From the moment I got on the train, I felt him staring at me. We were the only ones there. It was 2am.
“Just a random weirdo,” I thought. “Probably harmless.”
It was little comfort. I’d heard enough horror stories about the subway to know that if he wanted to hurt me, there’d be nothing to stop him.
I tried to focus on my phone while knowing he was still focusing on me. His glare was icy and dispassionate. Predatory. Despite it being late July in a hot subway car, I was covered in goosebumps.
“When’s the next stop?” I wondered. The ride felt like it was taking forever. Discomfort and fear began to swell inside my chest.
“Maybe I should sneak a picture of him, just in case he tries something. The cops can go through my phone and find out who hurt me. …or who killed me.”
The idea brought a fresh sense of panic.
Trying to look as casual as possible, I raised the phone with my right hand while adjusting my hair with my left, as if I were using it as a mirror. I snapped a photo.
I realized, far too late, that I’d neglected to turn off the flash.
A bolt of light cast harsh illumination across the car. The man shifted in his seat, his eyes never leaving me.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” I repeated in my head. I was shaking. Even from where he was sitting, he had to have been able to see how freaked out I was. I was certain that was one of his goals.
At that point, I gave up trying to pretend I didn’t care about him watching. I watched right back, praying the train would stop soon so I could get out. I didn’t care if the next stop was in a bad neighborhood. I’d take my chances.
My eyes remained locked on his for the next couple minutes. When I felt the train slow, I breathed my first sigh of relief in what seemed like an eternity. I glanced out the window. Blackness. No signs. No platform.
We were in a tunnel.
And we’d stopped.
“No,” I whimpered.
The man rose from his seat. He was so tall. So wide. He stepped heavily toward me, his glare never breaking.
I shrank back into my seat, shaking my head. He sat across from me. His long arms could reach out and grab me at any time.
“Please,” I whimpered. “Don’t.”
He didn’t say a word. He just stared. His eyes were wider now; the whites were visible all around.
“Crazy person eyes,” I thought. “This is how my life ends.”
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. A tear leaked out of my left eye.
“Don’t think about going anywhere,” he replied. His voice was deep and breathy.
I gasped. I hadn’t expected him to talk.
“I’m not,” I answered, shaking. “Just don’t hurt me.”
“I’m not. I swear, I wo–”
“Stop talking. Stop shaking. Stop crying. Stop everything. Do. Not. Move.”
I obeyed. The car was silent, aside from the faint echoes from the tunnel outside. I remained in place, grasping my knees to my chest and looking blankly at his enormous hands. Hands that could snap my neck. Hands that could beat me to a pulp. Hands that could rip my clothes off with one pull.
I don’t know how long we sat like that. Maybe thirty seconds. Maybe ten minutes. All the while, he stared at me. Stared through me. What was he waiting for? Why was he toying with me?
The echoes outside grew louder. “People working on the tracks,” I thought. “Will they help?”
I realized he’d started breathing heavily. His barrel chest was moving up and down. Sweat was pouring from his brow. Now he was the one who was shaking. Trembling. As if he were about to pounce.
“This is it,” I realized. “Here it –”
The echoes from outside had changed. They didn’t sound mechanical, like they had when they were soft and distant. Now they were organic. Loud. Nearby. Almost like screams.
Something flickered in the corner of my eye. I jumped.
“Don’t! Move!” he demanded. I ignored him and whirled my head around to look at the window behind me.
A massive, white face glared back at me.
I shrieked and fell out of my seat. The face pushed through the window. The glass didn’t break; it stretched, as if it were liquid.
The face was attached to a thick, veiny neck, covered in crimson welts and plates of bone. I was beside myself with terror, lying on the floor of the filthy subway car, my arms outstretched in some primitive self-defense gesture.
The man was forgotten as the face towered over me. Its mouth stretched ear-to-ear in a wide, skeletal grin, opening wider as it got closer to my supine body. It screamed out a hellish sound unlike anything I’d heard before and I hope to die before ever hearing again.
Everything began to fade as I hyperventilated. I was dimly aware of huge hands reaching for and grasping the head and neck of the thing before I passed out.
I woke up a few minutes later. Everything was red and wet and steaming. I was coated in blood. Shards of bone and chunks of flesh and loops of intestines coated the interior of the subway car.
There were two corpses: the thing and the man. The former had encircled the latter. Gaping holes that looked like bites covered the man from head to toe while deep gashes that looked like rips or tears decorated the thing.
They’d killed one another. And I was alive.
I looked at the window that the thing had poured through. It was solid. Unbroken. I listened. The echoes were silent. Everything was quiet, save for the steady dripping of blood and gore from the ceiling.
My chest started to heave with heavy, bitter sobs. I was not okay. Nothing was. I tried wiping the blood from my face and eyes as I wondered what would happen next.
Over the train intercom, the conductor announced, “sorry for the delay, we’ll be moving again momentarily.”
A severed length of intestine under the seat twitched and leaked its contents onto my shattered cell phone. I gagged, then lurched forward, grabbing onto the slippery handrail, as the train began to move.