One night, a little boy named Jared was on the train. It was a dark night with a purple sky and nothing but the sound of swishing cars. It was only Jared and four other people on that train as he read a rather grim issue of the latest Batman.
Only four people minding their own business, and the officer, who was staring straight ahead. Jared felt quite at ease as he read on.
“Next stop, Western. Doors open on the left at Western.” Barely held down, the old woman gets up, mumbling about the white flurry of coupons she’s neurotically stuffing into her purse. Jared looks up and for one maddening second, the lady bends over to pick up the coupons she dropped in the now closing doorway. He half expects her to get chopped in half, but she gets up and shuffles off into the night.
Jared breathes out and goes back to reading. The officer sniffs and suddenly looks up.
As the train goes racket-racket-racket, the cart is almost untouchable by the blackness outside.
That’s when another person gets up to leave. The punk in the corner gets off, banging on the sides and thrashing to the rhythm of black metal.
As some of the outside darkness seeps in, Jared looks up to see what the commotion is, and his gaze meets the officer’s, staring dead at him. He starts to sweat a little bit and bends over his comic once again. The train doors shut again and it takes off. It’s ok, he thinks to himself. The officer is here to protect you. That’s all. That’s all.
“Next stop, California.” The train rumbles and sways in a mad dash for home. Home, where Jared wished he was right about now. The train stops and Jared is trying to concentrate on his comic, but he feels very isolated right now. The doors open, and the last person gets off: a skeletal business man holding an ebony briefcase, who’s nervous eyes flit back and forth across the abyss before he steps onto the platform.
It’s only the officer and the boy now. He looks up for a split second, and thinks he sees the man staring at him from under his dark cap, but it’s just a trick of the light. Just the grimy, incandescent lights that could go out any minute.
He reads on, unaware that for a full seventeen minutes, there is utter silence. When Jared next decides to look up, the man is sitting right in front of him, staring him dead in the eyes.
Jared lets out a small squeak and drops the comic. He is too afraid to look away from the two pools of ink dripping out of the pale dough of a face.
The face of hunger.
The officer stares and stares. The boy can barely breathe. It seems to last for an eternity, the man sitting there leaning forward, with his claw-like hands gripping his knees, the only sound, Jared’s audible panting. Then just like that,
“This is Western.”
The officer gets up and strides over to the platform. He looks behind him one last time to say, in a voice of black tar, “stay out of trouble,” and he is gone with the night.
Jared rushes home without even stopping to call his mom. He tries to sleep that night, but the red and blue lights flashing outside his window keeps him awake and terrified.
The lights flash silently for another two and a half hours before disappearing into the black once more.