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.