At every stop, people anxious to get onto the train crowded the platform, leaving little room for those exiting. Just another typical commute. I considered opening the novel waiting patiently in my bag, but too many thoughts fought for attention, so I decided on people watching. A headline in the newspaper the guy across from me held caught my attention. “I Surrender All in Chicago Tonight.”
Well, now, that headline should have had quotes around the first three words. “I Surrender All” must be the name of a Christian band or ministry group. A lump clogged my throat. Pa’s favorite song. First time in years I’d thought of him. As the subway train sped along, the song played unbidden in my head.
“I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed savior, I surrender all.”
A tear welled in the corner of my eye. Time to give up people watching. I dug in my purse for the novel and pretended to read through the watery veil poised at the brink of my lashes. What was the matter with me today? Why was I thinking of Pa?
The doors opened at the next stop and a chill shivered my spine. Then my hands got hot and tingly. Oh no. Not this again. My own personal alert system hadn’t gone off since my pa kicked me out. Please not again. I can’t.
A passenger brushed past me and plopped heavily into the empty seat beside me. I took in his details in a glance, automatically using the skills being a busybody turned writer had honed. He looked like so many other men, wearing a suit, wind-blown hair like everyone else in Chicago, tie askew, hollow eyes, slouching in his seat, but one detail made me want to get off the train as fast as possible. I could catch the next one heading my way in a few minutes. I dashed for the exit too late. The doors smacked shut right in front of my nose, mocking me. The rude ol’ train squealed and lurched into action. I resisted the urge to rub my burning, tingling hands against my legs. Nothing I did would stop the sensation. I instead gripped the pole, so I wouldn’t fall as the train rocked and rushed along the track.
Did I really see a creature attached to him? I glanced over at the man again to be sure. Yep. I did. A wave of nausea roiled in my stomach. A pair of hard black eyes stared at me from the nasty thing. The shiny red snake-like being on the man’s shoulder pulled needle sharp fangs out of the back of his neck and leaned toward me. I would bet nobody else saw it, but I felt sure it knew I could see it.
I averted my eyes, but the man must have caught me looking at him. Both he and the serpent stared at me. I looked up and smiled, hoping a compliment would excuse my gaze. Quick, find something nice to say.
“Uh…nice suit. It’s a rich gray, not bland like most of them.”
I sounded like an idiot. Not creative at all, but evidently the best I could do at this awkward moment. He gave me a perplexed look and mumbled thanks as he unfolded the Chicago Tribune and started reading. Was he aware of the creature attached to him, sucking out his life energy? Probably not, or he might have recognized that I could see it. The glossy red serpent coiled into a spiral and fixed its gaze on me.
My ears rang. My heart beat as if it had to forcibly pull the blood into and through its four chambers then shove it onward through the rest of me. All around me, the cranky, tired, despondent passengers read, talked or stared out the windows, oblivious to the creature I alone could see. I knew what it meant. What should I do? Why was this happening again? What had I ever done to deserve this accursed so-called gift?
The train blasted to the surface and upward to the elevated tracks, trading stifling underground dark for open nighttime black. Gulping for air, I gripped the cold metal pole so hard my knuckles went white. I felt I would leave a layer of skin sizzling and smoking on its frigid surface. As soon as the doors opened, I pushed into the November night to await the next train and continue on home.
Sometimes the anonymity of a big city was a good thing. If I didn’t talk to anyone, they probably wouldn’t talk to me. First the surrender song and now that horrible gift had come back. My mind again demanded, why now? There must be a reason. I couldn’t hold back the tears that spilled over my lower lashes and left an icy trail down my face. Nor could I halt the terror marching up my spine.
“Please, not again,” I whispered through my sobs. Seeing energy creatures again meant only one thing. Trouble. Somehow, I had managed, by the grace of whatever power, to banish the visions of the insidious beings, but only after long practice and long denial. The gift I did not want was coming back.
Why me? That phrase chimed inside my head; I wanted to scream it into the night. This “gift” had done nothing but ruin my life and turn my family against me. I had nobody to talk to or ask for help. People would call me crazy, or well on my way there, if I said anything about strange visions. After all, though the Bible may talk about things like demons and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, folks I knew talked about them in past tense, not as something you ever saw in real life. It all sounded so beautiful and harmless in the scripture, but the reality brought me nothing but pain.
My next train rolled up, and the doors opened and spewed out bundled passengers. I stepped into its warmth. No visions, but I could feel so much despair and loneliness around me. Just what I need; an emotional barometer of humanity. But at least no one had brought a source of evil with them that I could detect. This time I was able to sit forward-facing, which made it easier to stare into the mingled reflection and blackness of the window.
My mind took me back to the worst day of my life.
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