There, in the corner of my eye, the very edge of my periphery vision, I can see them, watching, waiting. Waiting for what, I cannot tell you. But they are there, crouched in the shadows, blurred into the faded grey asphalt of the street. Watching me.
When I turn to look, they disappear. Like so many wisps of smoke, so many figments of the imagination. I call them my phantoms, because that is easier than the truth.
The truth is that I might be crazy. I haven’t decided yet.
No one else sees the phantoms. Only me. So maybe I am insane, then.
But I swear they are there. They do exist. They wait there, hidden and watching and terrifying, peering out at me from any and every reflective surface I pass. Until, of course, I look at them, because then they disappear as though they were never really there at all. And, of course, no one understands that they both do and do not exist. So, in the realm of logic, they obviously do not.
Logic is for idiots. Dead idiots.
Now, do not misunderstand. I do not know if the phantoms mean any harm. Maybe they do just like to watch, to observe and wait. Maybe. But they could just as easily be waiting for something. For some sign of weakness. Maybe they watch because they are planning, and someday they will emerge from the mirrors and kill us all.
Or, of course, I might just be crazy.
My mother thinks so. She told me herself, the day she came into my room and cut her foot. I told her it was her own fault for stepping on the shards of broken glass from my shattered mirror. I’d left them on the ground because I thought maybe they’d keep the phantoms away.
They didn’t anyway, so I didn’t fight very hard when she brought the vacuum to clean away the little pieces.
Today is different though. Today, the sun is too bright, so bright it hurts my eyes and reflects off every surface, blinding me. It is like every piece of glass or plastic or metal is a mirror.
The phantoms are everywhere. And the phantoms are nowhere. Because they might not exist, and I might just be crazy. Or I might be right.
I spin about now, trying to catch a clear sight of one. There are windows and buildings of glass all around me, the downtown high-rises scraping the clouds. Or they would be, if there were any clouds. But there aren’t, and so the sun shines relentlessly.
And every surface is a mirror, every mirror full of phantoms. I think they are smiling at me as I spin, trying to catch them but always just a little bit too slow.
I spin, faster. Faster. Faster still, racing myself and racing the phantoms and always just a bit too slow. My skirt billows around me, but I do not care. Maybe I look like I am dancing, like a street performer or some such. I do not particularly care, so long as no one interrupts my search for the shadows.
And then, just as I finally feel as though I might catch up to them, I trip. My ankle, still weak from the old injury, twists beneath me and I tumble out of the spin, falling. Falling. Falling toward the street, where cars race by on their way to their lives.
I think I might die when I hit the ground, might fall into the street and be crushed. Already I can almost feel it, feel the pressure and the force and the pain. But I do not think I care, because then the phantoms would be gone. Maybe they are like ghosts, trapped in the mirrors, looking for a way out. Maybe, when I die, I will join them. And somebody else will see me, and they will fall, and join me, and it will be a cycle. Maybe that is where all the people in the mirrors come from.
But I do not hit the ground, and I do not die, crushed beneath the tires of a speeding car. For an instant I feel weightless, surrounded by the white light of the reflected sun. And, in that moment, I finally catch one.
Only for an instant, but I know – I just know – that he is surprised. Surprised to see me, as if I didn’t exist before, or maybe surprised I can see him. I do not know why he is surprised, only that he is, and that somehow that is oddly fulfilling for me.
His face is the last thing I see before my head hits the sidewalk and the brightness disappears in a wash of red and black and pounding agony.
He has long dark hair, almost black but just a shade too dark even for that. There is a little bit of blue in it, or maybe purple. Like the sky at twilight, or maybe just before dawn. His eyes, they are the strangest shade of blue, all flat and calm like a quiet, windless ocean. But there is a darkness in them, a fire within, as though he cannot be contained.
I do not remember much else about the boy, about the phantom, for I only see him for an instant. He has a narrow face, just a little too sharp and thin around the chin. A long, slightly pointed nose that angles up at the tip.
His teeth too are pointed. I know that because, just as the brightness faded and he disappeared, he smiled at me.
I think I am crazy.