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The Curse of the 2 Train

Before he died, a tired straphanger believed he already was in hell.

After one man refuses to relenquish his seat,

After one man refuses to relenquish his seat, the curse of a witchy woman follows him until the bitter end. Photo Credit: Dean Kotz

Thirty-five minutes before he died, Gerald believed he was already in hell.

Not even Dante could have envisioned the inferno raging inside that No. 2 train car stalled between stations on a sweltering August evening. Especially after the kind of day he had at work. Above him, a vent rattled like a rheumatic cough but didn’t actually belt out any cool air. Is that too much to expect for a $121 monthly pass? He had dreamed that by 45, with a good-not-great job on Wall Street, he’d be far enough in his career to avoid the subway. But that was obviously a pipe dream after his boss’ angry rant in front of everyone at the client meeting. He'd fled so quickly he had forgotten to remove the visitors sticker from his shirt. The memory was enough to send another wave of sweat trickling down his brow.

He should have taken the bus.

That he even had a seat at all was a small act of mercy from an unforgiving universe, though the stench of body odor from the wilting straphangers — and some might of been from him under this itchy wool suit, to be fair — hung like fog in the enclosed space.

And then there was the old lady, oddly wearing a heavy shawl in the middle of summer, straining to reach the strap above him. She was a horror show to look at — one eye stretched wider open than the other. She hovered off balance as if she were about to topple on top of him and bring her bag of groceries with her.

Wait, is that a chicken carcass in her bag?

“Geez, lady watch it. Keep your damn smelly bird the hell away from me!”

The inconsiderate old hag didn’t say anything at first, just glared at him with that unblinking right eye. It resembled something ripped off the cover of a 1950s horror comic.

Finally, she spoke in a raspy voice: “You should have more respect for your elders.”

Ah, the hell with this.

“Yeah, yeah, shut up, you old gypsy hag!”

Instead of reeling from the insult, the woman leaned in closer — so close he could smell mothballs.

“Gypsy enough to put a death curse on you if you’re not careful… Gerald.”

How... How did she know… his name?

Before he could recover with a response, she leaned in closer. He could see every red rivulet etched in that unblinking eye.

“Can’t you already feel it?”

Suddenly he could.

Driven by panic, Gerald launched himself out of his seat, past the gypsy woman and into the human sardines that look startled and annoyed by the sudden physical contact. With his pulse pounding in his ears, he didn’t even notice that the train had lurched forward. Managing to claw the sliding metal door open, he escaped into the next car. But the same fetid, hot air blew out of the vents. The same crush of people, a fresh herd looking disapprovingly at the disruption in their midst. Normally, Gerald would feel self-conscious, but all he could think about was his chest sagging under the crush of the curse.

Why didn’t he just take the bus?

The doors opened at the next station. It might have been Nevins, but Gerald didn’t care. Any exit meant the possibility of relief. He staggered onto the platform, sweat burning his eyes.

He was dying, he knew it, he couldn’t catch his breath. It was as if an anvil had been dropped on his chest. The medical examiner would later rule it as the start of myocardial infarction. There are check boxes on the form for heart attacks, not gypsy curses.

As the train pulled out of the station, the lights on the platform suddenly flickered. ConEd would register a brief power outage, only a blip for a few seconds, but in his failing heart, Gerald knew better. Before the platform plunged into darkness, he spied a stooped silhouette standing one car length behind him.

He lurched forward on his failing legs, somehow making it up the stairs. Even over the throbbing in his head, he could hear the scraping of footsteps behind him. The gypsy closing in for the kill.

Emerging into the night air, Gerald stumbled forward, stepping into the street as he struggled to catch his breath. Then he turned his head enough to catch the last sight he would ever see — a giant, unblinking eye. No, wait, not an eye. A headlight.

The bus he should have taken.

Fifteen minutes after the police cordoned off the scene, Vittoria Moretti fumbled her key into the lock of her apartment door. Every week it seemed someone added more stairs to get to her third floor walk-up. Before she could figure out the door, her granddaughter wrenched it open.

“Nona, I was so worried about you! You shouldn’t be traveling around the subways in your condition! You can barely see!”

“Ah, my sweet, the glaucoma is just in one eye,” said Vittoria, expelling the air as she plopped in her favorite seat by the door. “I would’ve been back faster to start cooking the picatta, but first the subway… and then somebody got hit by a bus, so I had to walk around a couple of blocks.”

The concern was obvious on her granddaughter’s face.

“It’s nothing. Just some jerk on the subway who wouldn’t give up his seat to a tired, old lady,” she sighed. “The dumb stronzo even left his name tag on his jacket. He thought I was a gypsy... so I played along.”

Nona Moretti smiled in spite of herself.

“I bet he learned his lesson.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ethan Sacks was a 20-year veteran at the New York Daily News before going to work at the fictional Daily Bugle. Yes, he now writes comic books at Marvel for a living, but we all have to grow up some time. 

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