The Sorceror's Apprentice, Part I
Jack had first started noticing the figure several weeks ago. At the beginning he’d just catch him out of the corner of his eye, then as time went by he’d see him clearer. It was funny but at the beginning he could never look at him directly, like trying to force two magnets together, repulsive pole to repulsive pole. He'd distort and move away but not like an ordinary person would, who was trying to avoid being looked at. It was more like a reflective sheet of silver plastic, being poked in the middle. Even before that Jack would look where he thought he was and see nothing unusual – no dark figure or shape even. He knew though that he was there. He could feel it, sense it but not see it.
Now today though it was different. It was like the whole world had stopped and there was just him and Jack. Their eyes met but this was no romantic meeting across a room. Jack felt probed, prodded by another mind. It was almost palpable. He wanted to take his eyes off this mysterious stranger but knew instinctively not to. It was like he knew that he'd be thrown across the platform and slammed against the far wall, if he broke contact. And then it was over and the being had gone completely. The world unfroze and moved on again, in its daily business as though nothing had happened. Jack got on the train and made his way to work as normal but felt he'd just been stared down by some wild animal.
That night Jack returned home. He had his tea, watched TV and went to bed. Suddenly he awoke in the darkness.
He felt a presence – in fact this was what woke him.
'I know you're there – speak!'
Only silence filled the room.
There had been a spate of burglaries in the district, over the last few months, so he feared the worst. He wanted to turn on the bedside lamp but feared any sudden movement might bring down a blunt object on his head, by someone whose eyes had adjusted to the lack of light and who was fully conscious, unlike him.
Courage overcame dread. He made a sudden grab for the switch. The room was empty.
He jumped out of bed, looked under it, behind the curtains, beside the wardrobe. Nothing.
He went into the kitchenette. Nothing. Tried all the doors and windows. Locked. Shut.
He made himself a cup of tea and went back to bed, for an unsettled sleep.