I didn't normally take the 11:15 train, but, then again, I normally don't work that late. My boss had kept me late, yelling at me all night. Usually, I finish up around 10:00 and take the subway back to my apartment at 10:15. Tonight, however, I was forced to take the 11:15 train.
There's a rumor in my town about the 11:15 train. They say that people who take that train experience untold horrors. Some say that the conductor is a ghost. I've even heard that several murders took place on the infamous vehicle.
I have never believed any of those stories, though, I will admit, clambering onto a rusty old sub train in the middle of the night with no one around felt a little unsettling. I sat down on one of the seats as the train began to move forward. As the momentum of the vehicle increased and the outside lights in the tunnel flew past with growing speed, I leaned back and began to think back to the day I'd had at work.
I am ashamed to admit that I'd been a...less than stellar employee. My boss had given me, "three strikes," meaning if I messed up three more times in the next six weeks, I would be fired. I had been working at my current office for the past month. This had been my longest lasting job. I had been off and on with different jobs for the past year. Moving out hadn't been easy, and I had been struggling to do basic things like pay the rent and eat. I didn't even own a cell phone. Just an old flip-phone my parents had gotten me for Christmas when I was thirteen. It barely even worked, but I couldn't afford a better device.
I stood up and paced around the tiny confines of the sub train. Since it was empty, I wasn't bothering anyone by my anxious walking back and forth. I found myself staring blankly at the seats, just thinking. I hadn't done much thinking recently. I suffer from ADHD, which is one of the reasons why I lose jobs so easily. I can't focus on much of anything for very long.
A loud SCREECH
jolted me out of my thoughts as the train slid to a halt. I checked my watch. 11: 30. Not my stop. I would be exiting at 11:45. I dropped onto one of the seats and nearly leaped back out in surprise as a man darted past me. I heard a loud thud
as he ran out of the train and into the station.
As the sub train began to move once more, I peeked out the window at the man. He was dressed in a suit, complete with a pocket square and a blue checkered tie. However, the suit was tattered, and old. His sticking-up black hair was streaked with gray, and his brown eyes had bags under them. He looked like he was some homeless man who had found a suit in the dumpster.
The train took off, and on the fifteen-minute ride to my stop, I found myself thinking more about the man. Why did he seem to be in such a hurry? What was that noise? Had he dropped something? I decided to investigate. I stood up and crept over to the closed subway doors.
I looked around a little, searching for the source of the thud
I'd heard. Eventually, after a few minutes of fruitless searching, I gave up. I collapsed back onto the sea and checked my watch. Only five minutes until my stop.
Then, I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small, dark grey device, laying under the seat across from me. I leaned over and picked it up. I couldn't see any brand name at all. No logos. Nothing. It was fitted into a sleek black case. The camera on the back looked of rather good quality. There was only one button, positioned along the side. I pressed it. The display lit up. The first thing I noticed was that the lock screen was just a generic background of what looks like some random splotches of paint that comes default on most phones.
The whole cell phone seemed new. It was almost funny, the idea that the ragged old homeless man had the newest iPhone. Well, it wasn't an iPhone. Like I said, there were no brand names on the phone of any sort. I knew I should return the phone to it's rightful owner, whoever that was. I wondered if it even had a password or fingerprint registered inside it. I hit the home button and, to my surprise, the device unlocked. An array of various apps littered the screen. Again, none of the apps looked customized, just basic stock apps.
I scrolled through the apps. Clock, Photos, Notes. I looked through them, and they all looked like apps my friends had on their phones. I also checked the contacts. Completely empty. As if it had just been bought. I smiled. This was my new phone.
The train came screeching to a halt. I had arrived at my stop. I exited the train and stepped into the dark subway tunnel. I exhaled, and made my way toward the escalator. As I was riding up the mechanical stairs, I pulled out my cell phone. Traversing the dark streets at night is not one of my favorite activities. I searched through the Settings app and the toolbar, trying to see if there was a flashlight.
Bingo! There was a flashlight in the toolbar. I tapped the screen, activating it. The bright light illuminated the empty street in front of me. The flashlight was incredibly powerful, lighting up at least a ten-foot radius around me. I started walking up the sidewalk, occasionally taking quick glances to make sure I wasn't being followed.
Being stalked is one of the things that terrifies me the most. I hate the idea of being grabbed from behind, your skin turning to ice as cold fingers wrap around your neck. I tried not to think such thoughts as I walked alone down the dark street.
I turned a corner around a tall office building. I looked at me reflection in the lobby window as I passed. I looked like a complete mess, hair disheveled, clothes worn and even ripped in a few places. I sighed. If I lost my job, I would be done for. Working there was the only thing allowing me to pay the rent and put food on the table. I determined that from this day forward, I would be a good employee. Maybe even a great employee. I just needed to work for it.
I briskly began walking again, now with a renewed sense of energy. I had a new phone, and a new purpose in life. I pushed through the cold night, proud of myself. I could see my apartment complex looming in front of me. The way my apartment is laid out, the stairway leading to the various floors is on the outside. I climbed up the staircase, taking the steps two at a time. I strode up to my front door. I pulled the keys out of my pocket, fumbling with them as I inserted them into the lock. My cold fingers struggled as I attempted to open my door.
Then I heard them. Footsteps. Coming up the steps. I know, it was probably just another tenant coming home. But still, what with the eerie cold night, my nerves were shot. With my cell phone being the only thing to penetrate the darkness, I feared the worst. the footsteps got louder, nearer. I worked the key further into the keyhole. The sounds of the person's steps amplified in volume. They were coming up the steps.
I dropped the keys. I grunted. The footsteps were too loud, pounding against the metal stairs. I grabbed the keys back up, shoving them into the lock. I twisted them hard. The door swung open. I ran inside, slamming the door shut just as the footsteps reached the entrance to my apartment door.
The footsteps stopped. They just stood there, unmoving. I checked several times, making sure that my door was locked. It was. I stumbled back and collapsed on my couch. Maybe my pursuer had walked away and I hadn't heard him. Or maybe, it wasn't a pursuer at all. I needed to stop being so paranoid. I pulled out my new cell phone and turned it on. I opened the contacts app, and added my friends and family to the list, typing in their phone numbers. I signed in my own phone number and even downloaded some mobile games. The "App Finder," as it was called, contained every app I could think of, despite the fact that it was an unknown brand.
I went into my room and passed out on my bed.
"Hey, Brad, how's it going?" my friend, Jacob, asked. It was the next morning, and I had tested out calling people with my new phone.
"Yeah, hey," I said. "How would you like to come over to my place? Tonight?"
"Uhhh...Maybe 10:45?" I answered. Jacob was a night owl. I knew he could make it.
"Yeah, I'll be there!"
He hung up. It was six am, and I was about to go to work. I sat down at my counter and pulled my plate toward me, upon which were placed my breakfast: a piece of toast and a carrot. I crunched on my toast while I scrolled through emails on my new phone. As I was looking at some spam survey from some random company in my area when I saw the time. 6:10. I was supposed to be at work by 6:45.
I quickly pressed the home button. As I stood up, I heard something which nearly made me leap out of my skin out of surprise.
"How may I help you, Brad?"
It was clearly a computer-generated voice, like any smart assistant that you find on most devices, but in the silence, it caught me off guard. I looked at my screen. It was dark gray, with the previously spoken words printed on the screen in blue. I pressed the home button again. Nothing happened. I had to answer.
"Are you sure about that?"
The answer caught me off guard. In the past, I'd had some fun playing around with voice assistants on my buddy's phones, and whenever you said something like that, they shut off.
"Yes..I am," I said.
"Alright." when she said that, it sounded almost human. The assistant screen was replaced by the home screen. I didn't have much time to think about it. I grabbed my carrot and left my apartment. I crunched on it as I entered the subway station. I barely managed to catch my train by less than a minute. I clambered on and sat down on the bench. I finished up my carrot. The underground train rumbled along it's track, vibrating in a relaxing manner.
There were more people with me this time. The train was, in fact, full. I took a glance around the train, looking at the various commuters on their way to work. Everyone was staring at their screens, scrolling through texts or social media.
Except for one of them.
She was a lady. She had big, bright blue eyes. She had long, flowing blonde hair. She was clad in a blue dress and leather sandals. She wore no makeup, from what I could see, but she instead displayed natural beauty. And she was staring right at me.
I quickly looked away. I didn't know who she was, and I didn't want to look like some creep. I pulled out my phone and pretended to use it for something. There was something unnatural about the way she was looking at me. I chose to ignore it, and to get on with my day.
When the train slowed to a stop, I stood up, ready to get off and go to work. I stepped carefully over other riders, avoiding their legs and feet. I forced my way off the train, eventually. Once out of the sub-train, I ran. I could not be late for work. Not when my whole job, my whole livelihood, was hanging on a thread.
I made it. Barely. I could see my my boss glaring at me from the other side of the office when I arrived. But I didn't care. I was just grateful that I had arrived at work by 6:45. I speed-walked to my cubicle and sat down at my desk. I turned on my computer, and started my day.
The day was dreary and boring. I spent my day filling out spreadsheets and editing drafts. Everything was fine, until lunch.
We all ate in a large room at the end of the office hall. There is a huge window that takes up the entirety of one of the walls. I always sit next to the window. I love the view I get of the city. I sighed and leaned back in my chair and stared out at the street below. I took a bite of my sandwich. It tasted bland, and cold. The combination of week-old egg salad and partially cooked ham made for a pretty nasty sandwich.
Then, I spat it out. Not because of the taste, but because I saw something. A head. Peeking out from the around the outside of the window. The floor I was on was floor 6. It would have been next to impossible to climb that high, or at the very least, extremely difficult. The face ducked out of sight as soon as I noticed it, but in the second that it was there, I thought I recognized it.
It wasn't for a few moments after the face was gone that I remembered what had happened on the train. I raced to the window, and tried my hardest to look down. I couldn't see anything. Nobody. I began to doubt what I'd seen. Maybe it was just my imagination. I had
missed out on a lot of sleep recently. I sat back down in my chair, not even caring that some of my co-workers were staring at me.
That was when my phone buzzed with a new notification. A text, to be exact. I pulled it out of my pocket.
The text was from an unknown number, and it simply read, Hello, Bradley. --------
I sat on the train home, re-reading the message over and over again. Who had sent it? Was this a prank? I tried texting back, but received no response. I tried calling it, but got sent to voicemail, which, strangely, was just silence. Most voicemails include someone saying,"Hi, I'm (their name). Please leave a message," but this one was simply complete silence for ten seconds before ending.
I looked around the sub-train. It was empty, in a creepy way. Normally, there were at least a few
people. But not tonight. I shut off my cell phone and lifted up my feet, resting them on the seats across from me. Maybe I had time for a nap. After all, Jacob would be there tonight, and I probably wouldn't get much sleep.
I closed my eyes, allowing sleep to take control of me.
I wasn't sure how long I slept, maybe five minutes. I awoke to sudden movement. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was being shaken awake. I opened my eyes. "What.."
It was her. The woman who was watching me on the train. The one I thought I'd seen through the office window. She was wearing the same blue dress, same leather sandals. Her crystal blue eyes bored into me.
"Who are you?" I asked.
She didn't respond, just grabbed my arm and pulled. I was forced to stand up. She motioned for me to follow her out of the train. I hadn't noticed that it had stopped. I followed her. I don't know why. I was so exhausted, I must have been delirious.
The lady led me out of the train and into the street outside the station. I shivered in the chilly night air. A car flew past us. It drove straight through a puddle, splashing me with freezing cold water. It must have rained earlier, and I hadn't noticed. I brushed the water off of my face and looked over at the woman.
She wasn't wet. The puddle had definitely splashed both of us. How was she perfectly dry? She began walking again, dragging me with her. I finally came back to my senses and pulled away.
"Where are you taking me?" I asked.
Then, she responded. She spoke, mirroring a voice I had heard earlier that day. "Hello, Bradley." It was stiff, robotic. Like an alien imitating a human voice. The sound of a voice assistant. I froze.
"What is going on?" I turned tail and ran. I didn't want anything to do with her, or any of this. I ran, fast as possible, to my apartment. I darted up the stairs, to my door. I looked over the edge of the railing. The lady was chasing me. I heard her footsteps running swiftly up the steps. They sounded identical to the ones I'd heard the previous night.
I fumbled frantically for my keys, pulling them out and cramming them into the lock. I twisted, but the door wouldn't open. I yelped and dropped my keys. I reached down to pick them up, and when I stood up, the footsteps stopped. I looked hesitantly toward the stairs. She was standing there, smiling.
Her smile was empty, without amusement, without life. She stepped forward, slowly. I couldn't move. I wanted to turn around, to unlock my door, to run inside. But I couldn't. I just watched as she advanced.
She walked up to me, and grabbed my hand, and reached her hand into my pocket. She grabbed the phone and pulled it out. The lady turned it on. I watched as she pressed the home button.
Her finger seemed to melt into it, to mold itself around her. She was lifted off the ground and forced into the cell phone. The light from the phone illuminated her face, smiling still that emotionless expression. She was consumed and became one with the phone.
The cell phone tumbled to the floor. The woman was nowhere to be seen. I picked up the phone. It was still in the Messages app, opened to the contact of the unknown number. There was a new text there, that sent shivers down my spine. I'll miss you, Bradley.
The next morning, I "dropped"the phone on the train, for a new victim to find. I feel guilty about it, but I can't live with that anymore. Every time I close my eyes, I see her, being consumed by that thing. It terrifies me to think that that phone is out there. That that lady's soul is with it.
So, if you ever find a phone on a sub-train, do yourself a favor, and don't pick it up.