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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Stalker at the Bus Stop : Short story horror

Melanie Roberts put a protective hand over her bulging belly as she leaned against the post by the bus stop. She glanced at her watch and tapped her foot impatiently. She was 7 months pregnant for Christ’s sake, and she managed to get here on time. Why couldn’t they? she thought.

She glanced to her left and saw a tall, dark-haired man looking at her. She let her short red hair fall in her face, avoiding eye contact and nervously clutching her purse. There had been a rash of purse snatches at stops around here, and she didn’t want to be the next victim. She looked up again but this time he was looking at the street. Probably just as impatient for the bus to be here as she was.

She mentally swatted herself for being so paranoid. It was the pregnancy. It was really messing with her head. Looking the man over she realized he did not look like the purse-snatching variety. Good looking, strong jaw line, tanned skin, the kind you get from really being outside, not just in a tanning booth. Muscles made from hard work and hard play. His eyes were brown, if she remembered correctly, but she didn’t need to see them again.

Her husband had left her when she got pregnant, and that made this whole ride a very adventurous one for her. Single mom. Single working mom. Oh goody! She sighed and stretched her back. She saw the man smiling at her and she smiled back.

“Are you OK, do you need to sit down?” he asked kindly.

Ah, he’s just a good Samaritan worried about the pregnant lady. Nothing nefarious about that, she thought as she smiled back.

“No, I need to stretch. Too much time sitting gives me muscle spasms. Those suck,” she joked. He nodded and went back to staring at the traffic.

Just as she was about to complain about the wait to her new bus acquaintance, she heard the screeching metal as the bus came to a stop before them, spitting smoke as it did. Great, now I’m killing my baby’s lungs before she’s even had a chance to use them, Melanie thought with disgust. She was noticing how much more sensitive she had become since she got pregnant. She had this overwhelming urge to clean the whole planet, but she lacked the energy to even clean her two bedroom apartment on most days.

As she waited in line to claim her seat, she noticed a black cat with a painful looking crook in its tale slither through the crowd and stop at her feet. Was that the same cat she had seen last night in front of her apartment? It couldn't be, she thought. It wound around her ankles purring and then looked straight into her eyes. She let out a small gasp at the sight of it. The cat’s eyes were bright red and glowing, releasing an aura of pure evil. A shiver went through her spine and straight into her heart. She clutched her chest and struggled to breath. The man behind her put a steadying hand on her back.

“What happened, are you OK? Do you need a doctor?” his concern was palpable.

“No, no doctor, I’m alright. I just was startled by a cat. It’s nothing,” she motioned to the cat, but when she looked down, it was gone. Her breathing started to return to normal.

“Guess it got scared away by the crowd,” the man said.

“I suppose so,” Melanie said, but the conviction of her words never made it to her eyes. Her eyes looked haunted and nervous.

Before she could process what had happened, it was her turn to scale the small steps up the bus. She prepared herself for feeling like a whale as she maneuvered her belly around the tight corner and flashed her pass. She chose a seat in the back and settled in for the long ride by flipping open her paperback, and propping her legs as best she could on the seat. No one behind her, no one next to her, perfect.

Before the bus had even started moving she was lost in another world, so she didn’t notice right away when the friendly stranger she’d just met bypassed many empty seats to sit in the one directly across from her.

The bus lurched and came to its next stop. Melanie looked up from her book in time to see a small black cat with a crook in its tale walk past the bus door and look at her. The red eyes were filled with the same sinister violence. A pregnant silence engulfed the bus. The world seemed to move in slow motion for a moment, and then returned to normal. Melanie rubbed her head, trying to erase the headache that had just attacked her. She was a firm believer in drugs if they helped, but not when she was pregnant. She got her water bottle out instead and took a swig, hoping hydration would do the trick.

That was when she noticed the man in the seat across from her. He was leaning comfortably in the corner with one leg casually crossed over his knee, and he was looking at her and smiling. The smile seemed far too intimate and made her very uncomfortable. She nervously moved her hand over her stomach and looked down.

Isn’t it nice having the bus as an option. So much more convenient than having to drive everywhere. Don’t you think?” he asked her.

She hesitated. Should she respond? Maybe she should just start reading her book and ignore him? Or maybe, stupid girl, you’re just being a paranoid bitch. Snap out of it. He’s just being nice, she told herself.

“Yes, I do prefer the bus, though as my pregnancy progresses, even this gets challenging,” she finally said reluctantly.

“I can imagine,” he chuckled. “Well, I can try to imagine. Obviously only other women can really relate.”

Well, at least he wasn’t an idiot. That was a plus. Maybe he’s noticed that I’m not wearing a wedding ring and he digs pregos…she thought with a little giggle.

He arched an eyebrow at her outburst, but said nothing.

Looking up, she realized her stop was coming up and she’d need to transfer to the downtown bus. She pulled the rope to her side, alerting the bus driver, and started gathering her stuff. She noticed the man next to her doing the same. Well, it was a common enough stop. Most of the bus was preparing to exit here. It certainly didn’t mean anything sinister, she reminded herself.

She scooted herself through the bus, trying in vain to suck in her belly and wishing she’d sat in the front, when she felt the man behind her brush up against her. She couldn’t tell if it was deliberate or if her delays had caused the contact. She struggled with mixed feelings of fear and arousal as she stepped off the bus. After all, he was good lucking and she hadn’t had sex since her baby was conceived, and she was in the horniest trimester of her pregnancy after all. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to exchange numbers and see where things went.

“Can I carry that for you?” the man asked, referring to her backpack. “Since we’re going the same way anyways,” he said with a small laugh. The guy equivalent of a giggle, she thought.

“No, that’s OK. I’ve got it. Thank you though.”

They walked side by side in silence to the next bus stop around the corner, and then waited. She was relieved that they hadn’t missed this bus after the last bus was late. She looked around and took a deep breath. The morning was still cool and the streets teemed with people heading to work and running errands. She loved this city with its life, vibrancy and diversity.

The bus stopped in front of them, splashing dirty water on those closest to the street. One man cursed and swatted at his suit. A black cat ran by, nearly tripping an old lady in front of her. It stopped at Melanie, looked up at her and then hissed and scratched her left leg, tearing her nylons and cutting deeply enough to bleed. Everyone started loading the bus.

This time Melanie stayed in the first row, hoping to avoid the belly ordeal. This time the man sat right next to her before she had a chance to claim the entire seat for herself. She forced herself to relax, reminding herself that she wanted this. She wanted to examine her leg, but couldn’t reach it in such close quarters.

“Here, let me take a look,” the man said, and bent down before she could say no. “It’s not too bad, I’ve got a band aid I can put on it, but you should see your doctor to make sure you didn’t catch any diseases from that stray. That was such strange behavior for a cat.”

“Yeah, strange” she muttered as he bandaged her up and then slid his hand up her leg.

“I guess you’re going to have to get rid of these nylons, huh?” he said suggestively.

This may be what she wanted, but not on a bus, before knowing the guy’s name. She got a very uneasy feeling in her stomach. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Most villains don’t look like villains after all. Isn’t that what they always say on the news when some psycho has just killed his entire family and buried them under the roses. “He was such a normal looking guy, how could we have known?” Indeed, how? She wondered. She pulled the rope and planned a hasty retreat.

“Where are you going?” he asked with confused, even pained, look on his face.

That made no sense, she thought. Why should he be hurt?

“This is my stop,” she said as she grabbed her backpack and scooted past him. Not an easy task at all.

“Since when?” he asked with mounting confusion.

Oh my God, was he stalking her? She wondered. She suddenly knew she had to get off this bus immediately. Terror rose up in her as she thought of the life of her baby growing inside her. She would do anything to protect this child.

The bus stopped and she practically ran off. The man ran after her. She heard him calling out.

“Wait! Wait, damnit!” he yelled as he ran. Soon he was on her. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. She’d led them both straight into an alley. Great! Just perfect. She couldn’t have run into a Starbucks instead? At least then there’d be witnesses, she thought.

She faced her attacker while looking for something, anything that could be used as a weapon. She saw a crowbar lying by the backdoor of a local bar. Pulling her arm painfully out of his grip, she ran for the door and grabbed the makeshift weapon.

“Get away from me. Just leave me alone!” she shouted.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” the man asked, angry.

“I just want to be left alone. I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, but leave me alone.”

Melanie could feel tears slide down her cheek. She’d never been so scared in her whole life. Her body trembled and her hands were numb. Her gut contracted in pain from stress and fear. She felt like she was going to puke.

“Honey, come here. I was just teasing you on the bus. I didn’t mean to make you mad. I thought you’d like it. Come on, let’s kiss and make up,” he said.

He came towards her and put his arms around her. She felt his face close in and felt his lips crush against hers. Her heart stopped. She felt another painful spasm in her belly and felt fluid run down her leg. God, she couldn’t be in labor. It was way too early. The man held her tighter and started moving his hands over her breasts. What was she doing? Why wasn’t she moving? She had to protect her baby. She couldn’t let anything happen to her baby. She squeezed her fist around the crowbar and swung as hard as she could.

She heard a crunch as it landed against his skull. Bits of bone and brain flew towards her. She saw a look of pain and betrayal cross his face as he reached again for her. She swung again, resisting the urge to vomit. She closed her eyes and kept swinging, crying the whole time. Pound, pound, pound, over and over.

When she could no longer lift her arm, she dropped the crow-bar and began vomiting. Another contraction clenched her belly. Blood and brain were everywhere. She was covered in it. He didn’t even look human anymore, just a lump of meat with bits of clothing thrown in.

Another contraction hit her belly. She passed out on the cold asphalt next to her assailant.

A black cat with a crook in its tail walked by and sniffed at the two bodies. Holding its head high, it walked away without a backward glance. It looked like a cat looks after it’s just eaten the canary.

The first thought Melanie had was one of pain. Intense, physical pain. And emptiness. Something was missing. A part of her was missing but she couldn’t figure it out. What had happened? Where was she? She tried to open her eyes but couldn’t. She couldn’t see, but she could hear someone talking.

“Such a tragedy,” a woman said softly. “Of course she lost the baby. But it was deformed. It never would have survived even if she’d carried it to term. The doctor’s are wondering if perhaps something in the baby made her sick, and that maybe that could explain what happened.”

“I heard they were crazy in love,” another woman said.

“Crazy something. You know he rode the bus with her every day to her work, and then went on to his own job. The bus driver said they always acted like teenagers in love, making out in the back. He said they were his favorite passengers.”

“I can’t believe she would just lose her mind like that. How horrible!”

“I wonder what’s going to happen to her now?”

Melanie felt the memories return. Awful, horrible memories. Dean, his kind brown eyes, his strong face, handsome, wonderful, love-of-her life Dean. The bus. The crowbar, oh my God! She screamed silently, dying inside as the memories invaded her mind. She’d killed him. How could she? This must be a nightmare. She closed her eyes and willed herself into sleep, into a better dream. She saw the glowing red eyes just as she heard a beeping noise. She struggled to wake up, to get away from the eyes, but it was too late. The beeping got louder. And then silence. Nothing but glowing red eyes and the smell of fear.