The timer read 3:48:12 the last time she said anything. She was making herself a late lunch then. She must have taken off work to be able to stay on the phone this long during the day.
Teru told her she didn’t have to. He wasn’t accustomed to being a bother. But she only ignored his reassurances that he was okay, and she told him no mother is bothered by comforting her son.
Any other time, she would have believed him. Any other time, his teachers would have turned a blind eye to his dozing in class.
But it's been a while now since Teru has been sloppy at school, back when he would have just traded some kid a couple days' protection from the school thugs for whatever homework assignments he let go unattended.
"Teruki?" his mom calls.
He doesn't answer. She waits a little longer.
His phone beeps to signal the end of the call. 4:12:02 pulses on the screen five times before the device surrenders Teru's apartment to darkness.
Even with her silence for the past half hour, Teru feels her absence as soon as the room goes dark, when the other presence flows, airy and slow, into the space she left behind. It had waited patiently for its turn. Now it would settle for no less of Teru's time than any other visit. The phone call made to comfort him to sleep had only prolonged the course of this sleepless night.
Teru's lungs fill to capacity. Streetlights settle in his apartment, just enough to show it empty. Just enough to show that this sense of being watched is due to no tricks of shadows.
He's in a pajama shirt and bottoms, under a blanket, beneath the cover of night. His chest feels as exposed as a PE class at the pool.
People have stared at it plenty of times. He's never felt the need to be ashamed of it. He's not ashamed of feeling eyes on him now, or so he says in his head with his arms hugging his chest. It's because he can feel eyes in him.
They’re what made him nocturnal. He blamed his sleeplessness on stress and new classes and trying to change his image in front of the other students. That was enough to get teachers off his back with mere dutiful, concerned calls to his mother. If he told anyone about the eyes, they'd think he was mental.
There's a distinct foreign slide against his throat, just beneath the surface. He can't resist the instinct to touch the aberration any longer, but his hand finds only his own smooth skin. A frustrated sound he refuses to call a whimper escapes him.
An eye slides side to side within his chest. His hand grips his unbroken skin through his sleep shirt. This has happened half a dozen times now, but he has to investigate every time, can't refrain all night from pushing his blanket back, pulling his shirt up, and looking at the black sclera, wet and shiny and intruding in his body. It shows no reaction to the circling, questioning hand that feels nothing, even as Teru watches his fingers pass over the eye's surface and catch the relaxed eyelid on their path.
Street-light flicks over the eye as it shifts in his skin, focused inward. Where is it looking? His lungs? His heart?
A punitive surge of his aura rattles the room. But it only stirs the eyes, rolling them on his chest and neck. Another has appeared on the back of his hand. He can feel more still. More, and lower.
The eye in his chest pauses. Blinks. Rolls again.
Red emerges. Fixes on his face, reveals nothing of what it finds. Only watches; seemingly glowing, it watches his face as steadily as it had stared into his guts.
Teru shuts his own eyes. He doesn't like this. He doesn't hate it. He doesn't know why it's happening.
A psychic, or a spirit? No one ever swoops down upon him in the night when the eyes open. No voice or face or knowing hands visit to show they're in on the secret. Would the watcher not want to be found? Is that the kind of pervert it is?
Teru counts his breath in sevens, but he's hard now and the rhythm of his lungs guides his hips. He hasn't pulled the blanket from his lower body yet. He feels too much down there. He sticks his hand into his pants to run his fingers over his thighs. There are so many, undetected by his fingertips but rolling and sliding in his thighs and it's too foreign for him to know what he wants from them. Can they see in there? Does he want them to? Is this the kind of pervert he is?
Whether the eyes are from a spirit or living psychic or some crack in Teru’s mind, he doesn’t want fear to be what he shows them. He pushes the blanket off his legs, sits up on his knees, hesitates at the sight of his own tented sweatpants. He’s never dared to look there while the eyes were present.
The eye on his chest turns its red pupil downward.
“Is that what you’ve been waiting for?” Teru asks it. It’s an eye, not an ear – who knows if it can tell what he’s saying?
It doesn’t matter. He’ll show it. He returns his hand to the inside of his sweatpants. Eyes twitch against the muscle of his thighs. They’re watching his hand. The one on his chest lingers in position for the first few strokes of his dick before turning up to his face again.
“Not enough?” he asks it. Taunting helps him pretend his heart is pounding out of excitement.
The pupil sinks below his skin again to watch inside his chest. There’s a crease above his nipple, but a second glance reveals a new pair of shut eyelids. He’ll get its attention.
He refuses to flinch when he pushes off his sweatpants and reveals the black, shiny eyes clustered over his thighs. Red pupils all burning in the darkness, they move and stare independent of one another. Some glance at each other as if newly discovering the others’ presence. Some turn up to his face, rounding in a way that’s cute when a girl’s eyes are looking up from there, but only makes his flesh crawl when he feels them rotating and pushing their eyelids as distinctly as if they were made of his own skin. The rest stare right at his dick, drinking in the sight of it from the tip down to his balls.
He can’t help himself. He rubs himself all over, watches the eyes twitch and blink and flutter at his touches and leer at his stroking hands. Indifference and fascination are indistinguishable on them. He wants to tear off his own skin under the pure observation, he wishes he could dig in and pluck those eyes out and wag his fingers in the empty sockets like a new girlfriend’s cunt while they watch dislocated.
Teru jerks off under their gaze, drunk on confusion and spite and sleep deprivation. A few times, he almost gives enough of a damn to wonder who’s the bigger pervert, the one staring at his organs all night or the one touching his dick over it. The shadows in the apartment aren’t shaped right, aren’t moving right in his periphery. But he’s fixed on the eyes, too taken in to do anything but mimic their stares and show himself off.
His balls tighten, his voice cracks out, and he wonders if they can hear him after all when they all turn attentive to his face. There are too many for defiant eye contact, and his eyes squeeze shut under their pressure and his orgasm. His hips rut forward of their own accord until the shock has traveled through him.
He doesn’t look yet. He hasn’t decided what he’ll do if the eyes are still there.
“I like you.”
Teru’s body snaps around. It was a quiet, distinct sound of a man’s voice in his ear. But he finds only the normal sight of his apartment at night, all of its shadows and reflections and digital lights in their correct places.
His vision darts down, and he finds his body in proper order. He knows he didn’t imagine it. Not the eyes, not the voice.
He’ll clean up and put his pajamas back on and know the voice isn’t done yet. He’s not afraid of whatever it is. But that doesn’t stop him from looking over his shoulder at the vanishing spots of red, just out the corners of his vision.