Song of the Subway

Midnight in the subway, and Katharine was ready to get home. She stepped off the train, heels clicking on the pavement. One last glance at the closing doors of the now-empty car told her she was alone; yet as she made her way towards the escalators that would take her back up to the surface world, she couldn’t help but feel there was someone else, someone very close by…

She passed the ticket booth. The lights inside were dim, and a sign reading “closed” hung in the fingerprint-smudged window. Katharine stopped, and peered at herself in the nearly reflective surface. She fixed her hair, and straightened, still examining her twin in the glass.

Far away, she saw a figure. It was distorted and warped from the glass and the shadows it stood in, but it was a human figure. Tall, slender, with one spindle-fingered hand raised to his face, he seemed to be moving forwards…towards the ticket booth. Katharine began to panic, straightening up again and turning quickly towards the escalators. They were about a two minute walk away; at the far end of the concourse.

As she began walking, every muscle in her body screamed for her to run, run as fast as she could.
But she couldn’t do that. She could startle the other person. Besides, her mind said, it’s probably someone getting off the other midnight train. You’re being irrational.
But what if it wasn’t? She again fought the urge to turn around, fearful of what could happen if she did.
But what could happen? It was probably another businessperson, wandering back home to his wife and kids, nothing abnormal and certainly nothing sinister.

Katharine busied herself, wondering if the cat was fed today and if she made sure she turned the bathroom light off.

She heard footsteps behind her. Quick, brisk, with a faint clicking sound, like the person was wearing dress shoes. And of course he was! Katharine began forming a nearly comforting story in her head- He worked in an office and had a dog and a yard and two kids who played soccer, and when he got home, his wife would give him a kiss and tell him her day…

She passed another ticket booth. This time, she glanced again in the mirror, the image still warped by the dirty glass, but she could make out the silhouette of a three-piece-suit. This comforted her immensely, and her pace slowed a few steps.

His, however, sped up.

He has to get home, to tuck the kids in bed… She thought to herself, glancing at the schedule boards. What time did she need to get up in the morning to catch the morning train? Should she go to see that new movie, with the actor her mother was so fond of? What was his name, what was his…

She was jerked from her thoughts. Under the headline “Evening” was a list of all the trains. A line ran until midnight; this was the train she rode home every night. But B line, which she assumed the stranger came off of…
B line stopped running trains at 10 PM.
Her mind raced, trying to come up with a logical explanation for why this tall man was wandering around a near-dead substation at twelve in the morning. Again, her body began screaming for her to run, as fast as she could, into the safety of the street, or at the very least turn and confront him. Her mind, however, whispered very quietly, and quite firmly , that she dare not turn around. Her pace quickened again, and she cursed herself for wearing four-inch heels. The sound of her footfalls echoed, but the soft tap-tap-tap of her “companion’s” shoes remained steady, unchanging, and strangely dull.

She was getting closer to the stairs, her body and mind still warring with each other.

Run, screamed the muscles in her legs, He’s dangerous, run as fast as you can!

Quietly, persistently, something in her persisted.
Don’t you dare turn around… don’t look at him…keep walking…

At last, her mind won over, and without another thought, Katharine fixed her eyes on the ever-nearing bustle of the Ottawa sidewalk above her. Ten feet…then five…and at last, her hand made contact with the railing. She exhaled, and slowed her pace. But still, the patter of the stranger’s feet continued behind her, unchanging still. He suddenly seemed to only be a few steps behind her.

When she reached the top of the stairs, she let herself relax fully. People passed her, filing around her. Her hand dropped to her side, and at last she silenced the voice in her mind, and turned her head.

There was nobody behind her. In fact, from her view at the top of the stairs, Katharine couldn’t see anyone in the station, at all.

The End

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