Commute (Part 5 of 6)
‘Evil?’ said Janet, unable to hide the note of incredulity that rang from her voice. This was starting to sound like something from a horror film, but the sketch was spot on. The piercing eyes, the snarling mouth, everything. The only way that Robert could possibly know what this thing looked like was if he had seen it himself. Janet still found the concept that evil had taken a solid form a little far fetched, but Robert looked at her almost as if he was reading her mind.
‘I know, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?’
‘Believe me, that’s what I thought at first. Then I started to hope it was ridiculous. Before long, though, I came to realise that whatever it is, it’s real.’
‘What does it want with me?’ asked Janet, dreading the answer.
‘It wants to kill you.’
Janet stiffened noticeably in her chair, her eyes instantly wide.
‘But that is why I am here,’ said Robert, reassuringly. ‘That is why I contacted you.’
‘Can you…can you help me?’ asked Janet, a definite quaver in his voice.
‘Yes, I can help.’ There was something in Robert’s sure and confident tone that calmed Janet a little. The fact that something was out there that wanted to kill her was still rattling horribly around inside her head, but Robert seemed so calm and collected. Janet hoped that he knew what he was doing.
‘You said that this isn’t the first time that this has happened,’ said Janet, hoping that learning more about this creature would give her more insight into how to beat it.
‘That is correct.’
‘And does it always want to kill?’
‘From what I have seen, yes.’
‘And it’s succeeded?’
‘Then how come I haven’t seen or heard anything about this on the news? People being killed would be covered by the media, surely.’
‘But you have heard about it,’ said Robert, taking another sip of his drink.
‘I have? How? When?’
Robert reached for his portfolio and opened it. Inside were several newspaper clippings, all of them about the death of people who had been hit by trains. Robert turned the portfolio around so that Janet could read.
‘Each death that I know about has been officially attributed to a train related accident.’
Janet grimaced as she looked at the articles.
‘The media either say that a person was hit by a train, or that they jumped in front of a train, but that is because that’s how it’s made to look.’
Janet continued to read, her brow furrowing.
‘So wait,’ she said after a few minutes. ‘You’re telling me that every person who’s reported to have been hit by a train was really the victim of this…this…thing?’
‘No, of course not,’ said Robert, as he took back his portfolio. ‘People do genuinely get hit by and jump in front of trains, sadly, but that is why these victims are never looked into more deeply. It’s simply ruled as an accident or suicide and filed away forever.’
‘So what does it do? Throw people under the trains?’ Janet was starting to feel ridiculous, and the suspicion that Robert was behind a possible elaborate hoax was gaining new ground in her mind.
‘Hardly. From my experience, the victims tend to throw themselves under the trains as a means of escape.’
‘I’m afraid so.’
‘Escape from what?’
‘Escape from it. I don’t know what its name is, or even if it does have a name, but fear appears to be its main tactic.’
‘So it…scares people to death?’ Janet felt stupid for putting something so potentially horrific in such simple terms, but Robert nodded.
Janet didn’t know what to say. She sat for a moment or two trying to make some rational sense out of what she was being told. Nothing worked. Whichever way she looked at it, the situation was bizarre and frightening. The information that Robert provided made it sound plausible, but the concept of evil personifying itself was too far fetched for Janet to fully accept. What she could not avoid accepting was what she had seen. Up until meeting with Robert, Janet might have been able to convince herself that everything that had happened to her was all part of some hallucination or mental breakdown, but seeing the sketch of that face had forced her to confront the horrible possibility that it was all true. The more Janet thought about it, the more confused and frightened she became. Robert was looking at her, waiting.
‘You…you said that you could help,’ said Janet.
‘And I can,’ said Robert, nodding.
‘Are you willing to do what it takes to end this?’ Robert’s face looked grim and set.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Are you willing to meet me again?’
‘Again? Why? What for?’
‘I said I could I help you, and I can. However, I cannot do anything right this second.’
‘We must meet it on its terms.’
Robert drained the last of his drink and continued to look into Janet’s eyes.
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Can you meet me tonight? At the railway station?’
‘What is this?’ asked Janet, suddenly getting angry. ‘First you ask me to meet you here, which I do, against all common sense, and now you want to meet again?’
‘I asked you here today to see if my suspicions were true and that you really had been chosen. You recognised its face, which means you have. It only shows its face to its victims, but now I must ask you to meet me again so that we can put a stop to this. Only then will you be rid of it forever.’
Janet looked away, confused, frightened and angry. Why her, she thought. Why anyone? Wasn’t the world full of enough bad things without the very spirit of evil picking people off at random? Janet could feel the sting of tears behind her eyes; she wanted to cry. She wouldn’t allow herself to, not in this public setting, not in front of Robert.
‘This is so strange,’ she said, partly to herself.
‘I know it is. It took me so long to come to terms with it myself.’
‘Hang on a minute,’ said Janet, her head turning quickly back around to face Robert. ‘If you’ve known about this thing for long enough to study it then why hasn’t it killed you?’
‘I’m afraid that’s one question I cannot answer,’ said Robert, sighing. ‘Just as I don’t know where it came from or what it may call itself, I cannot say why it has not claimed me like it has all the others.’
‘So why haven’t you tried to stop it from killing other people?’
‘I have. Believe me, I have. However, you can imagine how little people want to hear from you when your tale is as strange as mine.’
Janet didn’t have a retort for this. She pictured Robert trying to do with others what he was now doing with her and imagining the reactions he must have gotten. Now all of those people were dead, and if something wasn’t done, she’d be next.
Janet took a deep breath.
Janet’s face instantly betrayed her inner thoughts. Robert nodded in silent agreement.
‘I know it’s a tad cliché, but it is necessary. If we are to end this, we must go back to where it began with you.’
‘But the first thing I remember happening was on the 7:29am train. If you say we have to go back to the beginning then why are you asking me to meet you at midnight?’
‘Would you rather try and explain to the morning commuters that you are battling with the very personification of evil?’
Janet went to speak, but closed her mouth again and allowed Robert to continue.
‘As I said, it sounds cliché, but midnight is truly our best time. I know this is not easy, but if it makes you feel any better you can come armed with anything you feel is necessary.’
‘Will that work?’ asked Janet, thinking back to the steak knife that she had taken out with her the previous night.’
‘Against it? No. But, if arming yourself against me will ease your mind at all then by all means do.’
Janet sighed heavily. Weighing up her options, she didn’t feel as if she had much choice.
‘So, you want me to meet you at my local station, or do you mean the main city centre one?’
‘Your local station. It was there that this whole thing started. It is there that it must end.’
‘What happens if I don’t show up?’
‘Then it will continue to hunt you until you lose your mind. I take no pleasure in telling you this, Janet, but this really is the only option.’
I really can’t believe I’m doing this, thought Janet.
‘Okay, I’ll be there. But, if this is some sort of joke then I swear to God…’
‘Trust me, Janet. This is no joke.’
* * *
Robert left Janet with her thoughts after their midnight meeting had been arranged. Janet ordered another coffee, mainly to keep the waitress off her back. She needed some time to sit and process everything that had just happened, along with what had been happening to her over the past few weeks. Janet really didn’t want to meet Robert, or anyone, at a small unmanned train station at midnight, but she also really didn’t want someone or something preying on her until she either lost her mind or killed herself, or both. As Janet drained the last drops of her second coffee, she settled on the grim fact that if she was going to do anything decisive about what was happening to her, then she was going to have to see what this Robert could potentially do to help.
I hope he can help, she thought to herself as she left Blossom’s. I really do.
Janet didn’t want to have to think about what she was going to do if Robert couldn’t help, as for now he seemed to be her only chance.
* * *
Janet spent the rest of the day in the city centre. She was still on annual leave from work, and she didn’t want to travel on public transport anymore than she needed to. Whenever she thought about this she came back to hoping that this clandestine meeting at her local train station would put a stop to this whole thing once for and all.
Janet browsed and window-shopped her way around the city all afternoon, trying in vain to take her mind off of the strange goings-on that had befallen her. Nothing provided enough of a distraction, and more than once she walked into someone while lost in thought. When evening arrived, Janet went to one of the many restaurants that lined the city streets. Normally, a meal out in the city was a treat that Janet looked forward to, but as she sat there alone, eating her food, she had the strangest sensation. She felt like a prisoner in one of those old black and white films, eating their last meal before being led off to the electric chair. Janet would have found the comparison funny, had she not the persistent leaden ball of cold dread in the pit of her stomach that made her feel like every convict she had seen in every prison film she’d encountered.
Janet looked at her watch as she pushed her empty plate away; it was still only 8:25pm. After paying for her meal, Janet went and sat at the bar to wile away some more time. She ordered a glass of wine and sat staring morosely into its deep plum depths.
‘Cheer up, love; might never happen.’ A man in a suit was sat next to her at the bar, surveying her with a lopsided grin. Janet forced a small laugh in response but continued to stare into her wine glass. The man in the suit, realising that was all he was going to get from Janet, moved away from the bar to bother someone else.
If you only knew, she thought to herself. If you only knew.
Lost in her thoughts, Janet sat at the bar and waited for the time to tick by. She had decided that she was going to hail a taxi to take her to the train station at 11:00pm. It would take roughly half an hour to get to the station, and that would allow Janet to hopefully arrive before Robert. She still didn’t fully trust him, so she didn’t want to give him the opportunity of getting to the station before her and setting some kind of trap. Janet’s insides squirmed at the thought of this, a feeling she was getting used to now, and she continued to alternate her faraway gaze from the clock hanging on the wall of the bar to her wine glass.
Soon, she thought. Soon it could all be over.
After what felt like an eternity, the bar started to wind down for the night, and Janet saw that it was nearly 11:00pm. She finished off the last of her wine, left the restaurant, and hailed a taxi. She knew the ride wasn’t going to be cheap, but she didn’t care. She assured the taxi driver that she did indeed want to go to the train station at this time of night; she lied and said that she lived right next to it and it would be easier for him to find the station as opposed to her house. Not wanting to pass up a fare, the driver shrugged and took Janet off towards her meeting.
You’d better be there, Janet thought as the taxi wove its way through the late night traffic.
- December 2014