The Man Who Followed
I used to live in the basement of my mother' s house.
Perhaps that' s a bad way to begin this story. When lavas 16, my mom and stepdad bought a new
house. Since We always hated Idaho' s oppressive summer heat, I claimed the dark, cool basement as
my bedroom. That was the first time Pd ever lived on the lowest floor ofa building, so I promptly found
a good, cheap, and horribly tacky water bed on craigslist. The thing had a headboard mirror out ofa
porno, but the bed fit in the basement and it didn' t leak. I immensely enjoyed sleeping on water
and I did not have a single night that summer where lavage up too hot or too sweaty.
That basement wasn' t really set up to be a bedroom. Whatever floor space my waterbed and drum set
didn' t take up was bogged by a gigantic coal furnace. The old thing must' heated the main floor of
the house once upon a time, but no one bothered to remove it (or the coal that it was filled with) when
a more modern heating system was installed. The concrete floor was covered in coal dust and dirt was
sneaking into the house through the gap where the walls and floor attempted to meet. The ceiling was
crisscrossed with pipes and revealed the supports for the upper floor through several large, jagged
holes. To most people, it looked just like a shabby basement. To me, it looked like a scene out ofa bad
horror movie, which was excellent because I loved bad horror movies.
As most of us know, the earth tilts on its axis and eventually, summer comes to an end. School started
back up as it always did, and I settled back into my routine, this time equipped with a driver' s license
and an older Subaru. Since every parent I had - biological or step -worked a pretty packed schedule,
they threw the car at me so that they could actually relax when they finally got home from work. I
didn' t complain; the independence of being able to shuttle myself from school to swim team practice,
violin lessons, friends' houses, or anywhere else a tank of gas would take me was amazing. Driving was
one of my favorite things to do until that winter.
I' m not wasting your time with a story about snow. Sure, Idaho got a lot of snow, but after some doing
donuts in an empty parking lot, snow on the roads wasn' t daunting. I knew my limits there. No, this
isn' t about snow, this is about being followed. That winter, I started getting followed by a man. At least
it looks like a man. In my rear view mirror, see him standing there at night. He would always be
dark and shadowy, just the silhouette of a man wearing a long coat and a fedora, his hands stuffed in
his pockets, leaning casually against a lamp post or a tree. No matter where lavas, no matter how fast I
drove, he was standing there, 20 yards behind my car, every time I looked back.
We always been a nervous kid with an overactive imagination. I cracked it up to that. Perhaps ifl
switched from horror to romantic comedy for a month, he' d go away. Perhaps I really did see a man
standing against a lamp post once, and it gave me the creeps enough to imagine him more often. I
wasn’ t sure. I did my best to ignore this figure, but I soon noticed my friends' houses
early to avoid driving in the dark. Pd let other people drive when they offered and if did end up driving
at night, I didn' t look in my rear view mirror. Whatever was happening, it was starting to get under my
skin. I really underestimated the thing that followed me.
In hindsight, the key bit that I missed was why he followed. If I had watched him closer, Iwould' seen
that every night I drove home alone, he followed me further. At first, he could only follow out of the
neighborhood lavas leaving. I started to really notice him when he followed through downtown. He
was always so dark in stark contrast with the city lights. when I stopped watching him, he followed me
home. I let him follow me all the way to the basement, and I didn' t even bother to keep an eye on him
as it happened.
lavas curled up on my water bed, slowly drifting off to sleep, when something disturbed the fluid that I
was floating on. I thought to myself that it must be my dog, and tried to leave it at that. But the bed
shifted back to normal; there was no mass displacing water other than me. So I sat up, and in the dark I
saw that the man had followed me into my basement. He stood there, staring at me, with his hands
shoved deep in his coat pockets and his face obscured by his fedora.
In a childlike attempt to destroy the monster in my basement, I clambered off of my bed and pulled the
thin cord dangling from the one bare incandescent light bulb in reach. Light flooded the room except
for the space the man took up. Much as he did downtown, he appeared shadowed despite illumination
around him. As I gazed at the man, the entity, that had followed me for months, I became aware that
he stood between me and the only staircase that lead out of the basement. So I ran.
Iran directly at him. not let myself be trapped in my own room. not give up. If there
was to be a fight, instigate that fight. I lowered a shoulder with every intention of hitting him in
the diaphragm. Instead, my shoulder collided with the stairs behind him. Aside from the burning where
my body met the stairs, lavas cold. Painfully cold. I tasted metal in my mouth, and lavander to vomit.
Turning around, I saev that the man avas no longer there. I don' t know what would have happened ifl
didn' t rush towards him.
I slowly climbed the stairs to the main floor of my mom' s house. Maybe it wasjust a dream. Maybe I' m
going crazy. In hopes of calming my nerves, I poured myselfe glass from the tap, and sipped it
as I leaned against the kitchen counter. lavas shaking, but lavas also slowly calming down. A feeling of
triumph was building in my gut, spreading out underneath my skin. Did I just defeat my demon? was I
victorious? Even the gritty metal taste in my mouth began to subside. I can only imagine how I looked
that night, a pale, frightened teenager trembling in the kitchen while the rest of the house slept. It avas
a pathetic, silly thing for me to picture. I laughed to myself.
To my relief, the next few times lavas caught driving home in the dark, I saev nothing strange in my rear
view mirror. It' s actually been a couple years now, and I don' t see him anymore.
But I can hear him.