Flash Showcase: Telescope by Joe Howsin

Eyes open, fists clenched; teeth grinding, limbs limp; a shape, a shift; a whimper, a cry; a scream. This is how I wake up each morning. With routine, the terror I feel towards the shadow in the corner has dulled. No longer sharp, it is merely an ache. Yet still, each morning, I scream.

These days I don’t know why I get up at all. There is no job to go to, no friends to see. Maybe it’s for the coffee, or to escape the shadow.

Have you ever sat completely still because to move would be to hurl yourself into a rage? My blood thickens, lapping in viscus waves against straining eardrums. Electricity arcs across my muscles and burns me from the inside out. I twitch and jitter, shaking the cupboards, rattling plates, smashing a mug. I sink to my knees and collect the shattered rabbits lying in pieces on the kitchen floor. Their blood is thin and watery: a light brown fluid smelling faintly of earth and milk. I cry in shuddering tides over ceramic wildlife as the electricity continues to burn.

I stand by the window, tapping a monotone tune with restless fingers. The skyline bleeds in torrents as gutters burst and drains gurgle. Masonry and branches fall away and are swallowed instantly. The thunderous roar of an engine peals somewhere within. The city eats itself under a black sky. My eye wanders over an infinity of glass. I watch dioramic plays performed against a soundtrack of rain, until my eye settles on one particular window. I can see someone standing close to the distant pane. I can’t make out their features, only a silhouette hunched over as if in prostration. I imagine a face wreathed in shadow, marred by a single gigantic eye jutting out on a long dark stalk. The pupil is huge, blackening the iris. One hand cradles the eye-stalk while the other waves methodically back and forth. I draw the blinds closed and shut my eyes tight; in darkness I feel my way back into bed and pull the covers over my face; I make myself as small and as still as possible, but I still feel the gaze of the telescope upon me.

I doze off and wake with a jolt. I lift my head and look towards the corner, but it is empty, the shadow isn’t there. Tears prick my eyes as I lie alone.

I shuffle over to the window and search the skyline; the figure and their telescope are still there, still looking, still waving. It is past midnight, but I pull on my coat and shoes. I count the buildings that lay between us, count the floors upon which the figure looms above me, I note their position just below the moon. Electricity crackles against the pavement as I rush towards them.

My footsteps power yellow streetlamps as I thread my way through the city streets. Figures flicker in and out of existence between pools of light and encompassing darkness. Their features shift and change as they draw near and disappear behind me. I cross the street to avoid their gaze but often, when I look back, I see that they were never really there.

I reach a tall tower and look up towards the sky: I can’t see the figure or their telescope from this angle, but the moon peers over the rooftop and studies the ground. I think to myself: if it jumps, I’ll be crushed. I hurry inside.

Lightning propels my legs upward and scorches my lungs, but at last I find the right door. It’s unlocked. I burst inside, calling out: ‘I’m here! I saw you waving and now I’m here!’ My echo answers; no one’s home. The flat is empty: no furniture, no appliances, no carpet, no curtains. The bare concrete floor is cool to the touch, moonlight streams through tall windows. The only thing to be seen is the telescope: it stares blindly from atop its tripod, discarded like a severed limb. I walk over and peer into its maze of mirrors. I see my flat bathed in moonlight. I can see the shadow sitting in its corner, twitching and rocking with anxiety. There’s someone else there too. They’re sitting in a chair, very still, until suddenly they look up. They look towards me, stand up slowly and walk over to the window. They peer out from behind the glass, illuminated by moonlight. I realise that the person in my flat looks just like me. I begin to wave my arm back and forth, my eye still fixed to the telescope. The blinds in my flat close. I see the moon reflected in the glass; it meets my eye.   

Joe Howsin graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University’s MA program in Gothic fiction with a renewed love of the fantastic and the uncanny. He is a copywriter by day and aspiring fiction author by night. His work can be found in Horrified, Not Deer, and The Walled City Journal.

For details on how to submit your own story for our Flash Showcase, please visit our Submissions page.

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