It had been a long, tiring day at work. It was quiet as I waited alone for the train. It was a bit after midnight, and so dark that I could only see the square foot around me that the small light illuminated.
Fortunately, I wasn’t stuck waiting long for the train. Eagerly, I ran in the second the doors opened.
There were only two other men in the compartment, not unusual for this time of night. The place reeked of smoke from the older man huffing on a cigarette. He took another long drag of it and watched me as I came in and took my seat.
I sat and looked up at the other man, sitting across from the smoker. He was only about 5 seats away, but his face was hidden by his hood, so I had trouble making out his features. His eyes, though… I could see those clearly. One was normal, but the other was red, where it should be white. He stared shamelessly back at me, with a tight, almost pained expression. I smiled at him, trying to break the tension, but he just stared. I looked out the window, trying to ignore his gaze, but I could still feel his eyes on me.
The train lights began to flicker, and went out for a moment.
“Sorry, folks” said a voice over the static of the PA. “We’re gonna get maintenance on that in the morning. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
My stomach dropped, and I struggled to control my breathing. I reminded myself that there was no reason to be afraid of the dark, that I was a grown man, a tax-paying adult, who… Oh, thank God. The lights were back.
I hadn’t even realized my eyes were squeezed shut. Sighing, I opened them to see the man’s unsettling eye staring directly into mine, from only two seats away. Bewildered, I looked over at the older man, who hadn’t moved from his seat. He took another a drag from his cigarette and coughed, acting like nothing had happened.
The train rumbled down the tracks. I was afraid to look back at the red-eyed man. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to move, or even breathe. I tried to convince myself that the whole thing was in my mind. Maybe I was just tired from a long day of work. Maybe I was just paranoid, and he wasn’t even looking at me.
The lights flickered again, and went out.
I held my breath, waiting for the lights to come back. After a moment, they did. And he was in the seat next to me, his face only a few inches away from mine.
I leaned back.
“What the hell, man? What do you think you’re doing???”
He didn’t respond. Instead, the smoker angrily said “Look, kid. If ya wanted me to put out the cigarette ya just had ta ask nice, ok?”
“Not you, this asshole over here!”
The smoker stared at me for a second, confused. “It’s just me and youse, here, kid. Ya all right?”
The red-eyed man hadn’t moved or responded at all.
The lights went out again.