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Aberrant: 200X - A Meeting at Lenox Station...? (Complete)

Caitlin Kieran

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21 March, 2008. 2:10am EDT. 148 St. Lenox Terminal, Manhattan.

The worn industrial tile was slightly sticky underfoot, the discolored squares lacquered with a thin, dingy film of oil, dirt, soda, and other, less wholesome fluids. Stale cigarette smoke lingered in the brisk, early morning air, and Caitlin wrinkled her nose in distaste as she inched through the foyer, ears straining to pick up anything out of the ordinary.

Only the soft click of the door behind her and the muffled sound of traffic on the street above broke the eerie silence, the unnatural quiet that always seemed to pervade public places awaiting the return of the crowds.

Naturally, she didn't expect the station to be completely empty. There would always be a wino, reeking of the alcohol and fermented aspirations that oozed out his pores as he sprawled on a bench… A pusher, vendor of temporary bliss to the desperate, dancing spasmodically to a beat drummed out by his arrhythmic heart and jangled nerves… A security guard, tired and jaded enough not to bother wearily informing anyone that the "3" trains weren't running at this hour, and could they please not sleep on the benches?… And any number of other night-dwelling miscreants and misfits who stole moments of pleasure or suffered through their personal hells in the darkness and dirt of the City That Never Sleeps.

During the day, it was easy to miss these things. Throngs of people would be shuffling past each other, glancing at watches and shouting rapid-fire orders over their cell phones as they boarded and disembarked with five-dollar coffees and knock-off designer handbags. The sun would be out, the floor of the NYSE would be open, and no one would have time to spare a glance for the cracked plaster and worn concrete, the flaking paint and the broken needles tossed hastily into a corner of a terminal well past its heyday.

Now, though, with her breath forming a cloud of pale vapor in front of her face as she shoved her hands deep into her pockets, Caitlin could see and feel the weight of the city's shadow, cast in sharp angles from the lurid fluorescent lighting overhead.

"Christ," she muttered to no one in particular. "It's fucking freezing down here."

Go to Lenox Station. Go down to the platform. You'll see two benches back to back, and nearby is a concrete ashtray. There's a crack on one side that forms a triangle with the bottom- it's loose. Pry it out, and you'll find an envelope with the tickets. I hope you enjoy the concert.

The directions she'd received had been fairly straightforward, but she couldn't help but feel it was a little cloak-and-dagger for what should've been a simple task. Still, the risk, in her mind, was easily outweighed by the reward, and she shivered with the chill and increasing anticipation as she crept down the quiet platform, past the blocky outlines of the silent trains in the yard nearby. Her footsteps echoed strangely on the frigid concrete, almost as if…

A few yards from the pair of benches mentioned in the private forum message, Caitlin froze. Green eyes narrowed, unfocused, and her head swivelled sharply to one side, every muscle tensed as the entire scope of her awareness narrowed to encompass only that which she could hear… and, perhaps more unnervingly, that which she could not.

In the bitingly cold air (she wondered briefly at whether the thermometer, which read 38°F, could've been wrong), the sound of footsteps continued for the briefest of moments after she paused. She didn't need to turn around to know that someone must be lingering on the platform, and yet, logically, they couldn't be.

No dully-thudding heartbeat reached her preternaturally keen ears, no exhalation whispered from the darkness that seemed to stretch ominously toward the pools of light cast from the hanging lamps above. And yet…


And there.

Slow, careful footfalls scraped the surface of the platform so cautiously, so gingerly, they might as well have been moth wings brushing a nearby pillar.

Something cold and tight coiled itself in the pit of Caitlin's stomach, a sensation she refused to acknowledge, but instead shoved down mercilessly.

Slowly, she withdrew her hands from the pockets of her coat, her pale wrists flexing sharply as thick, curved talons thrust outward from beneath her fingernails in wicked, predatory arcs. A flicker of pain rippled through her at their sudden extension, marked only by the momentary stiffness of her hands and the furrow between her eyebrows; the tiny droplets of blood that spattered the ground went unnoticed.

There was a wariness in her stride as she moved forward, her narrow back and clenched jaw all but daring the unseen voyeur to make a move.

Claw met stone, and loose flecks of mortar sifted down to the ground as she pried a roughly triangular chunk from the bottom of the stationary ashtray and set it aside. Rolled into a tight cylinder, one end of a manila envelope was clearly visible. Kneeling on the chilly pavement, she tugged it out of the narrow crevice and prized open the flap, shaking it slightly to loosen the contents.

Four tickets slid reluctantly out into her waiting hand, and ten hooked claws retracted as her shoulders sagged in relief.

With a quick glance around, she wedged the hunk of stone back into place and rose easily to her feet. The vaporous cloud of her breath lingered momentarily in the air as she strode away from the vacant trains and the denizens of the night, the station and its phantoms- both real and imagined.

Later, as she lay in bed after excitedly calling up her friends and arranging the get-together before the show, Caitlin thought about what she had heard in the silence, what she had felt while alone in the dark, and wondered if anyone had been there at all.

During the day, it was easy to miss these things.

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