This is our first entry for 4th Annual Humor Meets Horror month which will run through October. Readers might see horror, thriller, mystery or dark posts here to celebrate the month of ghosts, goblins and creepy things!
She makes it just in time. The last train of the day. She wasn’t planning on taking it. In fact, she was planning on taking the 5:15 as she did most other days. But, alas life got in the way.
She didn’t care much for the folks who would take such a late train. Mostly obnoxious drunks and rowdy kids. She made her way to the far back, the last car where hardly anyone ever went. Unfortunately, there were two.
“G’d even’ m’am” a homeless, possibly inebriated, man said announcing her entrance, before nodding back off. It’s alright. It’s just one, and I doubt he could hardly stand, she thought to herself. She made it halfway through the car before taking her seat.
Sitting across the aisle was a boy no more than 16, in dark sunglasses. Are they prescription? He looks blind. But no cane and no dog. Maybe it’s just the fashion now. She never quite understood fashion, at least anything past the 40’s. The boy was wearing what looked like a private school uniform, with an ornate crest emblazoned on the breast of the jacket.
“So where do you go?” she found herself asking. He doesn’t seem like the unruly urchins that normally take the train.
The boy, lost in the pair of headphones he wore, hardly heard her. But he clearly heard something and took them off. “I’m sorry?”
“I was just wondering where you went to school.”
“Oh. St. Lucifer’s,” he replied, showing off the crest on his jacket.
She paused. “I don’t recall a Saint Lucifer.” But then again, weren’t there hundreds of saints? Surely she shouldn’t be expected to know them all.
“Not many do. He hailed from Sardinia in the fourth century and his veneration is hotly debated.”
Quite the tongue on this kid. “That’s rather erudite. How old are you?” The boy smirks, almost embarrassed. “I’m still in high school. But I get that a lot.”
Of course he is. What a ridiculous question. Still, she didn’t know many high-school kids verse in ancient medieval saints. “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you. The world needs more intellectuals. It’s good that you’ve brushed up on your saints.”
“That’s alright. I’m used to it. They make fun of me a lot for stuff like that.” Poor kid. She feels like she should say something. “It gets better.” A bit generic, but it works. “Once you get to college, the professors will eat that stuff up.”
“Is that a fact?”
She can’t tell if he’s upset or is genuinely asking a question. “No I didn’t mean it like that. I’m sorry if that sounded demeaning”
“No. That’s okay. It was a joke.” He puts his headphones in his messenger bag, expecting the conversation to last the whole trip. “So I take it you’re a professor then?” “Me? No?” she retorts, bewildered. I wish. “I work the front desk at a magazine. Been there for nearly twenty years now.”
She remembers how she got that job. It started off as something part-time to help her through college, but that degree in late Renaissance literature didn’t get her much of anywhere, so at the front desk she stayed. It had been a thankless time spent there. Despite her trying her best to be warm and cordial, she still got complaints about her being too cold and aloof for reception.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. The world needs more receptionists.”
Like a dagger in the heart. She hated that word, but appreciated the sentiment. Someone with a 4.0 GPA is not a mere ‘receptionist’. “Well I’d prefer to be called a ‘hospitalier’.”
“A hospitalier. Someone who’s in charge of hospitality.”
“Never heard of it.”
Of course you haven’t. She made it up. Shakespeare did the same thing, so why couldn’t she? She has been trying to get the word into common use and who better to impart it on than today’s youth?
“If you don’t mind me asking what would you want to be doing if you weren’t a receptionist?”
Hospitalier. But that was a question she thought about a lot. She never really decided on a single dream job. “Barring lack of skill…” She pauses for a moment before continuing. “An opera singer. But I can’t stand that kind of shrill wailing. So ideally I’d like to be a singer that’s treated like she’s an opera star.”
“Oh, so you want people to like you despite a lack of talent?” Who is this little… “No, I mean-“
“No. Sorry. That’s not what I meant. That sounded really mean.”
“That’s alright. I understand. It’s a pipe dream, to be treated like some regal, international… superstar.”
“You could always writhe around on stage for a couple hours. People seem to like that a lot.”
She snorts. You got me there, kid.
“So do you like your job?”
Of course not. “It has its moments.” Like when I leave. Best part of the day.
“I guess I should count myself lucky. I have enough savings that I don’t need to get a dead-end job just to keep going.”
That word. He probably didn’t mean anything by it, but it hurt nonetheless. She had tried planning out the next step of her life for decades, but never got farther than that desk. It truly felt like a dead end.
“Can you imagine that? People try so hard to find something just so they keep going… Isn’t life more than that, just being alive? Honestly I’d just end myself there if I had to. Make a real spectacle of it.”
Wait, is he taunting me? She wonders. That little snot.
“Well life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon said that.”
“Oh John Lennon, the international singer-idol, who traveled all over the world, had hordes of people chant his name, and had enough money to practically retire in his 30s? That John Lennon?”
I’m going to do it. I’m going to punch you in the face. Right in that smug, pretty face of yours. I’m really going to do it. But she didn’t. She tightens her hand into a fist as she clutches her purse, but loosens as she tried to calm down.
“Well at that point he just wanted to spend time with his family. He gave up all his fame just to be with them.”
“Do you have family?”
She dated a few times over the years, but nothing lasted. Her father died before she entered college. No siblings or cousins that she was aware of. Her mother passed away more recently. At the end, she was battling Alzheimer’s and by that point no longer her mother. The medical bills practically wiped out all the savings she had.
“I have a cat.” A dumb beast that clawed at the furniture. More than once, she was tempted to throw it out the window, but she read a pet was a good way to keep one’s mood up.
“I have a butler,” the boy begins. “Mother died in childbirth. Father’s… somewhere. I live with my uncle, though he’s never home. So really, I live with my butler. He’s one of those boring ones from England. Do you think they raise people that way over there? To be cold and unloving?”
A bit dramatic. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
There’s a lull. The boy acts as if he’s trying to say something, but it’s a struggle for the words to come out. When they do, they fall like a brick.
“Sometimes… I think ‘what’s the point?’,ya’ know?”
Great, she thinks to herself. A suicide chump. She would’ve been sympathetic at the beginning of the ride, but by that point she really had enough of the irreverent brat. Still…
“Look, it gets better. You’re a smart kid. I’m sure you’ll go far.”
“You think?” He felt sincere. Maybe her words reached him. “But what about you?” Four small words, but they were as sharp as knife wounds. “I’m mean, you’re fifty, right? College graduate? And still a job as a receptionist?”
He’s right. God, he’s right. She didn’t want to end up like this, taking the late train, among the drunks and other undesirables, just to make ends meet. Working a job she hates, wasting all her energy to fake a smile, only to go home to a small apartment with a stupid cat. She hated it.
To be honest, she ruminated over the idea before. But when it came time to write a note (for she was a traditionalist and they always wrote a note), she realized that no one would probably find it, and thus she didn’t bother.
But at that moment, her mind was running. The idea the kid had earlier, of making a spectacle of it, didn’t sound too bad. As a special message to her boss, in her stomach, she’d carve the words “See you in Hell, you expletive,” unsure of what awful four-letter word she wanted to call her. She wanted to leave an impact, but couldn’t decide on the right one.
She fantasizes about storming into her work carrying a sawed-off shotgun, walking right up to her boss, and pulling the trigger, gunning down anyone in her way.She would have snuck into her boss’s office and written some four-letter word in blood, “It’s your fault.” Ideally, she’d like to take out as many people as she could.
Or, perhaps she would finally buy that peacock feather dress she passed in the store window every morning. She’d be in the red at that point, but debt meant little to the soon-to-be deceased. They would find her body in it, in some lovely little Gothic church, arms spread out like a crucifix, artistically splattered with blood, but her face would be pristine, like an angel.
That idea she liked the best.
The fantasies are all very cathartic. She sees the kid pull out a shiny Desert Eagle firearm from his bag and hands it to her. It’s cold and heavy. The mere sight of it makes her heart stop and mind wander. Did she really want to die? It would be an irreversible move, and she didn’t know what came next. Maybe it was more of the same. Or, maybe it was nothing, and that scared her. She might’ve considered her life to be a literal living hell, but it was better than nothing.
Thus, she decides, chooses life. But when she, handing the firearm back, tells this to the kid, the kid only replied “It’s not a suggestion.”
The boy raises his arm and points the gun right at the woman. No words were needed. The large Desert Eagle in his dainty hands looks a bit ridiculous, but she could tell his intent was to kill. Is this really how it’s going to end? Staring down the barrel of a gun of some punk kid? She tries to think of an out, a catch, some way to stop him from pulling the trigger.
“You think you’ll get away with this?”
The boy then gives an Oscar-worthy performance. “I… I can’t remember. All I remember was her pulling out something from her purse and- and…” He begins to cry. Tears stream down the sides of his face. And then he smirks and raises the gun.
Damn, he’s good. She thought hard, gazing into the black hole at her imminent doom. “Fingerprints,” she says aloud.
The boy waves his free hand. Much to her shock, the palms are smooth, not a single mark or blemish or groove on them. Who was this kid? Is he human, or some sort of beast? Then it dawns on her.
There’s a click. She winces.
She frantically looks around and sees the bum, still sleeping. “You’ll be caught. There’s a witness.”
“You didn’t know? He died twenty minutes ago.”
And at that moment, she saw the light.