Reflection in the Dark

©Stephen Allen

It was one of those nights when the world is a slippery wet mirror:
bleary, garish downtown lights, a cold rain slapping me in the face and an
empty feeling in my gut.
Why was I down here in the first place, looking for some guy I didn't
even know? I could be home with my slippers up, sipping brandy by the fire.
Gee, I wish I had a fireplace and some nice slippers. Even some halfway
decent brandy wouldn't be too bad. My dingy little cave is so bleak, it's
like some remote waiting room, with no past and no future. At least this
miserable wet street leads to someplace. But I digress.
I traced my mark from a cheap room off Pershing Square. He was posing as
a big shot in the Biltmore lobby when I came in through the side door. He
saw me first and slid out the front. When I got outside, I asked the doorman
where the cab was headed. He sed "Up Bunker Hill".
So, fine. I'm up Bunker Hill. I let go of my nice warm cab, and it's
spooky up here. The museum's been closed awhile, if you get my drift.
There's a raw energy on the dark side of any American Downtown at Night. You
know that exposed 'my ass is hanging out' sensation of irrational fear. But
just 'cause you're paranoid, doesn't mean somebody's really not out to get
I walked. Oh baby, I walked. Leaned into the wind and stinging slush
and kept myself focused. One block. Over one and back two. Then back and
over again. Yes, I was going in circles. I stared to feel so unnecessary.
Then, to the side of my vision, some movement across the open plaza.
There, again, moving with me........I ducked abruptly into a doorway.
Nothing...... Suddenly I'm really scared. I was the stalking machine a
moment ago and now it's me who feels stalked. Frozen..........

I don't know what else to do, so I step out and move quickly down the
sidewalk. No sound but the grit crunching under my leather soles and the
slush of the fine rain. There it is again!
I run with all my might straight at the shape of the man, only to
realize in panic that he's running toward me! I skid and fall, throwing my
hands up in futile defense. I shoot a furtive glance through my outstretched
fingertips at the fearful dark shape before me. No sound.
Abruptly, my chest is releasing a spasm of involuntary laughter into the
darkness around me. I'm such a fool, why that's just a reflection of myself
in the shadowed glass!
But now I'm transfixed by the dark form before me. Eyes glimmering from
the black face catch me off guard. The shape surveys me coldly, without
hurry. Ice clutches my heart. The strangeness I feel is unfathomable to
What else can I tell to you, people? I scare myself to death!