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Just Because You're Paranoid, It Doesn't Mean They're Not Out To Get You

By Jack ScrantonPublished about a year ago Updated 3 months ago 5 min read

For months, Jonas suspected that he was being followed. They had tracked his career for years, of course; he was a well known pebble in their shoe, and, ultimately, they wanted him silenced. He was the worst of subversives, you see. Once one of them, one of their Ivy League minions, he’d walked away. Now he dared speak of truths others sensed but feared to probe. He saw it all; the true flow of energy through the world’s bastions of money and power; the forces that move nations like markers on a gameboard. The Unseen Hand; Illuminati; not only had he mentioned them by name, he had uncovered their footprints traipsing through the history texts, hidden in plain sight. He alone had discerned the patterns; he had connected the dots; he had uncovered the links. History might not lie, but neither does it reveal its truths without a fight. It must be coaxed, prodded, coerced. Even seduced.

Thus, he lived with threat; it was his constant companion. But of late, his suspicions had become fueled by actual phenomena in the real world. Not that they would allow themselves to be seen; oh no no no, they were far too sophisticated for that. But sophistication was by no means a quality reserved for his enemies. He wasn't fooled; the indicators were too numerous for one whose senses were heightened by the instinct for survival.

Flickers of motion at the edge of vision; soft voices going still when he'd turn to peer into the gloom; a face, or two, or three, all seemingly familiar—hadn't this one been trying to hail a cab as Jonas left his apartment last week; or that young mother pushing a baby carriage... surely it was she who'd been sitting across from him on the subway a few days previous; and that large man with the thick mustache and persistent cough—Jonas was positive he'd heard that same cough at the theatre last month. Oh yes, he'd been suspicious.

But on the night he delivered his lecture to the American Society for the Study of Historical Evolution, Jonas's suspicions crystallized into cold certainty. On that evening, they at last emerged from the shadows and revealed themselves with undeniable clarity. The unseen hand turned visible, its manipulations evident to any who chose to see. Three separate events tipped the balance.

The first took place when he’d left for the auditorium earlier in the evening. The car he'd ordered idled at the curb in front of his townhouse. As he descended the steps to the street and opened the back door, down the block toward the avenue, headlights flashed on. A simple thing, perhaps innocen,. perhaps not. What better way, after all, to cover ones tracks than with innocent activity? Call it intuition; call it one such similar experience too many; but he was alerted.

As they pulled out into the street, a casual glance over his shoulder confirmed that the car was following behind. Was the chase on? He felt it prudent to mention it to his driver.

“If that car behind us were to be following me, do you think you’d be able to, shall we say... lose it?”

“Yes sir.”

“Ah. Do so, would you please?”

And then, as his car sped up and turned the corner, Jonas saw standing there by the lamp post a tall man with unremarkable features—aren't they always?—studying the car as he spoke feverishly into a cell phone. Of course. Spotters. They always use spotters, don't they? Well, this time, the spotter had been spotted. Ha!

Once satisfied that he’d evaded the pursuit, Jonas directed his driver not to the front of the lecture hall, but, rather, to a side entrance on an empty street where the car pulled up to a darkened, unobtrusive door. And that led to the second defining event of the evening.

Jonas peered into the surrounding shadows. Where are you? I know you're there. And then, as if in response, a shadow moved. He was certain of it, a figure retreating back into a doorway. I see you, you bastard! You are real, aren’t you?

Paranoid crank, they'd called him. Conspiracy nut, they'd said. To which he replied, "It's only a conspiracy if you're an outsider. For those on the inside, it's business as usual, and, by the way, it's none of our business, thank you."

Oh, of course, he knew the experimental data: pareidolia, they called it, those random scatterings of dots fed stereoscopically to each eye, blooming inexplicably into intricate three dimensional labyrinths. Patterns out of chaos, our thirst for organization and meaning reduced to mere peculiarities of brain chemistry.

Theories not without interest, to be sure, but he would have none of it. Such research conveniently served those with a vested interest in keeping their machinations covert, who thrive in the occulted shadows of history, and squirm like hooked worms when light is cast into their seamy corners. And that light was his weapon and his shield. By God, if this be paranoia, then let's make the most of it!

During his speech the third and final event locked his certainty irrevocably into place. He was discussing the origins of the Federal Reserve System and how it represented the takeover of our economy, and, indeed, our country, by European banking interests. And then, he saw them once more, but this time in the open, up close, brazenly sitting in the front row, taking notes, feigning attentiveness, for all the world, like harmless students. But what would one expect—that they should come at him wearing dark glasses and long trenchcoats cloaking hidden daggers within their folds? No, it is the mundane circumstance that provides cover. The possibility of coincidence is all the cloak they require. But he knew better. He stared at them. He dared to make eye contact. And he felt vindicated. Triumphant. To see them now, in the open, to recognize them for what they truely represented, this was... victory.


The guy'd been walking his dog on the other side of the street when the incident occurred.

The cop asked him to tell his story again.

"He was an old guy, dressed real nice, you know, classy; waiting on the sidewalk. This big car, what do you call them...

"An SUV?"

"Yeah. Couldn't see inside. The windows were blacked out. It pulled up beside him. Then these guys came out of nowhere, like they'd been hiding in the shadows. They grabbed the old guy and shoved him into the car and they all drove off."

To the cop he was just another by-stander with an over-active imagination. Hardly worth the paperwork to file a report based one just one witness. He'd ask around, see if anyone else had heard anything. Hey, maybe the mope really saw something. But probably not. Sounded like one of those... whaddaya call 'em... like Mission Impossible. Yeah, right.

Short Story

About the Creator

Jack Scranton

Writer, image retoucher, musician/composer, 3D artist. Despite modest success in all those fields, Photoshop paid the bills.

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