The guy facing him had been snoring for twenty minutes
straight. He had contorted himself on the bench of the empty tube compartment,
one long arm slung around the pole should he drop forward and land on his face.
Of course, guys like that weren’t a rarity. Even in rush hour they could be
found catching some sleep in the most awkward positions. Depending on his mood,
Rob liked to laugh or roll his eyes at them. In any case, there was something
enviable about the way they could just flip the switch and go to sleep. Rob’s
switch - if one was to continue this ridiculous metaphor – was permanently
stuck. There was only “on” and sometimes that constant state of alertness drove
him out of his mind.
Which was why he didn’t think much about it when he saw the
stranger for the first time. Granted, his DLR train had steadily been bustling
forward towards Canary Wharf, passing empty stops and deserted platforms but
surely it was only logical that they’d encounter another soul sooner or later.
After all, he and sleepy over there couldn’t be the only ones travelling
through London at this time of night.
Still, the man instantly drew his attention. Not that there
was anything special about him. He was of medium height and medium build with
slicked back black hair as a certain chunk of the population liked to wear it.
His clothes looked expensive but that wasn’t strange either considering they
were chugging towards the business district. It was the way in which he turned
and stared at him when the train came charging in, as if he had been standing
there waiting for just this moment. It was the way the beady black eyes found
his and the lips contorted into a devilish grin that sent blood surging through
He almost wanted to kick sleepy awake to see if the man’s
attention would still rest on him then, but he couldn’t. A familiar black veil
descended over his eyes and when his vision finally cleared again the stranger
The tube spat him out near the South Quays but even though
the cold air assaulted his face, his pulse refused to return to normal. Now
that he was finally at his destination he didn’t know what to do anymore, why
he had wanted to come here in the first place. No doubt it was to do something
stupid and reckless, but the stranger had distracted him sufficiently. Perhaps
once the jolt had worn off, his switch would finally be dragged to “off”. God
knows he could use a day of what the rest of the world called normal.