Under the monotone glow of fluorescent lights, you slowly walk. Although you are alone, in perfect solitude as you walk down the hallway, a sense of dread accompanies you. Your newfound friend, taunts you every minute, assaulting the most fragile corners of your mind. Doubt, stress and fear; but your companion finds the most pleasure in toying with a part of your mind you had long since buried in the deepest crevice. Hoping it would never surface, hoping it would never haunt you again. A part which dread welcomes as its new playmate: paranoia. It starts as a pinprick at first. Something lightly poking the nape of your neck. You turn your head to face the cause, yet you are met with nothing but isolation. This practice is repeated several times, with the ‘poking’ getting more and more frequent. And every time to turn, the ‘stalker’ is no more, replaced by cold air. Yet you cannot help shake the lead weights of your shoulders. Even though the temperature of the corridor is moderate, a bead of sweat trickles down your face. You halt after every step to see who’s watching, observing your every move, their presence hanging over you like a concrete umbrella. Again, nothing. The feeling of someone syncing their steps with yours, pointing their finger at you, staring at you when you’re most exposed. Yet absolutely no one there except you and your mind. The doors don’t help either. Painted navy blue, they line each of walls by your side, perfectly spaced, perfectly innocent. If there’s anything you’ve learned though, it’s never to trust appearances. Coupled with increasing paranoia of someone watching, each step getting heavier, your vivid yet ‘troublesome’ imagination takes control. You picture figures standing behind them, draped in leather, masks composed of bandages concealing their faces. It may not seem possible, but paranoia seems to defy every sense you possess. These figures, that you’ve conjured out of thin air, they can see right through the solid wood. Dozens of eyes, dozens of strangers staring at you yet invisible. Observing your every move and dissecting it in their heads. They seem real, but you know it’s all in your head. Or is it? Or is it? Stop thinking! Your heavy steps pick up the pace as you start jogging to the end of the hallway, where another blue door stands. Just as your mind is crafting this illusion, this paranoia, a trick that seems too real, your mind also knows that this is it. A safe place. A place to hide just behind that door. Breaking into a run, you are frantic to escape them, their whispers, their sight. Your mind has been reduced to an absolute mess, toying with your sense of time and space. The door seems to be slipping out of reach, the distance between you and it getting longer, the invisible stalker getting closer. However, you cannot give up. The same sense instilling you to think about the horrible things happening to you, drives you towards the door. ‘A safe place’ it whispers. ‘A safe place’. The ‘sense’, however, seems to be taunting you, mocking you rather than pushing you forward. And that is exactly what propels you forward. You feel the distance decreasing, the door achingly close, tempting you to enter and indulge. ‘Crawl back’ is the first assault. ‘Stop right there’ the second. The figures conjured behind the other doors and the force nipping on your shoulders alike, can’t bear your triumph. Whispers bombard your brain, turning to screams of madness attacking every delicate inch of your brain, even those which had been previously safe by some miracle. ‘It’s close’. Yet the iron anklet of whispers refuses to let you win. The carpeted floor, seems so nice, so warm, so relaxing……just take a little break. Your run slows into a stroll as you begin to crouch and droop. Just a little break. Your run slows into a stroll as you begin to crouch and droop. Just a little nap…that’s all. Haris Rizwan is a student who blogs on his Instagram @thereader.whowrote.