If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it.” He patted the right pocket of his dirty overalls as he approached.
Glancing around, I discovered I was alone down here with this small skinny boy. How could I be alone? I’d followed at least a dozen other commuters through the turnstile before descending to the platform. I backed away quickly, trying to recall which way I should run to reach the subway steps leading up to the street.
“No thank you,” I replied.
“You don’t even want to guess?” he asked, more aggressively.
I couldn’t move. I don’t know why. I think it was his eyes. They were an iridescent green I had never seen before.
“I’m not very good at guessing,” I told him. Again, I managed to take a few steps back.
“You’re just like the rest of them. Nobody ever wants to play.” His eyes grew brighter.
“I just want to go home,” I said.
“Then try to guess, and I’ll let you.”
I began to shiver. Was it his closeness? Probably the cool draft that’s always present in the subway tunnel. No—this was different. Panic was starting to tighten my throat, making it hard to respond.
“A toy?” I asked weakly.
“Don’t be stupid! If I had a toy, I wouldn’t need you to play with me.”
“A piece of candy?”
“I’ve been down here a long time…if it was candy, I would have eaten it by now,” he scoffed.
I tried to think back to the kinds of things my brothers always had in their pockets.
Trying to buy some time, I decided to ask a few questions of my own.
“How long have you been down here?”
“What year is this?”
“1990,” I replied.
“Then I’ve been here about forty-three years.”
“What? Wait a minute…you’re only about twelve years old—how could you be down here that long?”
“It’s a story I won’t tell, unless you guess right. C’mon, c’mon…make another try.” He was growing impatient.
“A piece of paper?”
“Ha! You’re smarter than the rest. you’re close.”
Oh my God…“Is it a ticket?”
“Hoorah! At last! I knew you were a smart one! And now you may have it.”
The strange, transparent little boy with the mesmerizing green eyes reached into his pocket, pulled out a faded ticket, and handed it over to me with a grin.
“I’ve been saving this since that day I fell onto the tracks.”
I took the ticket from him and squinted to try to read the destination. “Hell?”
All at once I could feel the poke of the elbow into my back pushing me over the side of the platform, and the sharp edge of the iron rail as my head slammed down into the dark gravel. Then came the screeching sound of the train’s breaks as they failed, and the laughter of a young boy.