If I had only charged my phone the night before I would have never noticed it. I was sitting on the subway, half asleep, half awake on my way to work. The ride usually took about an hour, and it was quite uninteresting.
Trust me, I’ve tried sleeping before, but with the uncomfortable seats and the kind of noise that is brought with the early morning rush, it was nearly impossible. This is why I always needed something to do on the way; typically this was a podcast or music that I would listen to on the way. Every night before bed I would plug my phone in, hardly even thinking about the real reasons to have it plugged in (emergency, work calls), but mostly thinking about that horrendous commute.
Anyways, last Monday I had forgotten to charge it overnight, and so during that commute I had to entertain myself other ways, not a big deal I had thought to myself at the time. I decided that I would spend the sixty long minutes people-watching, and I managed to keep myself pretty entertained. I watched a woman discipline her child as he managed to create a noise that somehow trumped the cacophony of the morning subway.
My eyes went through a number of actions that morning, from flicking back and forth between two men arguing, to slowly scanning the subway car browsing the tired looking faces in each seat, but there was one thing near the end of my ride that made my eyes sit still. As I was scanning, I noticed a man that I had not seen before, nothing too unusual about him, but he seemed different from the rest, and I couldn't quite place what it was. For the last fifteen minutes of the ride, I looked him up and down, but still could not figure out what it was that drew me to him.
The entire day at work I thought about that man, remembering his face quite well, I wondered what I was failing to notice. After a few hours I merely wrote it up to the lack of a morning coffee and a first time with absolute boredom on the subway, so for the rest of the day it disappeared from my mind. That was of course the case, until I was just finishing up my shift at work, when I finally realized the small, seemingly insignificant detail that intrigued me.
The man had a slight smile. That was all. Just a smile. I chuckled a bit at the fact that this had drawn so much of my attention for the day, packed up my things and started to head out.
It was about a 10 minute walk from my building to the stairs that led down the subway, and again, my time then was often also spent listening to music or podcasts, but that day I paid more attention to my surroundings, noticing things that I never had before. I mostly noticed how disgusting the streets that I worked on were.
Trash littered the gutters, and it seemed that everything had a sort of grey layer of grime on it. Just as I reached the steps that led down into the dimly lit subway, I noticed something at the bottom of the steps, a large dark object lying motionless on the ground. As I cautiously moved closer to the object I could make out more and more details until I realized that it was the shape of a person. I quickened my pace, making my way towards the person as I called out
“Are you okay?”.
When I reached the last few steps I noticed that the person seemed to be a young woman, when suddenly, she stood up from her position. The motion was so quick that it seemed to be a single action, one that I hardly even had time to react to. I looked at her and noticed that one of her eyes was cloudy, as if she was blind in one eye. I assumed that she must have bumped into something and fallen due to the lack of depth perception.
Again, I asked, “Are you alright?”
The woman quickly jerked her head to look at me in the eyes. The motion was so fast that I nearly jumped. She did not say a word, and simply looked at me blankly before giving me a wide grin. Her teeth seemed to be in very bad shape considering she looked quite young, extremely yellow with a few missing in the front. She maintained her direction facing me, keeping the same smile as she walked up the steps in the opposite direction of me, only breaking eye contact with me once she had gotten far enough away where I could barely make out her face.
She then slowly turned her head forward, and continued walking at constant speed up the steps. I shook my head and continued into the subway tunnel, thinking that it was just another of New York's strange people, of which it had many. By the time the subway train had arrived I had pretty much already forgotten about the incident. I sat down in the first seat I could find, which wasn’t hard as there were not that many people that rode the subway when I got off work. My job often had me working late, which was a hassle, but I never had to deal with rush hour.
As I readied myself for another boring hour, I noticed a man sitting far down the car on the opposite side of me. I could only see the profile of his face, but he was unmistakable. It was the man from earlier this morning.
I found it kind of strange that we happened to be on the same ride at the same time twice in one day, but I also felt slightly excited as my boredom receded, if only for a brief moment. As I looked at him, I noticed that he shared the same slight smile from earlier today, as well as a long rough scar that ran down from the bottom of his left ear to the top of his left shoulder.
Again, I found myself spending the hour analyzing this strange man as well as thinking about what I had in store for me tomorrow for work. Surprisingly the trip was over before I knew it and I stepped off into the dark station.
It was a short walk from the train to the stairs that led to above ground, but even then, the short walk was quite creepy. As I approached the bottom of the stairs, I heard a slight shuffling noise in the dark. I whipped my head around as fast as I could, but when I looked, I could see nothing. As soon as I turned my head back, I heard the noise again. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me up the stairs and into the front door of my apartment complex on the first floor.
When I sat down on the couch in my apartment I thought back to how foolish I had been. I had walked that short distance hundreds of times and never gotten this scared before. I thought that it must have been because that man had been creeping me out on the subway along with lingering tiredness from work that day.
I hadn’t had time to read the paper this morning due to waking up late, so after I ate a brief meal, I sat down to browse this morning's paper. When I did, I noticed an article that shocked me, one that spoke of another missing person. There had been dozens of missing persons reports over the past year, but none of them I had noted before. The article spoke of a young woman that went missing about a week ago while on her way back home from work.
When I flipped the page, an image was shown of the missing woman. At first glance, my heart started racing, as it was the same woman that I had seen while leaving work. I quickly realized however, that this could not have been the same lady. The woman I ran into was blind in one eye, had significantly worse teeth, greyer skin and a slightly different face structure. I was relieved that I hadn’t just let a missing person go without reporting it.
I must be getting more paranoid I thought. It wasn't as if I had given a second thought about the missing persons before now. As my eyes scanned the black ink on the newsprint, I read the various pages for about thirty minutes when my eyes grew tired, and I started to drift off, sitting on my couch in front of the TV. My eyes felt as if they were made of lead when they finally shut for good.
I must have fallen asleep for at least a couple hours as it was pitch black when I woke up. It was not immediately apparent as to why I had woken up, but something made me uneasy. As my eyes were adjusting in the dark, I noticed the moonlight peering through the window closest to the couch. As I stared blankly at the shadow of the window on the floor, I noticed a change, something unsettling about the shadow. I had seen the same shadow countless times in the middle of the night when I had to get a glass of water or go to the bathroom.
For some odd reason, it seemed different. Within moments my heart jumped as I noticed what it was. A small figure, a human-like shape, was hardly noticeable towards the top of the shadow. I edged over towards the window, careful to keep my distance and quickly looked outside.
I was convinced that I was scaring myself; I found there to be nothing out of the ordinary outside. When I glanced back at the shadow, the figure was missing. I shook my head and assumed it was because I was tired, and headed to my bedroom.
I collapsed in bed, still trying to get enough sleep before yet another work day. As I pulled the covers over me, the darkness that surrounded my bed unsettled me, but as the effects of a long work day set in, my eyes eventually closed again.
When I awoke the next morning, I hardly even remembered waking up the previous night, I even considered it to have been a dream. As I boarded the subway for another day at work, I noticed the same man on the subway as before, this time, looking at me.
Something in my brain told me I needed to find out what this man did all day. Everything that had happened in the last 24 hours had been bothering me, all these little things were preventing me from completing my work. Or at least that is what I told myself to justify a day off from work. I don’t know why, but I HAD to find out what was going on.
So many small coincidences and occurrences were gathering and clouding my thoughts. I felt as if someone was messing with me, and it was not very funny. I called in sick to work right there and then, on the subway, and then proceeded to sit, and sit… and sit.
“What was wrong with me?” I thought. I’m being ridiculous to skip work out for this stupid venture. Again, I somehow convinced myself that this was worth it.
I rode the line up and down the city for about 10 hours. I had never been one to sit still and focus, and yet, this time, I was able to. During all this time I analyzed this man, noticing numerous cuts and scars along his neck and observing the strange way his eyes stared at me and at other passengers.
It appeared as if he had a glass eye, yet the specific eye I could not pin down. He simply had an odd way of looking, as if he had been born without knowing how to use his eyes.
Near the end of the day my legs were starting to feel numb and I had to stand up several times during stops just to make sure they would not fall asleep. Night fell faster than I had expected as by the time it happened, it was almost completely dark outside.
He moved. The man who seemed to refuse a change of seats without saying a word. The man who didn't get off at a single stop, or even change his expression, shot out of his seat and immediately walked off the subway. This shocked me more than it should have. I mean, he had to get off somewhere… right?
When he moved, my eyes snapped quickly to him. It was a stop that I had never gotten off at, and for good reason. It was one of the places I had the fewest reasons to go to, the meatpacking district. While some people might find the area interesting and with activities to do, I never had a reason to come here. Everything I needed was closer to home.
I jumped out of my seat at the sight of this action and, as discreetly as possible, followed him out of the car. There were not many people that got off at the stop around this time of night, as almost all the shops were closed, and even fewer people who followed the path of this man.
After about fifteen minutes it was just him and I that walked down the dimly lit city street. Old rarely visited shops lined the streets, and an eerie silence filled the air, quite strange for someone who was used to bustling New York City. I crept along, trying to maintain about a half block distance from the man as I walked. I noticed that this part of the city seemed to be poorly maintained as the sidewalk was full of cracks and holes, almost as if it had been forgotten.
As I looked on my left and right, the city seemed less and less familiar. Even though I had lived in New York for nearly eight years, I felt lost. I felt like something was unfamiliar, and even though I had never been to this part of the city, and it was expected that I didn't know it, something felt wrong. It… didn't feel like the city, I could have sworn that the meatpacking district was open all day and night, and yet, the area seemed so abandoned, I thought it not possible. How was it that a place like this existed in the most populous city in the United States?
Although I was initially determined to follow this mysterious man, I was getting chills down my back and I started to doubt my decision. I quite nearly turned right around, not caring how much time I had spent following this guy, and went home. But something… stopped me.
The voice in my head told me that I had to find out what was going on. I didn’t entirely understand what was happening, but with all the strange, small things that had happened the last couple days, I listened to that voice, determined to solve this. Even though he was just a stranger, I was convinced he had something to do with me. The man walked for close to twenty minutes, with me following the entire time. Just when I thought he was never going to stop walking, he turned so quickly down an alleyway that I nearly lost track of him. Thankfully I was paying close attention and noticed the space where he had disappeared. I picked up my pace and headed over to where I last saw him.
As I turned to look down the red brick alley, I was instantly hit with a terrible feeling. As my vision panned down to the ground, I noticed a few clumps of gleaming, metallic-looking items sitting on the ground by a closed dumpster. By this time, it was pitch black outside with only a few distant lights to aid me in seeing. I imagine it was sometime around 11 PM, if not later.
I could not tell exactly what the objects were until I approached them. They appeared to be some type of needle, similar to a sewing needle, but they were a bit different. Instead of a straight needle with a point on the end, the straight edge of the needle was jagged, not razor sharp, but similar to a dull serrated knife. In addition to this, they were about three times as large and thick as a normal sewing needle.
Mixed in with the piles of these needles were clumps of differing colors of hair, from blonde to black, and another strange substance. It appeared to be some kind of animal skin, though I could not determine which animal it came from.
Regardless, I thought my heart would burst from my chest any second now. Despite telling myself that it must simply have to do with the meat processing plants that surrounded me, I could not help feeling a bit terrified. It seemed as if I was the protagonist in a horror movie and the audience was yelling at me to turn back. Despite imagining myself in a similar situation, I ignored the feeling, telling myself that I was in no danger.
After a good 30 seconds of crouching down staring at these perplexing needles, I heard the harsh slam of a metallic door down the alley. I jerked my head up just in time to see a door swinging about 20 feet away from me. I could have sworn that nobody was in the alley when I entered, the man must have seen me then I thought.
No, he would have said something to me then, I told myself, there is no way he had seen me. I slowly walked towards the door, more cautiously this time, careful not to notify anyone that I was following them. As I got closer to the door, I noticed a sign that signified that this was an old meat processing plant, probably shut down years ago.
Just past the doors I spotted several small thick windows that looked into the first floor of the plant. I decided it would be best if I peered through these before entering, still paranoid that the man knew I was following him.
As I looked through the warped glass, I could not see much of anything as the interior seemed to be completely dark, save a single light on in the furthest corner of the bottom warehouse. I did not see the man, nor what the light shone on. I couldn’t take it anymore, my curiosity was getting the better of me, and I decided that I would enter the plant.
I reasoned that if the man noticed me, I could simply play it off as if I was a lost tourist exploring the district. I opened the metal door as slowly as possible, but could not stop it from creaking loudly with each movement.
I stumbled into the building as it was even darker inside than it was in the street. I stood completely still for a brief moment to gather my bearings as well as to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room. Again, I only saw a single dim light in the corner of the room, but the man was nowhere to be seen.
I slowly tiptoed towards the light, noticing and intense foul stench that increased as I got deeper inside the building. As I walked I avoided softly swinging meat hooks and rough wooden workbenches that lined the floor in aisles.
At this point I had finally gotten far enough to see what the light revealed. My heart was pounding as my eyes scanned over a dimly lit workbench, that appeared to have a single item sitting on it. When I realized what it was I had to turn away to prevent myself from vomiting immediately.
A single human arm sat pinned to the table, as if it were a frog dissection in high school. The arm was completely flat on its severed side, as if it had been cut off with purpose and precision. There was also a clean incision down the length of the arm in on the inner side, with each flap of skin on each side pinned down to the table, exposing bone and muscle.
Above the table was a poster that resembled a meat diagram that butchers use, except instead of a pig or cow, the diagram was of a... human being. The diagram seemed hand drawn, not one that was produced en masse to sell to the public. It was not crudely drawn however, it seemed professional, yet personal.
As my eyes took in the horrible scene I heard footsteps approaching the light from the far dark end of the warehouse. I didn’t know how to react, my mind was in a jumble… how could this all be real?
My body acted before I knew what I was doing. I dashed towards the door knocking over workbenches and slamming into unknown objects in the dark. As things fell, I stepped on various objects that would make squishing or crunching noises… I dared not think what it was that I was stepping on.
I pushed my shoulder into the door as soon as I reached it, and for a brief moment it was stuck. In that moment, the only noise I heard was approaching footsteps of who I assume was the man, and then suddenly, my ears picked up a second noise, a second set of feet walking in the darkness, more similar to stumbling than actually walking.
Sweat dripped down my face and adrenaline shot through my veins when the door slammed open, my pressure on it too much to hold. I ran out into the alleyway, nearly slamming into the opposite wall as I ran. While running to the main road I nearly stepped on the large needles on the ground, and instead careened into the dumpster on the side, sending flaps of something flying to the ground. I didn’t stop to look. There was nobody on the streets, nobody to ask for help, nobody to see me in my weakest moment. I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I didn’t care, I simply ran.
When I could run no more, I collapsed on the sidewalk and called for an Uber to pick me up. There was no way I was going to travel on the subway again anytime soon. When my driver arrived, I spoke few words and got into the car. The ride was long and quiet, and I was presented a hefty fee upon exiting the car, which I didn't mind, as long as I was back home and away from that place. I wearily walked down the single block that remained for me to arrive at my specific complex. As I walked the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I felt something behind me, the kind of feeling you get when you know someone is watching you.
I whipped my head around to find nothing in the street, nor on the sidewalk, but I could not shake the feeling. I walked quickly to get out of the streets as fast as possible. When I arrived at the front door of my apartment, I unlocked the door, fumbling with my keys for a little while, feeling very tense.
I fully intended to call the police when I was safe and secure inside my own home. The second I closed the door behind me with a slam, I noticed something odd in the darkness of my living room, a shape, in the corner of the room. Suddenly this shape appeared to elongate upwards, like a person emerging from water. It was then that I realized it was a person, standing up, as if they had been waiting for me. My right hand searched the wall for a light switch, flicking it on, revealing something that made my heart skip more than one beat… It was the man I had followed, the same one I had seen on the subway more than once. This time, instead of a slight smile, he had a wide grin from ear to ear. I tried to speak, but all that came out was a short squeak. He did not move. When I finally found my words, I screamed so loud I find it odd that the neighbors were not woken.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?! WHO ARE YOU?! Oh God… Oh God…”
The man “responded” to my questions by making a strange garbled noise from the back of his throat, as if he was trying to speak but something was blocking his windpipe. As he continued to make these noises, a strange foamy liquid spilled out of his smiling mouth, creating a gurgling noise. As he did this his body jerked around as if he were a machine, one that was still a prototype and could not function properly yet. Even though he was smiling, his eyes showed no emotion, simply a blank stare, with a meaningless smile.
After acting in this manner for a few dozen seconds, he raised his hand to his face and began to frown. What I then saw hurt to look at. He began scratching at his skin with his nails.
This was not ordinary scratching, but in such a way that he looked as if he was trying to peel his skin off, and to my horror, he actually began to tear it off. Blood streamed down his face as he pulled his skin down. He then began to form a cut that went down the side of his face, mirroring the scar I had seen on him earlier.
During this, his skin seemed to become loose and wither, as if it were an unneeded layer. At this point I was frozen in fear, not speaking a word as I did not even know how to react to this. The man was taking off his own face as if it were a mask, revealing something foreign underneath. A second layer of skin. Its face was dark grey and smooth, sporting a human-like look, but was clearly not human.
He had small beady eyes, like that of a spider, a single small hole where the nose would have been, no sign of ears, and an enormous mouth, one that contained pearly white human teeth, still smiling. As his face was revealed from the skin, so was his entire body. Its torso was small, but its size was nearly entirely made up of extremely long skinny arms and legs. Its arms led to hands with fingers that looked like needles and its feet seemed very similar to a human's, and at the time I could not distinguish a difference.
Other than these few details, I could not describe what it looked like. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in a horror movie or otherwise, almost without form. It was an entity that chilled me down to my core. When the thing was fully revealed, it pointed one of its thin, sharp fingers at me, still sporting the horrific smile, and began to walk, towards me, twitching and gurgling the entire time…
That was the last thing I remembered when I awoke the next day. Was it nothing more than a dream? I felt nothing, no pain, but the fear lingered. I had never had a dream so realistic before, none so terrifying, so… strange.
When I walked into my kitchen, however, I noticed something sitting on the newspaper on the counter. The newspaper was open to the page I had been reading about that missing young woman. Atop the story, were a couple objects; a single large, jagged needle, a roll of thick medical sewing thread and a single, old, bloody measuring tape...
I… am afraid.
I’m begging you, if you ever notice someone acting strange in a big city, please don’t interact with them. There is a chance that they are simply strange, but… perhaps they are beyond the definition of that word. Next time you hear something from me, you might want to ignore it, I might not… be myself that day.