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“ARE YOU SURE?” asked Jonathan, eyeing her carefully.

“Of course, I’m sure,” she replied in a dreadful whisper, her eyes focused on the window with the blinds pulled back, staring at the warm evening sun going down the horizon.

They were in her apartment, later that evening after she was taken home from work when she nearly brought down the building with her hair-raising scream. Evidently, as they explained afterwards, the electricity supply to the building had issues, wires needed to be replaced and connections reset, so the technicians had been called to carry out repairs and maintenance services. That was why the lights had been short-circuiting. So they did not understand all the hullaballoo and the gibberish she was saying about someone being in the bathroom and scaring her out of her skin.

“Of course, there was someone in the bathroom!” growled the Maintenance Manager unkindly, who’d rushed in along with some of the co-workers and found her lying on the floor in front of the mirror. “You’re talking about a public bathroom in a large organization; people come to use there all the time, just like you.”

In any case, they concluded she was worked up, mentally fatigued and needed a break, so she was given the rest of the week off and someone was asked to drive her home. She called Jonathan as soon as she got home because, whether she liked to admit it or not, he was still the only family she had. And Lord knows, she really needed someone who could listen to her without biases.

Jonathan had arrived in her home barely thirty minutes after she called, and she was thankful, even if surprised by his quick response to her SOS call.

“Hi,” she said quietly, with a weak smile. “I thought you must be at work.”

He grinned wryly, shook his head. “No,” he replied, fixing her with a curious look. “I had to stay back, do some thinking, you know.”

“Yeah? About what?” she asked lightly.

Jonathan shrugged anxiously. “Don’t worry about me, Sam,” he told her, with a small smile. “Let’s talk about you; what’s going on?”

And she told him about the dark figure in the bathroom.

Jonathan listened patiently, paused and sighed, staring at her calmly. Finally, he said, “This character, what does he really look like, Samantha?”

She thought about it. “Well, it looks like a person…”

Like a person?” he interjected quietly, emphasizing the word.

She looked at him. “Yeah, I’d say it was a person, but diabolic,” she reiterated, aware how awkward she was sounding, even to herself. “His form seemed fluid, inconsistent, you know. Like a shadow, yes, that’s what he resembled; a shadow. I know how crazy I must sound right now, Jonathan, but I’m not, I promise you.” She paused before going on. “He kept flickering on and off, along with the fluctuating light. One second he was there and the next, he wasn’t. You believe me, don’t you, Jonathan?”

He nodded quietly. Then said, “Samantha, but we both know you’ve always been terrified of the dark; that’s why you sleep with the lights on.”

“I know,” she admitted. “But I’m telling you, Jonathan, this isn’t about me being afraid of the damn night. Besides, the bathroom was hardly dark in that sense, maybe dim, yes, but not dark. It was just past 6 o’clock.”

“Was it a ghost, then; this person you’re seeing?”

“A ghost?” she looked at him.

“Yeah,” said Jonathan. “That’s the only thing I can think of right now. And I know you’ve never been a fan of ghost stories.”

“No, I’m not. What I saw was real, though,” she insisted calmly.

“Ghosts are real,” he said, sitting back with a low, humane grin on his face.

Samantha snorted, said nothing. Then, “Thanks, anyway.”

“For what?”

“For coming, running down here to listen to my weird story even though, like everyone else, you think I’m nuts,” she told him quietly.

He smiled wryly and shook his head. “But I don’t think that about you, Sam.”

“Yeah, right, maybe you don’t.”

Jonathan spent several more hours until it was past nine o’clock when she was feeling sleepy. At the door, he paused and told her, “Please lock all the doors and windows, and leave the lights on as well.”

She laughed softly. “Sure, I will.”

“And don’t forget to call me if you need to.”

“I won’t, thanks.”

He hesitated, looked at her uncertainly. “Okay, bye.”

“Bye. You take care.”

He nodded, and then hobbled down the steps carefully, his metal crutch tapping rhythmically on the hard, concrete floor.

A few meters away across the lit street, directly facing the house, the figure stood in the narrow alleyway between two buildings, watching as Jonathan Prince hailed a taxi, got in the back seat and the cab drove down the street.

Then he turned his insidious gaze back to Samantha’s house, watching her silhouetted outline through the window as she went about pulling the blinds in the bedrooms and the sitting room.

She didn’t turn off the lights.

This unknown person, concealed in the shadows, kept watching the house as he’d done so often before now, not moving, not even blinking.

Just watching.

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