“There it is again! A flash! Did you see it?”
“See what? There’s nothing there.”
“I’m telling you Mike, there’s someone there, in the window across the street. It’s a flash, a camera flash, someone has been taking photos! How can you not have seen it?”
“Nonsense, why would anybody be stalking you of all people? You’re nothing special.”
Zoe snapped the blinds shut and slumped down into the sagging leather sofa. Rain drummed on the windows of the second-floor flat, filling the cramped room with a cacophony of noise as the rain blended into the rumble of the adjacent ring road. Mike turned up the television, and drowned out the drone of the outside world with the swirling, cheering crowds of that night’s football game.
“Just forget about it, Zoe. It’s all in your head. I’m so sick of you thinking everyone’s out to get you.”
Through the gaps in the crooked blinds, Zoe gazed across the stream of traffic at the building where the flash had been . It used to be a convenience shop of some sorts, shut down long ago and now boarded up with plywood. She’d first noticed the flash a fortnight ago, in the window opposite their flat, a spark of light cutting through the eerie orange glow of the streetlamps.
“I know what I saw, Mike.”
Mike groaned and became absorbed in his football match.
Later that night, while Mike was sleeping, Zoe left the flat. She picked up a kitchen knife, stashed it in her coat pocket and closed the front door softly behind her. She walked through the rain, which had turned to a light drizzle, to the underpass at the end of the street. The subway was lit with a harsh white and was empty but for a scattering of plastic bags and crisp packets. The lights sparked and the walls trembled each time a lorry thundered overhead.
She approached the shopfront and glanced up at the desolate building, it was plastered from top to bottom in graffiti. A blend of toxic greens and neon oranges swirled into each other to form twisted words and wicked symbols. The plywood that barricaded the entrance was heavy with moisture and was sagging inwards. Zoe took her kitchen knife and sliced a doorway through the wood like it was made of paper.
The shop was desolate, the walls were lined with shelves filled with dust and an empty cash register was rusting away slowly in the corner. Zoe crept through the empty space and clambered up the stairs at the back. She climbed two stories, with each step broadcasting a loud creak into the silence. She found the room that was directly opposite her flat; the door was ajar. Kitchen knife in hand, Zoe entered. A trail of grimy footprints snaked across the floor of the room up to the window. Sat on the window ledge was nothing more than a tarnished desk lamp, its bulb flickering erratically in the shadowy darkness.