Do you ever get that feeling that something isn’t right? What was that noise you heard just now? Was it in a dream or was it real? It sounded like an engine. A deep, throaty engine that you recognise and have heard many times. You sit up in bed and see that it is nearly three in the morning.
You tilt your head and listen, ears straining for that familiar, dread sound. You hear nothing. Perhaps the engine has been killed and that vehicle is sat outside now. Am I say in the pool of darkness cast by a fence, alert and watching your house. That knotted sensation is quick to take hold of your stomach as you slowly emerge from the bed. You move carefully feeling as if the rustle of the duvet or your bare feet on the floor will make a sound that I can hear.
You know it is foolish for my hearing is not that sharp, but you are placed on tenterhooks and accordingly move in the same way. You make your way to the window where the curtains are drawn. You feel like flinging them back in one sudden motion hoping to make me jump. You see an image of my face pressed against the window, devilish leer prominent and unnerving.
Carefully you move the curtain a fraction and peer through the gap. Your range of vision is limited and you cannot see everything but my vehicle does not appear to be there. Am I watching those curtains which I used to gently pull apart once upon a time? Or am I prowling about the outside of your house, looking for an open window or an unlocked door?
You have held your breath, not daring to breathe, your drumming heart loud and roaring in your ears and you wonder if you mistook that sound for the one of my car engine but you know what you heard. Perhaps I had just driven past? How many times have you seen an anthracite black Mercedes from the corner of your eye as you have walked to the shops, headed to a bar or emerged from work?
Your heart leaps every time you see one and your eyes dart to the registration plate to ascertain whether it is my car. Of course, I might have changed cars now. You do not know for sure. You want to drive past where I live and ascertain which vehicle I drive so that you can keep an eye out for it, but you fear that I may see you doing this and derive satisfaction from your appearance. Something does not feel right. You experience this sensation often these days.
The hairs on your neck stand up as you feel that you are being watched. When you are about to emerge from your office building you stand behind the glass and chrome scanning the plaza outside for any sign that I am stood there. You think you have spotted me twice but then I departed, evidently alert to your perception. Once you walked leisurely from your place of work to the car park but now you scurry, hoping not to be spotted and hoping that your car has not been tampered with. Your eyes follow the same drill.
They flash over the windows to ensure they have not been smashed. You look to the windscreen wiper to see if a hate-filled note lies tucked beneath one of the blades. There have been several although they are always printed so you were never able to demonstrate they were from me (you wouldn’t be able to anyway – I have them printed on a lieutenant’s PC not my own, I am no amateur).
Your eyes look over the external bodywork for signs of scratches, dents and lights smashed before you check the exhaust and tyres. You never get in without ensuring nobody is lurking in the back seat and once in you lock the doors automatically and then allow yourself to breathe.
Something does not feel right. It is the same sensation as when you walk anywhere alone. Your steps are hurried, furtive glances cast over your shoulder, alleyways scrutinised, walking by the kerb, away from gates and hedges. You cross the road when a shadowy figure walks towards you.
Often you have someone accompany you but it is not always possible. You pull the curtain aside a little so your range of vision is increased. You can see all to the left of your house but nothing appears to be amiss. You look to the road but you cannot see any vehicle but then again I might be parked around the corner and now stood in the shadow of a tree watching your pale face peering out. You look to your mobile ‘phone, always charged and ready and consider calling the police, but what would you tell them? You think you heard my car engine?
They have been out once this week and although they are always polite you gain the impression that the officers are beginning to think that you are hearing and seeing things. You can tell. Their polite reassurances do not entirely mask the resigned tones with which they speak. Should you call the police? It might be sensible. Even if I am watching, the arrival of a patrol car should send me slinking away and what about if I am caught lurking outside at this time? That would be good. Then again, perhaps you should wait until you have some concrete evidence, until you see me and then you should call. You do not want the police labelling you a time waster, but something does not feel right.
You shift your position so you can look to the right and silently curse a kink in the curtain as it is obscuring your view. You will need to push it aside and this will surely alert me to your presence. With trembling hand, you move the curtain and then crane forward so you can look over the garden. With experienced ease you let your eyes drift over the garden, the wall and the fence, looking for shapes that do not belong. Your eyes stop on something in the corner of the garden, where the wall and fence meet, a pool of shadow. Is there a figure there?
You stare, eyes adjusting to the darkness and wait. You feel light-headed as you stare trying to see if that inky shape is me or just the imagination that these days seems to be out of control. No, you cannot see anybody. Your eyes scan the garden again from your lofty vantage point but you see nothing. What if I am underneath the window, tight against the front door and hidden from view? What if I have gone around the rear of the house? You did lock the side gate didn’t you? You cannot remember.
You think you did but you have so many repeated checks before retiring at night that it has become something of a blur. All gates need to be checked, windows closed and locked with keys removed – even during summer you endure the heat rather than keep your windows open.
Door handles are tested twice and twice more. French doors pulled and pushed to ensure they are secure. It is a nightly ritual but a necessary one. A friend suggested a dog but who would look after him whilst you were at work. You once felt safe here, especially when I lived here with you, but no longer and moving, in the current market is not an option. Maybe a lodger would be answer? The money would be welcome and so would the company, but this is your home and you resent being forced into these steps by my lingering presence.
Every day when you return from work you sweep the house making sure there has been no entry during the day. You look for anything that has been moved or is out of place which denotes whether a listening device or camera might have been placed in your living room or bedroom. You were pleased you changed the locks straight away when everything went wrong. You ought to have the place professionally swept.
You used to wander about the house naked but no longer, you even feel uncomfortable standing in the shower, nervously glancing upwards looking for the winking red light denoting that a camera has been placed on a shelf and you are being watched. Nowhere feels safe from me now. Your sleep is fractured and this had led to you struggling to gauge whether your fears are real or imagined. There are too many withheld calls still, the empty texts from unknown numbers and strange voicemails left at work. You know I am still out there somewhere and you have no idea what I might do.
You can see nobody outside and consider whether you ought to check the rear but you really need to sleep. You lower yourself and sit on the edge of the bed, listening for something, anything. You are met by just the blanketing silence. No throbbing engine, no footsteps on the drive outside, no creeping advance up the stairs, no shattered glass, no jemmied door.
You continue to look outside but nothing is moving. Maybe it was a dream? No, you definitely heard that distinctive growl of the engine but maybe it was further away or someone else with the same vehicle. That is possible isn’t it? Your breathing slows and you begin to convince yourself that it was another false alarm. Still, you have that feeling that something doesn’t feel right. You feel as if I have been near. Your eyes shoot to the wardrobe, mind suddenly filled with the thought that I am inside it, peering through the slats and amusing myself at your fearful expression. You try to shake the thought but you cannot.
A sudden ball of anger forms inside of you and with a cry you jump up and fling the wardrobe doors open and drive your hands into the clothing inside, you push and pull but find only dresses and tops, suits and jumpers carefully hung up. I am not there. You close the doors and run back into bed, jumping into it, like a frightened child who has to run from door to bed so the monsters under the bed do not grab her ankles. Once in that bed, you are in a cocoon of safety.
You pull the duvet over your head and lie there, curled up tight in a ball, cursing me and breathing hard.
Eventually you emerge, face warm from breathing under the duvet and you are grateful for the cold air of your room. You lie back and allow yourself to gradually uncoil, ears still listening out for a sound but there comes none. You glance at the clock and see it is now 3-15 am and you really ought to sleep.
You roll on to your side and adjust the pillow, praying that slumber visits you soon. If only that feeling that something is not right would leave you.
Morning arrives and you emerge from bed bleary eyed but thankful that you have at least slept. You attend to your usual routine in the bathroom before dressing and heading down the stairs ready to prepare some breakfast. As you descend the stairs you halt as you see something is lying on the mat underneath the letterbox in the front door. It is square and plastic.
It is only 7am and the post man has not yet been although you did not hear anybody put anything through the letter box. You slowly pace down the stairs as that sensation of something being wrong engulfs you. You see it is a CD case that has been deposited. That is not right. Nobody has borrowed any of your CDs. Something is definitely not right. With churning stomach and laboured breath, hammering heart and rising nausea you pick up the CD and turn it over to read the cover.
The Police: Every Breath You Take
That was one of your favourite songs wasn’t it?
Until I told you what the lyrics really meant.