The evening is dark, or it would be, if not for the blinding white lights that line the walls above the graffiti and the advertisements.
A lone woman stands waiting for the light rail to come through, tapping her feet in a disjointed rhythm to the song playing in the headphones covering her ears. Long black hair reaches her mid-back, framing her heart-shaped face and dark brown eyes. She holds a notebook and twirls a pencil around in her fingers.
She jumps back suddenly as the train passes, a whirlwind of color, noise and light.
She boards the train, feeling no eyes on her. Everybody is deep in their own worlds, their own thoughts; pondering their own complex futures.
Our young woman chooses the only open seat beside an elderly man. He is staring at the ceiling, at an old, peeling advertisement for radios with a blaring headline written in calligraphy-style letters.
Want to buy an Admiral radio? We sell them!
The old man looks around. He has thick white hair and piercing, bright blue eyes that seem to look right through her. The woman avoids his eyes; she feels as if he might discover all her secrets if she meets them.
“Hello,” he says amicably. His voice is deep with a polished English accent. “It’s a pleasure to see you.”
The newcomer doesn’t register the old man talking to her, but since he is staring straight at her, she hurriedly removes her headphones. The song continues, though now hardly audible over the constant whirr of the train.
“Hi,” she says, unsure why the old man is speaking to her.
“Nice evening, is it not?” says the old man, smiling and revealing rows of pearly white teeth. He strikes her as an avuncular fellow.
“Very nice,” says the young woman, returning his smile tightly. She looks down at her notebook and touches it, as though she is preparing to open it and jot down a short note.
“Taking notes is a very good strategy,” says the old man approvingly. “I find it to be most helpful. Thus” — with a flourish, he pulls out an ornately decorated book — “I carry my book around everywhere I go.”
The woman nods and turns her head away, so she is looking out the window opposite. She can see nothing but the city whizzing by, making her feel slightly nauseous. Her fingers tap on the notebook. Her headphones hang around her neck, forgotten.
“Do you believe in spirits?” asks the man, tilting his head to better see the woman’s face.
She glances back at him, a calculating look on her face as though contemplating whether or not to answer him. Eventually she comes to the decision that he can mean no harm: she has a gut feeling that she can trust him.
“No,” she says finally.
The old man gives her an odd look. “I see,” he says. “Well, you shall soon come to find that everything exists to exist forever. Let me give you a word of wisdom.” He beckons with an old gnarled finger and the woman leans in closer.
“Our histories are always a stain on our past,” he whispers. “Mine is. Yours is. Everyone’s is. We are our worst enemies.”
The train stops abruptly. The old man smiles, all seriousness forgotten.
“This is our stop!” he cries jovially. “Remember, miss, remember what I told you!”
The woman nods, wondering how he knew where she was going as she stands up and walks off the train onto the lit platform. She looks to her left, where the old man had been a moment before.
She stands on the tips of her toes, to see above the surging throng of people. To her astonishment, she watches as the man melts mysteriously out of sight.
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