This story is by Alicia Collymore-Igbonoba and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
David woke to the sound of the train moving at full speed. He took a few moments to take in his surroundings, then realised he’d spent the night faced down on the train floor. His last memory was of drinking himself stupid at the new bar in Wimbledon and being thrown out for reasons beyond his recollection.
Stumbling to his feet, one hand on the seat the other on his head, David tried to get up quickly giving himself a head rush. He groaned thinking anyone would be disgusted to see him in this state; to be inconvenienced with his post-drunken body odor, stinky breathe and unstable movements.
David saw that the carriage was completely empty. He thought perhaps it was really early or maybe he was blessed enough to have avoided the morning crowd. Knowing his luck, people probably came, caught a whiff of his stench and moved to a fresher carriage. David sniggered at the thought of causing an entire herd of office workers to avoid a whole train carriage.
On reaching the end of the train, he knocked on the driver’s door several times despite the clear bold notice stating DO NOT DISTURB DRIVER! Again he gave a very weak knock. Silence. He tried to mutter out a hello but all that came out of his mouth was, ‘Hmrrrrr.” The hangover headache prevented him from speaking loud or coherently. Resting his head on the door he noticed it move slightly. Curiously, David opened the door the rest of the way to find… there was no driver.
All sorts of thoughts were running through his mind. How was the train moving without a driver? How did he get onto this train? And how was he going to get off?
Panicking, David forced himself to come to his senses, ignoring all drunken aches and pains and began making his way to other carriages hoping to find other passengers.
As he reached the middle carriage the train stopped. All was completely silent. Another train approached at full speed two tracks away. It slowed down enabling David to notice that it too was empty. An empty train wasn’t unusual, but what were the chances of him being randomly stranded on one then witnessing another passing by. When the train was in parallel position to his it stopped. David rubbed is eyes and moved closer to the window, there was a woman. He waved at the lonely woman trying to get her attention but she didn’t respond or react in anyway. Something seemed strange about her; she didn’t seem lonely at all.
She just stood there staring. Although the trains were two tracks apart, David was sure he could see her grin or smile. Smiling is viewed as a pleasant gesture, especially from an attractive woman, but this freaked him out.
Suddenly the lights blinked rapidly, the train shook and shuddered. David looked to see if the same was happening to the other train, but all he could see was the woman standing steady continuously staring and smiling that scary smile.
David struggled to move along the train hoping to find a way out. He’d never felt such fear and confusion. What was happening? Why was this happening? And how on earth was he going to get out?
For a brief moment, he tried to think rationally. Maybe this was a prank; payback for being embarrassingly drunk last night. People did these pranks on YouTube all the time; like that zombie on the train prank they did in Brazil. Perhaps this was a dream, he would wake up any moment finding himself at home with his family. ”It’s just a dream. When you count to three, you’ll be at home with Nikki and the kids. One. Two. Three.”
On three, the lights went out completely. All noise and tremors stopped. The other train was still in perfect condition, with the mysterious woman standing in the same position, her head slightly tilted. It was as if she knew something, some secret that would eventually come out to bite David in his rear.
Intense fear and discomfort increased in David’s chest as he watched her. He couldn’t look away, it was as if he was stuck in some sort of spell. He breathed deeply, his fear ever-increasing.
Something else was wrong, something was…. Thump. He felt a heavy blow to the back of his head. David stumbled across the train in clumsy attempts to grab one of the poles. One last stagger caused him to fall to the ground unconscious.
David woke in bed with his face crushed between two pillows. It was just a dream. It wasn’t karma or punishment for disturbing the peace last night with his drunkenness.
Sighing with relief, David pushed himself up into a kneeling position taking in the reality that was his bedroom. He was so happy to be there, despite his hangover. He picked up his family photo, and smiled happily knowing they’d be downstairs waiting for him. With his eyes closed, he took in the smell of salt fish being prepared downstairs.
David stepped into his slippers and headed downstairs. It felt like an eternity since he’d seen them.
How ridiculous, he thought. He was only asleep for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t real.
The sound of video games and laughter escalated as he walked further down the stairs. The crackling of salt fish frying in the pan made his tummy grumble. ”Mmm… delicious!”
Nikki spun around startled and surprised. She pressed her lips together in anger and disapproval. What has he done now, he’d wondered. ‘Morning honey” he said hesitantly revealing his confusion. She gave him a cold stare, as if he should know what was wrong. ‘Afternoon David” she said harshly then walked out of the kitchen. He noticed her tapping her hand on a set of spread out envelops on the counter before she left.
He looked down at them for a few seconds, there was something important about them. This gave him a sudden urge to drink.
He reached into the cupboard for the bottle of Smirnoff which was secretly mixed with other intoxicating liquids and headed for the living room. The children left the moment he entered. David shrugged, took a large swig of his alcoholic beverage and reclined.
On hearing crackling beneath the sofa, he dug deep and found a gambling ticket from yesterday. David was so hammered that day he’d forgotten where he’d hidden it. Nikki could never know he was still gambling, not after the last time. She’d warned him to stop gambling and drinking. Or else!
Taking three more large gulps from the bottle, he tried to figure out what could have been wrong with Nikki and the kids.
David heard a sound and ran to investigate only to find his family on the floor…unconscious.
The distant sound of a train echoed. David ran towards a window shouting for help. The street was completely empty. He headed for the front door hoping to reach his neighbours. Stepping outside David found himself back on the speeding train.
Pausing in shock, David looked round with eyes widened noticing a train on the adjacent track. He turned around attempting to re-enter his house, but found a metal door with no handle.
He moved forward steadily not knowing what to expect or what to do. ‘ God please!’ he shouted frantically.’ Why is this happening? What can I do?’
The train wheels scrapped against the tracks causing an extremely loud screech. Clasping both hands tightly on his head, he fell to his knees in agony screaming so loudly that he hadn’t noticed when the noise stopped. Sighing with relief, David noticed two high heeled boots in front of him.
David kept his head down. There was no choice, he’d have to look. This presence would move closer forcing him to acknowledge it.
It! It! For heaven’s sake, twenty four hours ago he would have mocked anyone who considered the notion of a ‘Presence’ or an ‘It’ let alone fear one. Nikki always talked about these things but David always said it was mythological quackery, nothing but stories to tell their children during trips.
He forced himself to look up. It was that creepy woman again. She was just staring and smiling with her arms folded. David wasn’t sure what he feared most, her constant staring, her empty smile or the fact that she never spoke.
He stood and stepped back; his eyes and mouth wide open. He caught a glimpse of someone at the corner of his eye. It was his wife and beside her the children unconscious.
Turning to look at the woman he saw her eyes peering at the papers on Nikki’s lap indicating him to take them. Slowly lifting the papers, David maintained eye contact with the woman, prepared to run if she went after him.
They were eviction notices. Rent hadn’t been paid for several months. The remaining items were photos, evidence of his gambling and drinking habits. No wonder Nikki was mad. She knew everything. She’d always supported and tried to get him help.
She warned him of things that come out of the darkness to torment those who oppress others. All that he considered to be mythological quackery was happening to him right now.
The woman was closer to him now, her eyes glowing light brown. She pointed to an advert on the wall which stated LAST CHANCE FOR REDEMPTION! YOUR TIME IS COMING! David’s lips trembled, ‘Please… I… I…’ the woman grabbed him by the throat, her nails dug deep into his skin. Tears drew down his face as the strong inhuman woman moved her face closer to his. She opened her mouth revealing sharp beast-like teeth, she stretched wider sounding out a loud horrific wail. ‘P… please… tell me what you want. Wh …what can I do?’
She lifted him pressing his body against the ceiling then dropped him. This was the end for him. The one last thing he could do was beg for the lives of his family. ‘Please don’t hurt them. They don’t deserve this! Just take me.’ With tears pouring down his face David looked at his wife one last time. She and the children were gone. It was his time to die. He didn’t want to die. ‘Please! I’m sorry! I’ll get help I’ll make sure my family get the love and care they deserve. I’ll be better I promise.’ His constant begging and pleading angered the lady beast. She wailed and roared louder, grabbing him by the throat allowing him to watch as parts of the train behind her began to fall apart.
With a loud roar, the beast lady threw David far across the train; his body breaking the door open. Laying helpless and unable to move, David watched the beast lady kneel down placing her face directly in front of his imposing her heavy threatening breathe against his face. Her long nails scraped slowly across the floor instilling one last moment of fear. She swiped her hands over his face, closed his eyes and placed him in a deep sleep.
Waking in his bed David jumped up, grabbed a box and packed all the alcohol bottles inside it.
One last bottle was left, his secret stash behind the washing machine. He held it firm and looked one last time. Maybe he could have one last taste before he discarded it forever. David turned the bottle cap then got distracted by a figure at the corner of his eye. Turning his view back to the bottle he saw a reflection of glowing eyes. ‘Forget this!’ David ran for the front door, swung the bottle as hard as he could vowing never to touch another drop of alcohol in his life.