Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

Early, too early, in the morning

A halloween short story.

Sarah Lofgren
5 min readOct 21, 2023

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The knife slides through like a whisper, so quick and gentle I barely know it’s happened. “Did you mean to do that?” I want to ask. Perhaps, if it’s a mistake, there’s still time for a rewrite.

Unfortunately, there’s no one for me to negotiate with. My attacker is fleeing between closing subway doors, my coffin-shaped purse clutched in his hand. Later, when he stops to unlatch it, he’ll be disappointed at what he finds. A subway card, a tube of lipstick, and a phone with a cracked screen. Barely worth the trouble.

The subway takes off, rumbling beneath me, and I slide down into a plastic seat. Pain blooms in my side. I don’t want to look, don’t want to touch it, because doing so will be the final step that locks everything into place as real, immutable, and unavoidable.

But, the red stain rippling out across my lacy shirt demands my attention, so I clasp both hands over it. Ow. Compression is supposed to be good, right? Shit. My plans for the holiday did not include wandering into the emergency room rocking a stab wound and a vampire costume, but, clearly, plans change.

Why is this car so empty?

Yes, it’s late enough that the clock has crept over into early morning, but the subway should still be crammed with clowns, sorcerers, and Barbie dolls making their way home coated in sweat and triumph. Instead, the car is big and silent. Bright. Empty.

My pulse pounds beneath my hands. Nausea sweeps through my body. There’s an emergency button a few seats away, but it might as well be mounted in Antartica, because there’s no way I’m going to be able to reach it.

The car glides to a stop and the doors open. A figure makes its slow way inside. At last.

“Could you help me?” I ask.

There’s no response. The man has pale, papery skin stretched over long, thin bones. The three piece suit he wears is too big in the shoulders and neck. It was white, long ago, but has faded to a sickly yellow in the years since. He heads to the seat directly across from me and settles down into it.

“Do you think you could call 911?” I ask. “I’ve been stabbed.”

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