A young man with a black Nasum t-shirt, black jeans and black Converse high-tops smashed both fists into the train doors as they slid open, heart racing, hazel eyes glaring, jaw clenched tightly shut, mind engulfed in a wildfire of wrath. Every passenger in the car took notice of him instantly, for his entrance was so abrupt, his anger so palpable that it could have sent a brutal tremor all across the floor and shattered the windows, were it a physical force. He quickly sat down on the nearest seat and smashed his back against the wall, clutching his chin-length messy black mane as he closed his eyes and attempted desperately to calm himself. A frightened mother seated beside him took her little daughterâs hand and tugged her down to the other end of the car, whispering about him being a bad man when her daughter asked why they had to move. The other passengers monitored him with extreme alarm, half-expecting him to unleash the unspeakable at any moment. It was as though a time bomb had just stormed into the train and mere seconds remained on the clock. But the seconds passed, and instead resorting to violence, the young man named Kaleb regained a steady breathing rhythm, dousing the blaze that had scorched his thoughts.
All this, in the moment during which the train stopped at Widowâs Watch Station, opened its doors, closed them, and continued careening down the tracks.
As minutes and streetlights streamed by in a blur, the tension gradually settled, and the passengers resumed their idle indulgences. Kaleb, however, could not withdraw his rage. He sat in a dissociative silence while the train continued screeching along its path, deep-sea diving in a cryptic ocean of scornful analysis. Station after station, people came and went, people he would never see again, people whose existence he questioned, much as he questioned his own. For brief moments their paths aligned, their invisible worlds at once so close and yet just as distant as they were before Kaleb had ever seen them, and then they wandered off again, back into the cityâs labyrinthine bowels forever. It amazed him to think that potential friends passed him constantly, and none of them would ever know that potential even existed, because they would never interact. But a schism in one of those connections had lead to his current indignant state, so presently he dismissed conversation.
He pulled his iPod Touch out of his pocket and tucked his earbuds in, dragging through the list of bands on the screen to the name Converge, and tapped the song âReap What You Sowâ. Realizing soon after that he was one of three people left in that particular train car, the other two seated at the opposite end, he drew a lighter from his pocket, plucked the cigarette out from behind his ear, and lit it. He took slow drags as the sonic chaos of Converge blared into his skull. He stretched out on the row of seats on the side of the train, and smoked calmly as he awaited the trainâs arrival at its final destination.
But this was a fleeting peace.
Before the song was even over, he felt two stern taps on the side of his head, and he winced, waving his hands arbitrarily to bat away whatever had shattered his glass house of solace.
“Buddy,” called the gruff voice of a middle-aged man, “you know you canât smoke on trains. Come on, kid. Put it out.”
“Ask me if I give a fuck,” Kaleb muttered, without opening his eyes.
The older man snatched the cigarette away and crushed it in his hand, while it was still lit. “I didnât ask you, smart-ass. Now Iâm forcing you to you get off at the next stop. We got surveillance cams in here, so we know your face. We wonât play nice next time.”
Kaleb opened his eyes and realized that the curmudgeon standing beside him was a security officer. But he remained indifferent. “Iâm not getting off. I paid for my ticket. Iâm going to the end of the line.”
“No. Your end of the line is here,” the officer grumbled sternly, pointing at the station the train was pulling into. âNow, get the fuck off my train.â
Kalebâs ire left no room for patience. As soon as the doors slid open, he hastily shoved the officer with all his might, smashing his head onto a pole, causing him to cry out.
Not a second to hesitate.
Kaleb bolted into the evening, leaped over the railing on the back side of the stationâs platform, and crouched to hide in some bushes near the entrance to what was apparently a forest. Heâd accomplished all this before the officer even had the chance to look outside. The officer screamed for him to come back, spitting obscenities galore. But eventually he gave up, much to Kalebâs relief. The doors slid closed, and the train quickly departed.
Converge continued blaring in the earbuds that Kaleb now clenched in his hands, a dangling fountain of percussive white noise that accompanied his slow paces back up the steps to the dimly-lit platform. Heâd never been anywhere near this area, and it looked significantly uninviting. There was a small ticket station that looked as though it had been abandoned for years, with two dust-covered windows and a rusty metal door with a broken handle. A single light protruded from the front wall, flickering sporadically. The only thing he could see around him were the dark outlines of trees. It made him uneasy, and increasingly nervous.
As time went on, he sat on the ground beneath the light, and turned his iPod off. There was something imposingly unsettling about the lifelessness of the silence here. He was so accustomed to the constant barrage of sounds bouncing around the streets of the city that he found this stark rural contrast to be unnerving. But it wasnât just the silence. Kaleb couldnât shake the fact that he felt as though something was wrong. About this place, this situation. He began to seriously consider going back. At least heâd be among people in the city. It didnât mean he had to go back home, back to that…dilemma. After several seconds more of the inexplicably ominous silence he stood and walked to the edge of the platform, towards a small set of stairs.
He switched on his iPod in order to guide himself through the dark with the screenâs glow, realizing that there was a crosswalk along the tracks a few feet away, and so he ambled towards it. But then suddenly came a sound; something a little too close for comfort, in the forest behind him. A slowly gurgling, gagging rasp. A sound so strange it made his hair stand on end. But Kaleb was very far from faint of heart. In fact, fear was one of his few fascinations. He grinned sardonically as he turned around and made his way into the thicket, amused by the idea of exposing whatever idiot hillbilly was out there trying to frighten him.
“Come on out, jackass,” he called out mockingly. “I got a switchblade on me, if you wanna dance. You ainât scarinâ nob-”
It wasnât a man at all.
With the iPodâs glow, he caught a glimpse of what had made the sound. It was in the distance, standing beside a tree. He only saw it for less than a second, but even that was far, far too long.
It was a barefoot woman with long, wet black hair, entirely black eyes, sallow, gangrenous skin, and a tattered beige dress. She had a freshly-cut haphazard Glasgow smile, with blood dripping down her face and onto her chest. Yet she didnât seem to be in pain; in fact, it appeared that she was content, like an owl that had just spotted a defenseless mouse.
The instant in which he saw her terrified him so profoundly that he began to tremble forcefully, stifling hysterical screams, and slowly he backed away from the darkness that enshrouded that horrifying face. He could no longer see it, but the mere idea that the woman was still standing there, watching him, was enough to drive him close to the brink of insanity.
Wide-eyed and veritably traumatized, he walked backwards to the platform across the tracks and sat upon a bench, shaking uncontrollably. Tears fell, yet not from crying. He fixated upon the crosswalk, barely visible under the flickering light, expecting the woman to come staggering after him. The anticipation alone was agonizing.
But the woman did not appear.
Instead came the distant metallic groan of a train horn, headed inbound, drawing nearer. Kaleb had never been so overjoyed to hear any sound in his entire life. His trembling only dwindled when the headlights appeared, and the train came to a full stop. As the doors slid open, he veritably threw himself inside.
His eyes darted everywhere at once. Finally he saw a single passenger; an elderly woman with curly gray hair, seated 4 cars down, near the front. He ran up to her, and dropped himself on the chairs opposite from where she sat. Somewhat awkwardly, but calmly, he then rose and moved across, to sit in the chair adjacent to her.
“Hello,” Kaleb muttered desperately.
The woman turned to him and smiled. “Why, hello there,” she replied with a tinge of surprise. She noticed that he seemed upset, so she attempted to pacify him. “My name is Dorothy. Whatâs yours?”
“Kaleb. Thatâs a handsome name.”
Her voice and demeanor felt smug, like a cup of hot cocoa after a long trek in the dead of winter. And after what heâd just endured, he felt so relieved that he simply burst into tears, incapable of further sustaining the emotional burden.
Dorothy, in turn, showed immediate concern. “Oh, my! Whatâs wrong?”
He hadnât a clue how to explain.
“I just need to go home.”
Dorothy was perplexed by his behavior. “What couldâve possibly left you this frightened?”
The image of her face would not leave his mindâs eye.
“Itâs nothing. Really. I was out there for a long time. Thought I heard something, and became a little jumpy.”
Dorothy chuckled. “Always strange sounds to be heard in the woods at night,” she
replied. “Donât worry. Go home and make yourself a nice cup of tea. Youâll feel better, I promise.”
Her voice alone was anodyne.
Kaleb wallowed in tranquility as the train descended into the subway tunnels, the wails of screeching metal now being compressed into confined space, tearing at his eardrums. He rode far past his stop, far into unknown territory, but it didnât matter. Dorothyâs presence was an ephemeral sanctuary, where his thoughts were currently resting. The deeper into the city he got, the better. He didnât care if-
Something suddenly smashed into the side of the train, a few cars down.
The force was so strong that it caused all the cars behind the first to derail, screaming as the metal scraped against the concrete walls, sparks scattering. Dorothy gasped and Kaleb simply stared, just before some sort of obstruction caused the train to come to an immediate stop with the strength of a bomb blast, and sent them flying forward several feet.
Dorothy sobbed in horror. Kaleb was forced to think quickly.
“Take my hand,” he insisted, rising to his feet. “Come on. We have to move back.”
“What was that?!”
“I donât know, but we have to move back. Weâre not safe-”
There came sounds of breaking glass and smashing objects from behind the door to the cockpit, but no voices.
“What is tha-”
“Thereâs no time, Dorothy. Move with me. Now.”
Dorothy struggled to stand, whimpering, barely able to match Kalebâs pace. He tried his best to be wary of her weakness, but somehow he knew there wasnât a second to spare. When they reached the far end, out of desperation, Kaleb began to kick the door of the last car repeatedly. Dorothy begged him to stop, but he wouldnât. He could see the door denting. Finally, long after heâd lost count, something in the door snapped, and it swung wide open. The glow of lights from a station platform were visible just around the bend the tunnelâs curve.
“Dorothy,” Kaleb uttered, “run back to Bayside. We just passed it. Call the police.”
“Donât be stupid! What about you?!”
Kaleb withdrew his switchblade. “Iâm not finished here. Iâll manage. Go!”
A scraping, grinding sound, from the cockpit.
Kaleb turned to look, and witnessed as a clawed, gangrenous hand smashed through the door. Enormous black centipedes scuttled out from the hole, along with a growing darkness that seemed to melt away physical matter.
The darkness grew like a black hole, and the centipedes came in waves. The air began to dwindle, and Kaleb couldnât breathe.
Moments later, from the center of the shadow, a familiar figure emerged.
The woman with the Glasgow smile.
Kaleb screamed, fell, and was paralyzed. The centipedes made sure of this. The rotting nightmare woman staggered towards him with sporadic paces, eventually standing over him, watching him hyperventilate. She shrieked as she crouched before him, exposed his belly, and slammed her clawed hand deep inside, tearing through flesh and organs, disemboweling him.
In utter shock, Kalebâs head fell back, hanging off the end of the train.
His final sight was that of Dorothy, pallid in the platformâs lights.
“Dorothy,” he gurgled.