The Suitcase - a horror story

As I’d predicted, the office party was rubbish. I had caught the last tube home, wishing I was already in bed. My carriage was packed with late-night revellers, but I manage to nab one of the last few seats. My eyes were closing in blissful anticipation of a quick doze when a man in his early sixties sat down next to me. Apart from his lumpy physique, no doubt the result of a dubious lifestyle, the only thing of note was his oversized suitcase. 

Man wheeling a suitcase

          The black canvas cover was fraying at the sides and covered in unpleasant-looking stains. I didn’t want it near me, but he attempted to park in front of him, spreading his legs on either side to accommodate it. There was little room for anyone to get past and he seemed oblivious of how annoying he was.  Worst of all, he wanted to chat.. There was little room for anyone to get past and he seemed oblivious of how annoying he was.  Worst of all, he wanted to chat.

‘A good evening, was it?’ he leered.

Don’t make eye contact, keep it brief. ‘Yes, thank you?’

‘You look like you’ve been to a party, very glam.’

‘Yes, it was a work’s do.’ I removed the feathery hairclip that had betrayed me, snagging it in my blond curls as I did so - bloody man.

‘I don’t go to parties much these days,’ he said. ‘Always busy with something. Are you travelling far?’

There was an expectant look in his eyes that made me feel uncomfortable. ‘Far enough.’

I closed my eyes, hoping he’d take the hint. Apart from my work colleagues, I hadn’t really spoken to a man since Sean died, and I didn’t intend to start now. With every jolt of the carriage, the man’s knees banged into mine. His pores leaked alcohol and I felt sick from the smell. Revolting.

I opened my eyes as the train pulled into Embankment. My stop. I inwardly groaned as my unwanted companion rose from his seat. Huffing and grunting, he dragged the suitcase off the train and stopped abruptly, rubbing the small of his back. I pretended to fiddle with my bag, and when he was moving again, I let him pass down the platform in front of me. I prayed he wouldn’t turn around. I was unlucky.

‘Would you mind giving me a hand up the stairs with my suitcase please?’ he asked. ‘Only I’ve hurt my back. There are escalators after that.’

‘Ok, I suppose so.’

I got hold of the battered old handle and hauled it up to the first step. Christ, what on earth had he got in here? A body?

By the time I had reached the top, I was gasping for breath, and a stream of sweat trickled down my cheek.

The man bounded up alongside me. ‘Thank you so much. You’ve saved me a terrible struggle.’

‘Don’t mention it,’ I said, panting. ‘Good night.’

And to my relief, he didn’t stop to talk further and headed for the escalators.

The icy night air hit me like a freight train, so I stopped off at a late-night kiosk for a drink. As I sipped a creamy hot chocolate, I lent on the wall by the side of the river and looked down into the Thames. The moon cast a melancholy light, illuminating the rippling water and a narrow stretch of muddy beach beloved by mudlarks.  A black rectangular object lay next to the water, and I leaned over the wall, trying to see what it was. I gasped, my hand flying up to my mouth as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. It appeared to be an oversized suitcase. The same suitcase that the man had asked me to drag up the stairs. The top had burst open to reveal a head, part-covered in blond curly hair. The mouth was gaping open, and two dead eyes stared up at me.

‘Is this your purse dear? I think it fell out of your bag.’

‘What?’ I opened my eyes with a jolt. Oh, thank God. I was still sat on the tube train, crushed up next to that annoying man. I must have been dreaming. The carriage had emptied out now, but it was definitely real.

The man handed me my purse and I stuffed it back in my bag.

‘You can’t be too careful these days,’ he said. ‘You don’t know who’s about. I think you must have dropped off for a moment. Embankment is your stop, isn’t it?’

‘What? Oh yes, good night.’

I jumped off the tube and walked quickly towards the stairs. I expected to hear the man ask me for help but instead, he pushed past me. He picked the suitcase up by the handle and bounding up the stairs two at a time, he disappeared around the corner.

Leaving the station, I decided to forgo a hot chocolate, but couldn’t resist peeking over the side of the wall and looking down at the water’s edge. I held my breath as I scanned along the length of the beach. It was empty.

I stepped back and nearly stumbled as a sudden panic rose from the pit of my stomach. My purse. What if the man had stolen from me while I slept? I fumbled in my bag, spilling out keys and makeup as I did so. What a relief. My cards and driving licence were still where they should be.

Twenty minutes later I was back home, basking in the warmth of my duvet. Always a heavy sleeper, I didn’t hear the door creak open as the man with the suitcase broke in at the back. Or his tread on the stairs, as he crept into my room. Terror only came when his short stubby fingers dug into my throat, his eyes bulging with excitement and ecstasy.

 Now I’m down by the shoreline, bathed in moonlight. The zip of the suitcase has finally burst open, and my head is lying on the grainy black sand.

I’m looking up at Embankment.

Waiting for someone to find me.

 

* * *


Read next: The strange case of Mad Annie

 


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