Jack

This is a short story written thanks to a writing prompt.

Art by Boris Groh

To be honest, Jack never liked working in this station.

See, he used to do it, every damn day, of every damn month, of every damn year. But the few occasion on which one of his colleagues was sick, and he’d have to occupy another station, Jack saw as a chance. Sure, he’d have some mates saying that this wasn’t the worst place across the whole subterranean network “if you was working with ’em junkies and ’em rats, you’d know what I mean” they’d sometimes say but Jack wasn’t so sure.

The terro,r it had slowly crept on him as the years flew by. At first, he felt mildly disturbed in the bowels of the station, slightly annoyed. A fingertip searching where to scratch without ever finding it. But, as days flew by -and night, do not forget the nights- the forty-something male had more and more difficulties to close the station. It was not because of the usual hobos you’ve got to explain yourself with when you close a subway entrance, no, homeless persons knew better than to sleep in the entrails of the station. It was something in the air, as sour as bad breath of weird people in the morning.

The station didn’t want you here after a certain hour.

And Jack would have gladly complied, if it wasn’t for work hours and management not trusting younger staff to close the gates. He’d trust newcomers, he’d trust anyone to put a lock on this hellhole and get back to its flat without never turning back.

You see, there had come a time, where just walking too close to the stairs which led to the railway or nothingness, put goose-bumps onto Jack’s skin, pimples as hard an irritating as those who left scars on his cheek well after teenage-hood had passed.

A few more years and he began to feel a presence, right there, in the back of his chair. Cold breathing. Slightly staring. You know this feeling you’d get when somebody’s been watching you for too long. Jack would straighten his back, try to calm his respiration, not succeed.

’Til Jack did not want to turn anymore. It was weird at first, but this was like cuckolding or your noisy neighbours, there comes a time when you stop to fight. Jack was way pass this point, he had a girl in university, he’d done his job. The forty-something year old man did not want his existence to be hard, he just wanted it to pass. Quickly.

In a way, it was the dread which kept him feeling things…

Midnight had come and pass. And the station was empty for all the big man knew. Sitting in his chair, his boobs resting comfortably on his round belly, Jack was counting minutes. Sixty-seconds slices of life until he could get the hell outta here. On his right-hand side, the computer screen the company forced every office to have was drowning him in its faint blue glow. Jack tried not to look at the computer. He was always afraid there would be someone in the station. A stranded traveller would mean a trip to the platform and it was way too late for this type of endeavour.

Truth is, Jack wasn’t even sure he would manage the courage to go there. And that is when the corner of his eye caught it. You know, how sometimes during the night you catch the tiniest flicker of a flame in the far reaches of your eyesight. That’s what happened to Jack, how he knew something had moved on the platform.

Jack averted his gaze towards the computer screen which always showed the view from eight cameras covering the two railways the station had and there it was. On the platform B, which led up north, a teenager. Jack looked at him for a minute. Wondering.

The boy, or the girl, it was hard to know, nowadays, was what Jack thought, was wearing a red sweatshirt and you could not see his leg without checking another camera. The boy, well, Jack preferred to think it was a boy since it was wearing a dark jean under the scarlet stain of his shirt was staring intently at the tunnel. Jack could not see his face, since the boy was facing opposite the camera.

Slowly, the traveller took his hands to his ears as if a tumultuous racket was pouring onto him.

Jack thought of calling the cops, before he remembered the closest police station only had four cop cars and had already told him so. He thought of calling the fire department, his colleagues, and all the while he thought of this, Jack secured a lamp torch, his vest. Before he knew it, he was standing above the stairs, looking at them as if they were the tongue of some curled up predator.

Jack gasped for air. Began his descent. Despite his lack of physical training, he arrived on the platform way more quickly than he thought. Still, he didn’t feel comfortable knowing he would have to go up the stairs while leaving — if he left — this were his thoughts when he got up on the platform.

The boy, the traveller, whatever, it was still standing too close to the rails, now bent into an odd angle, hearing something Jack, maybe due to his age, could not apprehend.

- Excuse-me? yelled the fat man, instantly regretting, as if he’d yelled in the middle of a church, a cursed edifice.

The boy, it didn’t turn. It just went straight. All of a sudden.

Jack, Jack gripped his cell-phone, madly, feeling its plastic twist under his damp palm.

And then, there was this noise, it hit the platform with the wrath of a vengeful god, lifting paper, and bits of trash as it came towards the middle-aged man.

There was something in the tunnel. Jack saw what looked like a hand. A dreadful one, sticking bones and cyst. Dark as coal under the moon light.

The subway worker turned around, closed the three meters which stood between him and the stairs.

Behind him he would hear, the quick staccato of sneakers hitting the platform.

And a more violent rhythm.

Releasing a paper every Friday.

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