Her phone rang as she made her way onto the platform of the station, and her first instinct was to ignore the call and phone whoever back when she got home. But then she remembered her boyfriend, Tom, was cooking for her that night. He might have a question that needed answering while he was still at the store shopping for ingredients, so she decided to at least see who it was. Sure enough, Tom’s smiling face was on the screen. She boarded the train with a group of others, then answered.
“Hey, Hun.” It was hard not to sound put out, knowing what his call was likely to be about, but she tried.
“Hey. Sorry, but I totally forgot which veggie you said paired well with salmon? And am I getting white rice or brown?”
He was hopeless. Wonderful … but hopeless. “It’s asparagus, love. And brown rice.”
“Right. I bloody knew it. I’m gonna kill Kyle.”
“Kyle? Don’t tell me you’ve been taking cooking advice from him agai—”
There it was—a flash of horror in the otherwise mundane surroundings, black eyes locked onto hers. Panic hit and her heart rate shot up. She quickly looked around at the other passengers, hoping to find one whose expression matched the way she was feeling. But no one appeared to be remotely disturbed. They carried on looking at their phones or staring blankly out the window. She tried to find the mask in the crowd again, but as always, it was gone.
Tom’s voice reached her as if from somewhere in the distance.
“Julie, you still there?”
“Yeah … I’m here.”
“You okay? You sort of stopped mid-sentence.”
“Yeah, just remembered something, sorry.”
She hadn’t told him about the masked face to save him worrying to death, or even worse, getting hurt or into trouble doing something foolish that should be left to the police. But maybe tonight she would need to speak up about it. Not the cheeriest dinner table conversation, but this was starting to really frighten her, and he had the right to know something that was impacting her life in such a severe way.
“Alright,” he said, though Julie could tell he was doubtful. “Well, I’ll leave you to it so I can finish shopping. See you in a bit.”
“See you soon.”
The train stopped at Barking, and she got off with a few others. Normally she took the bus from there to her flat, but tonight she decided it was worth paying the extra and hailing a cab to make sure she wasn’t followed straight to her home. The sound of rain beating the ground prompted her to get out her umbrella as she left the covered station behind and went around the corner for a black cab. Most of her friends used Uber, but Julie always felt more secure in a traditional taxi. Thankfully, one was sat waiting. She walked towards it and opened the door.
As she got in, folding her umbrella first, the cabbie was yelling at someone through his open window.
“Oi, mate. What yer think yer doin’?”
She shut the car door and looked through the rain-streaked window to see what was happening. There was a man at the driver’s window, bundled up in raincoat with his collar lifted. It was too dark to see his face in any detail.
“Back off,” the cabbie yelled when the man didn’t move. “I’m already ‘ired. You’ll need ter find yerself another—”
The man thrust his arm in the window.
Something flashed in the light of an overhead streetlamp.
Blood spattered the windscreen and the cabbie slumped over the steering wheel.
Julie screamed and fumbled to open the door to jump out but was shoved back in by a gloved hand. Menacing black eyes held her gaze as a man crouched down to enter the car. She fumbled with the latch on the passenger side door, kicking at the man with her flats. He managed to grab one of her feet, and no matter how hard she tried to kick at him with the other, it didn’t seem to do any good. He wagged a finger at her with his free hand.
“Now, Julie, that’s not very nice.” He reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a knife. “And I was so hoping we could be friends.”
‘Haunted By Darkness’ by Ian Bristow is one of the spooky stories and poems to get you in the Halloween mood today in Haunted – the Sparkly Badgers spooky anthology which is free to download. The artwork is also by Ian, check out his Art with Ian YouTube channel for more.