(This was my entry when I first test drove this idea with a few friends in 2009)
I barely notice the crunch of leaves as my foot hits the pavement. I’m breathing hard. I can feel my heart beating against my chest. My thoughts are pounding in my head.
It’s a cold night. When the sun went down, it took all the warmth of the world with it. I can see my breath. I pull my chin down to try to keep my neck from freezing. There’s no one on the street. I look left then right, and I’m alone. The peace that sometimes accompanies moments like these is not coming now. I push my hands deeper into my pockets and keep walking.
I look up, startled for a moment as the street lamp turns off in as I walk towards it. If there’s a sensor, isn’t it supposed to turn on when I get close? The light turning off made me feel… sinister. My hands are cold, my head is spinning. A dog starts barking at me startling me again, it’s behind a fence, good thing too, it’s big and looks really angry. I didn’t even see it until it barked. As I walk closer the dog stops barking, growls for a moment then… whimpers. It had been gnashing its teeth at the fence but now it’s as far from me as it can get in it’s enclosure. I keep walking, turning my head looking at the cowering ball of fur in the corner of the yard. It looks terrified of me. I need to get out of here. I walk faster.
Thinking that I should be with other people I head to the main street, maybe I’ll get some food, sit down and try to figure out what’s going on. I start to calm down. My breathing slows my shoulders relax and I turn the corner and step onto the busy sidewalk. There’s a cafe not far from here that I like, I’ll go there.
The cacophony and chaos of the street is comforting and I lose myself in it for a moment. A moment is all I have, the sounds and movements start to unite like a platoon walking in step suddenly after crossing a bridge. The shift in sound is noticeable enough for me to snap out of my disturbed and swirling mind and see people moving away and looking in my direction. I look over my shoulder to see if the thing that’s bothering them is behind me.
The people behind me are moving away too, and pointing. A baby starts crying ten feet from me and his mother grabs him from his stroller looking panicked and angry… looking at me with panic and anger. “What’s going on?” I ask no one in particular, maybe myself. I put a smile on my face and say that there must be some mistake. I say that I don’t know what’s going on and that they seem to have me confused with someone else. My words do nothing to calm the the crowd, instead they seem incensed with every syllable I manage to get out.
Something sails past my head.
I start walking. I keep walking towards the cafe and the people in front of me move out of the way. They move but look like they’re going to strike out at me. Like I’m some heel from professional wrestling, someone they hate but fear when in close proximity. What’s going on? I instinctively put my head down and walk faster, I catch my reflection and those of the the gathering crowd. Mine are the only eyes not filled with hatred, but the fear that is staring at me from all directions is in my eyes too. I’m being followed by a crowd on the street, a mob. Some of the bolder ones are yelling at me, I ignore it and keep walking They yell louder, I ignore more deliberately but… what did he say? My stride breaks momentarily. A woman hits my arm and say that she knows that I… I stop for moment despite myself and ask the woman to repeat herself. Instead she stops a few feet short of me, as does the rest of the mob, and she spits. It hits me on my shoulder and she screams, furious tears welling up in her eyes. She’s screaming that she knows what I said, what I did, and then she repeats the thing that made me stop. How the hell did she know that? … “I didn’t do that!” I say, in my head I hear my voice whisper “I may have thought it but I didn’t do it”. “It’s the same damn thing!” I hear from the side. What’s going on? A man joins in, screaming something else that makes me turn towards him now in disbelief. Who are these people? “We can hear you thinking!” ”I’m not a bad guy!” I yell meekly not even convincing myself. “Everyone has the same kinds of thoughts!”. More things come flying at me, an open half full can of something hits me in the chest splashing my face. The assembled crowd looks at me in disgust and I feel momentary shame. They’re yelling things I’ve thought back at me. Accusing me of doing every negative thing that’s ever randomly passed through me mind. Were they random? Is that who I really am? I’ve never told anyone any of the things these people are yelling back at me but they somehow know the darkest corners of my mind, and they are horrified. I start asking the person two feet to my left what all of this is about but I only get half of the question before I feel a sudden impact on the right of my face, and I taste the blood. My blood.
Disoriented I shove blindly, pushing back my assailant thinking to fight then seeing the same thought reflected on the faces of the the mass in front of me. I turn, hands up protecting my face and lunge towards the cafe I was trying to get to from the start.
I make it the half block to my destination with hands grabbing at my jacket. I crash through the door and the patrons and staff spin to look. Jostled from their peaceful routine they react. Some react with panic, some with the look one might have if the eight foot monster you and the rest of your village have been hunting with your pitchforks and torches just came into view.
I shake off the image and am happy that there aren’t any pitchforks or torches. I’m shoved and stumble into a table. “Serves you right!” is the kindest thing I hear shouted at me. The smaller space slows down my pursuers but they’re still coming at me clutching, grabbing, cursing. “MONSTER!” they yell, “ASSHOLE!”. I again try to calm them down. Everything I say seems to make them angrier. My words are having the opposite effect than what I intend. They don’t seem to understand! Every pleading look inspires more hatred.
It’s as though they see through who I’m trying to be, to… me. Am I that dark? That strange? I thought that my mask was in place. Respectability. They see through it. They see through me. Their eyes judging, shunning, rejecting. I run through the cafe and burst out of the back door, pushing it shut and jamming it as best I can before sprinting down the back alley, running, running and never getting away.