by Charles Stone.
The transit driver gets back onto the car carrying a leather, sand colored briefcase in both hands, raises it high above his head. “Does this belong to anyone?”
Almost all the passengers in the lead car look up. A young red haired lady sitting in the seat ahead of me takes her ear buds out and looks quizzically at the passenger sitting next to her.
“What did he say?”
The man looks up from his reader. “I don’t know, something about the briefcase.”
The driver walks through the aisle, still holding the briefcase over his head.
The woman turns as he passes her. Our eyes meet.
“He’s asking if the bag belongs to anyone,” I say.
She shrugs, turns around and replaces her ear buds.
I can hear the driver ask the same question as he enters the second car.
A man in a Versace three-piece wool suit looks at his watch and catches my eye. “Nice bag, maybe I should claim it.” He laughs and looks at his watch again.
The driver returns, carrying the bag like a football under his arms. He adjusts his Port Authority cap. He raises the bag high over his head again. “Last call.”
No one even acknowledges him this time.
“Come on, already.” A teenage girl, dressed in pink from head to toe shouts.
The driver returns to his seat, places the briefcase at his feet and puts the car in gear.
My eyes follow his every action. That is a beautiful bag. I slouch in the hard pew-like seat and try to get a quick catnap before the rat race begins.
“Nice bag, huh?” The man sitting next to me interrupts my plans. He takes his glasses off his face. “I was shopping for bags online about two weeks ago. Saw one just like that, you know, the saddle bag look.”
“Yeah.” I nod with my eyes closed, hoping he’ll take the hint.
“Yep. It cost almost twelve hundred dollars.” He replaces his glasses and returns his attention to the newspaper in his lap.
I turn my head and open my eyes. “I believe it.”
“Who would leave a beauty like that?” He picks up his newspaper. Our conversation is over.
I can see the bag clearly from where I sit. It even has locks on the two saddlebags. Who would leave a bag like that? I wonder what’s in it. Maybe it’s full of hundred dollar bills from a bank robbery. Nah. It’s probably stuffed with important documents. The person who lost it is probably going to get fired or hung out to dry. Or both. No, with a bag like that she’s the boss. Maybe somebody’s carrying their lunch. Trying to look important. Nobody would forget an expensive briefcase like that one.
The motion of the train brings me out of my thoughts. Everyone else has returned to their business. One fellow traveler opens his newspaper. The headline, in bold print, erases the grin on my face. Suicide Bomber claims the lives of fifteen in an Iraqi marketplace. I can read it from four seats away.
Wow, that’s crazy. People just going about their daily lives and all of a sudden your world is ripped apart – dead. I take another look at the bag. It could be a bomb! I push that thought away. But it’s a stubborn and persistent demon. It could be, no one would just forget an expensive bag like that! I mean, the bag is heavy. I could tell, by the way, the driver held the thing. You couldn’t miss that. What if it is a bomb. I swallow hard.
The first terrorist bomb attack on an American public transportation system. I read last week about how the transportation systems and seaports are the most vulnerable spots in our security. This is crazy!
The tie around my neck is suddenly too tight; my lips are parched. I can smell the odor of my fear seeping through my brand new white shirt. My heart is slamming against my chest wall like a jack hammer against a bank vault. All the other passengers are in their own world.
It’s a bomb. At the next stop, I’m getting off this train. I’m going to stand right by the door.
Next stop, First Avenue Station. First Avenue Station, Next stop
First Avenue Station, the first station underground in the inbound direction. Underground, that’s a great place to set off a blast. Got to get off! Wait… wait, if I stand by the door I’ll be nearer the blast. Gotta get off before the train enters the tunnel. Think!
I stand and pull my handkerchief from my back pocket to mop my forehead. My fingers do a tap dance on the cool metal handrail. The car approaches the tunnel to the entrance of the First Avenue Station
Think! Alan think!
I pull the stop request wire violently.
”Stop Requested. Stop Requested.” The automated voice sounds out.
Everyone is oblivious to the danger. The train isn‘t slowing!
Perspiration showers down my face. An older man wearing a shabby two-button polyester blend sports jacket speaks to me. A monstrous roar drowns the man’s words; a blast so loud I grimace in pain. A huge wave of air somersaults me like a tissue. I crash into the lap of an older woman. My legs wildly swing around and catches the side of her face, I can feel the crack of her neck. My eyes snap open. Parts of arms and legs tumble through the car like ten pins. Screams are cut off in mid shriek. Blood spatters paint the windows and walls of the car.
The world is black. Then bright.
“Mr. Carter. Mr. Carter. He’s awake.”
I see the nameplate. Dr. Hopi, it reads.
“Mr. Carter, you are in a hospital. Everything is just fine. We have managed to stabilize all your vitals. It’s nothing really serious. You had a panic attack.”
Charles Stone is a flash fiction and short story writer. His flash fiction collection entitled Love, Lust and Other Poisons will be released in June 2015. He lives in Pittsburgh PA