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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Thriller/Suspense · #2150822
A strange man grabs the interest of a commuter in this character-introducing flash fiction
The Dash
The air is thick in the nearly empty subway car as the power dies on the Kindle she holds, half-heartedly pretending to read. Her prey tonight is not prose, she has followed the man in her peripheral vision for a month now after noticing his peculiar habit. She doesn't know why his choice of personal body art-an ever-increasing series of dash marks across the back of his head-intrigues her, but it does. She is determined to find out who he is.

As the train screeches its way hap-hazardly through the dark tunnels below the city, it starts to slow down as it comes to Canal Street Station. The tiles, wearing a thick layer of grime, shine through as a reminder to the new generations that the ghosts of a bygone era still possess these grounds. Grinding to a halt, the doors open wide and the man with the dashes gets up to exit the train (not his normal stop, she notes) and she waits a moment before standing up herself and exiting the train in stealthy pursuit.

As she exits, she looks in the direction he headed and saw him turning a corner swiftly. Normally, he gets off on 27th St. She has followed him on 7 different occasions. He almost always seems to disappear around a corner before she is able to see where he goes off to after exiting the car with a singular exception: she saw him enter a maintenance tunnel door after unlocking it, adding to the mystery. The man dressed as is he was going to a wedding and apparently has an apartment in the subway tunnels.

She gets to the pathway where he turned and saw him just ahead, still, with his back to her. A flutter of fear goes down her spine as she thinks he might turn and face her. He stands about 20 feet away. She reaches for her pepper spray as he turns so swiftly he seems to swivel on an axis, and he begins moving towards her slowly.

"Who are you", she cries, as he moves closer. She begins to back away as she raises the spray to his eye level.
Suddenly, a muscular arm reaches out from behind and grabs her mouth as a muffled scream escapes her. The dash man moves closer (almost seems to levitate towards her, she thought later, as if some supernatural power he possessed) and grabs for her as whomever had her in the make-shift head lock from behind succeeds in his task as her legs give out and the world goes black.......

She dreams a fever dream of patchwork images, of the first time the bald-headed man sat in front of her on the train. She sees the dash marks, two now, next to each other on the back of his hairless scalp. She hears the news talking about the woman who had escaped a would-be kidnapper the night before at the very station she was then leaving. She sees the same bald head sitting in front of her the next night, and the next. She sees his large form disappearing into that maintenance tunnel. She hears the description the attacked woman gave the news of her assailant; she remembered the tattoo of the heart on his inner bicep...she suddenly recalls the same tattoo on the arm of her attacker ton...

.....Her head pounds as she wakes, as if a mini construction worker is up there with a jack hammer and an inexhaustible work ethic. She gains consciousness slowly as the world comes into focus and she realizes she is sitting upright on a bench in the Canal Street station. To her side, she notices several people gathered around something lying on the floor. She gets to her feet slowly, and walks toward the crowd. A man of about 40 years is splayed on the concrete in the general area where she was attacked. His neck looks broken. She begins to move back to the bench and notices a different bulge in her pocket than usual, and pulls out a foreign smart phone and a blank business card. She turns the card over and there's a singular dash mark. The smart phone flashes on with a push of the button, and as soon as it opens up she sees the man lying on the sidewalk's face as the wallpaper and a video begins to play-it's her. Videos of her walking around the city, videos of her walking into her apartment, videos of her through her window as she ate, watched tv, began to undress. She sets the phone down and stares over to the crowd around the phone-owner's body and wonders what might have been....
         It's early in the morning at Teddy's Tattoo's on 3rd ave. Jose recently got back from a cruise and he doesn't have the patience for it when he hears the bell above the door of the shop ring it's greeting to the newly-to-be inked patron entering. A large man with a bald head walks in and asks for a new addition to his art collection, and spins around to point to the location where the new dash mark will join the rest.


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