Martin slouched on the seat in the train taking him home from classes in the Highly Capable program. His gangling legs had outgrown his jeans. He had taken a worn paperback from his satchel, but it was hard to read, even though the lighting was good. He just couldn’t concentrate.

At the other end of the car were three girls about Martin’s age. They were pretty. Unattainable. They giggled among themselves. Sometimes they looked in Martin’s direction and giggled louder. Martin pretended to read his book, stealing occasional glances at the girls.

Presently the girls rose from their seats and approached. They snickered and smiled. Martin knew the sort of smile they wore. They meant no good. The girls stopped and looked down at Martin. He was petrified.

“My name’s Mona,” one girl said. “Do you like strawberry kisses?”

“I don’t know,” Martin said. He could think of nothing else to say.

Mona bent down and cupped his face in her hands. He half expected her to transform into a vampire or worse. She kissed him full on the lips. She held in her mouth some effervescent candy that crackled against his teeth. An intense taste of strawberry washed over his tongue.

The other girls took their turns giving Martin strawberry kisses. Then they hurried though the door to the next car, laughing and squealing.

Martin sat stunned, staring at the door. He stared at it for a long time, unsure whether he wanted the girls to return or not.

He cursed when he turned his eyes to the window. He had missed his stop. How long had he been sitting in a daze? He couldn’t remember even feeling the train stop and restart. He didn’t recognize the twilit landscape sliding by outside.

He got off at the next station, and the train slid away. He needed to pee, and he didn’t see the restroom. The place was a dump. Trash was scattered over the grimy floor. The fluorescent lights overhead flickered, or were dark altogether. The few commuters who sat alone on the benches staring at their phones did not look up as Martin walked past.

Martin entered a corridor and walked down its length. It felt very cold. Closed doors, painted green, were on either side. None were doors to a restroom.

The corridor came to a dead end. Frustrated, Martin spun around to return to the main hall of the station, but abruptly stopped.

At the far end of the corridor, the three girls stood watching him. They laughed when they saw he had seen them. They walked toward him at a leisurely pace. As they approached, Martin saw their faces changing in the quavering light, oscillating between the faces of pretty girls and pallid, gray visages with dark red eyes and shapeless, slobbering mouths with protruding fangs.

This was pretty much what Martin had expected.

Martin cowered as the girl-things arranged themselves in a circle around him. He felt his pants becoming wet. “Don’t kill me,” he begged. “I like strawberry kisses. I ride the train every day. You can give me strawberry kisses every day.”

Mona, her face randomly shifting, regarded him for a moment, and then nodded in agreement. She clasped Martin’s head in her hands and kissed him brutally. Martin felt her jagged teeth cut his lips and scrape against his own teeth. The hot-metal taste of blood filled his mouth.

A crafty bureaucrat, Carl Steiger spends his free time in his Wizard’s Cave outside Seattle.

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 average 3.3 stars • 24 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    A suspenseful enough story, though I wasn’t entirely sure what the vampirettes wanted with Martin. I also felt that a further edit was needed for this piece, especially to find alternative verbs where ‘stare’ and ‘see’ were overused. As for ‘walked at a leisurely pace’, …

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Much is right with the world–EDF’s back, and you’re back.
    I’d call this a nice workmanlike piece, Carl–we’re certainly with poor Martin, knowing from the first that his journey is unlikely to end well. Fine setting of the dreadful dream-corridor we’ve all encountered and therefore our sympathy and apprehension for Martin are ramped up as we follow along.

    Martin says it, though–pretty much what we all expected. I’m used to a bit of a twist in your finest work and thought the end came a little bit perfunctorily.

    But your voice still shines here–Mona’s randomly-shifting face and poor Martin quite fully alive–until I guess he won’t be–so you got four stars from me.

    I do agree with Paul’s comments re language. Not your most masterful prose here. But still, as I said, your voice shines through…

  • Richard M. O’Donnell

    I agree with Paul. In addition, “The hot-metal taste of blood filled his mouth” does not work as an end line, because the transformation from the taste of strawberries to hot-metal is unclear.

  • Hi Carl – a few comments.

    I would take out the first vampire reference.

    In the last para – kissed him brutally – I would eliminate brutally and let the next sentence drive the impact of what was to follow.

    The story seems a familiar scenario. You’ve some creative descriptions. But overall the characters and actions fall flat for me.

  • Carl Steiger

    Thanks for reading and commenting, all.

  • S Conroy

    ‘Strawberry, cherries and an angel’s kiss in Spring’ struck up in my head when I saw the title. So the ending was a little surprising to say the least. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it (and think this is purely a personal taste thing), but I really appreciated how you set the scene and could totally believe the dynamics between Martin and the three girls before it switched to nightmare mode.

  • JAZZ

    He saw them as vampires with fangs, in reality they were real life bullies – he was their latest victim.

  • Chris Antenen

    I agree with Jazz, some well-written symbolism, and a teenage nightmare on a train with three bullies. Never encountered that endless hallway, but it’s scary enough that I don’t ever want to face it, in a nightmare or for real. Liked the piece, although the end was lacking some heft. Also could have used a couple of edits and a read-aloud to make sure it’s as finished as possible.