57 minus 12: The watching, the watcher, and the watched

Posted: 5 August 2021 in 57 minus, 57 minus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for this blog run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. So, since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the story telling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

As often as not, I have no idea why the image appeared in a search for something else, and equally as often as not, I have no idea why that image sparked a story while another didn’t.

I came across the following image yesterday, while searching an image of glasses. I meant spectacles, but this sparked an idea.

And here’s what it inspired.


The watching, the watcher, and the watched

I’d picked well. I knew it within moments of walking through the door.

The pub was almost empty, but that was good; that was what I’d hoped for. Hoped for, not planned. There was no point in planning it; I’d learned that lesson long ago. It only ever led to disappointment, for people are often unpredictable. Unpredictably so. So, I never planned it but I hoped for it. Oh, I hoped for so many things.

The only thing I was certain of was that I would get what I wanted. I would get it.. It’s all I’ve wanted since I started. And they do say that if you want something enough, that with enough hard work you can get it. And I really want this, and, oh, I’ve put in the work.

Getting there relatively early meant I had the pick of tables to sit at. I walked to the bar, ordered a large rum and sunk it immediately, the heat spreading through my body with a welcome familiarity.

I ordered another, and took it with me to the empty table I’d spotted the moment I’d entered the place. Of the four lightbulbs above the table, two had blown; that was good. I could sit alone until I chose otherwise, and equally importantly I could sit, long experience had taught me, entirely unnoticed.

My back against the far wall, I was well satisfied. For the moment, at least. I was close enough to the bar to see and hear everything, but just far enough away to be wholly ignored until I chose otherwise. I could see every part of the pub from my seat. OK, with the exception of the toilets, But it would do. It would definitely do.

I sipped at the drink, barely noticing it now as more people entered. An older couple, followed by another couple still older. My heart thumped. Maybe I was wrong. It had happened on occasion, and it meant that yet another night would be wasted. I knew that a fleeting mark of concern marred my features, and I cursed my weakness. But it soon vanished with concentration; hours of practice in front of my grimy bathroom mirror had helped with that.

I closed my eyes briefly; only briefly, I didn’t want to miss my chance when it came. My breathing slowed and my eyes snapped open as the door creaked and a crowd of well dressed people of my own age entered. This was more like it. The crowd? No. The age, yes. Late twenties, early thirties. Arrogant with the promise of years to come, of experiences not yet encountered.

An hour passed, and I nursed my drink, and the pub gained more patrons,. No one quite right though… and then the door swung wide open one more time… and He entered. I’d started capitalising them in my head a long time ago, and it felt… right to do so. A mark of respect before respect was even needed or due.

He was the right age, was dressed the right way, and walked almost with a swagger as He moved across the room. He had a face and body that women notice, and sure enough they glanced up, noticed Him and their eyes tracked Him as He passed them on the way to the bar.

I studied Him. Would He do? Was He the next one?

His hands looked strong, but not too strong; He stood up straight. All good. His eyes swept the room, and momentarily paused occasionally, but then continued. They swept over me and continued. Good. I didn’t want to be noticed. Yet. Very soon, but not quite yet.

He ordered a fruit juice. Odd. I expected a spirt from Him. I side eyed my run.

He drank the juice and ordered another, and drank that just as fast.

Then a third. And it was only then, as the new glass appeared in front of Him, that He suddenly looked in my direction. He smiled at me. I smiled back.

And with a small move of my hand, I gestured towards an empty chair by my side.

He smiled again. I smiled again.

Luring someone is difficult. Luring a victim is harder.

The conversation was brief, and He heard what He wanted to hear. As did I. I examined what I could see of His body. If not perfect, it certainly seemed adequate for my purposes.

He mentioned that hHe was alone, that He lived alone, and wasn’t expecting anyone else to join him. He lived nearby. All just about perfect. His eyes looked hungry. I wondered what He saw in mine. Whatever it was, He was at the very least interested. Good. It’d be easier if He was willing.

When He spoke of His job, I ignored it. I didn’t care. What he had planned later that week? It was wholly irrelevant to me. It was meaningless drivel and we both knew it, though wouldn’t admit it. My plans didn’t include caring about His tomorrow, let alone His next week.

Oh, yes, he’d be perfect. He was the one, I knew it.

And then he ruined it. With one sentence.

With one combination of words. “Shall I add you on Facebook?”

No.

No. No. No.

A serial killer wouldn’t be on Facebook and he certainly wouldn’t tell a potential victim his real name.

I swallowed the rest of my drink and stood up, surprising him. I never said another word, but my disappointment must have shown on my face. He looked shocked, surprised, offended. I didn’t care.

He wasn’t Him. He wasn’t a Him. He was just a him.

He wasn’t the serial killer I was hoping for. He wasn’t a serial killer at all.

I left the pub, and softly swore to myself.

Tomorrow then. I’d go out tomorrow.

My search would continue. Another night, another pub, another hope.

But I’ll be a victim one day, I swear I will. It’s all I want, you see.

 
© Lee Barnett, 2021

 

 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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