It’s so satisfying when a story lets you realize something before spelling it out for you. It’s like opening the back of a mechanical clock and seeing the gears of “show, don’t tell” ticking on methodically. So begins this tale of a street vendor, whom we discover is blind by hearing what he hears – idle conversations, the sounds of a storm, the shuffle-click of bizarre footsteps – and seeing nothing. It serves to ease us into the story as well as its narrator’s sightless perspective.
I couldn’t help but being reminded of It Follows, made fifty years later, when reading this. Both conjure a relentless pursuer which no others can see, and both imply that the pursuit runs beyond the physical realm. Yet while the story It Follows is told by the pursued, Footsteps Invisible is told by an observer, who, though blind, glimpses by accident the chase. I think this is less effective at creating visceral terror, though the moment when the Thing attacks the hotel door is something of a crawl-under-the-covers moment, but in leaving most of chase for the reader to imagine, the level of unsettling dread is much higher.
The story also has a fair amount to consider in terms of colonialism and exploitation, but that’s above my pay grade.