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Horror – Part one

Late again, Alice followed the fluorescent-lit, tiled yellow tunnel, trotting on work shoes and wishing for trainers, round and down into the depths of the underground. As always, she walked past posters for shows she would never go to and holidays she would never take, advertisements shouting out to other people with other lives, people who could take breaks. She, like all other commuters, existed in her own bubble; alone and in stress, from Monday to Friday, forever and ever, mind the gap.

Not that Alice would flatter herself that life inside the bubble was any more interesting than outside it, far from it. It was just that she didn’t have the time to notice anyone else, that’s all; her diary was so full at the moment, that any self-improving attempt to see things from someone else’s point of view, or walk even a metre in someone else’s shoes would involve buying new filofax pages, and that would take at least twenty minutes. She had taken three work calls before she got here and she cursed that her phone wouldn’t work underground. Her commute took another forty-five precious minutes, after which she would pick up her car from work – her lousy flat didn’t have parking – and get to her first meeting.

The market was turning, everybody said it, and with it her luck. It was about time, she thought, as she stepped onto the escalator that, as always, went too slow. She’d got into the estate agency game at just the wrong time, and spent most of the last two years twiddling her thumbs and dealing with angry vendors who blamed her, not the market, for their bad luck. Her confidence plummeted as did her pay packet. Today she had six appointments to measure up new properties, and at least as many viewings to sell old listings. Things were definitely looking up.

The guy in front of her on the escalator, maybe twenty-five at a guess, had a similar view by the looks of it. He was bobbing his ample ginger hair to whatever music his headphones were blaring out. Alice strained to decipher it but all music through headphones sounds the same, and she decided that if it was in a genre somewhere between hardcore techno and Diana Ross, she was making a pretty good guess. She followed him onto the platform and watched him bounce gently for a second or two, before she expertly opened and folded a broadsheet in three moves, to read it standing up on the train.

After the couple of minutes promised by the red display, the warm, stale wind in the tunnel grew stronger signalling the train’s arrival. She looked up, took one step then stopped dead.

“What are you doing?” she whispered.

Crouching right on the edge of the platform was the red-haired man, looking in the direction of the train with his arms outstretched as if he was going to dive. She looked around and no one else seemed to have noticed him, but that couldn’t be true, they were just pretending not to like she probably should. Nevertheless, she began to walk quickly towards him, pushing her way through the commuters who were psyching themselves up for the daily fight for seats.

The whine of the train; metal on metal and compressed air, squealing like the slaughtered, seemed suddenly more frightening than anything Alice had ever heard. She’d cursed Jumpers a hundred times for holding up her train, but she didn’t want to actually witness one.

As she neared the red-haired man he turned and held her gaze, shaking his head.

“What are you doing?” was all that Alice could think to shout.

“The same thing you would do,” he replied over the din, as the train’s lights were already visible and the screech of brakes was unbearably loud. Then he said something to her that she didn’t catch. God, this is real, she thought, won’t somebody stop him? She scanned the platform, wildly, but she was the closest now and everyone else was totally ignoring them. She asked him; “What? What did you say?”

Looking down he took a breath and bellowed at the tracks, his voice cracking as he yelled; “He. Won’t. Leave. Without. Meee!”

“Who?” yelled Alice, her hand on the man’s jacket now, ready to pull him to safety. His words scared the hell out of her, she had to stop him, he was going to jump for Christ’s sake.

“Who won’t go?” She reached him but the moment she touched him she felt a blow to her forehead, knocking her backwards on the ground where she painfully banged her head again on the concrete.

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