Conversation on a Train
"They come at night and eat you."
Tony didn't bother turning to see who had said that. He'd travelled on this late train before and had seen a few strange but harmless people. Instead, he focussed more intently on his newspaper. The only other traveller Tony could see in the carriage stood and made his way to the exit as the train made its first stop.
"They rip pieces of flesh with their claws. You'd better take measures."
Yeah, yeah, thought Tony, at least he's not a mugger. He turned the page and read the headline: MAN STABBED TO DEATH IN HOUSE.
"They suck your eyes ..."
"Look," Tony turned around to face the stranger. "I'm not sure what your game is, but just stop this rubbish, eh?"
"I'm trying to help you," said the man. He wasn't what Tony had been expecting at all. He was at least seventy years old with white, thinning hair and wrinkles around his eyes. His grey suit was probably as old as Tony, at least thirty years, but he had kept it clean and the white shirt and thin black tie completed a fairly smart and proud appearance.
"Yes, well," said Tony, taken aback by the man's appearance. "I'm just reading my paper, thanks."
"They are coming for you."
"Right-oh, I'll keep a lookout."
"You have been marked by them, Tony."
Tony froze. How did the man know his name? He thought hard. Maybe a dropped business card or ...
"Okay, do I know you from somewhere?" asked Tony.
"No. I can see things. I can see that they have marked you and will come soon."
Tony settled back. Obviously a coincidence about the name. He's spotted or heard it somewhere.
The man shut his eyes. "You paid a bill by cheque last Thursday for fourteen pounds thirty pence. This was for gas."
Tony felt uneasy and shifted in his seat.
"Yesterday, you missed the train and were twenty minutes late for work."
"Have you been following me?"
The man tightened his shut eyes.
"You are worried that you might have picked up a disease from a prostitute you went with in Amsterdam two months ago."
Tony rounded on the man, shocked and scared. "Whatever it is you think you know or have been told by whoever, none of it is your business! Now please put a stop to this rubbish."
"You are not listening, or don't want to listen," said the man. "I can only try to convince you that I know things. Nobody knew that you were going to Amsterdam and nobody but you know about the prostitute."
Tony knew that the man was right. He had told friends that he was going to Paris on business, but had gone instead to Amsterdam for some cheap thrills. He had been worried that he might have picked something up, but had kept that to himself also. How did the man know?
"So I say again; they are coming for you."
The train entered a tunnel and the lights dimmed, throwing the carriage into darkness. Tunnel walls rushed by with the train making screeching noises, almost suggesting that it was scraping the walls. The lights returned as the train emerged from the tunnel into the night and the noises abated.
"Still not convinced?" said the man.
"I don't know what this is all about or why you are hassling me like this, but I'll get the conductor at the next stop if you don't quit."
"Next stop is not for fifteen miles," said the man, "you will have to listen."
"Oh no I won't," said Tony. He gathered his belongings and made his way to the front of the carriage. He tried the door to the next carriage. It wouldn't budge. He tried the same at the other end of the carriage. He tugged at the door, but it wouldn't open.
Tony, exasperated, moved to sit opposite the man.
"Who are you, what do you want and why are you saying these things!" he demanded.
"Who I am is not important. My job is to simply inform you."
"Okay, inform me of what? What's this 'they are coming' stuff?"
"Many years ago, I was blessed, or inflicted, however you may see it, as being able to see the fate of people who have been marked by voodoo. I can see that you have been marked. I can see that the mark is for the rippers to come get you."
"Horrible little things," he shook his head, "conjured up by a witch doctor at the request of someone. They come at night, many of them, and they tear the flesh for pleasure, keeping you alive, until they decide to feast."
Tony's mind was racing. He was torn between the facts that the man had so accurately described and a feeling that this was complete nonsense. He decided to play along.
"Why tell me?"
"It is my duty, because I have the blessing."
"What can I do about it?"
"You can find the witch doctor. Bribe him to stop the rippers coming."
Tony laughed in derision. "Where am I ever going to find a witch doctor in Surrey?"
"You would be surprised, young man. Someone has done this to you; someone with access to voodoo rites. Can you think?"
"No, can you? After all, it seems that you know everything."
"I know only certain things. Was the prostitute black?"
"One of them, yes."
"Did you hit her? Knock her about?"
"Now just one minute," things had cut too close to the bone for Tony, "this has gone too far now."
The man stared hard into Tony's eyes. "Your reactions give you away, Tony. An Amsterdam prostitute, beaten up whether you paid for that or not. Think. Did she have voodoo-like decorations showing?"
"How would I know?" Tony stood and rubbed his face vigorously. "There were a few things ... a statue, a bust of some African woman with piercing eyes ... oh I don't know."
"That would be Oshun, the goddess of love, sexuality and beauty. She would be hard to fight if offended and it seems that you have done that. Maybe you hit the girl with the statue? Maybe even used it on her?"
"This is ridiculous, ridiculous!" shouted Tony. "I don't know why I ever gave you my time. I don't know why I listened to all this rubbish! The next stop is mine and I'm off. You can take everything you have said and shove it!"
The man smiled. "Yes, the next stop is yours."
The train slowed and pulled into the station. Dim lights cast their glow through the night fog outside. Tony stood by the door, foot tapping in desperation to get off.
The doors opened and he stepped out onto the deserted platform. He looked around trying to recognise his surroundings through the fog, but it was somehow unfamiliar. He then noticed the train he had just alighted from. Just one carriage? What happened to the rest?
The man appeared on the platform. "Just one carriage Tony. Just one for you. You see, the rippers have already done their job. This is your final destination."
The man turned and walked along the platform into the fog.
Tony now knew that he had no choice but to follow him.