Don’t look now, but there’s something right behind you.

—I said not to look. Not that it matters - you can’t see it, but it’s there. That’s a spooky thought, isn’t it? Frightening and haunting, both at the same time. It’s always been there, and you’ve never known it. What might happen if it decided to make itself known?

Oh, don’t worry so! Everyone has one, and as far as I know, it never does anything, and no, I don’t know why. Why either of those. Mainly it’s always just there. Most people never notice, at least not consciously. It still bothers them, though.

Oh, yes, I can see it. It’s not that hard to see someone else’s - you’ll find out. Now that you know about them, you won’t be able to help looking. You won’t see everyone’s, but you’ll see some of them.

No, no two of them look the same, not as far as I can tell. Maybe some, but I’ve never seen two alike. And no, I won’t tell you what yours looks like. It wouldn’t help if I did, anyway. It’d be like…like trying to describe Beethoven or Cibo Matto to someone who’s never heard music before. The words depend on a basis of common experience that in this case just isn’t there.

Everyone has one, and most people spend all their time running away from it. Doesn’t work, of course. They don’t need to move the way we do; they just are where we are. Wherever we are. I think you could go to the end of the universe and back, if you wanted to, and it would still be right there. Right behind you.

Yes, I’m not surprised. Like I said, you can’t see everyone’s and neither can I. Maybe it’s just that, or maybe - yes, when I said everyone has one, I did mean everyone. Maybe you just can’t see mine. Or maybe you need more practice with this kind of looking. You did just start, after all.

Yes, well noticed, I am lying. Except for the part about everyone having one - that was true, and yes, I do too. But you’re looking in the wrong place. Mine isn’t right behind me, any more.

Oh, goodness, no! They’re not a kind of thing you can kill, and why would you try in any case? They’re harmless - granted, killing things that are harmless is a very human thing to do, but no. Not in this case. How would you even start?

A good question. Where do you think mine went? A better question would be, why assume it went anywhere?

Yes, I know, it’s very confusing. I don’t know how to make it less so, and explaining it isn’t going to help, but let me try: one day I realized it was closer to me than it ever had been before. I looked in a mirror and I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it in a way I never had before. Have you ever looked into a mirror and been not quite sure whose face it was looking back? Well, it was that kind of moment, but I don’t know if that mattered. In any case I thought very hard for a long time about this, and eventually I realized I could make a kind of mirror from my thoughts, and in that mirror I found I could see it. I found myself looking over the shoulder of my mind, into the gaze of a thing that has no eyes. And then, realizing that the mirror I had made wasn’t going to last much longer, I took one long backward step.

Well, don’t blame me for that! I did say it wasn’t going to help. We don’t really have words for any of this.

Yes, it was frightening. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t eat me. For that matter, I don’t suppose I’m even sure whether or not it did. Not that “eat” is really the word in any case.

Also a good question. Yes and no, I suppose is the best answer I can give. I don’t any longer feel that restless itch to, to run. You know the one - yes you do, you’ve noticed it before and not noticed yourself noticing. It bothers you and you don’t know why - well, didn’t, you do now. I don’t have that any longer. I stopped running, and then I stopped needing to run. It’s not the only difference, but it was the first one I noticed.

No, I can’t explain how. There’s no special trick to it, in any case. Figure out what you feel like you have to run away from, and then figure out why you feel like you have to do that. And then don’t do that. It’s like riding a bike - once you know how, you never forget, but there’s a part in there that nobody can explain how to do. Some people never can figure it out, but I think most can. It’s just a matter of giving yourself enough chances to try, and not minding how often you fall on your face in the process.

Well, that’s not a question I can answer, is it? I think it is, but I suppose some would disagree. All I can really say is, it was worth it to me.

Oh, I have no idea! What do you think they are?

(901 words)

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