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The Subway (a short story)


“No…” she groaned.

She crawled down the steps of the subway station. Her hands were shaking, one of them red. She’d held it to her wound back when she was still running. One of the heels on her shoes had broken and she’d kicked both of them off. She hadn’t been barefoot in public before.

She grunted, wincing.

She didn’t want to put that hand back onto her wound; it’d been touching the pavement. She looked down at her left side, above her pelvis, and saw blood trickling out of the red spot on her white blouse. Sighing, wincing, she put that hand back onto the wound anyway.

When she reached the base of the stairs, she looked in both directions. She knew that her heightened heartbeat would cause more blood loss, but she didn’t think she had the time to worry about that. The dimly lit corridor next to the tracks was empty.

No one would notice her.

She focused on calming her breathing. Deep, slow breaths. Those made her feel a little better. The pain radiating from her side switched from constant throbbing pain that accompanied each heartbeat to a more even and tolerable ache.

A fluorescent light above her began to flicker. She didn’t know whether to go left or right. Hoping, she chose to crawl to her right. Her bare knees were becoming scraped as she dragged herself forward. Her black skirt was torn in a slit along her left leg. Her blonde hair was becoming unpinned and falling in little slivers around her young face.

No purse, no cell phone, no way to call for help.

Clicking noises began to emerge from the direction of the tracks. The sound was small. Also, a train hadn’t been on these particular tracks for over a decade. She thought it was probably a person or something hiding there behind the pavement. There was about four feet of a drop, maybe more, where the concrete ended to make way for the tracks. Keeping an eye out in that direction, she tried to drag herself as fast as she could. Ahead, she could see a way out. It looked like another opening for a staircase. She hoped it was a hallway; she didn’t want to go back up towards the street. She crawled faster, one of her fingernails breaking on the concrete as she pulled herself.

A man stepped out of the opening. He saw her, made eye contact, looked at the rest of her, and then he smiled. He didn’t intend anything kind with that look. He was tall, dirty, scruffy, and the long coat he was wearing hadn’t been clean in ages.
“You in trouble there, sweet thing?” he asked, smiling and echoing.

She tried to keep her face blank, but her hands were shaking and she was sweating. She had to look up at him as he approached, and she knew that made her look even more vulnerable. He walked in her direction with a fairly slow pace, smiling down at her, enjoying his superiority. She was trying to crawl backwards, away from him, but she knew she wouldn’t escape.

“Please, sir,” she said. “I’m hurt, I need help. Please.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” he said, a feigned expression of concern spreading over his thin facial features. “You won’t be hurting for much longer. I must warn you though.”
He stopped walking, stood only a couple of feet from her. He didn’t smell pleasant.
“It’ll get worse before it’s over,” he said.

Her chest rose in quick movements, her breathing becoming frantic. The man loved seeing the fear. He lunged forward, bending his knees and reaching forward. One hand grabbed her ribs, just above her wound, while the other grabbed her neck. She winced, batted at him uselessly as he brought her up to face level and pinned her against the dirty tiles of the wall.

“My, my,” he said, smile broadening. “So pretty… who did this to you?”

As he finished that question, he pressed two fingers to her wound. She cried out in genuine pain. He kept his other hand pinning her to the wall by her neck, and slid that other hand down her body to the hem of her skirt.

“Please…” she groaned.

As she pleaded, one of her hands disappeared behind her back. He maintained eye contact with her as he lifted her skirt up slowly from the front. She lifted her skirt up slowly from the back. Her fingers found the metal there. She gripped it with two fingers and pulled it out of the strap around her thigh.

“Aww,” the man said. “You’re shaking. What’s the matter?”

His hand reached her upper thigh. Her expression of pure fear and pleading suddenly went blank. Before the change in her face fully registered to the man, she plunged a small blade into his throat in a motion that was too quick for him to have seen. He’d maintained eye contact with her, and she’d been glad for that. She loved seeing his expression turn slack and show a hint of fear before life drained from his face and his carotid artery. He dropped to the concrete and she could hear his skull fracture on impact. Not that it mattered much anyway. His eyes slowly moved back and forth, they were only half way open. He was quickly dying.

She didn’t particularly want to touch the man, and she stood there with ease on very steady legs as she watched him die. Blood grew in a pool around his head as it drained with incredible speed from his neck. His chest motionless, she bent down, wincing at the pain in her side as she looked through his pockets. She found a few crumpled pieces of paper — money — and a little Swiss pocket knife.

“Really?” she said, irritated. She wondered why he didn’t have a better knife than this. She tossed it onto the concrete and resumed searching his pockets. She found a small pistol in his back pocket and she shrugged, carefully setting it aside next to the dead body. She looked through his inner coat pocket and amidst the crumpled pieces of gum wrappers she found what she wanted: a cell phone.

Hmm, guess all types carry a phone, she thought.

She checked the charge and was pleased to see it was almost at 90% power. She bent down and took the small blade out of the man’s neck and wiped it clean on his coat before returning it to the little band on the back of her right thigh. She checked the pistol’s ammo and found that it had a small, full clip. Smiling, she turned the safety off.

“I swear I’m never losing my purse again,” she muttered under her breath.

She picked the pistol up and walked in the direction the man had come from. It was where she’d wanted to go. The man who had stabbed her, she had seen him before. She looked around, eyes sharp and focused, her expression showing only determination.

A sound behind her made her turn around with amazing speed, pointing the pistol in the sound’s direction. A large rat crawled up from the tracks and stood on the concrete, looking at her with unimpressed eyes. She allowed herself a slight grin at the corner of her mouth, and then turned to resume her course.

She heard footsteps in the distance ahead of her. They were very soft sounds, like someone was trying to be quiet. She stood perfectly still, barely breathing. She considered returning to her first plan: crawling, breathing heavily, and looking helpless. She’d expected to lure her target that way, but things obviously don’t always follow a plan. Otherwise, she wouldn’t even be down here.

The footsteps were drawing nearer, perhaps from another hallway.

She decided against the “helpless” scenario. She quickly walked forward, doing her best to stay silent and doing a good job of it without shoes on. She passed the opening which did indeed turn out to be a hallway. The sound of the footsteps weren’t coming from down there; she could still hear them ahead of her. They could be coming from the darkness ahead near the tracks, but if that was so then she would be seen from there and wouldn’t be hearing such caution in those footsteps. She continued to silently hurry forward, pistol ready. Then the footsteps seemed louder as she saw the next hallway’s opening.

He was closer now.

She could even hear his breathing. She stopped close to the hallway and waited. Her upper lip wanted to draw up slightly. She had to force herself to wait for the right moment; timing was everything, she knew. Taking a deep breath, she turned the corner and pointed her gun at a dark silhouette and she didn’t fire. She was confused.

What she saw was a hunched over old man. The spine was so curved that he would have had to crane his neck just to look forward. White, wispy hairs stuck out everywhere like wiry branches from his head. There was a blanket draped over the slouched shoulders. Breathing sounds were faint but also strained. She’d had the gun ready to be pointed at someone’s chest, but the person was bent so far down that her pistol pointed to the exact top of his head.

“Who…” she started. “Who are you?”

Garbled wheezing sounds came from him instead of a voice. The shoulders trembled. She rolled her eyes a little, sighed, and began lowering the gun.

In a fraction of a second, the hunched figure stood upright and towered more than a foot taller than the woman. During that very motion, it reached out with a hand that was warm and bony and extremely strong. It grabbed her wrist that was holding the pistol. The gun fired, filling the concrete subway with a very loud gunshot sound, but it had already been pointed past the person. The cell phone she’d taken from the dead guy fell to the ground and broke into pieces.

She cried out, hitting the person in the chest with her free fist. Her other hand dropped the pistol as the person squeezed her wrist so hard that she could feel her bones breaking. She might’ve heard the bones breaking, too, if her ears weren’t already ringing from that gunshot. She also didn’t hear the garbled growls coming from the person. Her free hand was pounding the person repeatedly, with all of her strength, but it was like punching a brick wall.

The person pushed her down and the woman’s head hit the ground. She moaned, her head pounding, her wrist screaming in pain. The person stepped forward, a foot on either side of her waist. It bent forward and put its face next to hers. She thought it would be looking at her, but she could tell that it was sniffing instead. As her vision calmed in the wake of the impact, she saw clearly what had grabbed her. Its skin looked like leather or dried meat. The eyes were mostly eyelids with slits of grey pupils peeking out underneath. It moved its head slightly from side to side as it sniffed. They eyes looked forward no matter which direction the head was turning and she thought that the eyes must not work very well, if at all.

“Oh, please, I’m sorry,” she said, looking at the creature.

It bared its teeth which were black and it hissed at her condemningly. It touched her stab wound, its fingers felt like sandpaper.

“Ohhh…” she moaned, her face contorted in an expression of terror. Her other hand, the one that wasn’t broken, darted forward and she dug her fingers into an eye socket of the grotesque face. The shriek that came out of it was much louder than the gunshot had been, and the woman squeezed her eyes shut in reaction. It stood upright, a clawed hand held against its eye as it screamed.

She tried to drag herself away from it but the creature quickly darted forward and brought a fist down onto her shoulder, snapping a clavicle. Still growling and hissing, the creature grabbed her ribs and picked her up, holding her whole body in one arm next to its torso like it was holding a football. It turned and went the opposite way that the woman had come and darted into the darkness.

She was dazed, in so much pain, and she couldn’t have known all the different directions that the creature took. It made turn after turn in the hallways, down places she never knew the city had built. It leapt downward and as her body jerked around like a ragdoll, she thought it would drop her, but it never did. Just when she realized that they were on gravel next to older subway tracks, darkness enveloped them completely as they entered an earthen tunnel. Now the twists and turns were more rapid. Her arms and legs hit random rocks and she realized she was being taken deep under the subway station.

When the rocks stopped hitting her in random places, she thought that they must’ve reached a more open cavern. Suddenly she was tossed aside, landing on rocks and other harsh objects. She could hear growls and hisses in the darkness—some of them far away, others close, some of them above her and others beside her. She crawled around blindly, unable to move so well with her stab wound and her broken wrist and smashed shoulder. She fought the urge to groan in pain, the urge to cry, the urge to feel any part of the fear that her mind wanted to feel. She could feel small bugs crawling on her and she began batting them away. As she did, she noticed the sticky residue they were leaving on her body.

Her good hand touched something soft and she realized that it was the back of a man’s hand. She felt along his arm and could imagine that he was wearing a T-shirt. He was very sticky and little bugs were crawling around on him as well. He seemed to be layered in stickiness of those bugs. Moving her hand along his body, batting away the bugs, she searched for his other arm and found that it was missing. The blood that was there in its place was still warm. She felt down his torso and searched his pockets, finding a lighter. She took it out.

She hesitated for a little while, not knowing if using the lighter to see would be a good idea. She didn’t know if that would anger the creatures in the darkness, or if it would keep them away. After all, the one that brought her down there did seem to be nearly blind. Figuring that she would need light in any instance, she took a deep breath and thumbed the flame out of the lighter. At first it shined far too bright for her to see anything. She squinted as screeches surrounded her in the darkness, threatening to deafen her. Then her eyes adjusted and she could see the creatures scrambling away from her and the light. Their skin looked like exposed muscle.

She was glad she couldn’t see their faces.

She moved the lighter to see the man’s face. Only half of the face remained and had shiny goo on it, the other half appeared to have been ripped off of him. But she remembered him. It was the one she’d been looking for, the one that had stabbed her. He’d taken her purse and stabbed her and left her alone. She hadn’t seen him coming, she had been exhilarated from the kill and when he jumped her out of nowhere and mugged her, she hadn’t known if he had seen her commit the crime. She also had had some very incriminating evidence in that purse. She’d wanted to hunt him down to make sure he never talked. It appeared he’d never say a word.
The woman noticed that there was another body next to the man and it was so covered in that sticky layer from those bugs that she couldn’t even tell the gender of it. What she could surmise, though, was that after it had been covered in the sticky layer, it had been eaten in certain areas.

The screeching and the howling and growling were painful to the ears, but she could see that they were all trying to get away from her. The ground was covered in loose rock, dirt, bones and random objects like umbrellas and backpacks. Then she could faintly see a hole in the wall, and she thought it must’ve been the tunnel she was carried through. She had to keep the lighter on, held down with the thumb of her good hand, so she started to drag herself along on her free elbow. Alarmed by her slow pace, she resolved to remove the goo entrapping her legs so she could run, even though it meant using her bad hand. The lighter burned her a few times, but it was easily overshadowed by her screaming wrist. She could hear the creatures moving in the darkness and thought that they were lingering as close to her as they could tolerate. Some had left, true, but some were waiting for the light to go out. She could sense their hunger; she knew they were sniffing and salivating. She could see some of them baring their black teeth. After two failed attempts, she finally managed to get to her feet and reach the tunnel.

The woman had to hunch since the tunnel didn’t allow enough space to stand upright. She could hear them crawling behind her. She walked as quickly as she could, her hand trembling while trying to hold the lighter’s button down. She also was walking sideways so more of the light could ward off the creatures. She had a feeling that if she turned her back on them that one of them would be brave enough or hungry enough to reach for her. She tried to pick up the pace, her bare feet bleeding, her stab wound dripping blood. She twisted an ankle and fell to the rocky floor, but she made sure to stretch her hand with the lighter towards the creatures. Their growls and gurgles sounded so frustrated and eager.

She finally managed to get to her feet, her legs trembling, and she pressed on. The tunnel turned to the left, the right, the left… it was maddening. She tripped again, her twisted ankle shooting searing pain up her leg. She hurried, somehow still able to keep the lighter lit, and hurried onward. Pain overwhelmed her from all over her body.

Then the lighter began to flicker.

“No!” she yelled. She shook it a little and it brightened again. The thumb holding it down was almost too hot to tolerate.

After she made one more turn in the tunnel, she could see a dim light there at the end and knew that it was the way to the subway tracks. She limped and stumbled on, trying her hardest to reach the faint light.

“Just a few more yards,” she breathed.

Her heart pounding, her resolve hardened. She grunted almost with each step, determined to reach the end of the tunnel. She vaguely knew that it wouldn’t be over once she reached it, but she knew that she’d make it anyway. She was now just three or four feet away from the end of the tunnel. When she reached the edge, movement startled her.

Something fell from above. It was outside the tunnel. She held the lighter out behind her, the creatures stayed at the edge of the light, and she looked down at what had fallen.

It was her coworker.

The one she had killed that very night. She had gotten him drunk, lured him into the subway, and she’d cut his throat. Now he was here. She could see his throat was still sliced cleanly open, but there were teeth marks on his face, neck and shoulders. She stepped over his dead body and onto the gravel next to the tracks. She didn’t think those creatures in the dark would come out, but she held the lighter out anyway. Then she heard heavy footsteps behind her. She quickly turned around and there was the creature that had taken her into the tunnel. The one with the wound on its face where she’d tried ripping out the eyeball. Its remaining eye looked in her direction; its face smiled and separated the raw-meat-looking lips to show its black teeth.

“So,” she said, panting. “You’re the one they send outside. To bring in the food. Is that right?”

She realized that the sounds of the creatures in the tunnel had ceased. The creature in front of her stared at her, salivating.

The lighter might be keeping it away, she thought. Though not for long, I guess.

She knew she’d have to turn around at some point, that she was too wounded to outrun it. She slowly crouched, holding the lighter upwards towards its face. Then she dropped the lighter and immediately used that hand to take that blade out of the band on her leg. By the time she brought the blade up towards the creature, it was already on top of her. It was clawing at her sides as she stabbed at it.

She shoved the blade into its face, only impaling its cheek. It chomped the side of her head, tearing off her ear. She roared as she pulled the knife back and stabbed the creature’s last good eye.

The creature screamed its loud piercing screech again, nearly deafening the woman. Black blood poured from its eye but it knew better than to let go this time. The creature gripped her even tighter and began to blindly devour her.

She fought, it clawed. She kicked, it tore into her. I’m winning, she thought, fighting to the very end as the creature’s cries of pain and fury echoed through the deserted station. She never would have believed that the screams were her own.

The Subway (a short story)

Anthony McCracken

Chico, United States

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

“The Subway” is a short horror story I wrote. It’s in a collection of short stories and poems and the first six chapters of an upcoming novel of mine. The collection is called “All That You Hide.”

It’s on Kindle here.

On sale as PDF and other formats here.

Soon to be on the Nook and iPad and other formats.

Warning: some violent/gory situations.

Hope you enjoy the story!

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Artwork Comments

  • MoonlightLover
  • Anthony McCracken
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  • Anthony McCracken
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