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There is nothing I wouldn't give not to have seen it. If I could erase it from memory I would. But see it I did. It appeared suddenly, a stutter in the corner of my eye. I turned my head slightly expecting to see a fox or a cat, maybe a drunk, the usual scavengers or miscreants with business in a skip at the back of the shops in the dark of night. Instead I saw ... it.

At first the shape of it puzzled me, its silhouette an oddity. Curious, I stepped closer.

Oh how I wish I hadn't.

Beyond the deserted car park, past the red and white striped security barrier, the world went about its business. There were kids in masks and costumes with sacks of goodies they'd collected in an orgy of trick or treating, traffic snarled from the parkway and, undoubtedly, there were people sat in homely living rooms watching soap operas. For me, the terror would come soon enough.

Expecting to see some night creature, an innocent example of wildlife, I took yet another step closer to the skip. The thing, whatever it was, stood half in shadow at the fringe of weak, yellow light, a last gasp from the street a couple of hundred yards away. Whatever it was I felt its stare and I shivered. Goosebumps prickled my skin.

"Don't be such a wuss," I mumbled to myself. "Giving yourself the heeby-jeebies. It's probably more afraid of you than you are of it."

I stared into the shadows as a blast of freezing October air whistled around the corner and reminded me that I should really be at home, indoors, snug and warm in my flat.

Just as I dismissed the oddity, it was bound to be a rat or something, it moved. That was the moment my world shifted. For me, nothing would ever be normal again. I lost my job, my home, and very nearly, my sanity -- and I'm not too sure about that last bit.

With me standing less than four feet away I expected the creature to scramble away in a scrabble of claws and fright. Nevertheless, it stood its ground.

My first impression was of a child, improbable given where I was, but since there were kids out and about on the estate not too far away, not impossible. That was what immediately came to mind, one of the trick or treaters had wandered away, got lost and ended up here. At first I could only make out an outline -- an elongated body, bulbous at the bottom, with thin, spindly arms and legs. The ... thing stood on two legs, about two feet in height; its head seemed overly large in proportion to the rest of it, with no visible facial features since it kept close to the shadow's edge. Then, for reasons known only to it, it moved forward. It stepped into the light. I think it wanted me to see. Like it knew how disturbing seeing it would be to one of us. As though it goaded me -- and took pleasure in knowing.

Even then, in those first moments, my mind, of course, refused to believe what was right there. A veil slid across the empirical and I simply refused to accept the evidence of my own senses. This had to be an elaborate practical joke. The lads in the pub, the boys I worked and drank with had cooked up this scheme. They knew I'd take the shortcut home and they'd set this up. It had to be a puppet, some sort of remotely operated thing ...

Vaguely humanoid features regarded me. The details are blurred, but the eyes, the deep green of its eyes showed an intelligence, malign and corrupt as it might be, probably the better of mine. Whatever I saw, it wasn't an animal. I'm certain it could think, it could reason. And then it ... grinned at me, if you can call that hideous thing it did with its mouth a grin. It wasn't until later that I felt the wetness down the front of my jeans and realised I'd pissed myself. Looking back it had to be that smile that caused me to let go, but at the time I didn't know what I'd done.

The thing took a chitinous step forwards. It tilted its head to one side as it examined me and I felt a tingle -- the sort of sensation you get when you feel a sneeze coming on -- but this was inside my head. I mean right in the middle of my brain. The vile, obscene bastard probed me somehow. I felt whatever power the beast possessed ripple through my thoughts. More than a physical sensation, I tasted metal and could smell something like burnt toast. A second or two later a chasm opened in my guts and I experienced the same dreadful ache I'd known when I lost my parents, the terror I'd felt at fourteen, bereaved and all alone.

Then, it stepped back a pace and melted into shadow. The next I knew it had gone and I'd managed to stagger into the temporary comfort of the street. Then I became aware, like waking from a bad dream, that I was crying, sobbing really, and that I'd wet myself.

The residue of that event, like a sigh from the sewers, stayed with me. I can smell the stink of it now. Of course insomnia and paranoia followed in its wake. I tried to convince myself that I'd seen a fox, a cat, anything other than that awful fucking thing ...

Every time I closed my eyes and tried to sleep I'd see it again; I'd see that grinning, evil countenance, and feel the sadness that its filthy, contaminated contact with my brain caused. Whatever it did inside my head -- whether it fed somehow and that I nourished it in some way, or even if it was just fucking with me for its own perverse enjoyment -- it left something with me. I know something of its intent. Not that I can articulate what I mean, it's just a feeling, or maybe an intuition, but whatever I know or feel it's a gift from the monster, a cancer, and I've no doubt it'll kill me. And what I mean by that is that I'll kill myself when I reach the end of my sanity. I don't hold out much hope for anyone else either.

At night, lying in bed wide awake, things got so bad that I had to look under the bed to make sure it wasn't lurking there. But to be able to check meant I had to cross a galaxy of fear to reach the light switch. I imagined an insect-like claw reaching out from under my bed and closing around my ankle ... Afterwards, having gathered together the strands of courage enough to scuttle across six feet of carpet to switch on the light and eventually check down there, I'd have to search the rest of the house. I looked in cupboards, behind doors, and I even checked the fridge. Now the problem was, because I'd been away from the bedroom, I imagined that the thing had taken the opportunity to hide under the bed while I was busy elsewhere.

And so it went on ...

My life imploded.

The job went. Who needs a bus driver who can't concentrate? Not being able to pay the rent meant I lost the flat. I took to sleeping rough in public places, which, at night, was actually preferable to being indoors alone. I took comfort from being around people, even night people -- dossers, thieves, madmen, anyone; they were all preferable to the alternative.

That's why I'm here. I'm reduced to begging strangers for cups of tea in railway stations in the endless hours before dawn. All around us now, cocooned inside citadels of ignorance, people, millions of them in this city alone, are sleeping peacefully, or fucking, or even killing each other -- the lucky bastards -- but I know something is out there.

What did I see? Not a clue. Perhaps some smug bastard of a scientist left the door to an alternative dimension ajar. Maybe it came from Mars. Perhaps it was always here, living among us, and it chose me as the unlucky lottery winner. It doesn't really matter anyway, the main thing is that it is here.

Thanks for listening to me. And thanks for the tea, I appreciate the kindness, but I suppose this is your train coming in now? You'll be on your way soon -- and good luck to you. I wish you well.

You probably think I'm a nutter, talking like this, but time will tell.

A year to the day since I saw it and the kids are out again, tonight, in their masks and their costumes.

But I saw them again earlier today, and I say them for there were two this time, in broad daylight, not skulking around in shadows in the night.

They're coming ... coming to do something bad to us.

Next time you're lying there, in bed, in the dark, hope there isn't one of them there with you.

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