At first, I could not imagine why he had come, nor why he had done nothing yet but watch. I was not even sure who he was, though certainly I had ideas, each more fanciful than the last. Indeed, all that of which I could be sure was only that he had been there, had taken his place in the curtains and watched me as I slept.
Was I going mad? I wondered, for here in this place of chosen isolation, no one could possibly arrive without my knowing. Yet my thoughts were lucid, and I still savored the solitude that this place had given me, with the light of the sickle moon glinting off furrows of sand and the marble colonnades stretching far into the distance. But I reflected, I was compelled to reflect, upon everything that had transpired until now, and the reasons that had driven me here.
When I had first taken refuge in this desert land, thoughts had churned in my mind like sand in an hourglass, slowly spinning and ever falling. Gradually, even without the help of my powers, my design came to work after a fashion, and over the ensuing months my past slowly dimmed. But, just as I had begun to feel free from the impenetrable walls of introspection, this man had appeared.
When had he first come? I do not know. But I remember that one night, I felt that uncanny sense that I was being watched, an eerie awareness that crept even into my dreams. I awoke to the zephyr carrying through the window and breathing upon my cheeks, and for a moment I met his eyes—oh those eyes!—shining out of the darkness that took all light but his own. Then, with only the faintest stirring of the air, he vanished.
Of course I searched, and searched long I did, over and around the vast estate, turning again and again, retracing every step a hundred times. He had truly disappeared but for the impression he left upon my mind, the creeping black of those insidious eyes. Gradually thoughts of the man consumed me. What else could distract me from that black? I watched the moon rise and set, the sands shift in inconstant patterns, and as ever I wondered where the man had gone.
It was only after some time that I came to fear a certain truth. It was terrible to imagine, and my hands trembled, my very heart palpitated at the thought that he might know. It was clear to me that he must suspect, for what else did this barren land hold except my secrets? But no, as yet I dared not give up hope. With the desperation of a man condemned, I clung to the thought, mad though it may seen to you, that the man was an unconnected party, that he did not know anything. Indeed, it seemed I had little recourse, and so it was with this distracted notion that I let myself drift once more into uneasy dreams.
In the depths of that night, I suddenly awoke, petrified with dread; for there once again was the man, with his light blazing from the blackness. But this time, my madness almost broke me, for when I dared to look upon him, I saw a terrible smile twisting his features. I let out an awful shriek, I could not help it, for all was lost! He must know, oh he knew!
When the night had passed, I paced endlessly around the sands. I longed to claw my own face, but I resisted the temptation, for I am a sane man. I calmed myself and considered: the man had followed me here, meaning he required something. Hope suddenly sprang from my chest as I realized. He needed proof! He only suspected my guilt, he could not know for certain. But if he were somehow able to coerce me, he would use my abilities and reach into my past, and then his own black eyes would be able to see my deeds as if they were his very own.
Long I thought, and slowly I formulated my plan as the moon above stayed her eternal course. I came to understand, with brittle clarity, what it was that I must do.
And so I lay in wait, feverishly anticipant. My cheeks were flushed, my breath harried. What hunted me was now my prey, and I longed for nothing more than to see the despair in his eyes, the fear as time and truth were ripped away like dust in the wind. I could not stay still for a moment, so excited was I, but gradually I felt a certain numbness and let myself drift to sleep. I was sure he would come this time, and I slept with the easy confidence of a child.
When I felt the telltale stirring of wind, I opened my eyes to see once more that shining blackness. I leapt from my bed and faced him; again there was the awful grin painted across his dark features, but tonight I faced him with my own. Did I detect a flickering of fear in his eyes? The slightest trace of doubt? I was too enamored of my own design, I did not look carefully upon him; I do not know. I spread the fingers of my left hand and cried an incantation. “Hark!” I screamed at him. “I have defeated you, you will never find what you seek! You have tormented me, but now I defy you!”
The entire world trembled and moaned with the rattle of a dying man. For a moment, I was supreme! As time collapsed about me with the crushing weight of the deepest earth, I looked upon the man a final time in my blinded triumph, and observed that he was still smiling.
In one terrible second, I realized the enormity of my error. Chills rent my spine, for the weight I felt was not time, it was my life, slowly squeezed into one. I saw the entire span of my being: every crime, magnified infinitely, every moment and reflection compressed into a never-ending moment of agony. As I descended into the swirling winds of time and insanity, I heard the man laugh, the first time I heard his voice, a mocking ringing that vibrated among the colonnades and echoed infinitely over the sands, into the descent of the black night.