Sad Fiction Crime

The horrible rattling noise never ceased. Never. It had a way of vibrating itself into some semblance of music, a song bordering on madness. A song able to work its way into your ears and penetrate the depths of your mind.

A song that seeped inside.

A song that one could not escape.

Even after you left the range of its sound.

I can’t overstate the power of this rattling train. Or maybe it’s a subway… 

Nah. I saw trees before it got dark.

The windows are black, allowing the ugly fluorescent lights overhead to take up all available space. It’s rather hot in here but I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt. It’s my favorite.

Loose, light pink and unassuming. Just my style. 

The pants I have are jeans, a bit small for me but clean. Clean things are perfect things. 

Someone coughs loudly, but I can’t tell who. The train car is very crowded. I’m hugging my backpack tightly to my chest. People are squished tightly to me. 

I'm afraid the backpack will get stolen. There’s some clothing in it and a water bottle and a notebook. 

Across the aisle I notice a spider making a web on the ceiling. How did it get in without anyone noticing? It's black and spindly, not round. Just evil. I can hear its sharp legs click as they move across the threads.

The man beneath the spider looks slightly suspicious. He glances down at his phone every few seconds. Maybe to check the time. Then he glances over at me. 

Once, twice, three times. A couple more. A thin forked tongue flickers between his teeth with every glance. I’m sure he wants my backpack. He must.

I hold it tighter and try to blink the tongue away. It works after a few moments and he goes back to checking his phone. 

I try looking out the window to see where I am. The glass is as black as pitch unless I twist my head around, cup my hands around my face and press it to the window. The old woman to my left gets an elbow to the ear. She’s got a weird headband around her forehead and is clutching her small handbag as tight as I was for my backpack. The woman generously takes three seconds off of checking her lipstick in the mirror to scowl at me.

I give her a smile meant to apologize (but probably looks like I'm pleased) and continue my window-looking. Outside, the only light is a weak extension of the white fluorescents. It illuminates the silhouettes of bushes up against an alley fence. Run down, tightly packed houses lay beyond. They’re pasted against dirty street lights and so close that I almost can’t tell who’s tiny backyard is who’s. A child couldn’t run between them.

Power lines criss-cross like strands of licorice from the houses to posts. I have a dulled sense of alarm, although I can’t figure out why. It occurs to me that I don’t have any money for when I get off at my stop. The train ticket took it all.

Where am I going? The thought blooms in my head. 

I turn back around and bring my shoulders in closer.

I don’t know. I answer. 

Then where did we come from? I ask.

I have only a vague sense of this. There are some images:

Pill bottles. I was supposed to take some. Why? I think they were for… my head. 

“TAKE YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS, SERENA!!” My Mom’s voice rattles violently in my ears.

More images.

Small house. Just down from a highway. A small house. My house, probably. 

I left. Why? They were arguing. Who was arguing? My… parents? No, my Mom and her new boyfriend. Yes, that was it.

But there was something else. Fire. A fire. No wonder I’m so hot, I think my face has a burn.

I lean my head on my hands and try to process this new development. So far this is the extent of my memory. Ignorance is bliss. Someone once said to me. I think it’s a lie. I’m very ignorant right now, always have been, and I’ve only experienced ‘bliss’ once. That time when I accidentally took my Mom’s pills instead of my own. And too many.

There’s a tickle on the side of my face. Something crawling over the smooth part of my cheek. A spider, probably. I smack it to get rid of the thing. The sound is loud. A few people glance at me.

Why did I do that? It stings. I shouldn’t have smacked the cursed thing. It never worked for me before. 

The pain dissipates from my face after a few minutes. Pressing it against the cold window is so soothing. I sigh. 

The rattling song of the train comes back to me. It’s otherwise quiet.

Someone strikes a match right in my ear. My body jumps involuntarily. I swivel my head to find the culprit, but the old woman from earlier is asleep and the girl to my left is staring into space.

Pills. I need the pills. They aren’t in my bag. I didn’t bring them.

I brush my raven hair out from behind my ears. It’s short. Shoulder length, but still sweeps over the sides of my face. 

I smile at my reflection in the window opposite me. Mr. Snake -Tongue shifts uncomfortable out of my eyeline. 

My mouth is long. My eyes are black. I wish my smile wrapped around my face, all the way to my ears. Then I’d be really scary.

My Mom used to say that I looked like the girl from The Ring. I guess that’s why she never let me grow my hair out.

I wish I was the girl from The Ring. She hurt people and got away scott-free.

I’ll never get away with setting that fire.

Setting that fire?!

Hot ribbons of orange suddenly flicker into the edges of my eyes. 

In the small house.

I heard the arguing.

I hated their arguing.

Gasoline pouring on the floor.

I struck a match and dropped it on the carpet.

They were asleep.

I grabbed my backpack.


A train.

I’m a criminal. My mind concludes. Police are probably after me.

Did my pills burn with the house? They must have. Dang it.

I realize I’ve been hissing through gritted teeth. People are staring at me. I stop immediately. My face burns. I reach up and run my hand over it.

The skin is definitely damaged. Rough. Maybe I’ll score some cool scars. That would be cool. So cool. Yeah.

Another image enters my mind. It’s Mom’s boyfriend. He slapped me really hard on the cheek, once. When Mom wasn’t home. I fell over and he kicked me in the ribs.

I still have a bruise.

“You retard!”

He shouts. Another kick.

“I’m sick of your stupid face!”

Kick, kick.

“And the whispering! Why do you whisper?!”

He pulls me up by my hair.

“Huh, retard? Do you even know?!”

Dropped me back on the floor. I curl up, crying.

“If I EVER catch you sneaking through my cigarettes again, I’ll crush your skull. I swear to God.”

He kicks me one last time, square in the stomach. Vomit starts crawling up my throat.

“And if you tell your Mom about this, I’ll shoot you both.”

I believed him. He had a beer in his hand but I don’t think he was drunk. He was just like that.

This was probably a week or so ago. My rib cage still hurts. I should’ve just slit him in the throat while he was sleeping. The thought makes me happy.

I settle for the idea of his burnt corpse. He’ll never hurt me again.

Smiling, I glance again around the train car. 

A girl next to me looks nervous. She can’t be much older than I am…

I’m seventeen, almost eighteen, right? Yeah, I think so. 

She can’t be much older than me, but I’m pretty sure she’s pregnant. The girl doesn’t seem so sure about the fact herself.

Her shirt is too tight. She occasionally rests a hand on her stomach and widens her eyes. Like she’s remembering all over again that someone’s living inside there.

That doesn’t much catch my eye, though. What makes me stare is the headphone case in her hand. Well, no, not headphones. AirPods? Yeah, Bluetooth AirPods.

The case is light blue, almost turquoise. It’s plastic but looks so soft. It looks like an artist painted it into the air.

My image of the Boyfriend’s crispy body disappears. I feel sick and hot again. 

But her case helps.

The girl is passing it back and forth in her hands. Running her fingers over it. She accidentally scratches it sometimes. The color is so pretty.

Stop scratching it. I think.

She does it again.

Stop scratching it. I think again.

Unhindered, the girl keeps going.

“Stop scratching it.”

Oops, that wasn’t supposed to be out loud. 

I had my mouth super close to her ear so the girl knows I’m speaking to her. She turns her head to me.


No point in backing down now.

“Stop scratching the case.” I tell her. “It’s painted and soft. You’ll hurt it.”

The girl looks confused. I decided to call her Perplexity. 

Perplexity shifts the case in her hand, fixing her eyes on it.

“Do you like it?” She asks.

The question seems odd. If I didn’t like it, would I have told her not to scratch it?

“D-doesn’t look like fire’d hurt it.” I answer.

Wait, that wasn’t right.

“I mean, um, yeah. It’s-it’s cool.”

Perplexity takes that as a compliment and smiles.

“Here, you can hold it for a minute.”

To my delight, she offers it to me. I gently take it from her.

It’s not smooth, more grainy, but it still feels good on my hands. I like it. 

“They don’t work.”

“What?” I say absentmindedly.

Just let me stare at the color in peace, okay?

“The AirPods inside don’t work. I just couldn’t throw it away.” 

Perplexity sounds sad.

I’m suddenly ashamed of myself and hand the case back. Even though I keep my eyes on it.

My ears are aware that Perplexity is talking, but I don’t listen. A spider is crawling on my cheek again.

I don’t smack it.

It crawls all the way up to my ear.

Serena, Serena, Serena…

It whispers.

“Shut up.” I say to it.

Perplexity thinks I’m talking to her. She looks hurt. That doesn’t last long because it’s her stop and she has to leave.

Serena, Serena, Serena…

The spider keeps whispering. I have my eyes closed now. I’m pressing my hands over my ears.

Serena, Serena, you’re not real, I’m not real. We’re dreaming…

I grit my teeth again. Stupid spider.

“I know you aren’t real, but I am.” I whisper back.

It decides to shut up then.

I wish I had my pills. I wish I hadn’t burned the house down so I could have them. I wish I had at least brought them.

It's weird. I decide, scratching my cheek. I should feel bad for burning two people alive, one of them my Mom, but I don’t. 

I don’t.

I just really, really want my pills.

My brain is done screwing with me then. I just sit back and watch the other passengers. The night wanes on. We race toward sunrise.

The train stops periodically and vomits people out. Races off again once they leave. 

The rattling song is always there.

I still don’t know where I’m going when the sun finally breaks. It sounds like a thousand matches being lit. By then I’m one of the only people left in the car. 

There are tears in my eyes. I’m not quite sure why. Spilling down my face. Salty. Hot. It makes my burns feel even worse.

A sob dies in my throat, it’s corpse causing me to choke. Cough. 

The other passengers don’t keep eye contact for more than a moment. They don’t want to help. 

Maybe I’ll just keep riding the train forever. That wouldn’t be so bad. At least no-one would be arguing. There wouldn’t be any fire.

What has my world come to? How desperate had I become that I’d burn my only family members alive, just to have some quiet? 

I think my hands smell like gasoline.

I’ll probably keep riding this train.

I just wish I had my pills.

August 21, 2021 13:32

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