's 2018 Horror Write-off:

Never Not There

Submitted by Saga

I've been seeing a strange man lately. He never looks like he's in the same place as me intentionally, but I see him too much and too consistently for it to be coincidental. I think he's following me around.

He's there at the train platform in the morning, glistening in the sun like he always does. I don't know how he manages to remain so moist-looking even in the winter. I don't want to think about it. I try not to get on a train car with him, but it's often unavoidable, the way the crowd moves. Being packed in a closed space with him is the worst. He smells like carrion. When I get to my stop, I'm usually the first off, eager to be rid of him, and yet I'll see him in the busy station a dozen times between the train and the exit.

There is no escape outside, either. I see him on the street outside my work, always in the same few places whenever I look. I shouldn't glance out the window to check if he's there, resting on the pavement, it just makes me more anxious. But I can't stop. At least if I can see him I'll know when to run away.

I'm tired of feeling like this. I hate the palpable nausea that comes with the fear he inspires in me. But I don't know what to do about him besides making sure not to get close. I don't want to confront him. I don't even know what I would say to make him leave. If he's the kind of disgusting stalker I think he is, my attention might just be exactly what he wants, so I definitely won't give it to him.

The only place I feel safe is the cafe I always go to for lunch. The manager there is nice and listened to my concerns about him, so he's not allowed within thirty paces of the place. Not that it discourages him from trying to come inside every now and again, but the manager never hesitates to push him away, with a broom if she has to. She's so cool, with the gas mask and rubber gloves that she puts on to escape his stench. I wish I could afford a mask like that.

Of course, when I have to leave, he's there waiting, and my life spirals back into the nightmare it's become. The afternoon is as nerve-wracking as the morning and I barely get anything done. The ride home is the same as the ride to work, packed into a car with his awful smell and the flies it attracts. He doesn't do anything about them when they land on him, that's one of the creepiest parts. He just lies there, oozing his sickly sweat for them to feast on.

Coming home is the worst part of all. I hate that he knows where I live. I can't even have peace in my own home. I so much as glance out the window and I see his skin draped in the tree outside. His ragged edge pulsing slowly along the sidewalk, consuming more and more of my world in his faceless flesh. Chunks of him smeared on the buildings around me. I have dreams about accidentally brushing against him and I wake up in tears.

I thought I could escape him with a vacation to my parents in the country, but as I was driving there I saw a pile of him on the side of the road. By the second night he'd covered the entire yard. I had to leave without even saying goodbye to my Mom and Dad.

I could put up with it if he was, like, a slime mold or something. Why is he made of that horrible meat? It's worse because aside from the cafe manager, no one else acknowledges him. Even if he's right in their path, they just step on him, their shoes coming away bloody. The squishing sound makes me want to throw up.

I tried to go to the police, but I never made it inside their building. The flag at the police station was just a dripping slab of him, and more was piled up in the entryway.

So this is the next place I'm turning to. Do you have any advice for dealing with my stalker? How do I escape his miles of featureless gore that decorate everywhere I've ever known?