Love, Hallucinations, and Glitchy Smudges

May 21, 2024

Waking Up

It was those weird, glitching images that freaked me out the most. How could I describe them? I’d have to say it was more of a feeling that I got whenever they were around. Something very unsettling. Something that made me feel that the world wasn’t right, or, that something was about to change in a very big way.

My phone chimed and buzzed on the glass table next to my bed. The coins and pens that I had tossed there helped to rattle me awake.

Not that I was really asleep. I mean, sleep just seemed to be so unattainable these days. It wasn’t because classes were particularly difficult, although I have to admit they weren’t easy. Computer science wasn’t quite my thing, but it meant a steady job after I graduated.

No, it was that other thing. Something that was hard for me to describe in words.

I sat up in my creaky bed and shivered. The morning air was always so heavy and chilly. I stood up, stretched, and stepped over to my window. I pulled the thin, ragged curtain aside and looked down at the street below. The fog had settled in, and the traffic lights blinked green and red in a steady rhythm.

San Francisco was always like this. Cold and chilly, that is. Especially when the fog rolled in. We had a few days of warmth and sunshine, but that wasn’t the norm around here. And in my neighborhood, with all the tall, dilapidated buildings, the sunshine had an even harder time reaching my window.

It was to be expected in the Tenderloin District. I mean, who would actually choose to live here? If it wasn’t for the cheap rent and the cheap food, what else would there be here? I could get a big bowl of noodles for less than it would cost for me to make it myself, but then I’d have to walk through skid row. And not just skid row. There was also that sense of dread that would hit me every so often. Was it dread? Fear? Maybe it was despair. I’m not really sure. I haven’t been able to put my finger on it yet. 

“Well, well, Fredrick, you just need to get over it,” I mumbled. 

I turned away from the window and yawned while I crossed my small room, which was just large enough for a bed, a table, and an old microwave on top of a rickety table that I managed to push into the corner. I tripped over some stuff that I guess I had dropped on the floor when I got home late last night. My bag, with my laptop still in it, a hoodie, some pants, a paper to-go container. I didn’t do any work here, I mostly kept to the school library when I did my homework assignments. It was easier that way. I needed the quiet whenever I had to write those programs that we were assigned for homework. It was either that, or I could blast some music through my earbuds. But this apartment, it just wasn’t suited too well for studying. It could be the late night banging, or the neighbors fighting, the police showing up every so often to break up a domestic squabble, or arrest a suspect of some crime. It was always like this. This place was for crashing. Which is why I didn’t really need anything bigger. Not for now, anyway.

I stumbled towards the small bathroom. I yanked on the doorknob, since the door tended to stick when the weather was damp, and stepped in. The place smelled of must and soap. I flipped on the light and stood in front of the mirror. My hair was a stringy mess and my eyes were bloodshot. Dark circles had formed around them. My cheek was stubbly. I sighed as I turned towards the shower. I reached in and pulled at the handle. The pipe squealed and then rattled and a few moments later, the room started to fill with steam. I took off my clothes and stepped in.

The hot water felt good on my head and my face. It felt as if my body started to wake up again, as if it was given a new surge of energy. Or something. Maybe a feeling of hope. Of relief.

I quickly scrubbed down and washed my hair. I turned off the faucet and grabbed a damp, moldy towel from the rack that was mounted on the wall right next to the toilet. I wiped the steam away from the mirror and looked in. My blood shot eyes seemed to have returned to a more normal state. The dark circles faded just a bit. My wet hair was no longer in such a state of disarray. 

I turned and stepped back out into my small room. I looked down at a pile of clothes. I crouched down and rifled through it. I pulled out a t-shirt, held it up, and then sniffed it. It seemed ok, for now. Not too bad. The pants would last longer before their next wash. I could wear them for days without having to go to the laundromat. Socks and underwear were another story. I could do maybe a few days for those. “Like anyone would notice anyway.” I caught myself laughing. Honestly, I had nothing to worry about.

I stood up and reached for my phone on the table. 7:30. I had a class at 8 that I couldn’t miss. But I had to get across town. And the street cars, although reliable, would probably be slow. I picked up my computer bag and slung it on my shoulder.

I stepped into the dim hallway of my apartment building. The air smelled musty and dank, like old cooking from the night before. I slammed the door shut behind me and shuffled across the bumpy carpet, which tripped me up a few times. I passed by the old, rickety elevator. It was the type whose door had to be pulled open manually. I opted out of wrestling with the rusty contraption and instead stumbled down a set of creaky stairs until I entered the main lobby.

“Good morning Mr. Munchen,” came the crisp voice of the receptionist. A wide smile crossed his face.


“Off to classes this fine morning?”


“Good work, Mr. Munchen. Keep it up. Soon you’ll have a job that pays really well and you can move to a nicer neighborhood.”

 “Yeah, well, we’ll see.” I waved towards the man, pushed through the door whose window pane was smudged and scratched and wore a web of slender cracks near the bottom, probably from someone who had tried to kick it in. I stumbled onto the street, paused, and smelled deeply of the air. It smelled like a mix of rotting garbage and human piss. A few cars rattled by, and then a large garbage truck. My throat tightened and I coughed when I breathed in the exhaust fumes of the rumbling monster.

I turned towards the direction I wanted to go. The subway station at the Civic Center was the best option. I could catch an underground street car that would take me to State. I glanced at my phone. Not much time left until my first class.

Unknown & Unwanted

The streets of the Tenderloin District were the same as always. The broken, stained sidewalks, the tents and encampments. The makeshift, cardboard beds, the bodies that seemed dead still. It never really changed. Sometimes I’d see the same people, faces I’d recognize, but that never lasted very long. Always there were new faces. New people coming in with new problems. Soon, they’d disappear and be replaced.

Well, that was the nature of a neighborhood like the Tenderloin, with all of its run-down hotels and encampments. The neighborhood never changed, but the people always did.

I pushed forward. The Civic Center was just ahead. I stumbled over the broken sidewalks. I could feel the strap of my bag cut into my shoulder. My neck prickled with a breaking sweat.

And then, it hit me. “Not again.” Not that feeling again. It came and went whenever I walked through these Tenderloin district streets. How could I describe it? A feeling of dread, of despair? Of my body fighting with the thoughts in my mind? My breath grew short and raspy.

I paused. Those dark smudges, blurry, glitching images fizzled in and out of view so quickly that I could barely make sense of them. They seemed like large mounds, or maybe small, running animals of the quadruped type. I glanced around at the other people who walked these streets. They were focused on the ground in front of them, on the people they interacted with, on their own demons, somehow. But these things, no one else seemed to notice them. 

“Why me?” Why do I see these things? I took a deep breath. “Get it together, Frederick.” I pinched my cheek with my fingers and pressed forward, my eyes glued to the sidewalk in front of me. 

I felt a sense of relief once I arrived at the large, open space of the Civic Center. Out here, everything was back to normal. Well, as normal as things can be. There were still the tents, the encampments. People wandering around aimlessly. People sleeping on makeshift cardboard beds. But those dark smudges, the ones that just seemed to float in the air, they were gone somehow. I mean, they never came out here to this place. 

So, if I was going crazy, why did it only happen in the Tenderloin district? If I was really crazy, wouldn’t I be crazy all the time? Like, everywhere?

I shook my head and jogged towards the subway entry and stumbled down the stairs. I swiped my card on the reader, and the turnstiles rattled open. I ran down the escalator to the platform and paused, feeling the warm, dry wind of an approaching car. I took my phone out of my pocket and checked the time. Ten minutes until my class started. I sighed quickly and tapped my foot as the car rumbled forward and came to a rattling stop. The doors snapped open. The air inside was warm and humid. Clusters of people sat in chairs, or hung onto the grips, phones in hand, reading, watching videos. The car lurched forward, and I fell against a person who stood next to me. “Sorry, sorry,” I said, raising my hand in apology. Somehow, I took comfort in this crowded train. At least here, I didn’t see those glitching, hovering smudges, not here, not now.

Philosophical Queries

The train clattered to a stop in front of the main campus entry of State University. The doors whooshed open and I stumbled down the stairs onto the sidewalk. I took my phone out of my pocket. Two minutes until class. I jogged into the main quad and turned down an indistinct walkway until I arrived at a dingy, gray building. I entered. The light inside was dim and yellow. The hall was narrow. Papers tacked to a corkboard rustled as I rushed by. I paused at the main double doors of the classroom and peered in through the window. I took a deep breath and entered, slinking into the back row of the classroom.

The professor stood above his table, back to the class, as he unpacked his bag. A few books, some papers, a folder, a smartphone, and a thermal bottle. He opened the bottle, placed the lid on the table’s surface and poured out a light yellowish liquid. He lifted the cup to his nose, sniffed deeply of the aromatic liquid, tilted it to his lips and downed the liquid. He sighed contentedly.

Well, at least I made it on time. Barely. Honestly, I don’t know why I rushed to get to this class. It’s not like it really made much difference in terms of my major. It was one of those required classes. Ancient Philosophy 101. As if that would help me to write all those programs I needed to for my other, important classes. I mean, I had to take this class, so I guess I still have to be here no matter what. I’ll just have to do it again if I fail this one. Might as well get it over with.

Still, I kinda liked what the class was teaching. Plato, Aristotle, and all that. And the professor was nice. Dr. Jeremiah Onu. Origins unknown, except that he came from somewhere in sub-saharan Africa. He won’t say where, for some reason. Most people I met liked to talk about where they grew up. Not Dr. Onu, at least, not in a very specific sense. Sure, we all knew where in the world he came from, but as far as his hometown is concerned, what his earlier life was like, well, that was a mystery to us.

Maybe he had something to hide. Or someone to protect. Who knows? Or, maybe he just preferred to be a wandering philosopher who didn’t want people to judge him because of where he was from. You know, like when people say, “You’re from San Francisco, you must know all about Alcatraz.” Or, you must love clam chowder. I’ve never been to Alcatraz, to be honest. And I’m pretty sure the clam chowder they sell in Fisherman’s Wharf is canned and shipped in from China. Other than that, I can’t really say much about this place.

Dr. Onu turned towards the class and cleared his throat. The class fell silent as he straightened his glasses on his nose and paused dramatically before us. 

“Good morning class,” he said with a crisp, kind voice.

A general din of discontent answered back.

“Oh, come now, students. Surely it can’t be that bad.”

A few laughs.

“To think that one could walk through this journey called life without questioning it makes it quite boring.”

Yep, here it comes. Maybe a roundabout answer to all the mystery surrounding Dr. Onu.

“And yet, here we are. Opportunities abound to examine our sense of reality, to bring meaning and purpose to our meaningless and purposeless lives. That challenge alone should be embraced with the utmost of joy!”

The room just seemed to brighten up a little. The wilting, deadpan postures of the other students changed into something more attentive, more eager. Smiles started to cross everyone’s faces. Silent attention displaced apathy and boredom. That was the effect that Dr. Onu had on people. That’s probably why I rushed down here like I did. His class, his presence was a bright spot in my life, somehow, even if it wasn’t necessary. Just required.

“So, then, now that I see we are all raring to go, shall we get started?” A rustle of bags and books and the sounds of laptops being placed on desktops filled the room for a moment. “First things first, are we all here?”

A few grumbles and groans.


“Yes!” I shouted from the back row. Honestly, I don’t know what came over me, falling into this trap. I mean, presence and existence are the tools by which philosophy professors torture their students, aren’t they? I didn’t particularly want to be noticed by anyone, especially Dr. Onu. Somehow, it just felt like I needed to do something to break the silence. Idiot me.

“Oh, is that so, Mr. Munchen?”


“Well, I will take your word for it.”

I let out a sigh of relief.

“I must say, I am grateful to you, Mr. Munchen.”

My body started to bristle.

“I very much appreciate the energy you bring this morning.”


“A healthy mind and a healthy body are a beautiful combination.”

My neck felt warm. I wanted to place my hands on my cheeks, but I didn't want to make a point of the fact that I was starting to blush. This was just too much attention all at once. 

“As a reward, I would like to ask you the day’s very first question.”


“Would that be alright with you, Mr. Munchen?”

“Eh, sure.”

“Very good. So, I assume you know what class you are in.”

Chuckles filled the room and some of the other students turned to face me.


“Great! So, could you tell me what the most basic statement in Aristotelian logic is?” 

Geeze. I read the assignment, just like I was supposed to. But it was late, and I kinda dozed off before I had time to finish it. “A word?” I ventured.

Dr. Onu glanced around the classroom. From the crowd of students, a hand was raised. 

“Ms. Crenshaw.”

“A statement.”

“Very good, Ms. Crenshaw. Perhaps you should take lessons from your classmate, Mr. Munchen?” said Dr. Onu, with a twinkling, playful smile.

“Sure.” I said. I took a deep breath. Jillian Crenshaw. It figures it would be her who would know the answer.

All Drugs are not Weed

What can I say about Jillian Crenshaw? She’s just one of those people who are always reliable. The type of person that everyone would look up to. I guess you could say she was perfect, but in a sort of annoying way. She was just always right. At least, in the classroom situation. She was the teacher’s pet, the one the professor could rely on when the class went sideways. Which it did from time to time. You could always rely on Jillian Crenshaw to save the day. She would be the mentor, the leader, the guide, the kind mother, the supportive sister. She was everything.

And I just couldn’t get her off my mind. 

Maybe it was just her red hair, or her green eyes. I mean, I don’t really consider myself a very shallow person. But that red hair just made me feel something. Something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Other people had red hair and green eyes, and that didn’t affect me as much as did Jillian Crenshaw’s.

Well, unless it somehow reminded me of Jillian Crenshaw. Then it did.

I never really ever talked to Jillian. I mean, she seemed kinda like she lived in her own world. She never noticed me. Never seemed to notice anyone in that way, anyhow. She probably knew me as one of her classmates. As a member of the general public who she should be civil with, but not more involved with unless she was heroically called to do so. That’s one thing I’d have to say about Jillian Crenshaw. She was always ready and willing to step up to the plate when she needed to.

Maybe that’s what I admired about her. For me, well, I tended to run away from things. Maybe “run away” isn’t quite the right word. I just wouldn’t bother. Like, if it wasn’t my business, then why should I get involved?

Not Jillian Crenshaw, though. Her attitude, that never say die mentality, it’s what made her so annoying. And also so desirable.

Dr. Onu continued on about Aristotle. Or something. 

“A categorical proposition is what describes a subject as to whether or not it belongs to a specific class. Can anyone provide an example?”

“All people are human,” said one student, who was not Jillian Crenshaw.

“Very good,” said Dr. Onu brightly.

“All dogs are animals”


“All beer is alcohol.”


“All weed is drugs.…”


“All drugs are weed.…”

“Ah, I see that we have stumbled upon a logical fallacy,” chimed in Dr. Onu. “It appears that we have broken the rule of the particular affirmative. Can anyone explain to me why that is?”

I raised my hand. “We can’t categorize a general statement as belonging to a specific instance.”

“So, then, how would you rephrase it?”

“All drugs are not weed.”

“Excellent, Mr. Munchen. You have redeemed yourself in a most spectacular fashion,” he said with genuine excitement.

I sat there smugly, surprised at my answer. I didn’t know I had it in me, actually. It felt pretty good being smart. But it felt especially good when Jillian Crenshaw turned in her chair and looked towards me, smiled just a bit, and then turned back towards the professor.

I sighed. That smile. It was worth a thousand attempted screw ups just to get that smile.


It wasn’t like the answer was all that difficult to figure out. It made sense that all drugs were not weed. Only some drugs were weed. Saying the opposite, that all drugs were weed, just sounded wrong. In fact, the whole thing sounded wrong because people don’t talk like that in real life. And come to think of it, is weed really a drug after all? I mean, it’s just a weed isn’t it?

I doubt Jillian Crenshaw uses any of that stuff. She just seems so much above the pursuits of us lower level beings. Not that I do, either. But I have different reasons. Mostly it has to do with money. Specifically, the lack thereof.

The rest of the class was split between half listening to Dr. Onu and the other half catching my eyes wandering to where Jillian Crenshaw sat, and then forcing myself to look at the textbook and acting like I was reading something deep and consequential.

Not that any of this was all that consequential these days. We were, after all, humans, and this is the way we were and so none of this should be a mystery to us. To say that ancient Greek philosophy had some profound insights into human nature was probably giving too much credit to the ancient Greeks. Maybe the only thing they offered was that they managed to turn these general ideas into highly specialized words. And thereby damn us to a society of full time professionalists. Which means I would always be whatever my title was and nothing more.

Software engineer. I would know all about software engineering. Try to offer my opinion on some other topic and be told to shut up and stay in my lane. Thank you Aristotle! 

Well, whatever. It wasn’t like I was going to carry this around and make it my profession. I wasn’t about to become some wandering stoic spreading ideas of the good life to anyone who would be bored enough to listen. Although, to be honest, my life did feel like that sometimes. At least, the wandering part. And the stoic part. And maybe even some cynical part.

Except when it came to Jillian Crenshaw, that is. 

“For next week,” said Dr. Onu, in his crisp, upbeat voice, startling me from my reverie, “We’ll be reviewing negative and affirmative propositions.”

A general din of rustling backpacks and clicking laptop lids filled the classroom. I remained seated, gazing into my open bag and stealing a surreptitious glance towards Jillian’s side of the room. Dr. Onu stepped towards her and gazed down with that bright smile of his. She looked up at him. Her hair was pulled into a high ponytail and it bobbed with the motion of her head. She smiled back. My stomach started to flutter and my heart beat heavily in my chest. I felt my neck flush. I stood up and stepped into the aisle. One foot towards the front of the classroom, and then I paused and turned towards the door.

“As if,” I mumbled. It’s not like I have a lot of time or money for dating. My goal is to get through school, get a job, and then, well, who knows?

Working for a Living

Evening settled into the Tenderloin district, and its night creatures started to awaken. Mostly people roaming around like zombies, having meetings with other zombies. Encampments came alive as people moved to queue up in front of missionary churches where they could get their daily meal, and maybe a few other comforts like a hot shower or a change of clothes. And then there was the hungry crowd looking for cheap eats. 

I was headed to Temple Pizza, where I had my rent-paying job as a general kitchen hand. I’d fill orders, bring them to tables, clean things. The job was easy but it was also hard. It would be good to get away from my own mind for a little while, but the physical labor and the terrible customers were a major downside. Well, not much to do about that. It was just a temporary job. One to keep me fed and housed until I could finish my degree.

I kept my head down as I stumbled along the broken, greasy sidewalks of Post St. I tried not to glance at the moving shadows, those blurry, glitching blotches that populated the streets. Some were small, moving quickly through alleys and atop the six or so story dilapidated brick buildings that made up this old butcher’s district. Others were like large mounds that seemed to just barely obfuscate the area in their direct line of sight. I would generally try to go around them, pausing randomly on some sidewalk, much to the consternation of someone who had the misfortune to walk directly behind me. I’d then turn and cross the street, probably jaywalk, as I jogged among the honking cars. I began to act like so many of the people who lived here, wrestling with their own inner demons. Maybe they saw the same thing I did, and they were eventually overcome by it. They just gave in, because fighting wouldn’t gain them anything.

It seemed that everyone else was able to walk through these shadows, these hovering smudges, or whatever they were. As if they really didn’t exist, and it started to make me question my own sanity even more. At one point, I tried to confront my fears by walking through one of the larger ones. It was a feeling that was hard to describe. Despair, maybe? A deep, existential dread? My body reacted pretty violently. I felt chills and sweats simultaneously. 

Afterwards, it took awhile for my body to calm down. My hands and legs would shake as if they had a mind of their own, and their goal was to get out of there as quickly as possible.

When I arrived at Temple Pizza, the crowd was just getting started. When I entered the front door, I was confronted by the sheer heat of the place. I stepped into a back room, deposited my shoulder bag and took off my hoodie, grabbed an apron, and went into the kitchen.

As always, there was Matere, standing in front of the ancient monstrosity of a cranky, creaking pizza oven, pulling out a pair of calzones with his burnt and oily pizza peel. He turned and dropped them on a wooden tabletop.

“Ah, good to see you Fredrick.”


“It’s going to be busy tonight,” he bellowed.

“Seems that way.”

“Could you take these calzones and plate them for the customer?”

“Sure.” I leaned over the two calzones, dropped each on a separate plate over a piece of wax paper, some pickled peppers, a handful of a generic salad mix, and a small tub of some oily dressing. I placed them on the counter in front of me.

“Thank you, Frederick,” came the sultry voice of Betel. She leaned her body against the counter. I looked into her cool, gray eyes, glanced across her well-trimmed apron, and gazed down towards the table’s work surface. “Welcome back. Did you have a good day today?”

“It was alright.”

“Just alright?”

“Yeah, the usual.”

“Well, thanks for coming in today. And thanks for the Calzones.” She picked the plates up off the counter, turned, and walked towards the small, dingy dining room. My eyes followed her for a moment, and then I sighed and turned my attention to a group of tickets tacked to a corkboard.

Temple Pizza was very old school. But somehow people liked the old, musty charm of the place. Maybe it was the faded posters of old, Italian liquor ads. Or the constant smell of baking pizza dough. Or maybe it was Betel's soothing charm that drew them in.

Matere and Betel were one of the unlikeliest couples I’d ever met. Even more than Jillian and I would ever be, and that’s saying a lot. I shook my head, trying to banish the thought of Jillian plus me. Like that could ever happen. Somehow, I think we just came from very different worlds. There was some natural barrier between us. Something that I had no control over.

Yet, somehow, Matere and Betel overcame that barrier. Betel was just so put together all the time. She could pour on the charm, or figure out problems with ease. She was cool headed and articulate. Matere was hapless and messy, his white hair was always disheveled and he wore this rough, patchy beard that he never took a razor to. His glasses always seemed to be hanging off his nose, to the point that I wanted to push them up myself, if I had the will to do so. And he carried around an old, scratched up, plastic bottle of water that he’d fill up from the faucet. He did that alot, since he constantly broke sweat over the old pizza oven that regularly blasted hot air through the kitchen.

Still, there was a certain metaphysical quality to the Matere and Betel pairing. Like they came from a different world. They just didn’t seem like normal people. They didn’t have an origin story that a lot of couples have. At least, they never shared one with me. Their past was rather obscure. Or, at least, their past was something they didn’t ever talk about.

As the evening deepened into night, and the shop’s closing started to approach, Matere and I stood shoulder to shoulder behind the work table.

“So,” started Matere. “How is school going?”

“Not bad.”

“Learning anything useful?”

“You could say that.”

“You got a girlfriend yet?” 

I hesitated and swallowed hard. My neck grew warm and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. Matere glanced sidelong at me. I could feel his burning, inquisitive gaze on the side of my face.

“So,” he said, “Are you dating yet?”

“Um, no. I mean, I don’t have a girlfriend or anything like that.”

“I see.” He paused. “You seem, how shall I say this, distracted lately.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a lot happening recently.”

“Such as?”

“Oh, well, class. And.…”


I hesitated. I didn’t know if I should mention those dark, glitching smudges that seemed to be everywhere these days. I mean, it might make me look crazy, and I really need this job to pay the rent. On the other hand, Matere isn’t exactly normal himself. I doubt he would fire me for having a few hallucinations. Then again, if he noticed them, then I wouldn’t be the only one. One of the biggest problems is that I can’t really talk to anybody about this. School has some therapists that I could talk to, but they might try to diagnose me with some condition and then prescribe me medication. Which I don’t think I need right now.



“Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street, I see these things.”

“Things?” His eyes seemed to grow wider under his glasses.

“It’s hard to describe. Dark, blotchy, glitchy things. Sometimes they’re barely visible. But they seem to be around all the time.”

Matere gazed distractedly at the ground. He rubbed his patchy beard with his hand. “Always around, huh?”

“I can kinda see them, but then, I feel like they just sort of disappear and reappear again. Some are small, like about the size of a dog. Others are pretty big, like the size of a garbage truck. And then if I walk through them, well, I get kinda shaky and weird feeling.”

“Weird feeling,” he said distractedly. “Yes, yes, um hm, um hm.”

“I don’t know what to think. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.”

Matere turned to me and smiled. It felt a bit forced. Just a second ago, he was pondering my words. And now.…

“I’m sure it’s nothing. You’re probably just tired, what with school and all. Why don’t you call it a day? I can close the shop.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, yes, just go home, take a hot shower, and get into bed.”

“Thanks, Matere,” I said as I untied my apron.

“Think nothing of it.”

I walked to the storage room adjacent to the kitchen and hung my apron up on a hook. I reached for my hoody, which was hanging next to the apron, pulled it on and then grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder. I walked out to the dining room and waved to Matere.

“Remember, a hot shower, and right to bed.”

“Right,” I said, as I pushed the front door open and stood in the cool, damp air outside. I glanced back through the front window, which emanated a warm, yellow light. Matere and Betel exchanged a serious glance.

I turned onto Post street. My apartment was a few blocks away. Only a few blocks. 

A Quick Passing

The air was particularly chilly tonight. The traffic signals blinked soft green and red tones, their light diffused by the thick, new fog. Police cars chirped and wailed their way past, chasing unseen pursuits among the denizens of these streets.

I pushed my hands deeper into the pockets of my hoody, my eyes focused on the oily, broken sidewalk in front of me. Someone brushed past me, and then, that chill. That feeling of despair, of emptiness. My heart felt as if it had been put on pause. I glanced over my shoulder, and then turned my body. Two of them, those glitching smudges, those dark patches, kept pace behind a figure. 

A human figure which quickly turned the corner. All I really saw was a foot, a red shoe maybe, a sneaker. And then, it was gone, its two companions close behind.

I dashed forward, to the edge of an alley. I peered in. That person, the one who walked past me not more than a few seconds ago, who brushed against my sleeve, was nowhere to be seen. And somehow, those things, the ones who have been haunting me all this time, those shadows, or whatever they were, they somehow belonged to him or her or it. 

“Who are you?” I mumbled as I squinted into the alley, into the shadows, the acid yellow lights that hummed and buzzed their last, weak, herculean endeavor to keep themselves alive. “Are you human, even?”

I had to find out. Somehow.

Sign up.
Win stuff. Get the latest news and exclusive content.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.