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I don’t go out much these days.

Thanks to the internet and home delivery, I don’t have to. I thank countless gods for that every day, or I would if I believed in any of them.

It’s such a relief, knowing that I don’t have to step outside my house. It used to be like walking a gauntlet. A gauntlet of fear and terror and doom, just because my cupboards were empty. Now all I have to deal with is opening the door to the delivery drivers.

I tell people that I’m agoraphobic, when I have to tell them anything at all. I mean, effectively, I guess I am. I don’t go into big crowded places. I avoid large gatherings of people, because I’m afraid of having a panic attack.

The only difference is, I know why I’m panicking. You would panic too, if you saw what I see.

First time I saw it, it was my friend Jessie. We usually walked to school together, but I was off sick with the flu that day. I was looking out of the window to wave at her as she passed by in the morning, and I saw a guy walking along behind her. He had his hands in the pockets of a big blue puffy jacket, and he had a yellow baseball cap pulled right down to his eyes.

He looked up. He saw me looking at him.

He was still following her when she came home. She came over with some homework for me, and he followed her right into my house.

When I asked who he was, she looked at me like I was crazy.

My mother thought that I was imagining things because I had the flu, but I saw him as clear as day. I saw him, and he stared right back at me.

Jessie disappeared three days later. They didn’t find her body for three weeks, but the police already knew what had happened.

She’d been kidnapped by a man in a puffy blue jacket and a yellow baseball cap.

It happened more and more as I grew up. I saw the man who would run over our paper boy following him for days before it happened. The lollipop lady down the street stood there every morning for a week with her abusive husband standing behind her like a shadow only I could see.

I tried telling people. They thought I was crazy.

Nobody took me seriously except the killers.

So no, I don’t go out much any more. I stay inside, where I’m safe from the figures only I can see, because if I don’t see them, they don’t see me.

© Kari Fay