The Dread

He’d planned everything with the utmost care, bought the ticket, checked the schedule, prepared a printout with the travel instructions, telling him at which station he’d have to transfer from the street car to the subway. At breakfast he’d drank herbal tea instead of coffee, left his apartment on time, without having to rush, made his connection; he felt good, it was peaceful and relaxed. He boarded and sat at an empty seat by the window. That was important, extremely important! Without a window seat his entire travel preparations would have been for nothing. But now he sat there, the street car pulled away and he fixed his gaze to the glass – just don’t look at the people, always look at the window, regardless of what happens, do not look at anyone! Listen to the announcements naming the stops: five stops and he would have to transfer; trees, clouds, houses, no people, no people! At the first stop, by all means keep the eyes closed to avoid looking at the people getting on. Stay calm, everything will be all right; he’d thought of everything, planned everything!

He noticed that someone had sat down next to him – now don’t fall into a panic – he pressed his long, thin body onto the cold hull of the vehicle – no people!

“Excuse me,” a chubby hand tugged at his sleeve. “How many stops is it to the main station?” Ignore her, just don’t acknowledge her and under no circumstances look at her, don’t look! “Hello?” the tugging became more insistent. “I asked you something.” His limbs stiffened; he rigidly held his gaze on the scratches of the window glass. “Hallo?” The face belonging to the chubby hand forced itself between him and the glass, “are you all right?”

Help! His eyes searched for a new anchor, something inanimate. No face, no! The palm of the chubby hand moved back and forth in front of his eyes. “Hello? Is everything okay? You look so pale.” He had lost, he could no longer avoid the round face. It had already begun, this time with the nose. The nostrils moved slowly upwards, the bridge of the nose became wider, the shrinking eyes sank deeper into the rosy skin that grew rougher by the second, as a light, white fuzz began to form – it was the face of a sow that no longer spoke to him but grunted. If she weren’t so loud the others might not notice. He didn’t dare turn around. I can’t cause any more damage, he thought, and started visibly as a young woman with a child on her arm sat quietly down in the seat opposite him and the grunting sow. No! It was too late to look away. The arms of the child suddenly grew longer, hairier. A long, furry tail snaked its way out of his pants. The little monkey cheerfully climbed all over his mother, whose hair meanwhile spread across her face. Now her jaw jutted out towards him and swelled wider. Her no longer human, fur-covered arm secured the climbing creature from a fall.

How many stops must I go on? Two? Three? No, I can’t stay here that long, I must get out immediately! Before the others notice. Before I’ve done any more damage. He began with uncertain steps to move towards the exit. He tripped over a snake, fell against the horns of a mountain goat and was barely able to duck as a peregrine falcon swooped directly over him. So it’s gotten worse. Now he no longer had to look at them. It was enough to be in the same room with them… Leave, fast! He pulled the emergency brake. The street car braked jerkily and came suddenly to a screeching halt, at which he forced the doors apart and sprang out.

“I knew something was wrong with him. He was suspicious right from the start. Do you happen to know how many stops it is to the main station?” the chubby woman asked.

“Two more. But it’ll be a while before they can start after that emergency brake was pulled,” the young mother answered cordially as her child climbed into the now empty seat by the window.

The Dread

Sylfidka

Joined January 2008

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Artist's Description

A kafkaesque story about a short ride in a street car.

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kafka

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