“The Man in the Hat’: a short story

I woke up at just gone two that morning. I’d been painfully ill for weeks now, a crippling sickness that drained my energy and yet refused to let me rest. I struggled for some water, and I dragged myself out of bed – I was burning up, and I needed a bit of fresh air.

I stumbled over to the window, opening it up and breathing deeply as I looked about at the early morning scene.

I live at number 78, the end of the road, and my window affords a good view of all the houses up to number 60. But something caught my eye. Outside number 72, I saw a figure. I couldn’t make out any features – he was a silhouette of a man, in a long coat and with a hat on his head.

A hat that he raised as if in greeting.

Greeting me.

I felt my breath catch in my throat – I slammed the window shut, and retreated to bed.

I didn’t sleep at all that night.

When I tried to close my eyes, I saw the man in the hat.

He was there again the next night. Well, not strictly there – he’d moved up a house, and he was standing outside number 74.

Again, I couldn’t rest, and again I dragged myself to the window for air. Again, I saw him, and again he raised his hat to me.

This time, I didn’t run away. I stared, watching him and wanting him to do something – anything.

But he wouldn’t. He merely replaced his hat, and he stood there, coated in shadow, staring at me – I couldn’t see his eyes, but I knew he was staring. I felt it, in the cold of my flesh.

I was ready for him this time – I would wait by this window all night, I would wait him out until the sun rose and I would know who he is. The man in the hat would not defeat me.

The cleaner found me by the window the next morning. I had fallen asleep by the window, and I could barely breathe when I woke up – she was terrified, and she insisted on taking me to the hospital.

We went through the usual procedures – they’re sending me for more tests, but there’s not really anything that can be done for me. My illness will pick up, or it won’t.

They recommended rest, but how can I rest when the man in the hat haunts me so?

I went through the motions all day, but my thoughts were consumed with that shadowy figure.

And, when the night came, so did he.

I never saw him arrive – he appeared, as if in between blinks, and he was standing in the shadows outside number 76. Once again, I looked at him, and he raised his hat to me. I had a torch ready to reveal his figure, but it refused to light. I opened the window and demanded that he reveal himself, but he remained stubbornly silent.

The man in the hat merely stood, patient, and I eventually exhausted myself – my breath ran short, my body struggled and, the next thing I knew, I woke up in my chair to the warm morning light.

I know the man in the hat is outside my house tonight. I dare not look, but I know he is – I can feel his presence. He’s there, waiting for me, staring, waiting for his moment.

He had been coming, slowly but surely, and now he’s here.

It’s the night when I meet him.

I know who he is – I knew the moment I received my test results – and I know what he wants. Did he bring on my illness, or is he just here to take me away? That I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he’s here now – he’s here for me.

He was always coming for me.

The creaking of my front door, even though I locked it – that’s him.

Those careful, steady steps on the stairs, in the corridor, heading for my room – that’s him.

And then my bedroom door swings open…


This story is part of a brand new Creative Writing series within the Boar Arts section! If you want the opportunity to feature in the new creative section of the Boar, you can submit pitches to arts@theboar.org.

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