By: Leyuan Zhou

She flinched. The inimicality of someone's stare of burned at the back of her neck as she stood in her living room, ironing her clothes. She paused, realizing that someone was secretly watching her. Her head was too preoccupied by the looming danger, allowing her absent-mindedness to run the scalding iron over her hand. However, fear had made her numb. She didn’t feel the pain of the gaping wound on her palm – she only trembled as the adrenaline rapidly shot up her spine.

A few minutes passed. The only sign of life in her home was the disorderly beating of her heart and the butterflies flying erratically in her stomach.

She took a deep breath and steadied herself. “You’re going to be okay,” she thought. With a sense of foreboding, she cocked her head slowly to the side and searched for the signs of a potential intruder.

For a fleeting moment, she thought she saw a shadow. However, when she looked again (this time more carefully), it disappeared as fast as it had arrived. The beautiful late July day remained largely the same, as its incessant sun rays penetrated the windows and mercilessly beat down on her furniture. Somewhat relieved, she regained her consciousness and rushed to tend to her burn.

The second time it happened, she was in the shower. She was belting out the lyrics to a new Taylor Swift song when the same scorching sensation arrived, this time throughout her entire body. Distraught with fear, she realized that her bathroom had no windows. Then how was she being watched? Anxiety skyrocketing, she jumped out of the shower and frantically rummaged through her toiletries, searching for some sort of camera or recording device, but only finding her old toothbrush.

The third time, she was at the dog park on a chilly September morning. She instantly became aware of the same burning sensation when turning around to close the metal gate at the entrance. Her dog had sensed it, too. His eyes were wide with fear as he revealed his razor-sharp teeth, growling deeply. She jolted her head around and scanned the benches, squinting her eyes to focus, trying to search for any potential signs of a spy. However, no one was there: the closest thing to a human presence was the rustling of leaves overhead.

She wondered if she was going to be secretly watched for the rest of her life. Despite the consolation of her friends and family, she knew that the invisible yet omnipresent shadow would accompany her throughout her days. It silently observes her every move, but is always careful enough to never reveal itself.

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