No matter how often she did it, Kayleigh always thought there was something a little bit creepy about catching the last tube home. But still, it saved a fortune in Uber fares.
She sat stretching her feet out of her heels, enjoying the tingling in her toes. Her sequinned dress and Santa hat weren’t doing much to keep out the cold, and she buried herself deeper into her flimsy but very trendy jacket.
There were a few other late-night revellers alighting at various stops, until Kayleigh found herself almost alone in the carriage at Pimlico. There was one other person, who looked even drunker than Kayleigh felt. He was bundled up in a large black coat, a dark woollen hat pulled down so far his face couldn’t be seen. He was slumped over, his heavy breathing audible over the rush of wind as the train went into the tunnel.
The lights flickered into darkness. Kayleigh felt her heart pounding against her ribcage. The lights came back on.
Kayleigh could have sworn the man had been sitting at the far end of the carriage, but now he was sitting in the middle row of seats. She blinked and shook her head. Too much Prosecco – she would never learn! The man was clearly passed out, his head bent, chin resting on his chest. His huge hands were hidden by gloves, hanging between his legs. He was actually enormous. Kayleigh couldn’t help staring at him, wondering how he had managed to squeeze himself into the seat at all.
The train pulled into Stockwell and the doors opened. Kayleigh watched a jolly Santa stumbling off the adjacent carriage, followed by a sleepy reindeer. She smiled. Christmas was absolutely her favourite time of year. The warning lights beeped and the doors slid shut. The surrounding carriages were empty – it was just her and the drunken giant now. The bright flourescent lights were beginning to give Kayleigh a headache. The train began to move and she closed her eyes, trying not to think about how early she’d have to get up for work in the morning.
There was a sudden jolt, and Kayleigh’s eyes flew open. The train had stopped moving. The only sound was the heavy, deep breaths from the drunk man – who was now, Kayleigh realised, a few seats closer than he had been at Stockwell. She swallowed, aware of the buffet food and cheap Prosecco swirling in her stomach. She absolutely needed to Drink. Less. Alcohol. Go to the gym more. Drink water on nights out. Or alternate her drinks, at the very least.
A crackle of noise made Kayleigh nearly jump out of her skin.
“Good evening folks!” The tube driver’s cheerful voice boomed through the train. “Just being held at a red signal, soon be on the way!”
Kayleigh inhaled deeply, trying to slow her racing heart. She reminded herself that CCTV was in all the carriages. There was a very nice driver. Nothing could happen to her on the Victoria line, for God’s sake.
She glanced sideways at the man. Still sleeping. Good. She was almost home now. The driver just needed to get this bloody train out of the bloody tunnel, and she’d be fine. A pint of water, a couple of paracetamol, and she’d be sorted.
Kayleigh felt a bead of sweat run down her back in spite of the cold. What the hell was the driver waiting for? The heavy breathing, snuffling really, seemed to be getting louder.
Another crackle made Kayleigh jump. She listened for the driver’s reassuring voice, but there was nothing. Just static. And it wasn’t stopping.
Kayleigh looked into the next carriage through the window. Absolutely no one. The static noise seemed to be getting louder. But then, so did the man’s breathing. Jesus, was this what insanity felt like? She sat, rooted to her seat. Should she move into the other carriage? Pull the emergency alarm? But then, movement might wake the man up.
Kayleigh was paralysed with fear, overwhelmed by the noise of the static and heavy breaths. She was terrified now, and frantically wondered how much longer she should wait before doing something – anything! – to save herself. She decided that she should move into the next carriage and braced herself to make a run for it until the lights flickered twice and then stayed off.
It was pitch black.
Kayleigh tried to remember exactly how many steps it was to reach the door leading to the next carriage.
She felt a gentle draft of air brush past her face.
She froze, not even breathing now. The static noise stopped. The air was heavy with silence. She couldn’t even hear the man’s disgusting snuffling any more.
But she could feel heat emanating from the space before her. Oh Holy Mother of God, he was right in front of her!
Kayleigh gave a small moan, feeling as though her heart would explode out of her chest. She waited, expecting at any second to feel the man’s massive hands slowly snaking around her neck and squeezing, squeezing, crushing the very life out of her!
The train jerked. There was a brief crackle and the lights blinked on and then off again. Just enough time for Kayleigh to glimpse a large, dark face looming towards her, two huge gloves reaching for her neck. She let out a piercing scream –
The lights flickered back on. Kayleigh stopped screaming and blinked in astonishment.
She was alone.
The carriage was empty.
“Good evening again, ladies and gents!” The driver’s calm voice rang out. “Sorry about this! Just about to get the lights sorted. We’ve had a few technical problems this evening, apologies for any inconvenience.”
Kayleigh was paralysed in her seat, while the train began to move slowly through the tunnel.
“All sorted now, and we’ll be at Brixton in just one minute,” said the driver. “Please take all your belongings with you, and have a Merry Christmas. Last stop Brixton, all change, please, all change.”
Kayleigh stood up shakily, clutching her bag. She tottered to the exit, shaking her head to rid it of the awful nightmare. She vowed to give up booze and cheese platters for good.
As the doors slid open, she spotted something dark lying on the seat opposite hers.
It was a very large, black glove.