The Emporium Gazette
Issue 41 -- September 2002
by Bob Nailor
There was only one way to do this and I was committed to its completion. I stared forward, focusing at absolutely nothing beyond the prison bars of the window.
There! On my left side was the movement I'd hoped for. From the corner of my eye I could see them; they darted in and out of my vision. My cellmate sat beside me but the back half of his head was a bit out of focus. Yet behind him, beyond that blurred area, I could see them. They scurried about.
When they approached the back of my companion, at that edge of gray, they'd vanished into my peripheral vision. It was an extremely small sliver of viewing and I'd discovered it early in my life. During my youth I was amused by the actions I'd find there.
I was never sure of what to call them and finally settled on 'The Corner People' to give them substance. It didn't take long for me to realize that only I could see them. My parents smiled and told me that they too had imaginary friends when they were young. My schoolmates and neighborhood friends just accepted my story as fantasy. It wasn't until shortly after I'd turned sixteen that the full realization of this phenomena hit me. Their existence was finally confirmed to me when I took my driving test. The driving examiner had taken a pencil and slid it on a curved surface. He explained that it was to test my peripheral vision and measure my blind area behind me. I tried to explain that the pencil had disappeared but I could see the people moving. You should have seen his widen and jaw drop.
"What people?" he'd asked while looking over my shoulder.
"The ones walking in the fog where the pencil disappeared," I replied.
He stared at me for a few minutes. We were in an cubical and there was only the back of the office behind me, no door or windows. He studied me quietly as if I were trying to trick him.
We did the test three times and finally he said that my peripheral vision was extremely enhanced. He couldn't explain the phantom people, the gray colored humans with large eyes, that I claimed to see but he'd never tested anyone with my depth of vision. Out of curiosity he attempted to see what I was talking about and after a frustrating few minutes he gurgled that he'd seen something. For some unknown reason my examiner had a speech impediment from that time on.
There was only one thing wrong with the test that day. Somebody or something had stopped and glared back from within that foggy world I'd quietly watched for years. A shiver crawled down my back then the watcher moved on.
Since then, every so often, while I was watching, one of them would stop and watch me and make a hand movement in my direction. Suddenly, I'd close my eyes or look elsewhere and then they'd be gone. My Corner People were nowhere to be seen. I was sure that they didn't want me watching them, but I continued. Then they seemed to get nasty.
When I attempted to tell about the world what I'd discovered, the Corner People became very cruel. I knew I had to be viewing a sliver of existence from another world or dimension.
Elaine was a classmate in college; we'd been dating. I'd described them to her and she confessed that she thought she'd seen them.
They were humanoid, yet taller, paler and much thinner than me. The older Corner People had enormous eyes that pierced my very being when they stared at me. The younger ones appeared very much like us. But I digress. I explained to Elaine how she could see them when suddenly she creamed. That was the last sound she ever made. They placed her in an asylum and she hasn't uttered a sound in the last fifteen years. She just stares into the space in front of her. I visit from time to time.
Still, I'd not learned my lesson. During my stint in the service I tried to show Harold, a Navy buddy. He grabbed his head, screamed and fell to the floor, silent. The medics carried him to the infirmary and I had to stand Captain's Mast, an informal shipboard court, to explain what had happened. Harold was given a medical discharge. They couldn't do anything for Harold. He, too, is quietly living his existence at an asylum. Me? They considered me crazy when I told my story. I was booted out of the military.
I'd thought of going to some shrink but I figured the doctor would get me to admit that I was hallucinating in an attempt to gain attention. Why attention? Having been adopted, it was the open and shut case of love repression and guilt. You know, the stereotypical stuff.
Had I completely learned my lesson? Not really. My neighbor, a few years later, had caught me daydreaming, his term, not mine. He wanted to know if things were okay. The first few times I was able to put him off, but that proved to be a short-lived relief and I was again forced to give a feeble explanation.
He didn't scream. He didn't go crazy. "I see them," he whispered and then slumped over in the chair, dead.
It was obvious. They'd tried to warn me; I was just too dense to understand. They didn't want anyone spying on them.
The Corner People are watching me now. It's taken me three days to compose this message. Maybe you'll find this note, maybe you won't.
If you want to see them, it's very easy. They're there. I think
Just stare forward and let your peripheral vision consume you. You'll see them.
Then be afraid, very afraid. I've warned you.
Me? I know where I belong. They've spent many years trying to get my attention. I'm going home. All I need do is face forward, look sideways and turn - just around the corner.
Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at www.bobnailor.com
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