There was a mad man who lived in the bushes surrounding our school. Or maybe he wasn’t quite mad, that, I would never know. He was pretty normal, never dirty or badly dressed, but if you’d been there long enough, you knew him. He would follow people around on campus with a satisfied smile on his face, following them until they turned around and yelled at him. If you weren’t stern enough, he would giggle and back up only a few feet, but continue to follow you. He would wait outside your classes with a look on his face like an impatient parent and commence following you as soon as you came out again.
It made me feel bad watching students shout at a adult man, wagging their fingers or raising their fists at him to warn him off. So one day when he chose to follow me, I did nothing. He waited for me outside my first class. I ignored him as he followed me to the chemistry lab and waited outside while I performed a three hour experiment. He was grinning when I came out, his anticipation palpable.
For lunch, I went to the cafeteria and he escorted me there. As I ate, I looked out of the windows and saw him leaning on a tree by the entrance, scraping things off the bark with his fingernails and putting them in his mouth. I snuck out through the back and headed to the dorm in a brisk walk.
As I reached the building, I heard hurried footsteps and heavy breathing behind me. He was there again. He stopped before I got to the security guard at the entrance of the hostel.
I had a shower and a shave and fell asleep studying for my ethics exam. I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing.
“Where are you? The exam is about to start!”
I rushed out of the room, stuffing things in my bag as I ran. His eyes lit up as I came out, he trotted behind me.
I had forgotten about him by the time the test ended. It was already dark, I walked back to my room with a group of classmates going over our answers and complaining.
That night when I went to sleep, the chase continued. Each dream was a race.
I eluded the mad man through a thick forest, running barefooted as branches whipped past me and cut at my face.
In a car, I drove as fast as I could, and in the rear-view mirror, he kept up with gleaming eyes. Pumping his arms and legs with no sign of fatigue.
At a family outing at the beach, he stalked at the outskirts peeking at me through palm fronds, until I ran out of the gathering, throwing my cap aside and diving into the ocean clothed. The sun set over the water, as I cut through the waves and swam for the horizon.
Just when I thought I had lost him, I felt his hand grab at my leg and pull me underwater. I kicked at him with my free leg. Once, twice. I felt my foot connect with his face. I kicked again with my heel and felt something crack. He loosened his grip as I broke the surface gasping for air.
I woke up the next morning tired. My arms felt pulled from their sockets, fatigued from endless swimming.
I peeked out of the window past the gate and he was there. He looked up at me and waved, “Hi.”
He pointed at his head and mouthed, “I have your cap.” I noticed that he was missing his front teeth.