A passenger brushed past me and plopped heavily into the empty seat beside me. I took in his details in a glance, automatically using the skills being a busybody turned writer had honed. He looked like so many other men, wearing a suit, wind-blown hair like everyone else in Chicago, tie askew, hollow eyes, slouching in his seat, but one detail made me want to get off the train as fast as possible. I could catch the next one heading my way in a few minutes. I dashed for the exit too late. The doors smacked shut right in front of my nose, mocking me. The rude ol’ train squealed and lurched into action. I resisted the urge to rub my burning, tingling hands against my legs. Nothing I did would stop the sensation. I instead gripped the pole, so I wouldn’t fall as the train rocked and rushed along the track.
Did I really see a creature attached to him? I glanced over at the man again to be sure. Yep. I did. A wave of nausea roiled in my stomach. A pair of hard black eyes stared at me from the nasty thing. The shiny red snake-like being on the man’s shoulder pulled needle sharp fangs out of the back of his neck and leaned toward me. I would bet nobody else saw it, but I felt sure it knew I could see it.
I averted my eyes, but the man must have caught me looking at him. Both he and the serpent stared at me. I looked up and smiled, hoping a compliment would excuse my gaze. Quick, find something nice to say.
“Uh…nice suit. It’s a rich gray, not bland like most of them.”
I sounded like an idiot. Not creative at all, but evidently the best I could do at this awkward moment. He gave me a perplexed look and mumbled thanks as he unfolded the Chicago Tribune and started reading. Was he aware of the creature attached to him, sucking out his life energy? Probably not, or he might have recognized that I could see it. The glossy red serpent coiled into a spiral and fixed its gaze on me.
My ears rang. My heart beat as if it had to forcibly pull the blood into and through its four chambers then shove it onward through the rest of me. All around me, the cranky, tired, despondent passengers read, talked or stared out the windows, oblivious to the creature I alone could see. I knew what it meant. What should I do? Why was this happening again? What had I ever done to deserve this accursed so-called gift?
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