Terror reigns deep beneath the streets of New York City. The subway system is plagued by a series of unsolved, bizarre and particularly gruesome murders. A young man is found in a Brooklyn station with his heart crudely ripped out of his chest. The headless body of a conductor is discovered inside the locked cab of a Number 6 train in lower Manhattan. Authorities blame these, as well as several other equally macabre crimes, on the city’s growing, and increasingly aggressive homeless population.
Melissa Manning, however, isn’t buying that explanation.
Having experienced a personal tragedy in the subway years ago, Melissa is definitely no stranger to the violence that can occur underground…but this is different. Weeks before the first murder was even committed, she’s had an unsettling feeling that something horrifying was lurking within the sprawling transportation system. Many nights when traveling alone, and walking along a quiet stretch of platform, she hears an eerie scraping sound in the distance, and has an overwhelming fear that someone – or something – is watching her. When the murders begin, and when a dark, faceless figure follows her home from the subway one night, she’s convinced that this is something far more insidious and frightening than mere random acts of violence. Not only can she feel the presence of an evil entity…she knows it’s just a matter of time before it comes after her.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
As a native New Yorker, the subway is my primary means of transportation. Being intimately familiar with the system, I’ve been in many stations that were, well…less than inviting. Unlike the more famous stations like Grand Central and Times Square, the vast majority of them are very quiet and somewhat deserted. I’ve always been a big fan of horror, so I naturally envisioned many horrific scenarios involving helpless individuals being attacked in the subway. With a bit of the supernatural thrown in, I came up with “They Only Come Out at Night.”
Who are your favorite authors?
Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I actually searched through magazines looking for people that fit the characters I had in mind. Having something tangible that I could view while writing made it easier to talk about them as though they were real people. It also greatly helped with continuity in regards to their physical descriptions.
October 14th – Early Tuesday Morning
He opened his eyes when he heard the sound. It was an unseen, distant tremble that broke the silence, approaching from above and from the left. As it came closer, it slowly increased in volume to a near deafening rumble. When directly overhead, it sounded and felt like an earthquake – causing vibrations in the wall he was leaning against and in the concrete floor below his feet. He even felt it in his chest. Suddenly, it all came to a stop. There was a momentary pause, but within seconds, the rumble started again – rapidly reaching an intensity of even greater than before. Once more, the very core of the foundation violently shook. He glanced at the ceiling, and for a split-second, wondered if a cave-in was possible. Just as the rumble was reaching an almost frightening crescendo, it, as well as the vibrations, began to subside. Gradually, the sound faded, slowly retreating to the right. In less than a minute, it had diminished to a soft murmur and was eventually completely consumed by the silence.
Hector Maldonado shifted his weight to his right leg, yawned, and checked the time on his watch.
The noise from the downtown local train entering and leaving the upstairs platform jolted him from his drowsiness. It was the first indicator that any trains were running at all. The infrequency of subway service at that time of the morning was always a major source of annoyance to him, as well as anyone else who happened to be traveling at such a late hour. This morning, however, he seemed to be the only one traveling. He passed just one man on the stairs who was exiting the station as he descended toward the deserted, Manhattan-bound platform. He had been waiting for his train for over half an hour – during which time, not a single other passenger entered the station.
Hector had just left his girlfriend’s Crown Heights apartment in Brooklyn, and was on his way home. He was in the cold, Kingston Avenue Station, trying hard to stay awake while waiting for the uptown #3 train. His destination was the 238th Street Station in the South Riverdale section of the Bronx – virtually, at the opposite end of the city. To get there, he would have to take the #3 through much of Brooklyn and into Manhattan. At some point in Manhattan, he would have to transfer to another train, which would continue on into the northernmost reaches of the Bronx. It was a grueling, 20-mile odyssey that would take close to two hours.
Tomorrow was a big day and he was anxious to get home. He was interviewing for a job at a large, public relations firm in Manhattan. At 25, it was the most important job he had ever applied for, and he wanted to make a good first impression. For the past three years, he had been working in the stockroom of a Duane Reade drug-store in lower Manhattan – a dead end job that was slowly killing him inside. Landing this new job would practically more than triple his present salary. So, he wanted to get at least a few hours of sleep, change his clothes, and look fresh for tomorrow. Right now, the only thing standing in his way was a train that refused to come.
He checked the time on his watch again.
Dammit! He thought. For a city that’s never supposed to sleep, its subway system seems to have come down with a severe case of narcolepsy!
He then heard the beginnings of another rumble coming from upstairs. It grew louder and the vibrations increased as it got closer, but unlike before, there was no pause. The rumblings continued until they faded out altogether. It was the downtown #4 express train.
Oh, that’s just great! Isn’t anything running uptown?!
Growing impatient, he walked to the edge of the platform and looked to the right into the tunnel for some sign of an approaching train. Seeing nothing but darkness, he went back and leaned against the wall – sighing in exasperation.
Besides the noticeable chill in the air, his frustration was the only other thing keeping him awake. The atmosphere of the station could hardly be described as “lively.” Aside from the occasional rumblings from above, the only other sounds he heard were from a pack of subway rats squeaking and scampering around deep inside the tunnel.
There wasn’t much to look at, either. With the downtown platform upstairs, there was just a dark, gray tunnel wall on the other side of the uptown local and express tracks. There were no posters on the wall or even any benches on which to sit. Actually, he considered that a good thing. As tired as he was, he knew that if he were to get the least bit comfortable he would fall soundly asleep – so soundly, that he might not even wake up when his train arrived.
He began to hear the rumble of another incoming train – this time, it was coming from the opposite direction.
“Yes!” he said, aloud, “Finally, an uptown train!”
He rushed to the edge of the platform with great expectations. Looking into the tunnel, he could hear it getting closer, but he couldn’t see anything. His hope started to fade.
Oh, no… don’t tell me!
An expanding row of bright reflections suddenly came into view from the express tunnel – flickering rapidly as they progressed between the pillars separating the two tracks. Within seconds, an uptown #4 train came into view and roared through the station. As it echoed its departure, a powerful wind trail was created in its wake.
Every goddamn train but mine!
He was now more than a little perturbed. He began pacing back and forth. Stopping at the platform edge, he defiantly stared into the tunnel – practically willing the train to appear. He then noticed something different about the tunnel, but wasn’t exactly sure what. He had been in that station numerous times and knew it like the back of his hand. But something was different tonight. It then came to him. The tunnel was dark. Of course, all subway tunnels are dark, but it was eerily dark. In fact, it was pitch black. The fluorescent lights that ordinarily lined its walls were off – transforming the usual semi-darkness into a virtual Black Hole. His first assumption was that they were broken. But how could they all break at the same time? It surprised him that he hadn’t noticed such a drastic change in lighting earlier, but dismissed it due to fatigue.
Suddenly, the squeaking and scampering of the rats in the tunnel increased. He felt a cool breeze – the first sign of an approaching train. He looked into the darkness once again. Instead of blackness, he saw a small red light.
“Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel!” he laughed to himself.
He checked his watch one more time.
Now, in better spirits, he started walking in a circular pattern, briskly swinging his arms back and forth – something that not only helped to wake him up, but to warm him up as well. He looked again into the darkness to check the progress of the oncoming train.
Wait a minute… something’s not right. He thought.
The red light he saw hadn’t changed much in size or position. Initially, he assumed it was the large, red number “3” light at the top of the train. Sometimes, if a train is coming up over a hill, that light is the first thing visible, eventually followed by two bright headlights. But, this light didn’t seem to be moving at all.
What the hell is that?
The light was much too small and faint to be coming from a train. As he stared at it, he could see that it was, in fact, moving, but slowly… very slowly. Also, his preoccupation with its appearance caused him to temporarily overlook another one of its oddities… its sound, or more specifically, its lack of sound. Aside from the rats – which were now squealing at an unusually high, fever pitch – there were no other sounds whatsoever coming from the tunnel. The New York City subway is known for a lot of things, but being quiet isn’t one of them. In most cases, a train can be heard long before it’s seen. Whatever it was, it definitely wasn’t a train, but nevertheless, steadily advancing towards him. It was then when he realized that the cool breeze he thought he felt just prior to its appearance wasn’t a breeze at all, but rather a sudden chill in the already cold air.
The exuberance he felt at the sight of what he believed was his ride home, was giving way to an uneasy nervousness. It was strange because he never felt afraid in the subways. He had been riding it ever since he came to New York from Puerto Rico, at the age of six. He rode it at all hours of the day and night, and in every borough of the city. Although he had seen crimes committed in the subway, he, at least, was fortunate never to have fallen victim to one himself. Besides, he was confident he could handle himself in any given situation. But this was different. This was weird. This was something he had never experienced before.
As the seconds ticked by, he had forgotten about his exhaustion. He had even stopped worrying about the time. He was now completely enthralled with the mysterious light silently cutting its way through the darkness towards him. All of a sudden, the single red light seemed to twinkle slightly, then, become two! The lights had now almost completely progressed through the blackened tunnel. Only a few more feet of darkness remained. For the first time, he could finally begin to make out the shape of a figure – a human figure. His first thought was that this was simply a track worker. But, almost as soon as he entertained that idea, he dismissed it as nothing more than a wishful thought. First of all, the light was traveling too smoothly. The natural up and down rhythmic motions of a worker walking along the tracks were not present, nor were the lights of their ever-present, hand held safety lanterns. At this distance, and at this deathly quiet time in the morning, even a solitary track worker, he reasoned, would make some noise. Probably the most disturbing of all was the fact that these lights were traveling about four or five feet higher than the height of any normal-sized person. Additionally, they appeared to be coming from the figure’s head, specifically… the eyes.
His nervousness was now turning to fear. But, he still maintained a healthy dose of curiosity – enough curiosity to find out what was coming through the tunnel, but not quite enough fear to make him flee the station into the relative safety of the streets above. He looked down the long stretch of platform to his left, vainly searching for someone else… anyone else. Unfortunately, he was completely alone. He would have to bear sole witness to whomever, or whatever was headed his way.
F. M. Kearney began his career as a photojournalist for New York City newspapers. His focus soon shifted to capturing the beauty of our natural world. As an award-winning nature photographer, Kearney’s images have been widely published. He is a columnist for the North American Nature Photography Association’s eNEWS publication. His latest endeavor – a slight departure from photography – is a fictional horror novel, “They Only Come Out at Night,” about supernatural happenings in the New York City subway (partially inspired by his travels as a photojournalist).
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