Graffiti. A real bitch, isn’t it? At least for your poor landlord, with a new coat popping up overnight like Virginia Creepers. And just like Virginia Creepers, they get everywhere, don’t they? Crawling all over, into the cracks of every brick and stone, even over the sheer steel surface. Just like this particularly horrid example next to you, giving you unwanted company on your commute. It’s obscene, isn’t it? A different kind than the language that your mother scolded you over. The kind that your dad muttered in private in his garage. The kind you held on your tongue, never letting go of in case you lost their power, before you grew old enough to know better. But you can’t hold this inside, enclose it behind teeth.
Ah, there goes your stop. I guess you’ll be forced to share your seat just a bit longer until the train loops around. You could always move, but you won’t. Who would move on account of just a bit of ink and paint? Not someone like you. Not someone who is supposed to be urbane and culturally calloused in your suit. Not you, who has left the rust belt for chrome and shed their dying hometown roots. No one who knows how hard it is to find a good seat in rush hour morning. So, you grit your teeth and bear it.
Teeth gritted, shut against the world, you look out the window across from you as there is another stop, another shutter as people stampede before the doors hiss open. You should get up, but your legs are heavy, unmoving logs, and wouldn’t it just be easier to stay and wait for the train to return to your stop rather than hop from train to train in hopes that you will be fifteen minutes less late? Out the window, there is darkness, the twinkle of distant lights like stars in the black. You turn your stiff neck and see the bright posters in the bright light, what should be there. You decide not to look out that window anymore.
Looks like there’s a star next to you. A nice star, like one you would draw in class. Clear as day in the whole muddled, neon spaghetti. A star in all of those teeth, rows and rows like a lamprey had sucked on the train. Teeth? Sorry, I let my imagination run away with me. Despite your dislike, you admire the clarity. You’re used to those compacted and stretched out words, those eyesores. Garbled words upon scrambled words upon twisted words. It’s not like the original was legible. But this further rejects any chance of understanding. It really gets on your nerves, the way it mars. The way it hides. Protecting y-Protecting? Slip of tongue.
There goes your stop again. Are you distracted? It’s not like this is a particularly fascinating piece of graffiti. But when was the first time you looked away since this ride started? Never? How long have you been staring, clutching your briefcase? Twenty minutes? Forty minutes? I can assure you that it’s been an hour or more.
An old woman is talking to you. You should ignore her. Her shaky hands reach out for your shoulder, and you turn. Just your neck, your arms clenched tightly to the briefcase. Your muscles are too tense, rigid and unobeying. You look at her, purple hat overshadowing her paper white skin, but that’s all you can make out—she’s fuzzy, out of focus. Not like when you don’t wear contacts, but like your grandparent’s TV. An old mammoth of tubes with only a long pair of ears, no cable or satellite. You fussed with those ears on many afternoons, but the image was always blurry.
Her hand reaches through you and you feel nothing. “Well, have a good night dear,” she mumbles, as her flowery perfume floats over, driving away the smell of urine and wear: the smell of the train. The woman was blurry because you are tired, and what right did she have to talk to you, to bother you? You can feel your nerves pulse, as your mouth dries around your row of teeth. You feel the lukewarm air blow around you as the train starts up again. Your muscles ache, deeper than any ache before. You don’t stop thinking about the old woman’s words. How much time has been lost? You look out the window, and now they are all dark, all with distant lights like stars.
Does it matter? Now you notice that your internal monologue doesn’t sound like you. It sounds more like a you that you don when practicing lines before you become someone else. A you that is not you, that is becoming someone else. Has this scribble stirred you that much? You think you should move away. Are you going to move away? You don’t, of course not. If you could've, you would’ve. But now, you’re stuck on this sweaty vinyl seat. You should feel something tighten around your legs, your arms and torso, like tendrils around you, creeping over you, like a tight bite. You look down, and those scribbles are all over, shiny black against your dull fabric. Did those teeth always look so sharp?
They have always been that sharp.
You finally realize that I’m not your internal monologue. I feel you swallow as I lay heavy across your throat and mouth. I feel your mouth open, lungs draw against me—you want to scream. Go ahead and scream.
Just call me Hungry. Call me so very hungry.
ELIZABETH DAVIS is a second generation writer living in Dayton, Ohio. She lives there with her spouse and two cats—neither of which have been lost to ravenous corn mazes or sleeping serpent gods. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ElizabethDavisWritesSillyStories when she isn't busy creating beautiful nightmares and bizarre adventures. Her work can be found in Monsters We Forgot: Volume III, The Black Room Manuscripts Volume IIII and Tavistock Galleria: Stories from America's Retail Wasteland.
Artist unknown. Photographed and edited by the Novel Noctule team.