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The Gaze

An Alaskan Haunting

Fear. It comes to all things as naturally as air. It is with our first breaths that we know fear; we know it before joy, before sorrow, we are born screaming and scared. To learn to survive is to know fear, we know when to run, to fight, and to give in, all for the sake of fear. The most primal, and natural instinct we possess. Most people live their lives knowing a healthy amount of fear; some of us though, have drowned in fear, and succumbed to its ever piercing talons nearly swallowed by the weight... Fear is my ghost, and it haunts me till this day. 

I was just a child at the time, but I still feel the shivers in my spine as if the very memory was a moment ago. I lived with my mother, and my older brother in a little trailer house in Alaska; it was small and falling to pieces, but it was home and I loved it there. Our home had a scenic view, it sat in a valley of cleared out forest shadowed by the Matanuska Peak. Often we played in a piece of swamp, trapping beavers and making canoes from the birch trees that staggered through it. I had no fear, I knew what was out there, the land we called home I knew better than my own face. At least, I thought I knew what was out there; but it wasn't the what that stole my childish fearless nature, it was more of a who. Living out in nowhere you don't see many people, in fact the only time I saw people who weren't my family is when we went to school or into town for supplies. I guess that is why the whole thing was so unsettling. There wasn't supposed to be anyone out there. 

It was a beautiful November day, the snow was just tall enough to play in but not so tall we had to tunnel to the bus stop. My brother and I tossed snow balls and made a slide from the snow while we waited for the bus to come. My mother finished her cigarette and began to toss snow with us; we were a giggling wet pile when the bus finally pulled up; mom hugged us and walked us to the bus as usual. We pressed up against the window and made faces and waved bye, it was then I first saw him. He stood next to a tree, about 100 yards from our house. A man, thin and pale, almost sickly looking stood like a pillar of baggy black clothes; staring at our house. I shrugged off the man, assuming it was just my imagination. 'Teaches me to watch scary movies with Mom' I casually thought to myself. The rest of the day was normal as any other, the bus rolled in my brother and I raced to the door ready to play the daylight away. Mom drove in from work not too long after, honking her horn. We quick grabbed our coats and ran out to greet her; she got out bags of groceries in arms and smiled as we ran to her. I slowed as moms smile started to fade, she stared out to the tree line squinting; I stopped and turned. He was still there, I looked back to mom, she raised a brow, blinked and shook her head shrugging him off just as I had. We unpacked the goodies she bought and headed out back, I elbowed my brother "Do you see him?" I half whispered at him. "See who?" I nodded in the direction of the man in the trees. "What the hell? Is he stupid!? He is going to freeze to death standing out there like that." My brother and me stood there just staring at the man in black for what felt like a good five minutes, he hadn't moved in inch. Not a blink, or a head turn, not even a shiver. You couldn't even see his breath. "Maybe he already did... I saw him there this morning." I said. "Lets go see." My brother started in the direction of the man, I matched his pace we stopped ten yards from him. There was something I hadn't noticed before. He had a dog, it stood next to him, both of them still. "Hey buddy, does your dog need water, or food or something?" I said more at him than to him. Finally, a sign of life! He blinked. And up close you could see the dogs ribs moving ever so slowly with each deep breath. The man didn't answer, or break his gaze upon our house. "Hey buddy" I said louder. "You okay?" Another blink. I was starting to get mad. "What are you doing? Don't you have somewhere else to be? GET OUT OF HERE!" Still nothing. "Come on, lets go, this idiot will leave if he doesn't freeze to death first!" I grabbed my brothers arm and started back to the house. We got inside and my brother went and told my mom about the man and his dog. Even inside the house I could feel the mans stare. It pierced through the safety of our walls, his gaze slithering over me. I tried to push it out of my mind, he would be gone in the morning. No one could just stand there all night. Not in Alaska. I played my video games, and stayed inside for the rest of the day. Not wanting to have to look at him again. There was something about him that was just so unsettling. Was it his sunken grey eyes that stared through walls, was it his long pale face with skin so tight you could see his bones? Or was it that he stood there, like a corpse, unaffected by the world; by the piercing cold of the snow and wet wind? Whatever it was, it gave me the creeps, and I couldn't wait until nightfall. I convinced myself he would be gone by then. I would never have to look at him or his midnight mutt again. 

Morning came, I stretched the tired from my bones and got up for a glass of water. I looked out the kitchen window expecting to see my trees, my  swamp, my everyday normal Alaska beauty. But there he was. A pillar of blackness. He hadn't moved. He was still there. Why was he still there? Why was he watching us? Did he leave last night and just come back? How? What did he want? I got angry at all the unanswered questions. I went and told my mom he was still there. She told me not to worry, and she was sure he would leave soon enough. Probably just some weirdo, he wouldn't last long.  I came up with a thousand logical reasons for him to be there, and assured myself he would be gone soon enough. Just a druggy coming off a bad trip. That was it. That is all. We didn't play in the snow while waiting for the bus, we stood there silently, ignoring the stare. Mom hugged us when the bus rolled up, we waved bye and watched her get into her truck and fire up as the bus pulled away. I couldn't focus the whole school day, even there I could feel his stare. I felt the tingle of eyes peering from behind me everywhere I went. I shook it off, and tried to push the feeling away, but it kept creeping across my shoulders like the icy fingers of a strangers grasp. 

When the bus pulled up to the house, mom was already in the driveway waiting, she walked us to the house and told us we were to stay inside today. I looked to the woods. He was still there. I heard my mom on the phone with my aunt while she was making dinner. "I called the police already... They said since the woods are technically not private property... right... and they said if he isn't causing any harm to anyone there is no real reason to send someone out, they told me to call back if he comes on our property..." My heart sank. There is some crazy person watching my family and no one is going to do anything. "Can't call the police if we have all been chopped up by an ax murderer already" My brother scoffed. 

That was it, he had to be going somewhere at night. Sleeping in the wood shed or something. I was going to stay up and catch him coming up to our house, and call the police. I was going to get rid of this guy. I waited till everyone was asleep and crept to the kitchen, peeking out the window over the sink I tried to see where he was. There he still stood. Unmoving. He stared. I stared back ducking just enough to where he couldn't see me. I stayed up as long as I could, waiting for him to move. The cold was getting to me, I couldn't take it anymore. I ran quick and grabbed my coat and put it on and ran back to look out the window. I peeked back out, making sure he couldn't see me. He was gone. This is what I was waiting for. I leaned closer to the window, looking for prints in the snow... There weren't any. Where did he go. I stared at the spot harder. Frustrated but relieved, I sighed and headed to bed. 0100 my alarm clock read, tomorrow was going to be a long day. At least he was gone. Even if I didn't get to have him arrested. I just wanted to see him move, wanted to see him act like a person. I wouldn't feel so unhinged if I could just see that. 

The next morning I felt heavy from sleep, I groggily rolled out of bed and sat at the table. Breakfast. Dressed. And out the door. I started to settle down. Until I walked out to the bus stop. There he was! In the same spot. Facing the same way. As if he had never left. He was looking up higher today. I followed his stare. I felt like I was going to puke. There. On the roof clear as day, foot prints. No. No that's not right. How? I must be tired. I rubbed my eyes. They were still there. The bus honked, I snapped out of my trance and hugged mom. I glared at the man in black as the bus closed its doors. He turned his head. I felt a twinge, like my eyes were going to pop, he stared back at me, and smiled. I ducked down in my seat. My mind was on the man all day once again. I knew he was in that same spot, but I could still feel him. Wasn't he? Could he be here? He got on the roof? Why not the school? No. I am just tired. He is just some freak. Some freak who gets his kicks creeping out families. Nothing else to do out here right? Right. 

As the bus got closer to home I felt my stomach churned. I closed my eyes and decided I was going to pretend he didn't exist from here forward. If I don't pay attention he will get bored and go away. I kept my head down and walked in the house with my brother, we dropped our packs and heard mom pulling in the drive. She ran up to the door "How did you kids get in?" She huffed. "Like always, the door was open..." said my brother. "No, I have been locking up since you know who has been here." She nodded at the woods. I ran to the window, "He isn't there!" I felt a weight lift off my chest. Finally. He was gone. But this time, I was going to see where he went. I ran to the back door, it was wide open... I stopped, and turned to the mud room, there on the floor was pictures of me and my brother spread all over as if someone had sat and made a circle of pictures. My heart fluttered. He was IN my home. I called to my mom, she turned pale. She started picking up the pictures, I rushed out the door. I had enough, I was going to find where this guy had gone. He wasn't just going to show up and haunt my life, come in my home, and disappear as if he was never there. My brother trailed behind me. We came to the spot where he and the dog were standing. "Which way did he go?" My brother called out... I didn't know... The only prints in the snow were where he had been standing. It hadn't snowed in two days. There was no way he could have gone anywhere without leaving a print. It was impossible. There weren't even prints leading to the house. How? What was this guy? I walked in circles, trying to figure out how the hell he did it. There weren't any brush prints to show he tried to cover them. The snow was calm. There was nothing to cover. It was like he was never there. The only proof I had that he was even there was the the prints from where he had stood those three days. As if he had appeared, and disappeared. Like a ghost. Mom called us back to the house. I was confused and angry. My mind went through the same questions over and over. Why? How? Did it even happen?  It was weeks before I stopped feeling eyes on me. Finally I started to feel normal, he was never there. It was all just a weird dream. That is all.

Christmas break came up in no time! We went back to playing in our swamp, making canoes and throwing snowballs. Life was back, the man was nothing more than a moment. Christmas eve, was colder than ever, the blanket froze to the wall and I shivered under the stack of quilts. I got up and did a frozen tip toe to grab another pair of flannels to put on, I slid in my socks back to my room before an all familiar feeling crept over me. Eyes. Staring at me. Suddenly the cold was gone, all I could feel was fear. I turned my gaze to my bed room window. The He was. Staring in the window. His eyes slid through me like a knife. My heart pounded. I felt my heart drop though and plop in my stomach. I dove under my blankets and covered my head, He wasn't there. He couldn't be. This was a dream. It felt like hours under my blankets before I could finally calm down enough to sleep. I didn't dare peek out until mornings wake up call. I put him out of my mind as best I could and tried to get excited about the gifts waiting for me under the tree. My brother sprang out of bed and we raced to the tree, mom drank her coffee as we opened gifts; joy started to fill me up and my nightmare was fading. It was then that I saw it under the tree. A picture of me and my brother, leaning against the base of the tree. I picked it up. He was real. He was here. He was never leaving... 

I have moved to the main states, and moved houses plenty of times, but I still see him sometimes when nights are cold. Standing out, eyes piercing my very being. I will never be rid of his gaze, of the fear. Of Him.

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