“There seem to be some new security concerns for NSC. Take care.” Jacqueline frowned as she re-read the message, her work finally finishing up. So is it something major or what? If mother had to send information she could have at least made it more revealing. Too tired to truly care, she shrugged lightly. There was a flurry of activity all around as multiple people were leaving the office complex – one of the few in the city connected to a court, which Jacqueline had to visit and be present in daily. Resigned to leaving with the crowd, she mustered her patience and exited her office, locking it after. She navigated her way to the nearest elevator with the utmost grace. As much as she sometimes wished to elbow through the crowd roughly, this wasn’t that kind of a place.
She breathed an inaudible sigh of relief when she was finally outside the building, the mass dispersing into the city. Jacqueline watched the swarm with mild distaste. I cannot wait until I have more flexible hours. Mildly hungry, she decided to take a walk. She leisurely strolled through the busy walkways, indifferent to the hurrying, her posture confident, her gaze conveying a sense of purpose despite her comparatively slow walk. About 40 minutes later, she arrived to a small but cozy and fairly unfrequented locale; she knew it would be busier during the night. Jacqueline liked the ambiance and food well enough to visit it once a while.
Once finished, she took a tram back to the stop closest to her home. She could see the increase in security personnel at various keypoints throughout this district and assumed it was the same for the rest of the city. People were already whispering about the occurrence, speculating. The hell is this about, really? Jacqueline felt nervous, not so much about whatever danger was suspected, but rather as to how this would affect her specifically. Also, not that she would admit it, the heightened surveillance that she knew would be engaged – it was usually limited to and, more importantly, under the supervision of private companies – caused her to feel confined and concerned in general. She did not like the feeling. She was thankful that it was nowhere near pathological – truly paranoid people were the ones who believed that they were constantly under the government’s or some other powerful organization’s supervision – but considered her wariness to be unnecessary.
Arriving at the tram stop, she glanced around casually. She couldn’t help but feel observed. What does my therapist like to say? Why do I feel others might want to monitor me, isn’t it? Well…There is no reason. I just enjoy my privacy. Try to rest easy in the knowledge that I’m a law-abiding citizen…That’s right. I always know what to do. So what does it matter how many people see what I do? I’m good at it all. No, wait…she’d say that even if I make a mistake it’s not so terrible or something, right? It’s acceptable. Okay. That’s good. It happens to the best. I can be the best even with mistakes. Lessen the ones I can control, don’t worry about the ones I can’t…I’m sure she’ll be proud that I have this internalized now, she thought the last bit with sarcasm. It was true that visits at a therapist were good for anyone’s continued well-being and thankfully any stigma that might have existed about doing so in the past was long since eradicated. In fact, having a good counsellor was pretty much a status symbol. Just like having any other expensive thing is.
Just as Jacqueline finally reached a state of tranquillity, she saw a flash of unnatural darkness peripherally. She stopped abruptly, her spine stiffening, shoulders tensing, a chill running down her whole body, raising the various fine hairs in automatic response. She swallowed uncomfortably. I should note this down to mention at the next meeting. She resumed walking, picking up her pace, her heart still racing. She swore she could almost feel something following her, trying to reach her. She hurried into her apartment complex and entered an empty elevator, relaxing when it finally closed without anyone else entering.
“Why, hello there,” a smug voice said from behind.
Jacqueline gasped, her eyes widening, but thankfully did not scream. She felt the elevator ascending and attributed the sinking feeling in her stomach to that.
“You really weren’t that hard to pin down, you know,” it leered and Jacqueline felt a hot breath whooshing past her neck. It smelled like rot; sickly sweet and bitter, with a hint of rust and dampness. She could taste the decay on her tongue and grimaced.
“Please leave,” Jacqueline said, her voice somewhat hoarse and definitely shaky, quieter than usual.
The thing, the looming darkness that she could sense a step behind her, could see its shadow even, and some sort of tendrils from the corners of her eyes, laughed. It was a sound of amusement, certainly malicious to Jacqueline’s ears. “Tsk, tsk. How could I do that when you are just the thing I was looking for? Such promise,” it seemed to sigh wistfully at that last.
The elevator reached the floor Jacqueline lived on and she dashed out of it, full out running to her apartment, her keys already in hand. She unlocked the door after some nervous fumbling then closed it back as soon as she was inside, without regard to wherever that thing following her was.
“Oh, you definitely need some adjustments. That was a simply pathetic attempt,” it said casually, and facing towards the inside of her flat, where the thing had manifested out of nowhere, Jacqueline could finally see it. It was taller than any man, brushing the ceiling with its back, which was bent so its head could have a place to occupy. Its most prominent future besides the general horror-like darkness which served as its body was the wide, seemingly endless smile, mocking for all to see.
“Here,” it said as it threw a small object it had apparently been carrying towards her. “This should help clear things up,” the round thing flew towards her, capturing Jacqueline’s attention long enough that she identified the thing as an eye. It was obviously no regular eye – tendrils were flowing out of it and even though she made no move to catch it, it latched onto her. A tendril wrapped around her neck first, another burrowed its way up her nostril, multiple ones slithered their way towards her own eyes and the others explored the rest of her face.
Caught in her own horror, fighting whimpers, tears, snot and saliva that threatened to escape or choke her, Jacqueline wasn’t truly aware of when the thing left, its final words unregistered by her. The abrupt and intense pain due to the invasion caused her to lose consciousness what felt like a hellish eternity later.