Welcome to Needless Things Spotlight, where we focus on new fiction from talent around the internet.
Today's short form story is the first part of several that will be published over the course of the next several months.
This Is Car Number 187
D. D. DeJesus
Tapping his index finger alongside the brim of his yellow hard hat, Joseph waits for the Marta underground transit to arrive at Lindbergh Station. The air is cool and spreads a quiet breeze of air across his damp forehead. He brushes his hair around causing his hair to look messier than it already is.
“How long ‘til the next train, sir?” said a voice from out of nowhere, which snaps Joseph out of his relaxing gaze.
Turning to his right, a young black female with hazel eyes beam at him awaiting his answer.
“Five minutes, I believe,” said Joseph.
“Thank you,” said the young woman smiling in thankfulness.
The young woman places her ear buds into her ears, as she walks away to sit down on the benches. She appears to be a student due to the books stuffed in her laptop bag. Joseph wanted to take another look at the woman, so he pretended to be looking at the advertisements on the wall behind her. He feels slightly stupid and cowardly for doing this because it was plainly obvious she took no real interest in him. She never looked in his direction.
The headlights of the train begin to illuminate the dark tunnel as it approaches the station. Joseph picks up his backpack and swings it over his left shoulder. The young woman inches herself forward. The train hisses to a stop and the doors slide open letting the people who wants to exit get off and allowing Joseph and the young woman to board. Joseph spots a seat in the back and heads for it. He tosses his backpack into the seat and flops down, as the doors slide close for departure.
“Thank you for riding Marta. The next stop is Art Center Station…”
Joseph checks his cellphone for the time and it reads: 10:21 p.m. He pushes the phone back into his front pocket and begins scanning his surroundings. Sitting across from him is a homeless man sleeping in a dirty, gray cloth. Two seats ahead, a young teenage girl stares out the window with her hoodie covering most of her hair. Across from her is the young woman from the station, and standing beside her is a Mexican male, appearing to be in his late 30’s, wearing the familiar construction worker uniform that Joseph is accustomed to six days out of the week.
“Are we almost there, daddy?” said a little Japanese girl, playfully tapping her father’s leg.
“Yes, ma’am,” said the father smiling back at her. “Your mother is there waiting for us, right now.”
“Yes!” shouts the little girl thrusting her fist into the air.
Joseph looks around the car and reads through the same old advertisements placed randomly alongside the walls. Some read, Get your free massage from Emory, while others ask, are you tested? Of course, there’s the common map of the transit line showing the different stations and transit lines in varieties of colors; however, tonight was different and his eyes randomly came across the sign at the very top of the car. It reads: This car’s number is 187.
It was a very strange and odd feeling that stirred up his feelings from out of nowhere. Questions begin to pop into his head - How many times had he actually realized that sign or just took the time out to even care to read it? To Joseph it was just probably one of those rare moments in life when you tend to overthink a simple fact or observation.
The train pulls into Art Center Station. The doors of the car slide open once again, and four new members walk on board. The alarm that signals, the doors are now closing sounds off and the doors close. The transit picks up some speed as it hurls out of the station to the next.
Joseph allows his body to rock with the momentum of the train. Turning his attention to his own reflection in the darkened window, he instantly notices something unusual with his eyes. A faint light glows deep in his eyes and is gradually growing brighter. He turns his head away from the reflection and looks back at himself. The glowing light is gone, and Joseph blinks his eyes a couple of times to make sure he is not hallucinating.
“Damn, I really must be tired,” he said brushing his hair and yawning.
The lights suddenly flash off and the car hits something extremely hard, as if it hit a huge underground speed bump. Screams and shouts are heard throughout the pitch darkness of the car sitting in the tunnel. The lights flash back on, as quickly as they had shut off. The train comes to a complete stop.
Joseph crawls from under the seat, which he was forced under from the collision. He stands to his feet and checks to see if he is not injured badly. Just a few bumps and bruises, nothing to serious he cannot handle. He scans the area for the other civilians on the car.
“Jenny,” says the father. “Jenny!”
The Japanese father drops to his knees and begins searching frantically for his daughter.
“Sir, calm down,” said a white male in a tailored business suit, now dusty from the crash.
“Don’t tell me to calm down, where is my daughter dammit?” shouted the father to the business man. “JENNY!”
The father continues to cry out to his daughter, while Joseph focuses his attention to the young woman at the station trying to help the teenage girl to her feet. He offers a helping hand to the two.
“Are you okay?” said Joseph, lightly patting the dust off her shoulders.
“I think so…thanks,” she said pushing away from them and pulling her hoodie back over her head.
Joseph takes no negativity to the gesture.
“Sir, please!” cries the business man.
A tall, black male wearing a red bandana and a thick gold chain knocks the father out with one punch to the jaw.
“Dammit!” screams the black male.
“Whoa, whoa!” shouts Joseph. “What the hell, man?”
“Someone had to do it,” claimed the black male.
Joseph crouches down and checks on the knocked out father.
“Got him pretty good,” Joseph says slightly relieved.
“I’m glad he did that…he was freaking me the hell out,” says a young business woman, fixing her glasses on her face.
“Has anyone seen the man’s daughter?” said the Mexican construction worker.
They all respond with no’s and head shakes. Joseph continues to scan the area for others. He discovers an older woman sitting by herself towards the adjacent side of the car. She sits grasping her cane, and seems to be not phased about the current situation. It is as if she reads Joseph’s mind, when she answers him before the words, are you okay, could even exit his mouth.
“I’m fine, young man, no need to worry,” she said waving her hand in the air.
“Okay…” said Joseph. “You, what’s your name?”
“Ralph,” answers the Mexican construction worker.
“Ralph, could you please, go and check on everyone else down there?” Joseph asks him.
“No problem,” said Ralph rushing to the other end of the car.
“Wait a minute, bruh,” said the black male staring down Joseph. “You’re in charge now or something?”
“No,” said Joseph rising to his feet to face the thug. “I’m just trying to make sure everyone is okay. Is that a problem?”
“Whatever, bruh, just don’t get things twisted here,” said the black male, mugging everyone, and he walks away.
Crouching back down, Joseph asks the young business woman for a favor. “Could you please keep an eye on him?”
The young business woman nods in agreement.
“Where do you think the little girl is?” a familiar voice questions Joseph’s ear.
Joseph turns around and once again, the young woman from the station stares back at him with her beautiful hazel eyes, filled with worry and confusion.
“I’m not sure what the hell is going on here,” said Joseph. “Something just seems off… just help out others if you can, alright?”
“Okay,” mumbled the young woman. “I’m Gloria.”
Gloria sits down and begins to tend to the knocked out father with the young business woman. Joseph begins to walk way when Gloria grabs his attention.
“Joseph?” said Gloria in a soft tone.
“Yeah?” said Joseph turning back towards her.
“I think you nose is bleeding,” she said pointing to her own nose to show him exactly where to clean up.
Joseph wipes his nose with the back of his band and sees the blood. He takes the bottom of his shirt and wipes the remaining blood off of his face.
Joseph checks his cell phone and it has no signal, not uncommon being stuck underground. He quickly stares back at his phone at something showing across the home screen, and becomes very puzzled and a sense of urgency fills his veins. The strange and odd feeling returns stronger and rushes throughout his body. His head begins to pound, but he knows he has to remain calm because he does not want to stir everyone up. He would have to get total control of everyone before he could even think of the next possible step to take. It is at this point, where Joseph knew something was unusual and that things were about to unfold. He just did not know how it would reveal itself. It was something he could not quite explain, but his cell phone’s time read: 2:40 a.m.