Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Gawkers

Another little short for anyone that's bored and wishes to while away a little idle time when you really could be doing something more useful.

The Gawkers

By Lee Hughes


The carriage lights blinked. Hazel was glad there was a seat free, she’d been on her feet all day.
Hazel knew the rules of the 'Tube'; you didn’t make eye-contact with any other commuters. She wished the woman opposite knew the unwritten rules. She was sat there, staring as though it was her job. The woman was flanked by a passenger on either side; they were ignoring the woman’s existence.
Hazel stared at the floor. You never knew who might be lunatic enough to launch an unprovoked attack. Everyday you heard stories of people being stabbed and beaten to death for no real reason.
She couldn’t help but sneak an occasional look. Keeping her head tilted downwards and lifting her eyes. The woman was still staring, not even bothering to blink.

The train stopped and a man got on and sat next to Hazel. She was polite enough to shove up a little.
The woman still stared.

After another few stations, the popular ones; the train began to empty until there were scarcely a half-dozen passengers in the carriage. The lunatic woman was still there and diligent in her chore of staring.

Two more stops and it would be Hazel’s turn to disembark. The man sitting next to her moved closer, though not by much. “Get off at the next station. Trust me,” he said.
Hazel glanced at him. He was clean shaven, suited and with a briefcase clamped between his feet. He was purposely not looking at the staring woman. Hazel didn’t know what to do. The next stop after this one would be hers. What would be the point in getting off a stop early?
The train began to slow as it worked towards the station. The man beside her got up and walked towards the door.

He turned.

His eyes pleaded.

Hazel didn’t want to get up. She’d heard about people being tricked and ending up dead on a waste-ground with bits missing or fiddled with. She glanced at the staring woman. That hollow look of madness helped to make her mind up.

She got up and the suited man looked relieved.

The doors whooshed closed and the train moved off into the darkness. Hazel asked, “What’s this about?” She watched the train swallowed by the tunnel.

“I’m relieved you got off the train. I didn’t mean to scare you. But I’m a doctor, not that you need to be one to know the woman across from you was dead and the men on either side were propping her up.” The doctor was fishing for his phone.

The police asked them some questions. They sent a unit on ahead to the next station to check things out. Hazel and the doctor; his name was Frederick were seated on one of the platform benches. Neither knew each other well enough to make anything more than idle chit-chat.

A police officer came over. He blew out air, “Some colleagues got on at the next station and everyone on there was very much alive and well.”

“But…” the doctor said.

The officer held a hand up, “Maybe she was one of these that sleeps with their eyes open. I had an elderly relative that did that.” The officer gave a shrug and walked off.

Dr. Frederick looked to Hazel apologetically, “It seems as though I may have dragged you from your train prematurely, and over nothing. I apologise. Please, I’ll be getting a cab the remainder of my journey. Permit me to see you safely to your destination. It’s the least I can do.”

Hazel smiled. It really was a nice gesture, but no. The next train pulled in. That was her escape route.

“Thanks. But I’ll just hop on this train. The station’s only around the corner from my house.” She edged her way over to the slowing train.

“Are you quite sure?” The doctor asked.

“Yeah, but thanks.”

“A pleasure, and once again, my sincere apologies.” He lifted his briefcase in a gesture of farewell.
Hazel got on the train just as the doors were closing. Another ten minutes and she’d be able to get home, put her feet up and forget all the nonsense that had just happened. Hazel didn’t have to worry about there not being a seat. The only people in the carriage besides her were three men. The men were sat in a row. The one in the middle sat and stared forward. Just like the woman had. The men on either side didn’t smile.

One opened his mouth. Words came out, though his lips didn’t move.

“Sit down,” said the man, as though he were a ventriloquist.

Hazel could feel her whole body begin to shake. She didn’t know what else to do other than to follow the man’s demand.

Hazel moved to seat herself.

The man spoke again, his lips locked in place like he’d had a stroke. “Sit in front of us.”
Hazel didn’t want to sit there. She decided to give running a try. Maybe to the next carriage and pray there would be people that could help her, provide some form of rescue, or haven. She wished she’d taken the doctor up on his kind offer. She made for the doors. They opened. Another two men stood there. Faces locked in an expression of being noncommittal.
“Sit down,” one said, his lips static.

Hazel backed away. The carriage was barren but for the four strange men and the catatonic, or dead man that was parked between them.

There was no room for her to think about escaping. The standing two flanked her until she was seated. The one to her left took the window seat. The other ushered her into the centre.

She was sandwiched in with nowhere to go. She begged them to let her go. In unison they shook their heads. The one beside her drew something from within the folds of his coat and stuck her in the arm with it. She didn’t even have a chance to flinch before it infiltrated her bloodstream and galloped through her body. The reaction was like a slap. There was a slight shudder and then her whole body went still. Her eyelids sagged as though held down as if weighted. Nothing worked. She couldn’t move her hands. Her feet were concreted in place; her head locked solid as though captured in a medical brace.

She tried a scream. She was sure she could hear it in her head, but something was stopping it from leaving her mouth. All she could do was stare at the man who stared back, like a game of ‘Who blinks first, loses’, she had a feeling they were both going to lose.

Hazel felt the train slow and halt at her stop, the last of the stations. From there she had no idea where the train went, whether or not they had depots. She knew she was about to find out. She could imagine the other passengers in the other carriages getting off disembarking of her predicament. A moment of hope sprung to the front of her mind. Surely a conductor would come through checking that all of the passengers had gotten off, surely one would.
One didn’t.

She couldn’t cry in her catatonic state, her screams were for her own private audience. How she wanted to scream, more so when the lights went out and the trained pulled away for its final jaunt to wherever.
The train halted once more.

Hands reached beneath her armpits and lifted her up. The men were strong and carried her through the train with ease. There was nothing to see in the darkness, she could feel the breeze of movement entering her mouth. She was lifted from the train and through a maintenance door.

Light gradually returned the further she was carried. She could see again, though there was nothing of any real worth to see. The tunnel was made from uniform bricks and had nothing to make it colourful. It was just a length of drabness illuminated by sparsely littered lights.

She was carried through another door and down some stairs. The men that carried her never seemed to tire of their burden. The men stopped and turned. Hazel got to stare at the other man that traded his stare, for hers. He was carried in the same manner. The lighting grew brighter.

Her brain couldn’t register what it was seeing. It couldn’t be real, there had to be something wrong with her mind. Some brain-wiring had burnt out or had gotten crossed. Anything had to be better than the truth.

She watched them, they were anything but human.

The things were thin.

Elongated fingers ushered newly awakened prisoners into a chamber. Hazel was set down upon the floor. The other inert man placed next to her. One of the aliens came over with a novel device that looked like a bastardised syringe and stuck the man with it. Slowly his arms began to move again, fluid movement rippled through his whole body until all of him was free of the deviant hibernation.

The man got up and didn’t fight, he didn’t do much of anything other than allow himself to be led towards the glowing chamber. The strange being moved towards Hazel with the oddity and was about to poke her when one of the human 'seeming' beings rested a hand upon its bony shoulder. The human pointed to his neck where a tear had appeared. Through the rent in human dermis grey skin could be seen. The alien nodded. The damaged human withdrew a device that had an animated blade that shimmered. Hazel wanted to push back from it but couldn’t. The swirling blade met her skin. She felt pain like no other as the alien began to separate the skin from her meat. She filled her head with screams and knew only her distant memories would hear them.


Dr. Frederick boarded the train. It had been a devil of a day, three hypochondriacs and two patients that thought they were better qualified than him. He smiled when he noticed the familiar face of the woman he had inadvertently forced to leave the train the day before. He went and sat in the seat across from her.


  1. Nice story Lee. I've never been keen on trains that run underground. :-)

    There were a couple of editing points and typos..."Some brain-wiring had burnt out or got had gotten crossed. Anything had to be better than the truth..." I'm thinking 'got' should have been God.

    Nonetheless, a cool idea and well written, mate.

  2. Cheers Dave, I've fixed it. Am only human, well, Demi-God. Thanks for reading.

  3. Love the line - '..her screams were for her own private audience'!

    But there's another typo I think in the following line: '..the trained pull..' = train pulled? Sorry to be a nit-picker, but seeing as how Mr B had already pointed one out..... ;-)

    That aside - creepy story! :-o Just the sort of thing I want (?) to read when I have to ride the whole of the Picadilly line (Cockfosters to Heathrow) in a couple weeks, very early in the morning.......

  4. Love it - classic Lee Hughes. Really creepy and bizarre.

  5. Lee, I take the subway to Boston every now and then, and IMO it is a breeding ground for story material. Kind of reminded me of the "Midnight Meat Train".

    Loved this line- "She’d heard about people being tricked and ending up dead on a waste-ground with bits missing or fiddled with."

    I noticed the minor typo's too, and I think it could be tightened up a bit, by loosing some of the "passsive voice". I hate literary jargon, but don't know what other term to use.

    I always enjoy your writing!

  6. Cheers all, typo's removed and passive voice will be stripped when time permits. All these ones that I'm posting are years old and just sitting in a file seemingly bored so throwing them up. So folks don't think I'm dead as I spit shine the novel lol

    I love it when people spot typo's or errors, or places where the flow of the story is broken by me being too wordy. It's one of the things you have to learn as a writer, don't get all sulky because someone pulls you up on something, criticism works at making the writer better.

  7. Ooh, I liked it! Reminded me of Clive Barker's Midnight Meat Train :-) Very creepy, and it took a number of nice twists.

    One thing stuck out for me though - should the doctor not have sat opposite the woman, the following day? Rather than beside her? So she could stare at him and begin it all again...

  8. 'Fixed' and well-spotted Joleen, love it, it's turning into a Krypton Factor spot the mistakes lol. Keep em coming.

  9. Great story Lee - I think I remember a version of it at TKn'C, and I loved it there too. I agree wholeheartedly with Joleen - shades of Barker in here.

    Oh - and gratz on the hon. mention at MJS's Dog'Days contest - your story made me chuckle (the ending anyway.)

  10. I finally got around to reading your story. Apologies for taking so long. Scary stuff. I'm with Joleen, it reminded me of Clive Barker. Loved it.

    p.s. I’m running a competition this week. If you get time, pop along and have a look.