The train came to a stop, and I got off. It was the last stop. I walked with my head down, trying to avoid eye contact until I bumped into a man.
His cigarette smashed against me, sending sparks and ashes across my clothes.
I brushed them off as they started to singe my top.
“Watch where you’re going.” He stood in front of me. I shrunk down as I always tried to avoid confrontation. The train pulled away, leaving me alone at the station with him.
“Alice,” he said. I forgot to remove the nametag from the help group I led.
The door to the bathroom opened and the sound of someone sobbing broke his intensity.
“What took you so long?” He said to the girl who came out.
“It was a long trip.” The girl wiped her eyes, but she couldn’t hide the redness left from crying.
His car turned into the same neighborhood I lived in, then I lost sight of it.
At my house, three neighbors across the street watched me. They reminded me of a flock of pigeons. Because of my social anxiety, they gossiped about me. I knew it.
Something scraped at the back door. I edged it open, and a cat strolled inside. It strutted straight to the couch like it belonged there.
“Don’t get comfortable, you can’t stay here.”
As the sun went down, a party started next door.
I stood near the closest window. After a short time, the alcohol took effect, and the neighbors got louder than the music.
I heard my name.
“I’m glad you didn’t invite Alice. She needs help.”
“I bet you think I’m crazy too,” I said to the cat. It looked away.
I heard a familiar voice. It sent chills through me. It was the man at the station.
“Hey Drew,” someone said. “You’re new to the neighborhood?”
“Yes, I’m renting the house behind you. I got a flyer for this party.”
They always skipped my house when handing them out.
“How about a family?”
“I live alone.”
I stiffened. What about the girl?
I peeked out the window. It was him. “Monsters are here,” I said to the cat.
The cat yawned. The man looked in my direction. I ducked down and didn’t move for a long time until I thought of the girl crying at the station.
Nobody would believe me. I changed my clothes into an all-black outfit and got a knife
The party roared on, while I slipped away from the house. At the rental house, not a single light came from the windows. Blackout shades covered all of them.
I walked around back. It was easy to cut the screen and unlock it, but the inside door didn’t budge. I took the back end of the knife and covered it with a towel then slammed it against the glass. I reached through the broken glass and unlocked the door.
Sobbing came from a bedroom. I opened the door and gasped. The girl shrieked.
“It’s okay. I’m going to get you out of here.” I cut the ropes around her wrists and ankles.
The girl was a mess, black streaks covered her face, her eyes were red and her whole body trembled.
I took out my phone and dialed 911, then hung up.
“What’s your name?”
I didn’t answer because the front door opened.
The girl gasped. I signaled for her to follow me while we slipped out the front door.
“Run when you get outside and look for a police car.” A siren shrilled in the distance.
I yanked the door opened and Phoebe ran outside. I got ready to follow until my phone went off. I forgot to turn it off. 911 called back. The man charged in my direction and managed to grab my waist and we both tumbled to the ground. The knife clattered away.
He got up to chase her, but I grabbed his foot.
He kicked my face, but I still held on to his foot. The siren got louder. Another kick to my face and pained seared through me.
I picked up the knife and stumbled to the back door. I ran until I faded into the darkness.
When I reached my house, the music at the party was still on. I locked every door and blocked them with furniture. I turned every light off. The man knew where I lived.
My head pounded. The cat jumped up on the couch and rubbed against me. It was soothing until I blacked out.
When I woke up, it was morning and my body screamed in pain, but I was glad for the surrounding silence. I looked out the window and saw the remnants of the party, beer bottles littered the yard alongside paper plates and plastic silverware. A few large crows fought over an overflowing trash can.
“I hope they all wake up with headaches.” I plopped down on the couch with my own headache. In the mirror, I saw two black eyes that even makeup might not hide. I sat with the cat and turned on the news.
It wasn’t long before they ran the story. The police chief stood at a podium in front of a a handful of reporters.
“Did the girl say anything?”
“Yes. She wants to know who the lady is that helped her escape.
“Do you know who she is?”
“No.” I turned it off.
The cat stayed with me. Maybe it liked danger.
“I’ll call you Phoebe.” The cat meowed in agreement.
I left and looked at the three neighbors across the street. They whispered and looked in my direction. I stopped the car next to them, rolled down the window and glared at them with my black eyes.
“Have any of you ever caught a monster before?”
They froze with their mouths opened and none of them dared to answer. I drove past them with a smile on my face.
William Falo writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Newfound, Back Patio Press, Vamp Cat Magazine, Elephants Never, and other literary journals. Follow him on twitter @williamfalo
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