14 Feb


Aline Waites

Sarah woke with a start, fighting for breath, heart thumping. She was over heated, the bed clothes felt damp and heavy. She could smell the fear emanating from every pore.  Her right hand was clutched over the area of her ribs where the knife had entered, smoothly, swiftly without pain. When she removed the hand from her chest, she was surprised to find no blood. With an effort of will, she steadied her pounding heart and exhaled to the end of her lungs.

She knew she had to remember the dream. Her mother had always told her that dreams only come true if you don’t tell them. She must tell this one to prevent it happening, but first she must get it right.

She’s in a train. There’s a man. The man with the face, eyes like black olives, hair dark and slightly frizzy, balding at the temples, shadow of stubble on his chin. In his hand he has a knife. Looking straight into her eyes, he drives the knife into her chest. She knows she shouldn’t try to remove it, but cannot help doing so. It goes in so easily, but she has to tug hard to get it out. She wriggles it about, trying to loosen it. The pain is excruciating, but she perseveres. Finally it comes out with a jerk and she lies gasping for breath as the blood surges out fountaining its way out of her body in huge spurts.

That is the end, but what is the beginning? There is no beginning. Every night it is the same dream, unless she is dreaming that too. Every detail is familiar as it occurs. Each time she says to herself ‘It is happening again’# and she goes through it all again right to the end. The man with the face, the knife, the blood – but she can’t remember the beginning.

Sarah stood on the platform and the tube train came in. She was careful not to get into a compartment with a man onhis own. She heard of knifings and rapes while the train was between stations. She couldn’t understand how it could possibly happen – two minutes between stations, didn’t give much time. Nevertheless she took the same train every day and took the same precautions.

She got into the train at the back – the compartment next to the guard. His face seemed oddly familiar to her, he must be the regular on the line so she smiled at him in case. He smiled back. He had a reassuring kind of smile.

There were five scattered occupants – only one of which looked up as she got in. A young girl in a flimsy voile mini skirt, woollen tights, Doc Martin boots, heavy makeup and a ring through her nose. Sarah regarded her indulgently wondering why such a pretty girl could make such a guy of herself.

The girl got off the train a couple of stops later and smiled at her in a friendly way. Sarah settled back into her place, putting her bag on the seat next to her. She was sorry the colourful girl had left the train. The people who surrounded her were pretty ordinary looking. A business man in a grey suit and slender tie, completely absorbed in the financial Times – he never looked up once, a middle aged couple in anoraks and back packs – obvious tourists with their heads together studying a large map of London – a young man with long hair and jeans who had his eyes kept on his iphone throughout the journey. Nobody to talk to – a shame, she always likes to start a conversation on the way to work – it helped the journey along. However, it took twenty minutes to Finchley Central so she could take short nap. She found it easy to have a quick sleep on the train if there was no body to talk to. The rocking motion helped and she didn’t have to  worry about missing her station because at East Finchley she always woke when the train emerged into the open air.

However, they had just left Camden and were hurtling towards Kentish Town when all of a sudden there was a jerk and a judder and the train s topped. Totally dead. No engine ticking over, no sound at all just a slice of deafening silence. There was no way she could sleep without the comfort of the rocking train. She ventured to glance despairing at her fellow passengers, intending to give them a reassuring grin and a philosophical shrug of the shoulder.

But when she looked up she found that all eyes were upon her. She looked from one to another, her eyes flicking between the faces. There was no reaction, just a cold stare from each of the faces. Her half smile faded and she could feel her own face freeze. What were they all looking at? Subconsciously she put out her had to take the bag that she had place on the seat beside her.

‘Don’t’ the word came like a whiplash from the man in the grey suit

‘Don’t touch it’

She snatched her hand away and began to tremble as the four people rose silently and slowly to their feet and began to advance on her.

Her eyes flashed madly from one to another, but they came on towards her – purposefully, remorselessly. She forced herself to stand, feeling less vulnerable on her feet. She had no idea what she was planning to do, or even if she had a plan of any kind.

She tried to turn towards the door, but the young man with the long hair and ripped jeans was somehow there in front of her. She turned the other way and found the business man was almost there facing her, still with  his eyes upon her. The four passengers  formed a cage around her, there was no way she could get past them.

‘What do you want?’ she gasped.

They made no reply and they seemed to be coming even nearer. Their four heads getting bigger and bigger as they came towards her.

They were almost there, their breath was rising in the air she could see it and smell it. Foul like the smell that came from a vase of dead flowers.

Suddenly the train gave another jerk, the four of them were temporarily thrown off balance and their heads whipped round in the direction of the front of the train.

Seizing her chance, she made a dash towards the adjoining compartment where she knew the guard would be. She saw his shadowy form through the window

‘Thank God’ she sobbed and hammered on the glass.

The four fiends had recovered their balance and advanced again, trapping her against the door. She became of the purple redness in their eyes as they kept them fixed on her face

The Guard’s face appeared at the window. The reassuring smile had gone and at last she knew why his face was familiar. Black eyes like olives, dark hair, slightly frizzy and balding, shadow of stubble on his face.

He thrust the door open, casting her roughly to one side and sending the four villains sliding across the floor of the carriage. She waited behind the door, shaking, as he stood surveying them. They cringed under his basilisk stare. He took out his intercom and made a call.

The train came to with a shudder and started to move slowly on its way to Kentish Town. The guards set Sarah back on her feet and put his arms around her.

‘Don’t worry’ he said ‘it’s all over’

At Kentish Town, the police were waiting to take the gang away. The guard took Sarah into his own compartment at the end of the train. It was empty but for the two of them.

As if he had all the time in the world, he took out the knife from beneath his jacket, and, looking her in the eyes, slid the knife between her ribs into her heart. She fell without a sound. No longer afraid.

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