This story is by Carmen Esposito and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
The morning commute was grueling. The train was crowded and dim, jostling the straphangers about as it careened down the tunnel. I don’t know what brought me out of my sleepy torpor, but I glanced around blinking; Goth music blaring from my earbuds. Like me, most people were also plugged in – playing games or listening to music.
There was a couple among those who clung to the pole as the train jerked and stopped. The petite dark haired woman grasped the pole with both her hands; her eyes closed. Behind her a tall thin man, his arms wrapped around her as if she was the pole that kept him from falling, moved in a slow but rhythmic fashion. The dark hoodie concealed his head as he bent over her. His long body blocked hers from view as I noticed his army green cargo pants and construction boots. At first, I thought they were getting a little too carried away with public displays of affection and became annoyed.
But something gnawed at me and I couldn’t look away. It was as if I was seeing something but didn’t know what it was. I scanned the crowd again and everyone seemed to be oblivious of their surroundings. I crossed my arms, apprehensive – and closed my eyes trying to relax, not understanding my sudden fear.
The train came to a stop, people shoving their way out in a mad rush to get off the train. More people boarded but it wasn’t as crowded as before. The train pulled away from the station and the couple was still at the pole. He wasn’t moving like before. Now, he leaned against her as if tired. The train jerked forward again making her head tilt back a bit. Her blissful smile fooled me for a second until her head bowed forward once more and I saw the sucker attached to the back of her head.
He heard my involuntary gasp. He looked like a skinhead with angular features and weird tribal tattoos on his forehead. His eyes were white with dark rims. He glared at me for interrupting his meal. My intestines responded with a quiver that threatened to release its contents.
I was sitting on a two-seater by the door. The man next to me was sleeping. The skinhead pulled away from her to face me leaving her to slump against the pole. The woman, weakened from the feeding, slid down the pole and collapsed on the floor.
“Are you okay, Miss?” the nurse in yellow and blue scrubs bent down to render assistance while the passengers stared.
“Weak” she breathed – pale, her eyes dilated.
“Your sugar dropped.” The nurse said as she held her, placed a candy in her mouth, and then took her pulse.
“Someone should pull the emergency brake.” A rotund woman announced asserting superiority.
“Then we’ll be stuck in the tunnel until someone comes to help. She could be dead by then!” rebutted the elderly man sitting nearby.
So, the train lurched on down the tunnel while I pretended, with clenched fists, that I didn’t see what I was looking at. He was gaunt-like with a large ribcage that protruded from his skin. The sucker extension wasn’t very long – about four inches and the tip of it had puckering lips. It appeared harmless. It retracted back to his chest where it originated from a belly-button-like opening. The skinhead sized me up deciding whether I was a threat. Giving him eye-contact had been a mistake. His pupils enlarged in response. He hissed, lips curling back revealing toothless gums. He came at me.
“Get away from me!” I yelled kicking his crotch. I shoved him back a bit, but it didn’t hurt him. The man next to me woke up annoyed and moved to another seat.
“Go away, you freakin’ bastard!” I screamed leaving my seat and backing away towards the other end of the train. Some people looked up from their phones, but no one reacted. The train was jostling me about. Skinhead dude was sauntering, smiling while I stood against the doors praying they would open and lead me to a quick death. He leaned against the doors opposite from me in a nonchalant way, hood over his head – his eyes piercing into mine.
“I’m not scared, if that’s what you think!” I said trying to be brave but my voice quivered anyway. I blinked back tears and shivered from unnatural cold. Skinhead dude smirked enjoying himself. His white eyes held me and I daren’t look away. Suddenly, he rushed at me and I kicked, but he grabbed my leg and pulled me down to the floor.
“Get off me! Nooo!” I screamed kicking and flailing – having no effect. He sat on me and flashed me a gummy grin – pawing at my hair. He was extremely frightening and yet not. My brain couldn’t make sense of it. I kept arching off the floor to throw him off, but he was too strong. People just glared.
At the next station he stood up, still straddling me and winked. The doors opened and people rushed out avoiding me. He stood there as they left and others boarded avoiding the crazy lady panting on the floor. He never took his eyes off me while I laid there immobile trying to control my bladder. Seconds before the doors closed, he reinforced the telepathic veil. I watched as he stepped over me, dematerializing as he left the train.
And then I realized, no one else had seen him. This is why he stood over me, to show me his power. They only saw a hysterical woman screaming at nothing. Somehow, I had been able to see through his camouflage. Why?
I scurried to the pole clinging to it, trying to get my bearings – not wanting to open my eyes for fear of seeing him again. The reality of it was – I wasn’t special, he didn’t eat me because he had already fed.