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“And you’re sure you don’t need me to come with you?  I can get a hotel room for the weekend, leave you and all your corporate friends in peace for your ‘team building retreat'.”

“I’ll be alright baby, I promise.”

“You sure? Scott, you just got over-”

“I know, but this… this weekend will be good for me. If I start to panic, if I feel another attack coming on-”

“You call me right away.”

“I call you right away.”

Lana grinned at her husband, his bags in hand as he prepared to board the speedline.

“Sometimes, Scott,” she teased, “I think you’re too stupid for your own good. But I love you anyway.”

He smiled back at her as the train doors slid open behind him.

“Stupid is as stupid does,” he shot back, “I love you too.”

They kissed briefly before Scott stepped away, ushering himself into the shortly departing speedline.

All he wanted to do was put the events of the past week behind him. His mounting stress at work, his string of anxiety attacks…

That’s over with, he reasoned with himself as he found a seat,This weekend will be better. It will.

He pushed himself to the end of an empty row of seats, curled up against the window, and slipped on his headphones as he prepared for the long ride ahead of him.

It was about an hour or so into his travel when Scott’s attention was finally drawn away from his music, which had been blaring in his ears nonstop since the train began moving. His attention had been captured by the window of the door to the next car over. More particularly, he was curious about what was reflected in the door’s window; pitch blackness.

He swiveled his head around, careful not to alarm the other passengers, and craned his neck to see into the window of the door behind him. All the lights were off, and there seemed to be no noise at all emanating from the car. Even the quietest of train cars creaked and groaned with the rest of the train; this one was as still and quiet as the deadest hour of night. Something about it, some unknown immediate instinct put a pit in Scott’s stomach when he saw this.

I guess there’s no sense in keeping the lights on if there’s no one in there, Scott rationalized, probably cutting costs by turning lights off if the car is unoccupied.

This train of thought peaked Scott’s curiosity, and he slowly rose from his seat, moving between standing poles as he approached the door. When he got close enough, he peered intently into the darkness, eager to prove his notion that the car truly was unoccupied.

A creeping sense of unease began to set in as he clearly made out the silhouette of a person sitting in the last row of the car. Their features were indistinguishable from that far away, but he could easily make out a human figure that sat utterly still, as if waiting for the lights to come back on.

Scott looked to his right, noticing that a young woman was occupying the seat closest to where he stood; total stranger or not, he didn’t want to be alone on this.

He tapped her shoulder softly, beckoning towards the door as she slowly wheeled around.

“Uh... yeah?” she asked confusedly.

“I’m sorry for bothering you,” Scott apologized, “but don’t you think it’s a little weird that somebody’s sitting in the dark?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Here, come see.”

Hesitantly, the woman stood and approached the door.

“What do you mean ‘in the dark?’” she asked after taking a look through the window.  “There’s… There’s nothing wrong with that car.”

“Wait…” Scott asked slowly, “what’s normal about that pitch blackness? And that man sitting in there-”

“Listen,” she said sharply, “I don’t know if this is one of those ‘on the street’ pranks, but I’m too tired to get the joke, and honestly I’m too tired to care. And for your information, ‘that man’ is sitting in the quiet car, and I’m sure they don’t appreciate being gawked at from the window.”

She sat back down in a huff, leaving Scott standing alone. He took another look at the car, and it was still as dark as he had seen it last.

This time, the lone passenger had moved up a row.

His unease beginning to melt into genuine fear, Scott’s mind raced to think of some solution to this predicament.

I’ll- I’ll get off at the next stop, he planned as he began to gather his things, packing his phone and headphones away. No. All this is… All this is your brain trying to get to you. You’re stronger than this. Breathe in, breathe out. You’re ok.

Finally sitting back down, Scott’s mind finally reached a solution, if not a somewhat odd solution.  When the train reached its next stop, Scott exited the car along with several others. Then, looping back into the crowd of new boarders, took a new seat several cars away from the quiet car. Now, with the threat physically distanced from him, his anxious mind could begin to quiet down once more.

He breathed a sigh of relief as the train picked up speed once more, his destination growing ever closer with each passing minute.

“You’re ok now,” he whispered quietly to himself, “whatever is in the quiet car is just your imagination. There’s no reason to get anx-”

Scott didn’t know why he had turned around. Perhaps he was attempting to quell his fear through visual example; to show himself that, at a distance, it was very obviously all in his head.

All he saw in the window behind him was the same pitch blackness. Since his departure, it had crept its way up the cars.

It was creeping up on him.

Scott’s breathing grew rapid and out of control, and his hearing began to fade as his mind slowly started closing in on itself.  

No! He lashed out against his anxious mind. It’s not real! It’s not- It’s not-

His rapid breaths quickly turned to hyperventilation, and he could feel the itch of his clothes against his body. His senses were working overtime, and it was driving him further down the spiral of panic.

“Call Lana,” he mumbled to himself, “I’m having a… gotta call…”

He patted his pockets, only to find them empty. He suddenly remembered that he had packed his phone away when he attempted to flee at the last station.

His bags were in the former car, right where he had left them.

He stood abruptly, moving to the back of the car as he swayed from the train’s motion. He pressed his face against the window, and recoiled in horror.

The man in the quiet car was standing right in front of the window, pressing his unseen face against it from the other side. The man, whose entire body remained obscured in shadow, beckoned for Scott to join him in the darkness.

“No…” Scott whispered, “No! I won’t go in there! I won’t!”

The other passengers began to turn their heads towards Scott concernedly. The figure on the other side of the window seemed to shake his head regretfully before disappearing into the darkness of the car.

Scott slowly backed away from the window, murmuring and quietly raving to himself. Somebody rose from his seat in an attempt to help guide him, but he batted them away. He didn’t need their help.

He sat down, his eyes bleary with fear and anxiety, his mind devoid of all thoughts. The idea that this was all some anxiety-driven hallucination was shattered, and his mind was unable to derive any more solutions for the problem.

Suddenly, something happened in the car that wore down the final of Scott’s mental walls; if he had previously accepted the gravity of the situation, this heralded his acceptance of fate.

The lights in the car, if only for a second, flickered out.

Before any of the passengers had time to react, the car was engulfed in darkness. Amidst the cries of confusion and annoyance, Scott sat quiet through it all. He stared straight ahead, too afraid to lay eyes on the new passenger who had appeared in the seat right next to his; the tall, shadowy figure that seemed ever so eager to meet him.

He could see it reaching for him in the reflection of his window; its hand was gnarled and clawed, and it felt cold as it clasped onto the back of his neck.

With its free hand, the figure made a gesture to Scott; a simple gesture, followed by an even simpler noise, the only noise in the car that had grown as deathly still as the quiet car.

Ssh.

    



Written by Parlour
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