Short Story | ‘Smack Head’ by Sandra Crook, Illustration by Mark Reihill
It dropped from the sky, hitting the ground only yards away. Who knew that a body could make so much noise impacting with the pavement?
I tried to scream but no sound emerged, and I was seemingly frozen to the spot. People kept bumping into me from behind, before walking on unperturbed, some of them adjusting their stride to step over the obstruction ahead.
The body struggled to its feet, brushing down its pinstriped suit and I realised it was a man. Catching my eye, he smiled, collected his bowler hat which had landed nearby and raised it gallantly to me before disappearing into the crowd.
Was I going mad?
I hurried after him, weaving in and out of the rush hour crowds before catching up with him on Oxford St. As I reached out to touch his arm, he stepped smartly off the pavement, straight into the path of a lorry. The driver didn’t even brake, just stared directly ahead, even on the impact. No one around me seemed to have noticed anything, and the lorry trundled on down the road. I glimpsed the man’s face flickering in and out of view as his body revolved beneath the chassis, caught in the back axle. He was still smiling.
Sweat broke out on my forehead; my legs felt weak. I decided to skip the office and go home. I was clearly not well, hallucinating even.
Shivering on the Underground platform at Regent St I saw the man again, at the far end, up near the tunnel entrance. He was waving at me, trying to catch my gaze, but nobody else was paying him any attention. In the dark gaping mouth of the tunnel I saw two pin-pricks of light, steadily getting closer. Inevitably, I knew what was going to happen and I put my hand over my mouth so no-one would hear me scream. He watched the train emerging from the tunnel then smiled at me before jumping down onto the rails, directly into its path. He disappeared beneath the carriages, and the crowd were totally oblivious to what had happened; this was crazy.
Was I dreaming?
I pulled myself together, and got on the train. There was a space on the side seats, and I sank gratefully into it, still trembling. I stared at the map of the Underground on the wall opposite, concentrating on counting the stops to my destination. Minutes later, as I dropped my gaze, I saw he was now sitting opposite me. He raised his hat again, and this time I didn’t like the smile he gave me.
It was distinctly eerie. I decided to ignore him.
When the train arrived at my destination, he rose to follow me off the train, dogging my footsteps. I turned and he stopped dead, inches away from me, still smiling. He was way too close, so far into my personal space that I could feel his hot breath on my cheek. He gave me that weird smile again, just so creepy. I didn’t want him following me home, did I?
So I smacked him hard across the face, and his head immediately fell off and rolled along the platform.
I smiled; that had been very satisfying. And in any case, it wasn’t as if he were real, was it?
But now there are all these people screaming and running around. The police have put me in handcuffs, and there’s a white sheet, soaked with blood, on the platform beside me.
This is madness.
Illustration by: Mark Reihill