Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two-Minute Mysteries!

Lulled by the swaying of the train car, Martin was slumped half-asleep in his seat, eyes drifting closed, when he became aware of his seatmate out of the corner of his eye. He'd barely paid attention some stops back when the man had heaved himself into the seat beside him with a weary grunt, a vague blur of generic business attire topped with a shiny pink head. As long as they didn't try to strike up a conversation, Martin could put up with anyone. Luckily, the man had pulled a battered paperback from his coat pocket and settled back to read, almost immediately dissolving into the background.
   Now, though, Martin could sense a pink blur to his left, as if the man had leaned forward in his seat. In fact, he got the distinct impression that the man was looking at him. Not past him, out the window at the occasional lights drifting past in the darkness, but directly at him. He didn't know how he knew, but the longer he sat tensely in his seat, trying to mimic the steady breathing of sleep, the more sure he became that his seatmate's attention was directed right at him.
   He didn't dare betray himself by tilting his head for a better look, but with his own head bowed so far forward in fake sleep, he couldn't see the man's face clearly. Keeping his eyelids as close to shut as he could get them, he strained to make out something definite through the quivering blur of his lashes. He had no rational reason why he didn't want the man to know he was awake and aware, but he still felt the impulse for stealth. The side of his face started to burn under the imagined scrutiny.
   Continuing to keep his breathing steady, Martin relaxed and stared straight ahead, trying to focus all his attention on his peripheral vision. The jumbled blur of pink, white, and black started to coalesce into a face, a grotesque grimace, eyes bugged out, mouth wrenched wide, tongue drooping down to below the chin. The expression didn't fit on the face, it was too big in one direction or another, but Martin was afraid to turn his head and look at the man directly. What would he do if it wasn't an optical illusion?
   It was all he could do not to shudder, but then, the image was so vague, he couldn't be sure he wasn't imagining it. Most likely the guy was just looking out the window, leaning in closer now, probably because they were passing through a town, an island of light in the sea of dark. He fought the urge to pull away from the imagined contact as the man loomed closer, his flushed pink face an angry blur that was threatening to resolve into detail at any second. Feigning the abrupt jerk of a man awakened from sleep, Martin lifted his head and looked around, jerking his arms up defensively before seeing to his surprise that his seatmate was slumped in a deep slouch, book clutched weakly in a hand draped across his lap, sound asleep.

   All right, all you sharp-eyed Junior Detectives, tonight's Mystery Question is... Who is that guy standing behind you?

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