Another week done. I can’t believe how quickly the days go by. I think that means I’m getting old!
Today I have Part #6 of my horror story, I’m Watching You. It’s the story of MIKE’S decent into madness as he struggles to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined.
Last time, MIKE had just walked away from his job after seeing a disembodied eye in the wall at the garage where he worked. He made it as far as a local shop before he started to become paranoid that people were talking about him.
On to today’s segment:
As Mike moved around the end of the aisle, he stopped and turned around. He moved a can of something that looked like peas and looked back towards the counter. The old lady was emptying her basket on to the counter, and the counterman was ringing up her purchases. Every few taps of his fingers was accompanied by a ring, as the prices were added up. He could see no bar code scanner, which meant the sale would take several minutes.
The counterman and the lady were engaged in conversation while they worked their way through the cans. Mike couldn’t hear them, but on several occasions, the counterman laughed at something the old lady said. They were probably talking about him, Mike thought. Don’t be stupid. Why would they talk about you, idiot?He continued watching for several more minutes as the lady emptied her basket, item by item, and the counterman rang in each purchase, before depositing each into a large brown paper bag. As she placed the final can of whatever it was on the counter, the lady glanced back up the Aisle towards Mike, who pulled his head back around the corner. He didn’t think he had been seen, but then he heard the counterman laugh again. He glanced down towards the counter again and saw the lady saying goodbye as she pulled open the door to leave.
Mike continued watching the counterman for another minute, before turning round and resuming his search for beer.
Stacked against the back wall was a tower of cans; more precisely a pyramid of cans. They were packaged in boxes which must have contained six or eight cans each. The top of the pyramid was about Mike’s eye-level, which was stupid, Mike thought; I can’t reach far enough to snag the top box, and if I take one lower down, they’ll fall.Each box was green, with horses. He wasn’t sure where the horses came in, but the price was right, and it was beer. At least he thoughtit was beer. Jämtlands Bryggeri Hell was what it said. Most of it made no sense to him, but the Hell part he could read, and he thought that sounded good. He knelt down and tried to slide a box out of the pyramid and hoped it wouldn’t bring the rest down, although, if truth be told, he wasn’t really bothered either way. When the box slipped cleanly out without the slightest hint of a shudder from the stack, Mike sighed. Now he picked it up, it was clear that it did not contain cans, as he clearly heard the clink of glass as he stood up.
“Get what you need?” the counterman said as Mike placed the box next to the till. The counterman reached for a bag.
“Don’t need a bag. I’m gonna drink it now.” He laid a hand on top of his box. He pulled out his wallet and dropped some notes on the wooden surface. “Take what you need.”
As the counterman gathered the notes and began to ring up the purchase, Mike turned around and leaned back on the smooth wood. He surveyed the rest of the shop. Above the door hung a picture of someone with his arms out at either side and was wearing what looked like a loincloth.
“Are you a believer, son?” Mike heard the counterman ask. When he didn’t reply, the old man spoke again. “Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
Mike knew who it was supposed to be and no, he wasn’t a believer. What he waslooking at, was something that seemed to be in the middle of the loincloth-wearing man’s chest. It could have been a trick of the light, or an errant brush stroke, but he didn’t think so. He walked towards the door and looked up at the picture. At this distance it was clear: the counterman’s Lord and Saviour had an extra eye. Right in the middle of his chest.
His mouth fell open as he looked up at the eye. It was definitely watching him; as he moved side to side, the pupil tracked him. It blinked as it moved, and that was the thing that made Mike feel most uncomfortable. He turned back to the counterman and pointed up towards the picture.
“Can you see that?”
“Yes sir,” said the old man.
“How long has it been there?”
“Well, let me think,” The man looked up at the ceiling as he thought. “If I remember, my father put that picture up when he took over the running of this place. That must be,” He counted on his fingers, “at least sixty years. But I could be wrong.”
“Funny,” said Mike. “The eye. The eye in the centre of his chest!” He stabbed his finger back towards the picture.
The counterman took off his glasses as he moved around the counter. Using a corner of his shirt, he cleaned the lenses before reseating them on his nose. When he stood alongside Mike, he looked up at the painting.
“I’m not sure what you’re referring to sir. I don’t see anything in the picture that hasn’t been there for sixty years.” He stood on tiptoe and squinted up at the picture. “No eye.”
“Why would you lie to me?” Mike strode past the old man, still looking up at the picture, and collected his box of Swedish or Dutch beer. He walked straight back to the door and pushed it open. The old man turned back to look at the counter.
“Your change sir! Don’t you want your change?”
“No,” Mike said as the door closed behind him with a shrill tinkle.
Outside, in fresh air, he felt a little better; the fog that was threatening to engulf his brain lifted slightly, enough for a shaft of clarity to shine through. That particular shaft of clarity shined on the box of beer he carried under his arm. He sat down on a bench with the box in his lap and ripped a corner open. He pulled out a slim brown bottle and popped the cap. He drained the bottle in one go, placing the empty on the floor between his legs. The second bottle came out and was dispatched as quickly as the first, and within the space of a minute or two, a third joined them.
I’ll leave Mike there for this week. I hope you can join me next week for the next instalment!