Ahasueres always left his backpacks on trains. In his bedroom, on any given weekday morning, he could be found placing a large, heavy clock inside of a black backpack. That same morning, he would target the most crowded train-car, and leave his weighted bag behind. If things went uniquely well, Ahasueurus might get to see his backpack exploded by the bomb squad on the 10 o’clock news. Perhaps he would even be interviewed by his favorite on-the-scene reporter for a fourth time. The authorities had questioned him on many occasions as to why he continually left his pack behind. I guess I just forget, came the excuse. That wasn’t the reason, though, no… No, he enjoyed knowing that he frightened people, took pleasure in showing people their own mortality. Ahasuerus did not want to hurt anyone.
Casually-dressed, he sat on a particularly crowded and stuffy train. Black backpack slung over his shoulders. Ahasuerus looked from one early morning passenger to another. He made eye contact with a man sitting across from him. The man smiled, then winked. Ahasuerus looked away. But then, glanced back. The man was vaguely familiar to him. From where? Ahasuerus felt the train’s speed diminishing. His pack weighed heavily against his spine. He shifted awkwardly in his small seat, removing the bag from his shoulders. Ahasuerus stood, and the pack thudded onto the seat. He held onto the overhead handrail, standing over the backpack.
The train entered into a tunnel, approaching its next stop. A number of passengers sitting began to stand, and a number of passengers standing began shuffling towards the doors. The train hissed and came to a stop, the doors slid open. Passengers made their way off of the train, cramming through the doors. Ahasuerus with them. But, not his backpack. That remained behind. Waiting on the seat.
From the station platform, he watched the train doors close. Strangers pushed past him. The train pulled away, down into the barely lit tunnel. Ahasuerus watched the train become smaller and smaller as it rushed from him. He smirked. On the train, people would start hearing the clock ticking in the unclaimed backpack. Soon after, the panic would begin. His smirk widened at the thought.
A hand fell on his shoulder. Ahasuerus snapped around. The winking man from the train. Before Ahasuerus could speak, the man held his finger to his lips.
The man’s sunken, cavernous eyes held onto Ahasuerus.
“At least I know they won’t be looking for me,” said the winking man. His hand dropped from Ahasuerus’s shoulder, and he turned, walking away. Ahasuerus watched him sprint up the escalator. Near the top, the man looked back and winked. Ahasuerus’s equilibrium momentarily faltered. He balanced himself. And. He remembered: a cop. The winking man was a cop. He saw the man exit onto the street above, and he was gone.
The rumbling of the distant train grabbed Ahasuerus’s attention, once more. He looked back into the tunnel, the train less than a miniscule point of light. He watched and gazed. The dot of light expanded into a sphere and wall of blazing orange. And it grew, and it sounded like falling under an ocean wave. And it grew. And it grew! And the sound slammed Ahasuerus in his chest, in his legs, then his skull! And he bathed and breathed in the heat of the fire ball. He collapsed to his knees, doubled over. His face on the filthy platform.
The heat, the new heat, the burning of the explosion. It brushed through his hair, around, over his scalp. And the winking man’s stare bore into his mind. Eyes of the deep, an Atlantic trench. Sinking and whispering. Then, a wink.
Ahasuerus pushed himself to his feet. People on the opposite platform were screaming.
He ran for the escalator and didn’t stop until he reached his bedroom.