Vera stares down the dark, gaping subway tunnel, looking for the 6:15 train to arrive. Her lips quiver, upset at something, she turns away from the platform. Pacing back and forth. The station around her roars with life, as the rush hour nears its end. People headed back home or leaving work, who knows. They are all strangers to her. She couldn’t feel more alone inside this sea of people. The escalators to the surface are congested and the clank of vending machines dispatching adds to the cacophony echoing through the arcade. There are a few toddlers clinging to their parents as if their life depended on it. A little girl held by her mother looks back at her with sad eyes. Vera tries to smile, but is hardly successful.
She lets out a sigh and looks at her feet, catching a glimpse of the small, oval shaped diamond ring on her finger. Covered by a film of dirt, it does not look as shiny as she remembered when her husband first proposed to her.
A horn sounds, announcing the impending arrival of the train. She walks up to the platform as the wheels squeak to a stop. She looks around, the little girl still staring at her with those puppy eyes. She takes a deep breath and manages that smile after all.
The doors open as passengers flood out. She closes her eyes and steps through the threshold into the subway car, finding a seat towards the front. A few other people go in as well, as does the mother with the little girl. The doors screech to a loud close, almost like a scream, which makes her jump to her feet. Alarmed, she checks her surroundings, but everyone else seems unfazed. Did she imagine that? She looks at the little girl, now seated across from her. She smiles at her this time. With a sigh of relief - or resignation - Vera sits back down, only this time her knuckles turn white by clutching onto the metal pole too tight, as her stomach twists into a knot. In fact, she could’ve sworn there had been more than one scream.
One stop, then another. People start filing out as the night grows longer.
The mother with the little girl are the last to go, leaving Vera alone in the car. Vera lets out a tired sigh. She tries to make out the subway map, trying to look for her stop. Lights momentarily go out as her subway car gets swallowed by a dark tunnel. All she could hear on that moment was the loud banging of the subway track and the beating of her own heart.
The car gets lit up again and as she looks at the back, her stomach leaps to her throat. There is a tall man with a long brimmed hat enveloped in a dark cloak now sitting there. He is leafing through an old book, with yellowed pages, but doesn’t seem to notice her.
She tries to speak, but no words come out.
Where did he come from?
There was no other stop.
Maybe he came from the other car?
She tries to get a closer look, but his face is covered by his hat. Even so, Vera can sense him watching her. She steps back.
Another tunnel. Darkness envelops her.
Then the lights come back on.
The man is now sitting closer to her.
Vera lets out a gasp. Then a nervous chuckle.
“Lord, you scared me.”
No acknowledgement. She still can’t see his face.
Her heart now pounds faster.
Yet another tunnel. Vera is now hyperventilating.
The lights come back on.
In terror, Vera realizes the tall man is sitting right next to her.
She jumps to her feet, running to the subway car door. She turns around at him.
“Who the hell are you? What do you want from me?”
The tall man now lifts his gaze. Vera is horrified to see that he has a skeletal, sunken face with dark peering eyes plugged deep within the sockets. She instinctively pulls the emergency brake, which makes the train jerk, knocking her off her feet. The tall man now stands up and against all laws of physics, he seems to go against the momentum of the slowing car. He reaches his arm out to Vera as the car halts to a stop and the doors open.
Vera escapes his grasp and rushes out to the platform. The subway station is empty and she rushes onto the escalator, running up as it moves. Her right heel gets caught on a step as she turns around and sees the tall man after her.
She takes off her other shoe as the escalator reaches the top. She now runs barefoot onto the cold tile, only to realize that she is back on the platform where she started. She is confused, exasperated, desperately looking for a way out. She turns around as the tall man is there, grabbing her arms and making her shriek in horror.
“Let me go! Let me go! What do you want from me?”
There is no answer. Vera starts to sob.
“No, no! I don’t wanna die. I don’t wanna die.” She keeps repeating hysterically.
“I want to live! Please, oh please don’t hurt me, just let me go...” She begs as she breaks through his grasp and drops to the ground in a heap.
The man’s tall dark figure looms over her.
“Who are you? What’s happening?”
The tall man wraps his cloak around her and in a flash of light she is back looking at the little girl at the station waiting for the 6:15 train. Only this time it is the little girl’s mother that lets out that blood-curdling scream.
“Oh my God! Oh my God, she jumped!”
Vera confusedly follows her mother’s stare. She looks at the train tracks, her body bloodied and torn up, her lifeless eyes staring back at her. She sucks her breath in, terrified and unbelieving at the sight. Others gather around her, but don’t take any notice of her.
“Did you see that?” says one.
“She just thrust herself in front of the train!” says another.
The mother is shielding her daughter’s eyes.
Vera is still in disbelief. She looks at her hands, which now seem transparent.
“This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening” she says as she closes her eyes tight. “This is a dream, I don’t want to die.”
She opens her eyes and all is gone. She then finds herself in a white room with only the tall man in it.
“A-Am I dead? Is this heaven?”
The tall man points a skinny finger at a door.
Vera walks up to it and opens it. A little girl is standing there, reaching out her hand.
“Hi mommy,” she says.
Vera’s eyes fill up with tears and her heart is full.
“Emily, it’s you.”
“I’ve been waiting for you mommy. Why did it take you so long?”
“Don’t worry my dear, I’m here now. I will never leave you again.”
She steps into the light as they both disappear in the horizon.