but when I explained what this person does, or is capable of doing, he deemed it implausible in his four walled world. In fact, it seemed that if it didn’t have anything to do with his everyday life or life outside of earth, he wouldn’t believe a word of it. This guy didn’t even read fantasy because it was too much for his scientifically forged brain to handle. Maybe I should try and convince Jerry that Mr. Fear is from outer space. That might change his opinions real quick. I should probably give him a different name, too. Mr. Fear isn’t what I initially called him, anyway, that was jerry’s doing. The very name is a mockery of the guy’s genius. If he was to ever find out... ah, who am I kidding? He already knows.
He knows everything.

We went silent for a while. It makes no difference to me since I don’t listen to the guy anyway. Jerry seems to be a bit uneasy, though.
A question’s brimming, I can see it. I ask him what is on his mind. Despite his fantastic poker face, he knows there was no point in trying to hide it.
“Well... you said that I probably shouldn’t see you for a while...”
I cock my eyebrow. Yes?
“I’m just wondering, why that is?”
I shake my head. If he had listened to anything I told him last time, he wouldn’t need to ask such a stupid question. The guy’s a torturer. A sadist. A psycho, and he’s coming back! So stay away!

What’s so hard to grasp about that concept?
Jerry can tell exactly what I’m thinking from my bitter look.
He knows I think he’s an idiot, and I know he thinks the same of me. Thing is, I’m not, and I would rather he didn’t find out who the real idiot is the hard way.
“So you’re telling me that this guy is coming back to visit you, his new friend, but is going to harass your friends in the process?”
Now he’s just trying to piss me off.
We aren’t friends. Far from it, in fact. I tell Jerry that, though he already knew. I’m his apprentice, his student, nothing more.
He keeps going, though. It’s not like jerry, the usually submissive loser, to be this pushy about any subject. I consider his actions and try to think quickly between sentences. What is he playing at?

“So what you gonna do with these new powers he’s promised you? Eh? What’s stopping him from tricking you again? How do you even know he has the capability to share his powers?”
Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that, but Mr. Fear could play me like a pawn on a chess board. Why bother going through this much effort to trick me when he could get the same affect by manipulating the ground right under my feet? It wouldn’t be the first time...
The answer to that question was simple.
He won’t trick me again. Or at least that’s what I’ve decided.
It wouldn’t make any sense for him to.
I open my mouth to tell Jerry about something Mr. Fear had said to me, but then I stop. I think about it, recalling the memory of that day. He had made it quite clear that I wasn’t to repeat our conversation to anyone.
Jerry knew about the conversation, and what came of it, though what was said has remained a secret, even from him. Do I tell him this now?
It might hopefully shut him the hell up. Though Mr. Fear would surely know, and he’s not the person I would want to disobey.
Mr. Fear. Mr. Fear. Stupid fucking name!
He took many forms in the time I last knew him. Surely I could use these identities to forge a new name. I cringe every time I even think of the insult of a name that Jerry had pinned to him. It needs to change.
The Joker. That’s what I will call him. I suppose his insanity doesn’t differ too much from that of the Batman villain. The time my heart almost failed in the Museum, I turned the bend at the end of the hallway to find myself surrounded by cloaked figures with twisted clown faces, all charging at me faster than any human I have ever seen. Yes, this name was much more fitting.

My eyes regain focus as I shift my attention from my thoughts and back to the current conversation.
“You know he doesn’t exist! Get your head out of the clouds, man!” Jerry’s voice was louder than it had been before. His anger was usually released through complaints and hissy fits, not through raising his voice. What the hell was going on!?
Jerry stopped in his tracks, watching me walk.
I stop and turn to face him.
He is still staring and for the first time tonight I feel slightly uncomfortable.
He was smiling.
His smile grew slightly, splitting across his face like a stretched wound. It continued growing as his eyes seemed to bulge slightly from his head. His face was pale now, cheeks dashed with red. He looked very much like a clown of some sort.
Why did it take me so long to realize? Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to accept what was in front of me, or maybe my brain had just temporarily frozen with fear. I don’t know. All I do know is that I turned quick on my heels and ran. A whooshing filled my head. The air moulding around my shape as I penetrate through it. I don’t think I have ever run so fast.

I try to focus on my surroundings as I push myself further onwards. No footsteps behind me. Or are they just being drowned out by my own? I continue my pace through the field, the park now far behind me. Is he even chasing me? Do I dare turn?
I glance to my right as I push my legs even harder. Trees. Like scraps torn from a canvas and scattered throughout my view, their shapes contorting into one another as I pass. The moon, throwing their shadows to the ground in one swirling blur. My pace slows as something catches my attention.
A glint?
Squinting my eyes, I try to make out the source of the concentrated light. Maybe it’s a person? Although I know that no one else can help me, there is just something comforting about another human’s presence.

If my face wasn’t numb from the cold wind blasting against me, I might have even felt a small smile grow upon my face.
I change direction, heading for the glint.
The noise that I had been listening out for only moments ago and unsuccessfully heard, now pounds in my ears.
Footsteps. Heavy and fast, from close behind.
I turn to see the shadows on the ground rising out of the floor only a few feet away from me, gaining fast.
If I managed to let out a scream then it was drowned out by the thumping in my ears. I’m not sure if it’s the footsteps anymore, or my own heart beating out of my chest.
Part 2 can be viewed here >>> Part 2