Autumn was changing to winter, and the station superintendent wanted to make sure the sandboxes were stocked in case of snow, so he sent me to check them.
There’d be six stations on the local line, which meant after I checked each one, I had to wait for the next train. Clipboard under my arm, and pen in my pocket, I set forth to see it done. It was after midnight, and with the trains at every forty-five minutes, I’d be done around 4 a.m.
This drafty, empty tunnel holds a presence of eyes that can’t be seen watching my every move. There are more than one of them here, so what feeble light there is offers no comfort.
I’m on display, but am I also the offering?
There are whispers just beneath hearing, a vibration with a sibilant hum.
If they touch me, I’ll scream.
If they speak to me, I’ll go mad.
It doesn’t matter if I hurry.
Mercifully, they hold their silence, their muted malevolence no less felt; there are a few times in my life I’ve been truly frightened, and this is one of those times.
The box at the end of the station has a broken lock and rotten edges. It sits square and squat in the center of my sight like a crusty, slimy toad.
If I hesitate, I won’t open it.
I open it; it reeks of urine and rotten wood, but it’s full.
And is there anything, anyone, there beneath the sand?
I close the lid, and bear once more the watchful gaze of the unseen, their presence still felt, their whispering still vibrating.
There’s wind in the tunnel as the train approaches, the clatter of wheels on rails is an echo growing louder, and as the train’s dim headlights shine in the darkness the spirits use the surging, fetid air to flee.
I board the train, standing, and as it pulls out of the station, I see the lid begin to open…