art from electricsheep.com
My training was to be – naturally but somehow reluctantly – followed by practice in recognising the... target.
Archie’s was the place – where else? Besides, Laughlin sustained it was best in semi-darkness, and the bar was much better than roaming the streets at night. We didn’t have long to wait. It was midday. Two men in suits came in and took seats at a table next to the dingy wall. I could see Laughlin cringe, his hands clutching the fork so hard, he started to bend it.
“Those two... Do you see?”
His voice was so low, I had to rely on reading his lips.
“See what, Laughlin?”
“Squint. It’ll come to you... “
“On their left shoulder. A vapour... an emanation...”
I shook my head, disappointed, apologetic. A waiter moved to take their order and, as he did so, for a while he blocked the dull light coming from the wall lamp.
“Now!” Laughlin said, annoyed. “Now you must see it!”
“Calm down,” I whispered, not very calm myself. I narrowed my eyes, straining them, trying to see anything at all and, suddenly, I think I did. A greenish blur, a mist bearing the resemblance of an eerie face, seemingly emanating from the man’s shoulder; two eyes in it, almost luminous, like two elongated slits in a curtain of fog, a beak-like nose, no obvious mouth, a long narrow chin. Something that would appear on a moved photograph. I held my breath, appalled by the strangeness of this sight, by the cold alien malevolence I thought I could discern in those fluid features. And then I gasped, for the “double” had twisted and looked directly at me. Its mouth rounded, maybe forming a word of some sort. The next moment it was gone.
“You’ve seen it!” Laughlin shouted, with eagerness, making some heads in the bar turn to us.
“And it’s seen me...” I said, and gulped down my gin.
This is another excerpt from "Shadow on Your Shoulder", a short story. The first one was "Of a Bizarre Contraption."