Jenna stared at the woman two benches away, watched as the ragged crescent appeared across her throat and blood poured down her chest. The woman didn’t notice and continued to chat with the young man beside her, hands circling with animation. He threw his head back, laughed, and slapped his knee before continuing his conversation with the bleeding woman.
The subway car was less crowded than usual for a Monday, and Jenna took in the faces of those around her. Across the aisle from her was a young businessman scrolling on his phone with his thumb, briefcase clamped between his feet. Adjacent to him was a young lady flipping through a Peter Straub novel, as if trying to find her place.
Behind Jenna, someone coughed, and she turned to a see a graying man in sweatpants and Shania Twain t-shirt. He looked past her and nodded to someone, just as the side of his head exploded in a spray of bone and gore. The acrid odor of copper and sulfur filled Jenna’s nostrils. He scratched at his chin, then dug his phone from his pants pocket and studied it.
Loud laughter caught Jenna’s attention, and she turned to see the man and Throat-Cut Woman rocking in amusement. Her white blouse was stained crimson and a puddle had formed in her seat. He put a hand on her knee and leaned close, oblivious to the gore, but she shifted her leg, breaking the contact. Something dark flickered across his expression, but the smile soon returned.
“Where do you get off?” he asked.
The woman’s face turned stony, and she glanced out the window. “Not for another two or three stops.”
“Cool, cool. I’m probably a couple stops beyond that.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew a slip of paper. The man scribbled on it then handed it to the woman. “My phone number. Call me.”
A tentative hand took the proffered paper. “Sure, I can do that.” The woman shifted the paper to her other hand and lowered it as if putting it in her coat pocket, but the hand opened and dropped the paper. Jenna watched it flutter softly to the floor.
Screaming erupted from the other end of the subway car, and Jenna turned toward the noise. A young man of maybe twenty was on one knee, an opened jewelry box held in front of him. The object of his attention, a brunette of about the same age, had covered her mouth with both hands, and she was bouncing in her seat, her plentiful breasts and sides joining in the rhythm. She seized his shoulders and pulled him to her, enveloping the man in a hug.
As she rocked to and fro, a broad smile on her face, Jenna saw purple and black bruises appear on her eyes, cheeks, forehead, and chin. Both lips split and swelled, and blood poured from her mouth. A crimson line appeared at her hairline, and her face was soon covered in red, joining the flow from her mouth. She pulled away from the man, planted a long kiss on his lips, then leaned back to admire her new ring.
Beside them, a teenager raised his eyebrow and widened his eyes. He shook his head and leaned away from them. Jenna heard him mumble, “Good luck with the fat bitch, man.” When the couple’s excited jostling restarted, the teen moved across the car from them, shaking his head as he went. He pulled a Tootsie Roll from his pocket, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth. It reminded Jenna of how much she missed chocolate.
The subway slowed as it approached the next stop, and a bustle of passengers worked its way toward the doors on the platform side. Jenna saw the teen bump his way past Straub Lady, dipping his hand into her purse and coming away with a wallet. He slipped it into a deep overcoat pocket and moved to the opposite side of the crowd.
Just as the last passenger had departed, Throat-Cut Woman stood quickly and hurried through the door. A few feet onto the platform, she turned to look at the man who’d been beside her, but his eyes were on the discarded paper, his phone number visible. Anger enveloped his face, and he shot out the door after her.
The woman turned to run, but he snatched her arm and pulled her to him. His other hand closed across her mouth, pressing the back of her head to his chest. He released her arm, and his hand disappeared into his pocket, coming away with a folded knife and flicking it open in the same motion.
Jenna stood just as the blade was buried under the woman’s ear. The man’s hand slowly worked across the front of her neck, a bloody line following it. When he reached the other side of her neck, the man withdrew the blade, wiped it on her white blouse, and let her fall.
He stepped over the woman and walked toward the exit, in no apparent hurry. Passengers rushed to the side of the subway car, gaping through the windows and closed doors, shouting, screaming, pointing.
As they moved, the people passed through Jenna. Person by person, wisp by wisp, she dissipated then was gone.