A Profoundly Sad Look (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of horror/gothic flash fiction about insomnia, ghosts, and strangers that always reappear. It’s about 700 words and has an estimated reading time of about 3 minutes. Let me know what you think!

Vince took the subway to work every morning, traveling north to the hospital. It was a short ride on the Broad Street Line, and he enjoyed it – he listened to music on the rides, classical stuff, getting him ready for a stressful day.

Something strange began happening during his morning commute, though. It was almost imperceptible at first, but he noticed it more as the spring weeks turned into summer. It was a young woman he kept seeing in the concourse, right before he boarded the subway car.

She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, bleach blond hair, fairly skinny, always wearing all black. A bit of a goth chick, it seemed. What was most memorable about her, though, and the thing that burrowed into Vince’s mind, was the profoundly sad look she always had.

Vince would see her moping each morning, slumped on a bench, or slowly pacing back and forth. She never seemed to be waiting for a subway ride – she was just always there, sad and eternally present.

The image of her stuck with him throughout the summer months. His job was stressful, and he struggled with insomnia. He wasn’t sure if it was work stress or what, but he sometimes functioned on less than four hours of sleep. He tried sleeping pills and other suggestions from his doctor, but nothing seemed to help.

He lived alone in a South Philly rowhome and, besides work, sometimes he’d go for days without really speaking to anyone. He was lonely. He never had much luck with women, and, now entering his thirties, he feared he’d be a loner for the rest of his life.

On the way to work one morning, his neighbor, Melody, stopped him to chat.

“Hey, Vince,” she said. She was about his age, cute, but also taken. “You look tired. Are you feeling okay?”

Her words went in and out, like radio static. His head was in a daze. “Yeah, just a little insomnia. It’s rough. I’ll be alright, though.”

“I imagine it’s hard to sleep in that house.”

“Why?”

Melody grimaced. “You didn’t know?”

“About what?”

“About the last person who lived there. Her name was Paige.”

“What about her?”

Vince felt a knot in his stomach. What could it be?

“She hung herself in the bedroom. We were good friends. The house was up for sale for a while before you moved in. I can’t believe the realtor didn’t tell you!”

No wonder he couldn’t sleep in that room, he thought. A woman had killed herself right there; all that negative energy was bound to screw with him.

Melody looked at her phone as Vince was lost in thought. “Here’s a picture of us – me and Paige. I took this a week before she died.”

He felt a strange sensation when he looked at the photo. For some reason, he thought about the woman in the subway. But they didn’t look the same, even though there were some similarities. Things were mixing together now due to his lack of sleep; everything was blurry.

“Okay, I’m late for work. Gotta run.”

Vince saw the woman in the subway again that morning, but it got stranger. He began seeing her in other places, too. He saw her at work, roaming the hallways of the hospital. He saw her on TV when he flipped through channels, sometimes just sitting in the background of a show.

He began to dream about her. Was she the suicide victim? Was she a ghost? Was he hallucinating?

He never discovered the answer to this question. That’s because later that year, he was found dead in his room. Someone had strangled him to death late one night. The police determined it was likely a young woman who killed him, and a neighbor saw someone leave his home around 2 a.m.

The neighbor said the woman wore all black, had bleach blond hair, and appeared to be in her mid-twenties. He told the police she moved slowly out of the house, leaving the door wide open, and she turned and looked at him. And the neighbor said what he remembered most was that the woman had the most profoundly sad look on her face.

The End

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