[TIHCE] The Stranger

Day 4,370, 16:31 Published in Bulgaria Bulgaria by Emrace

Тази статия е за участие в The International Halloween Community Event (TIHCE)
За повече информация кликнете тук

Hello everybody,
this article is my entry for The International Halloween Community Event (TIHCE), you can found the details here

The house was located at the feet of the mountain, overlooking the city. Three story building resting against the slopes with a well-lit street running down from the side and front of the house, leading to the neighbourhood below. The bright city lights offered a spectacular view at night, their flickering shine rivaling the stars above.
The house’s only inhabitant was a young man, who haunted the closed terrace on the second floor every night. Observing the city and contemplating his life after the long workday was his main hobby. On a cool autumn night, he was drinking a warm cup of tea, gazing upon the city, when he noticed a man dressed in black walking down the street on the side of the house. The stranger immediately caught his attention. He wore a black, broad-brimmed hat, a long black trench coat with raised collars, concealing his face. He looked like he belonged to another time and place. The young man attributed the wardrobe choice to the weather, it can get really cold and windy at those heights. He didn’t give it much thought and continued drinking his tea and went to bed. After several nights, the Stranger walked past again - same clothes, same gait. The young man looked more closely but couldn’t make out the Stranger’s face because of the raised collars. His eyes followed the man down the street until the Stranger turned the corner. When the same occurrence repeated itself for the third time, the young man decided that it’s not just a coincidence.
He decided to wait on the terrace for the stranger and record every detail. The closed terrace offers a perfect hiding spot - you can observe the street without being seen. The young man fell asleep, thinking about his plan. That night he had a strange dream. He saw himself sitting on the terrace, looking to the street on the side of the road, through the walls, that had turned transparent. In that dream, he saw the stranger again. Then he woke up, it was early in the morning, he felt uneasy and tired. Last night’s dream had shaken him.
The young man powered through the day with his thoughts focused on the evening and his plan. He took his place on the terrace, about an hour earlier before the Stranger was supposed to walk by. He waited patiently in complete darkness, watching the street, parked cars, street lights, the old pavement. It brought back memories of old. He used to play on that street with his friends when they were kids. Not much has changed since then. While he was sitting in his chair, his mind occupied with memories, he noticed a movement with the corner of his eye. He turned his head and saw the Stranger, all in black. He looked down at his watch - the same time as last night - and examined the strange man. His clothes look new, almost shiny, raised collar and concealed face, his shoes - all black. There’s something eerie about this man. Darkness emanates from him. The young man took out a pen and wrote down the time when the Stranger showed up from the street on the side and disappeared from his sight, turning the corner. He decided to repeat this every night.
With time, it became a habit and turned into a ritual. The young man sits in his chair and contemplates his past, his memories, until the Stranger appears on the street. He’s accurate down to the second. Every time, the young man notices something new. The Stranger doesn’t only dress alike every night, he wears the same clothes, he never changes them and they don’t wear out. Not an inch of his body left uncovered. He looks like a shadow, wearing clothes. The following night, the young man realised something else - when the Stranger walks the street, it’s completely empty. It’s almost like no soul dares cross his path. No one walks the street, not even a stray animal. Everything goes silent, when the Man in Black appears. The young man keeps recording the time of the Stranger’s appearance and disappearance - he’s always precise, down to the second. The poor soul filled page after page and the only difference are the dates. The same hour, minutes and seconds on every row of every page of the notebook. The precision is terrifying.
The young man bought more clocks, set them minutes and hours apart so that each clock displays a different time. He didn’t know why he did this, but he had a gut feeling. Then he took his place in his watchtower, several hours earlier this time. He reminisced about his friends. Everyone left the city after high school. He was the only one who remained behind, no idea why. He had the opportunity to attend the best universities, he received offers from several of them, his parents supported him but he didn’t leave, he couldn’t leave. He was afraid of not being able to find his place elsewhere, he was afraid of failure. Suddenly, there’s movement on the side of the street so the young man instinctively looks at his watch - 23:23 again and the Stranger appears. He saw his hat first, then the rest of his body. While inspecting the man in black, something new happens. The Stranger stops in the middle of the street, turned sideways, and gestures the young man to check his watch. He’s overwhelmed by terror, it fills his entire being, his hair stands on end, his heart starts beating furiously. He desperately wants to run away, to escape, but his body refuses to do so. The only thing he can do is to look at the clocks on the wall, the clocks he set to different times. Every clock displays the same time - 23:23. As fear is taking over, he looks at the window… There’s the Stranger, towering over him, looking down upon his victim.
The young man woke up screaming. He had fallen asleep on his chair, a half-burnt cigarette resting on the ashtray on the table, right next to the open notebook and the pen. He looks at his watch - it’s well past midnight. Then he carefully turns his eyes to the clocks on the wall but he’s relieved when each clock displays different times, as they were supposed to. He missed the Stranger tonight but won’t let that happen again.
On the following night, the young man decided to wait on the street. Nervously checking his watch, but the time passes slowly when you’re anxious. Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours. It wasn’t like that on previous nights, it always felt like the Stranger shows up right after the young man sat on his chair. When the time came, he looked at the spot the Stranger was supposed to be, but no one’s there. After a few moments, he went to check the corner, but it’s empty as well. Then he turns back, feeling disappointed only to stop dead in his tracks. He feels cold sweat on his back, his hairs standing and his heart pounding in his chest. Nothing could have prepared him for this moment. The Man in Black walks down the street, with his back turned, passing by the same spot the young man was mere moments ago. How did he get there? People don’t randomly pop out of thin air. There’s no other street he could have used. How can he be sure that this Stranger, that shadow in clothes is even a man?
The young man went back into the house, trying to sleep. He had to come up with a plan on the next day, he had to find out what is hiding beneath the hat, but his heart was still pumping. He kept turning restlessly in bed for hours and whenever he dozed off, he heard a quiet female weep. He couldn’t get much sleep that night, he felt exhausted in the morning but he was determined to solve the mystery of the Stranger. The day passed in planning, with coffee flowing through his veins. Caffeine works its magic and keeps him awake but also makes him anxious. The young man came up with a plan - a simple, yet effective one - he would patiently wait for the Stranger to show up, grab a knife from the kitchen and go out to the street to confront him. He sat on the chair and waited patiently for the man in black to show up. No reminiscing tonight. The young man needs to be on the alert. He hears a talk in the distance, his neighbours must be discussing something. That’s strange, usually they’re asleep at that time. The time passes even more slowly, he doesn’t know how long he’s been sitting but it feels like an eternity. Suddenly, there’s movement. The Stranger has appeared! The young man flies down the stairs and out on the porch, jumps over the fence, lands on the sidewalk and runs towards the Stranger. He grabs the Stranger by the arms, turns him around and stares into his face. Wild, animalistic scream fills the night accompanied by the sound of a dropped knife on the pavement. Staring back at the young man is a black smoke with two crimson red dots.
Hospital room. The doctor stands above the patient's bed and talks with the father, while the mother is silently weeping in the corner. The patient has been comatose for a long time. Result of a road accident when he decided to take out his friends on a night drive. However, as fate would have it, after entering a corner at high speed, the car hit a man on the side of the road - dressed in a black trenchcoat and a hat - dragged him and pinned him against a tree. The old man died on the spot, his face covered in black smoke, eyes bleeding. The passengers died in the car as well. The sole survivor was the driver, barely holding on thanks to the machine, but last night, brain death had occurred. The doctor explains the situation to the father, as the mother keeps weeping. The machines are turned off and another young soul leaves the world. Time of death - 23:23.