You must login to vote
Adult theme and some language
The mist drifts down slowly, swirling and floating, driving people away from the darkened city streets. It ducks into doorways and alcoves, where he's hiding. Waiting.
He's quiet, for the most part, and lonely. Uncomfortable in groups, where his challenges can not be comfortably made. He enjoys the mystery of the hunt, the solitude, and the animal cunning it requires. A real challenge. And what a reward; forbidden fruit. Forbidden to all but he.
His head snaps here and there, adrenaline pumps into his stomach, an umbrella appears, or a flash of hair as someone darts across the street. But it's too early, he knows that. He has calculated perfectly. Worked out times, distances and the travel routes of his prey with careful study and practice. It takes infinite patience, this war of wits. Its easy really, when you know your adversary's weaknesses, the most useful of which is human compassion. But there is no room in him for that, only the hunt, the kill, and the rush from total control.
Its almost too easy, he thinks to himself as his prey steps out, right on time. His practiced remarks and excuses for being just there, just now, race through his head. He smiles as he makes a last minute adjustment to his lies. It's so easy. He steps out, looking determinedly in the opposite direction.
"Hey! What are you doing here?" the young woman asks.
"What a coincidence," he smiles, turning.
It's so easy.
The streets are crowded today; the midday sun has brought a flood of workers out, seeking food and the company of others. But that's not why he's here.
He's standing at a corner looking into a shop window. If you look closely you can see that his eyes are focused not on the drab merchandise, but eighteen inches in front of it. On the glass. More specifically, on the reflection in the glass, showing the opposite corner, where she will appear in just a moment.
"Here we go!" he says with a short laugh. He turns and startles a woman passing behind him, who has stiffened and looked at the ground as she passed, to avoid the eyes of this man who talks and laughs to himself on such a day as this. His smile of reassurance, when she glances up is almost more frightening in its normalcy. A forgotten feeling wells up in her, a childhood nightmare perhaps. She swallows it down without a smile and passes on, her eyes returning to the sidewalk.
His eyes drop back to his real quarry. He leers as her hips weave in and out of view on the crowded sidewalk opposite. He takes up his parallel pursuit. He stays to the right, close to the buildings and takes glimpses through breaks in the traffic. The sun strikes her hair. She returns the smile of a passer by and his eyes scour the man, sizing him up, looking for weaknesses. Calculating where his first blow would be. "He wouldn't stand a chance," he grunts to himself. He dismisses his potential adversary and reminds himself to focus.
As they approach an intersection he calculates in his head again for the hundredth time since eleven-thirty. Straight today, or right to the deli? It's got to be the deli today; she hasn't been there in two weeks. He has to bite his lip to keep from smiling as her head turns to check the traffic. She steps off the curb, and he slows just a bit, checks the cars, calculates the times, skips half a step and then picks up the pace to a brisk stride, as she comes to him in a trot from the traffic, and onto the sidewalk.
Not bad, he thinks, about two feet in front of me. She looks up to keep from running into anyone and her face breaks into a smile.
"Look who it is! I see you everywhere."
"Lucky for me," he recites and elicits a pink flush.
"Shut up! Hey, you're married mister, I'll tell your wife!" she laughs.
"Go ahead," he says with his best James Dean smirk. "Where're you going for lunch?"
"Funny, so am I," he says placing his hand her back to guide her around the corner and back into the crowd. As she steps in front of him, he closes his eyes for an instant, and inhales deeply.
The office manager stepped through the darkened doorway at the front of the studio to get her coat and her bag. The lights were off, but she noticed the bluish glow of a computer screen as she tucked the loose, gray strands of hair into her hat. She recognized the man in the pale glow and considered leaving without speaking but decided it was probably polite to say good night.
"Hey guy, workin' late?" she called, shrugging into her coat and wishing she hadn't said anything.
"Yeah, I'll probably be here a couple more hours," he replied turning with a smug smile.
"Well, I think you're last, except for one girl in the pool," she said, trying to make it quick. "You two were made for each other!"
"Yeah, I guess so," he smiled back. "You know me and the ladies... "
The office manager suddenly remembered why she never liked this man. "That's what scares me! Well, be good, see you tomorrow. Hey! Here she is now, what are you still doing here?"
"I've got some stuff I have to finish," the young secretary replied with a sigh.
"Well, watch out for this guy, he's a psycho."
"He's harmless, he's married," she laughed, turning to the man in the dark and then back to the older woman. "See you tomorrow."
The office manager nodded from beneath her hat and took a quick look at the man in the dark, who raised his head to acknowledge her leaving. A moment later the outer door clicked shut and if it was brighter, the secretary would have seen an oily smile slide across her co-worker's face. She still had some catching up to do, but this guy was usually nice to her. He held the door, told her she looked nice, and even bought her lunch recently at the deli.
"Hey what are you working on?" she asked, walking over and leaning on the opposite desk.
"More of the same crap for the client on this thing. I'm not to sure about what to do about it, but they know even less, so I'm just going to fudge it, they won't know the difference."
"You're bad!" she said with mock conviction and looked down at her feet, stretching her arches after a long day in heels.
His eyes follow hers down and lingered there. He's committed every line to memory, but is addicted to this habit of scanning a woman as soon as her eyes turn from his. Her eyes came up an instant before his and he turned them to a small stain on the rug. Studying it as though all the answers lay within its faded borders.
She watched his right cheek as little pink spot formed, almost girlish in its starkness. All guys are same, she thought. When he looked back up, the two rouge spots faded quickly back to normal, but something else was there. A burning – a smoldering almost - fading from his eyes, that she didn't notice as she watched his cheeks. He smiled, and she returned it, mechanically.
"Well, I'll see ya'," she said suddenly turning to go, twisting her foot back into her heel.
"Hey," he blurted, standing, "what'd you come over here for?"
"Oh," she shrugged over her shoulder as she walked, "I was going to leave soon and was just taking a walk around to see if anyone was going my way, but you look busy."
"Uh, no actually," he stammered, "I was just going to leave myself. I'll walk you to the station."
"I don't want to mess up what you're doing. I'll be fine."
"No, no. I'm going now anyway, just let me get my coat," he said smiling.
She watched his back as he turned to get his coat and his bag, then shook her head, dismissing the random thoughts that skipped through her mind, like small sharp stones over a black frozen pond. But still, she wondered as she leaned back from the front closet with her own coat and he walked up to meet her. What is that? Its almost as if he's...what? Scared? No, that's not it.
They stepped out into the cold night and she slowed to look up at him, hidden behind the scarf she's paused to adjust. He smiles at her again, and she knows what it is. He's nervous! She tightens her coat and her brow and lowers her head into the autumn night wind.
How could this have happened? How could I let this happen? When did it start?
She was sure that if she thought back far enough, she would be able to identify the signs. Decode the seemingly normal behavior and separate out the one action that she should have seen. Should have noticed and screamed: STOP! How could I let this happen to me? How could I be so stupid?
She was convinced that if she wasn't so ditzy, so hair-brained; she would have known when that bastard started to fall for her. She would have been able to stop it then. Made it clear to him that there was nothing, NOTHING, between them. "Buys me lunch, just happens to around when ever I go out," she spat to herself, shaking her head sharply as if to rid herself of the feelings. Shame, betrayal, loathing. She noticed a bitter, foamy taste in her mouth that didn't go away when she swallowed. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
The pain didn't go away. She looked at the subway car around her. This time of night there were very few travelers on this line. It was mostly for commuters who'd gone home to their families hours ago. The car was deserted with the exception of a man in a used over coat, hunched into his collar to avoid the overhead lights, trying to get some sleep in a warm place before he was escorted out after the last run. For a moment, she envied his anonymity, which only made her pain worse.
Snippets and glimpses of the recent past bombarded her. Each one a testament to her stupidity. How obvious it now seemed. How she never ran into him when she was out with someone else. How nervous he was that first time he walked he to the station. How he always seemed to work late when she did. How she saw him walking along the opposite side of the street or in a department store at lunchtime. "Why are you in the women's section?" she'd asked stupidly. "I'm looking for something for my wife," he'd mumbled. And I thought he was SWEET! That stupid red face. He wasn't embarrassed about shopping for his wife. He'd been caught, or should have been. If I wasn't so stupid!
"Nice shoes," he'd say, looking at my legs. "New skirt?" My ass. "Hey, that’s a nice necklace. Is that silver or white gold?" And then we'd both stare down my shirt while I gushed like an idiot and thought about how great it was to work with such nice people.
Then that bastard has the nerve to lie when I confront him about it. He's got an answer for everything, calling me Hon' like I'm his fucking pal or his girlfriend. I should call his wife. She probably knows and just puts up with it. How could she not know, they've been married forever. His kids are like, twelve and fourteen or something.
What am I going to do? I can't go back there, I can't go home. I've gotta get another job. Oh god please, why me?
She leaned her head back again as the trained roared into a tunnel. She knew the sound would get louder and louder until just before the end of the tunnel. Just before the last stop, where the train would reverse and head back into town.
She took a deep breath, trying to calm down for the walk home and felt her breath shudder. She opened her eyes and looked out the window into the black roar of the tunnel. The lights flickered and went out and she saw a young woman with a red, tear-soaked face looking back at her. Her world and her trust shaken to the core. The train's roar climbed to its crescendo, then faded and the lights came back on. She sniffed and gathered her things as the train slowed, pushing one of her heels deeper into her bag.
She pushed the hair out of her eyes, wiped her face and put her hand on the rail in front of her as the train slid to a stop. The doors opened and she stood.
"Hey," said a familiar voice. "You took off so fast, I was worried about you." Her stalker stepped into the train in front of her.
A quick look told her that the man in the used over coat had disappeared. She moved toward the door and her stalker moved as if he were trying to get out of the way but stepped in front of her.
"Hey, wanna' dance," he said with his greasy smile. "Look, I brought you some flowers. I'm sorry if we had a misunderstanding."
"Get out of my way, this is my stop!" she yelled, provoking another feigned dance move. The door chime sounded. "Its gonna…"
The door slid shut behind him and his oily smile broadened. "I brought flowers," he repeated, jostling them towards her. "I just want to talk. I can give you a ride home later, just don't be mad."
The train slid backwards, picking up speed into the tunnel and the lights flickered and died. The reflection of the red-faced woman reappeared in the darkened window, but this time she wasn't alone.
There was a short squeal and then a roar as the train crashed back into darkness.