A/N: This is a story I came up with a while ago for a Horror Contest. Make of it what you will; it's supposed to be left up to interpretation. Also, reviews are awesome ;) I'd love to know any opinions!
It was a Wednesday morning, a workday. Karen woke up slightly late and went through her daily routine haphazardly, rushing. She ate only half a bagel for breakfast and left her apartment at 7:04. It was nice outside, slightly windy but still warm and sunny, and she relished the feeling of fresh air in her lungs. She had no ongoing problems or anxieties at that time and was in an average mood; it was a normal day.
When she reached the sidewalk outside she hailed a taxi and asked to be driven to the subway. She started her descent down the stairs at 7:13 and almost fell, flailing, on the fourth step. By the time Karen reached the platform, ticket in hand, it was already 7:18. There was no sunlight there, only cold fluorescents which she would always associate with being underground.
She sat down on a bench facing the empty tracks and leaned back, setting her bag down. Her train was about to arrive. As she began to gaze off into space she noticed a flurry of movement to her left, across the tracks. She brought her eyes into focus and thought she was hallucinating.
A man was limping across the pavement on the other side of the tracks.
He was a vision in dark colors; he had shaggy, greasy, long black hair and what looked like very worn-out clothing. Everything he had on was either black or gray, including his shoes. He was limping, and his hands looked pale and clammy. The unfortunate guy was probably homeless. Karen glanced around to see if anyone else had spotted him—there were countless other people standing nearby and sitting on close benches with an easy view—but no one seemed to have noticed anything.
When she looked back across the platform to see the man again, he was gone. She looked up and down the tunnel as far she could see, but he was nowhere in sight. He couldn't have moved that quickly with his limp and at the speed he'd been going. It was impossible. A chill ran down her spine. A figment of my imagination. But he had looked so real...
To distract herself Karen took out her morning newspaper and began to read, glancing at her watch as she did so. 7:20. Five more minutes.
The wait seemed like forever, but she finally heard the sound of the train approaching, the sound of greased metal on metal. She put her newspaper into her bag and stood up with it, glancing at the platform and taking a step toward it.
She did a double take. He was there again.
The man was limping across the same place he'd been before, oily hair hanging limply across his face. He stared at the ground as he moved forward, and she could see a long pale nose peeking out from behind his fringe of filthy hair. She realized that she couldn't tell exactly what he was wearing, because it really was all black. It all blended together. She could observe only that he was wearing long sleeves and pants. They looked to be covered in dirt or mud, like he had fallen. She felt a rush of pity for the poor guy, forgetting that he'd disappeared just moments earlier. He really did look horrible.
Suddenly he stopped and began to turn toward the platform. Toward her. He saw me. She couldn't look away.
When his face came into view shivers crawled their way over Karen's back and to the tips of her fingers and toes. His oily skin looked almost paper white and was shining in the fluorescents eerily. His hair, she noticed, was matted and tangled on his head. His body looked mangled somehow, like something wasn't right in his stance, but she couldn't pinpoint what it was.
The only problem she could see was his right foot—the one he'd been dragging—which was bent crookedly. In that moment she perceived that its side was entirely flush with the ground. Her eyes widened in surprise. And then her gaze was suddenly drawn to something else; he'd left a trail behind him, some dark, clumpy liquid. It shone black under the white light. She realized that her entire body was tensed and that her feet felt like heavy weights on the stony floor. She couldn't move, she couldn't look away. And she didn't pity him anymore.
Why wasn't the train there yet? But it had only been a few seconds, of course it was still a ways off. Fear crawled its way into Karen's abdomen and she wished more than she'd ever wished for anything that she hadn't stood up or put her newspaper down. The paper was safe. Normal. But this? It was all wrong.
Suddenly she was hit with a sick awareness. She had to look back at his face. If she didn't it wouldn't be right. She had to find out who this repulsive man was and why he was there.
She knew in that moment that he was there only for her.
All at once her eyes locked onto his. For the first time he was staring directly at her. His beady black eyes looked to be all pupils, with no white in sight. But another color was blended into the black, she realized. Red.
Then he grinned.
It was the creepiest grin Karen had ever seen. His teeth were yellowed and crooked, and she thought his face would be split in two with how unnaturally wide it was. Abruptly she realized that there was something on his teeth, in his greasy hair, on his soaking and twisted torso and legs. Something that was dripping out of him like water would drip from a faucet left on overnight.
Blood and guts.
His insides were almost all hanging out.
She wanted to vomit. She still couldn't look away. What happened to him?
And then the train came. When Karen saw it out of the corner of her eye she was felt incredibly relieved, knowing that the strange apparition before her would be gone.
Then he went flying.
For a moment, just when the train reached the section of tracks next to the man, time seemed to slow, and his eyes did not leave hers. Then his body was flung into the air.
He was not on the tracks, but the train hit him all the same. The scene was a vision of dark and light, blurring before her unfocused eyes as she fought to remain calm.
He was still grinning as he fell out of sight, and he didn't look away from Karen once. When the train came to a stop, she realized vaguely that her legs were trembling beneath her.
There was a man lying in front of the train, because it had hit him, even though he hadn't been in the way. He was injured and dying, and he had beady black eyes and a much-too-wide yellow smile. Though she couldn't see him, Karen was sure he was there.
She pushed away the thought, trying to convince herself otherwise. Seeing things. God, what a morning.
She looked down the platform, her eyes still out of focus, and saw only blurs of fluorescent and blackness. She had never seen the subway this way, like a damp metal cave underground, a world beneath their own that was only in shades of black and white.
It was eerie.
She got into her train at 7:25 as she would have any other day, sitting in her customary spot in the car, by the back window. She felt safe. Karen wondered what she had eaten that morning that had made her hallucinate. Because, of course, it had all been a hallucination.
When the train began to move at 7:26 she turned to look out into the dark, as she always had, because that man was not real and everything was okay now.
And then she screamed.
He was standing right outside her window, his slimy white nose a centimeter away from her shoulder, his face at the same level as hers. And he was still grinning. His body was fully disfigured now, with chunks of flesh missing everywhere and blood drying over everything.
She choked out a silent sob.
His left eye was gone and a huge hole was blown in the side of his head. A part of her realized that half of his left arm was missing. She had no idea what his legs looked like, and she didn't want to know. She was sure that a trail of blood and guts was scrawled over the pavement and the tracks and the train.
And she couldn't look away.
She didn't notice the commotion she'd caused, or the people trying to help her, asking her what was wrong. She didn't notice the children in the car behind her, looking at her as if she were insane and asking their mother if the lady was okay. All she could see was him, staring at her from his dark world like his life depended on it.
And of all things, the only thought that drifted through her head was an old riddle, one that she had heard far too many times in her youth:
What's black and white and red all over?
What's black and white and red all over?
Yes, red, not read, because he was
But then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Karen stared, shaking like mad and still half-sobbing, at the empty space outside of her train car where he'd stood just a moment before. Where did he go? She didn't feel safe, not at all, not anymore. She was silent and sat stock still for a long moment, waiting, waiting, waiting...
And then she screamed louder than she'd ever screamed in her life, screamed until her voice was hoarse and her throat was raw and she couldn't scream anymore.
Because she could smell blood and dirt and death, and she could feel him breathing on the back of her neck.
Time of death 7:28