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I didn’t usually take the train to work, but when your grandmother finds your stash while she’s cleaning, you get kicked out of her house and have to move in with your cousin three towns away. Now, commuting was never an issue for me. When I got out, I was able to nab an early morning shift unloading freight at a warehouse. It was a job I could walk to since I didn’t have a car, but after the incident last year, let just say I’d be surprised if the DMV reinstates my license at all. It was nice to experience the seasons while I walked though. Rain, snow, sleet, and those beautiful days in the spring where the smell in the air gets you high on good weather.
But there I was, breathing in the compressed air of old socks, work sweat, and stress. I was sitting in the quiet car so I didn’t have to deal with the idiot college kids that take this tin can to their classes every morning. As was custom with my morning routine, I had my headphones in and was listening to a pair of girls chat about some conspiracy theories as I snacked on a granola bar. The view from my window seat on this ride was never anything to write home about, A lot of broken down buildings, some trees here and there, but my favorite part was a few minutes of solid lake view right in the middle of my ride. During my first trip on this thing, I saw a giant turtle just chilling on a rock in the sunlight. I was jealous, to say the least, so I always sat in the same seat and hoped to see it, like some kind of weird beacon of hope that everything is going to be okay.
I’m not saying taking the train was life changing, but it was nice to have a schedule I didn’t set myself. The train arrived at 9 AM and I’d have to be at work by 10. I took my trip, grabbed some coffee, actually ate breakfast, smoked a bit, then would head into work. It kept me honest.
One day before the big day, I remember I was in my usual set of casual clothes, a light sweatshirt, some leggings, and a pair of sneakers. Before I knew it, I was listening to a story about Mothman and looking for my little turtle friend. Through the mud left from the previous night’s storm, I saw where his little turtle feet crawled into the water, but I didn’t see him…at least, I think it’s a him.
What I did see were a pair of red chucks peeking out from a cluster of trees on the left side of the lake view. What’s more chilling is that they were attached to a pair of legs sporting the same galaxy leggings I was. The train whizzed past before I could get a better look at whatever it was. I knew I hadn’t smoked anything that morning, and it was very possible I let some paranoia seep through my headphones and into my brain. In my rush to make the train that morning, I didn’t recall which shoes I had picked since I have several pairs that are in constant rotation. I unconsciously looked down at my shoes and saw bright red and white poke out from under my black backpack. A lump formed in my throat and I quickly thumbed my way through a heavy metal playlist on my phone to drown out my anxious thoughts. I wish that had worked.
My hands shook as I performed my daily tasks at work that day, I nearly cut myself with a box cutter. I work alone, so there was no one to talk to or ask if I was alright. Therefore, the entirety of my shift was spent anxiously thinking in circles. During my return trip, I sat in my seat, daring myself to look out again, but the moonlight reflecting on the lake did nothing to combat the artificial light of the car and all I saw was my terrified face staring back at me from the window.
That night, I staggered into my apartment, having gulped down a convenient store cola and half pint of whiskey on my way home. I tossed the empty 32oz. cup into a nearby dumpster, walked up the concrete steps, and slid my key into the door. My cousin was furious that I was so late and that she couldn’t get a hold of me. She screamed at me in spanish, but I just stumbled past her, kicked off my red chucks, and pushed the memory of what I saw to the back of my mind yet again. I fell onto my unmade bed and passed out before I could continue to undress.
Bright morning light streamed through my open windows the next morning and rested on my eyelids. I woke with a searing pain in my head, the blinding light doing nothing to help it. My short hair spiked this way and that from my restless night topped the outfit from the day before. I sat up and reached for my phone, but when I found it, I realized it was dead. It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if I didn’t set all of my alarms on that thing.
I cursed out loud and, faster than my body was ready to move, I ran to the living room. The analog clock on the wall read 8:57AM. My stomach lurched and I ran to the bathroom to vomit. With no time to spare, I grabbed my backpack, avoided the red chucks for a pair of lime green ones, and stuck a piece of gum in my mouth. I quickly locked the door and sprinted towards the station a few blocks away.
By some miracle, a crew member saw me running across the parking lot and held the train for me. I breathlessly found my usual seat in the end car and rested my sweaty forehead against the cold relief of the window. After I caught my breath, I took inventory of where I was and the memory of yesterday faded into my otherwise hazy brain. Panic swelled in my chest and my heart rate quickened again. The lake appeared in full view before I knew what was happening, my eyes immediately drawn to where I’d seen the red chucks the day before.
I saw…myself staring back at me. Holding onto a low-hanging tree branch, just standing next to the lake in the mud and staring into my eyes as the train passed. Unkempt blue hair, black crew neck sweatshirt, galaxy leggings, and lime green sneakers. A flash of movement from the thing stiffened my spine and I swallowed hard. I ripped through my backpack for my phone to capture it, but remembered too late that it was dead. By the time I looked back out of the window, the thing was gone.
I lost all control. My mouth went dry, I started to hyperventilate and wheeze. Tears fell from my eyes, and I hugged my arms across my chest. A kind older gentleman approached from a few seats behind me and asked if I was alright. I could only look at him through clouded eyes and shake my head. He extended a small pack of tissues and sat with me until my stop arrived. He didn’t touch me or say anything, he just…sat there. If it wasn’t for him I would have fallen to pieces and probably been kicked off the train. Eventually I calmed down, but was still too shaken to say anything. I nodded my thanks to him as the train pulled into the stop. He smiled sweetly and waved as I exited.
At this point I was seriously considering admitting myself to a recovery program. Yeah, I had gone a little overboard the night before, but hangovers can’t cause hallucinations…right? It’s been years since I did anything harder than weed, but maybe those studies are true and they do affect your brain in the long term. Either way, I was experiencing something serious and knew I needed to be sober and ready the next day to finally capture a photo of it. Whatever this…thing was, it had to exist for some reason. Maybe it was trying to send me a message or somehow I was a time traveller. I don’t know, a lot of things ran through my head that night and I lost sleep plotting out my investigation.
The next morning, I adorned myself with the brightest things I could think of that still made sense as an outfit so I wouldn’t miss it and would also avoid stares from strangers. A neon yellow hoodie, some light blue skinny jeans, and a pair of shimmery Doc Martens. My phone was fully charged and I took a few test shots with the burst setting on my phone before boarding my train. It allows you to take multiple shots within milliseconds of each other and was perfect for this task. Adrenaline and nerves fueled my determination to solve this mystery as I sat on the cold metal bench waiting for the train that morning. I kept my headphones in my bag, unwilling to distract myself from my thoughts. Today I would face this thing head on.
The trees that typically surround the lake appeared as the trip went on. My hot, nervous hands made fog on the train window as I readied my phone against it. As soon as I saw a flash of neon yellow, my muscles tensed. My phone’s camera focused on it and I held down the capture button for as long as it would let me. The train passed and, with wide eyes I stared at the screen. The first few photos were blurry but the next were crystal clear.
Sure enough, it showed a young girl who looked exactly like me, down to the mole above my upper lip. She had dark eyes, too dark for that time of day, they nearly looked black, but thanks to the distance between the train and her location, my phone could only zoom so far before it all devolved into pixels.
As the photos went on, she raised her left hand and pointed at the train. At first I thought she was pointing at me, but as I looked closer, I realized she was pointing behind me. I looked up, staring straight ahead at empty seats and blinked, confused and terrified. Slowly, I turned to face the rear of the car, and to my horror, I spied the thing again. She, or rather…I was sitting in the last seat of the second row on the opposite side of the car. Black eyes bore into mine, but she said nothing; did nothing.
In the blink of an eye, she was gone. I mean, I actually blinked and she disappeared. It was unsettling, but I had this strange sense that I should move to that seat. Something was pulling me towards it that was too strong to ignore. I did it with only a moment’s hesitation, and in a few seconds my backpack and I were sitting on the other side, in the last seat.
I passed a woman reading a book, a few middle-schoolers making out, and the kind gentleman from the day before. He gave me a sweet smile I half returned. The woman reading followed me with her eyes, looked at me like I had three heads, and shook her head as I sat down, but something still didn’t feel right. I held my backpack tightly against my chest and sat on the edge of the plastic bench seat. I swiped left and right through the pictures a few more times to make sure I wasn’t missing something, the idea that I was looking at myself numbed a bit.
Suddenly, a loud, metallic crunching noise grew perpetually louder and echoed through the walls of the train. Searing pain and blinding light suddenly surrounded me, a high pitched ring in my ears. Smoke rose from the demolished half of the car before me, filling up the compartment and barely escaping through a hole torn through the roof. The woman who had been reading was lying slumped over in her seat in a forming pool of blood, decapitated. The kind gentleman was nowhere to be found, and one teen was screaming and crying as he was confined to his seat by the shrapnel that now protruded from his partner’s chest. Fire blossomed from the scrunched up metal in front of me taking up half of the car, and I rose from my crooked seat. I coughed and sputtered, feeling my way to the door at the back of the car. My hand rested on a person, and I felt an arm tug at mine.
Before I knew it, I was outside, sucking in gulps of fresh air and surrounded by equally panicked passengers covered in blood, dust, and grime. The train laid before me, a crumpled mess on the tracks. The front end had fallen to the side of the tracks and it was engulfed in flames. A crew member mouthed some words to me, but the ringing in my ears persisted and I couldn’t hear what they said.
The paramedics were called, I was rushed to surgery for a broken leg I hadn’t noticed at the time thanks to shock, and my cousin was notified. Once I was in recovery, I learned that the crash took the lives of over 200 commuters in the cars before mine. They kept telling me I was one of the lucky ones.
Last Week’s Story: A Very Undead New Years Special
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