Jan and I got there seconds after it happened. People were still shouting with surprise and dismay. The body lay in tatters on the tracks.
“Oh God,” Jan whispered. “That poor man.”
“What happened?” I asked the guy next to me.
“Suicide,” the guy said. “He hopped off the platform right when the train was coming by.”
“Christ,” I muttered. I wondered what our options were. There’d obviously be a delay while the police and paramedics attended to the scene. From the looks of it, Jan and I were going to be late for our friends’ wedding in New York that evening; people were already scooping up the remaining taxis to take to their destinations. It looked like we’d be stuck there for a while.
There was a Dunkin Donuts on the platform and I suggested to Jan that we go in and wait until everything was cleaned up. She agreed.
I sipped coffee while Jan picked at a bagel without eating it. The police had just arrived. They draped the man’s torso and head with a cloth, but his legs were still uncovered. They were about 10 and 15 feet from the torso, respectively. Whatever blood there was had been soaked up by the gravel between the tracks. Still, there were spatters on the platform and nearby structures, including the window of the Dunkin Donuts. An employee went out a couple minutes later and wiped it off.
I watched the cleanup on the tracks and Jan texted our other wedding-bound friends. She mumbled something about not being in the mood to see a bunch of happy people after having to look at a dead body. I wasn’t paying much attention to her, though. I was staring at the cloth covering the dead man’s torso.
It had moved.
At first, I thought it was just the wind. It wasn’t. It obviously wasn’t. Just one small location on the cloth was jutting upward and then pulling back. From the looks of it, no one else had noticed.
Then a cop did.
“Hey,” he shouted to one of the guys from the coroner’s office, who was working on collecting one of the legs.
“Jan, look at the cloth covering the guy,” I instructed. She looked up.
The coroner glanced at the cop, who was pointing at the cloth. The coroner frowned.
The cloth jerked up hard and the coroner placed the leg back down on the tracks. I watched his mouth form the words, “what the f**k?”
He walked to the cloth and pulled it off. He was standing between me and the torso, but he backed away quickly after and I saw what he did. “What the f**k?,” I mimicked.
A thin, wiry thing was flopping back and forth out of a hole in the dead man’s back. Someone who looked like a boss yelled to get away, and everyone on the tracks hopped back onto the platform.
The thing flapped and writhed against the man’s bloody back. Jan was pleading with me to leave, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. More and more of it poured out of the man’s body. Three feet. Five feet. Ten. Twenty. It slapped against the tracks and gravel as if it were being electrocuted; more and more and more ejected itself from the corpse until it was free.
Two of the cops had their guns pointed at it, but their boss was yelling at them not to fire. A guy from Dunkin Donuts was recording the whole thing was his phone. Jan was green and huffing and puffing the way she does right when she’s about to throw up.
The creature on the tracks looked like it was trying to move away from the body, but it almost seemed to be tangled up in itself. It writhed for another minute, then jerked three or four times, then lay still.
Tentatively, one of the cops approached it, gun drawn. The thing didn’t move much. It twitched a little, but if my guess was any good, I would’ve said it was dead. The boss on the platform said something to the cop, who got closer. He kicked the worm. It flopped flaccidly against the tip of his shoe. In the glare of the setting sun, I watched a wet patch appear on his shoe. It might have just been the light, but i could’ve sworn I saw that wet patch crawl up to his sock.
The coroner came over with a much bigger cloth, which he threw over the thing. Another order from the boss, then the cops began to clear everyone from the platform. We were asked to leave the Dunkin Donuts.
Jan pestered me to have an Uber bring us from New Brunswick to the wedding in New York, and $200 later, we were at the wedding. And that was that.
I didn’t read anything about the creature on the tracks in the paper, although I did see something about the suicide. Just a normal guy named Juan Cordero, apparently. Nothing remarkable.
The one thing I did find remarkable, though, was what I read in the paper a few months later. It’s why I’m writing this in the first place. When I was going through the paper last week, I saw a story about a police officer who’d committed suicide on the steps of the police station a couple days earlier. Apparently there’d been a pretty big disturbance after, but the paper didn’t give any details.
I didn’t recognize the cop’s name, but the picture was familiar. It was the same one who’d kicked the worm thing and had gotten the stuff on his shoe. As for the disturbance after, I can only guess. But it’d be a pretty good guess.