“Attention passengers.”

David looked up to see an unusually thin, blonde woman holding the wall microphone to her mouth. She wore a starched white, half-sleeve dress shirt cruelly tucked into uncomfortable-looking blue pants. Despite the uniform, the Amtrak attendant seemed cheerful in both her face and her voice.

“We will begin boarding Acela two one five nine New York Penn Station in just a moment on track five,” she said. “Any passengers needing assistance should come see me.” She waved her hand in the air to a distinctly uninterested crowd of travelers.

David checked his watch. The train was scheduled to leave in ten minutes. For the dozenth time in the last half hour, he peeked into his laptop bag. His valuables were still inside.

The loudspeaker said something unintelligible, first in English then in Spanish, and a voice whispered in David’s ear.

“Don’t get on the train.”

David spun. Nobody stood next to him. The nearest person was a young man of about college age leaning against a support column fifteen feet away. He couldn’t have whispered; he was too far away. David turned around. A Japanese family spoke animatedly; everyone seemingly talking at once. Beyond them, the rows of seats held awaiting travelers all engrossed in magazines or cell phones.

“Don’t get on the train.”

The soft words landed in his ear with crystalline clarity. David whirled, his heart rate accelerating like a dragster. He stood alone in the corner of the room, no one close enough to whisper and be heard. Nothing had changed in the last few seconds.

A trickle of sweat tickled his underarm, bloating and running down his side as if fleeing.

David looked up and stared at the young man against the column. He had been looking down into his phone and seemed to sense David’s gaze on him. He made eye contact, nodded a generationally-appropriate version of hello, then returned his attention to the tiny screen in his hand.

Nerves, David thought. It’s just nerves. You can do this.

He walked to the very corner of the room and sat on the floor, his back pressed against the corner. The bag remained strapped over his shoulder. David slid the bag around and looked inside. All was as it should be. He hadn’t packed a suitcase; it would be unnecessary for such a short trip that was all business.

“Don’t get on the train.”

Louder. Clearer, and spoken at a conversational volume from no more than five feet away. Standing there in the corner, David was alone except for the young man with his eyes on his cell phone. The family was a bit further on, still peppering the air with staccato syllables.

David all but ran from the station.


“You’re a jerk,” Shivam said as he approached the column and Marcus leaning against it.

“Too funny,” said Alex, high-fiving Marcus.

“I would call that a successful test,” said Marcus, holding up his phone and waggling it towards his friends. ”He had no idea.”

“That guy’s going to miss his train,” said Shivam. His face clearly registered disapproval.

“He can get another one,” said Marcus.

“After that,” Alex said with a laugh, “he may never go out in public again.” He looked at his friends, engineering classmates at MIT since the first day. He lifted both hands and wiggled his fingers. “Ghoooooosts.”

“It is a hell of an app,” said Shivam. “Your application of it remains questionable.”

“Stop it,” Marcus said. “So I projected a sound cone and did it as a prank? What’s the worst that could happen?”


David closed his car door and gripped the steering wheel with such ferocity he felt his pulse hammering in his hands. His breath labored in ragged gasps. God had given him the idea; clearly God had told him otherwise in the station.

As he pulled out of the parking garage a little too quickly, his laptop bag fell off the passenger seat and harmlessly spilled its contents of undetonated explosives.

Robert J. Santa has been writing speculative fiction for thirty years. His work has appeared in numerous online and print markets, including several times here at Every Day Fiction. He lives in Rhode Island, USA, with his beautiful wife and two, equally beautiful daughters.

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