It tells him it’s a guardian angel, but he isn’t so sure. If it is, then it’s doing a pretty awful job.
It’s like a thing dipped in gold, a vaguely human shape that glitters and watches him. At its side shapes flicker, bright and fast, like the wings of a hummingbird. Sometimes it speaks to him. Sometimes it asks him to look at it, and it is so bright it nearly hurts.
The thing showed up a few months ago. His life was going to shit, quite frankly, and this was piled on top. A great big pile of steaming shit topped with a gilded and baffling thing. First there was the breakup, the end of a several years long relationship. Then the job. Can’t lie, that one was probably a consequence of the breakup. Sent him into a deep pit of depression from which he has yet to manage to crawl out. Then he needed to move somewhere with cheaper rent. Look for jobs. He got lots of polite replies, all of them something like thank you so much for applying for this opportunity, but unfortunately we went with someone just a little bit more perfect than you. In the end, he winds up on the midnight to six in the morning shift at an all night supermarket. If nothing else it is usually quiet.
The thing appeared gradually. First he would see a glint of something bright out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look there was nothing. But it would keep happening, just as he was headed home in the early morning, watching the sunrise through grainy tired eyes and a dirty bus window. The faint image after he accidentally stared at the rising sun, the green violet silver shapes behind remaining in his vision changing, becoming something else. A figure. Something that watched him.
Then, he would feel that creeping sensation across the back of his neck, that paranoia you get after watching too many movies about axe murderers. The feeling that someone or something is standing directly behind you, waiting to strike. He avoided all remotely upsetting media for a while. No scary video games or spooky movies, no reading the news, but it didn’t help. Sometimes he was certain he felt hands touching him, fingers against his back, his shoulders, but there was never anything when he looked.
After maybe a month of this, the unseen touches and the glimpses of a golden figure, he saw it properly for the first time. He was just getting out of the shower, towel wrapped around himself as he made his way back to the bedroom, shivery with regret of not having thought to bring clean clothes with him, and there it was. Like a lazy statue, or one of those things you see in modern art exhibitions. A shape dripping with gold. It pooled around the figure like a molten metal puddle.
A myriad of eyes stared back at him, wide and shining white against the gold. They seemed to move, or to pop in and out of existence at a whim, and trying to keep eye contact made him dizzy. He felt the knot in his towel start to slip, and grabbed at it, worried about being even more vulnerable when confronted by this- this whatever it was. He looked down for a split second, and when he looked back up it was gone.
After that, it kept appearing. He would see it in his dreams sometimes. Never the focus, but always there, on the edges. Watching. Waiting? One time he got home just before seven in the morning, ready to collapse and sleep until early afternoon, and it was there, sat impossibly at his tiny kitchen table, watching him, like a parent angry at having had to stay up to wait for their unruly teenager to come home safe. He looked at it, and it looked at him, and then it wasn’t there. He didn’t even look away that time, but one second it was there and the next it wasn’t, and the only sign that he was not experiencing serious recurring hallucinations was the golden smear of something on the back of the chair.
“BE NOT AFRAID”
That was the first thing it said to him, and he genuinely wondered whether this wretched thing might be mocking him. It had haunted him, for that was the only way he could think to describe this experience, for two months now, scaring the shit out of him on numerous occasions, and it had the gall to ask him to not be scared?
“I HAVE COME TO PROTECT YOU”
It stood in the centre of his sad one room apartment almost awkwardly, if such a thing was possible for this creature. The top of it was only an inch or so from the ceiling, and it did not look imposing so much as out of place. Wrong.
“Fr- from what?” he managed to ask, voice a croaking and weak thing struggling its way out of his throat.
“FROM THE WORLD”
This, naturally, was a worrying thing for the mysterious and terrifying unearthly creature in his living room to say. So, naturally, he did the first thing that came to mind and passed out. When he woke, several hours later, he was laying on his sofa, rather than the floor. There was no sign of the golden intruder.
“What are you?”
He asks this of the empty space across from him. The thing isn’t here right now, or at least he can’t see it, but it feels like its very presence has seeped into his living space. Tiny flecks of gold cling to the wall, to carpet fibres, like the remnants of a child’s glitter project cleaned up but never quite gone. Like finding hair from a dead pet on your winter clothes.
Something shimmers just on the edge of his vision, and when he turns it is there. All eighteen of its eyes watch him. He has counted now. Several times. It is always somewhere between fifteen and twenty, in roughly similar constellations. The thing looks smaller today, no longer looming, and with the ephemeral wing-like appendages tucked away into its body or some other dimension.
“I AM HERE TO GUARD YOU”
“Yes, you’ve said, but why?”
The creature’s voice is layered and deep, a growl overlaid with an insectoid buzzing. It has no discernible accent, or maybe several at once.
“IT IS MY DUTY”
“Set by whom? Is someone telling you to stalk me, to break into my house? To- to fucking teleport here to terrorise me?”
He worries antagonising it will be dangerous, but it claims to want to protect him, and if it wanted him dead it could probably have managed tenfold times by now.
“BE NOT AFRAID”
He sighs, and folds his arms on the table, leaning his forehead against them for a moment. He doesn’t so much see or hear the thing approaching as feel it. Little hairs on his arms bristling, gooseflesh creeping across the back of his neck. Then, a touch. He flinches.
These days, it has become a strange sort of normal. It is not every day, but several times a week the thing will appear to him. Besides the vague promise of protection it does not seem to have much purpose in doing so. Sometimes it talks to him in a language he doesn’t understand, a quiet murmuring voice which does not match the jarringly loud way in which it speaks English. It’s a softer thing. Were it not for the circumstances it would almost be soothing. More than once he catches himself wondering whether the creature is lonely.