If you would take the long, rocky Jackson Road, past St. Mary Hospital and make a left at St. Victus Church, you’d reach the slums. The dark, dirty slums of Meadow city.
In these very slums, a boy named George was born on January 2nd 1945. He had a rough life, this one. His father died in a horrible tram accident when the boy was young. Police says it was a freak occurrence and that they pity everyone who took part in such an event. Yet, they never found the reason for why it happened.
Without a father, George slowly stepped towards a dark path. It started with fights at school, broken limbs and concussions. Then, as he grew older, alcohol replaced proper meals and cigarettes kept him warm in the cold winters of Meadow. He used to be part of some God-awful gang that terrorized the slums at night and gained money selling drugs or protection to different people on the streets.
But all that changed suddenly in the winter of 1965. By now, George was in his twenties. He was supposed to be full of life, of enjoyment. He should have been studying at a university somewhere; learning how to make a decent buck. Instead he was still here, in the cold, skin covered with tattoos, knuckles red from the freeze (or perhaps stained from blood).
Most of his lighter operations were done in the local trams, especially tram number 23. Broad daylight deals, hidden as mundane meetings in which the public just ignored what was going on literally centimeters from their eyes and ears.
It was the 3rd of December. The weather was bad. Snow alerts flooded the TV screens, asking people to stay indoors. But George wasn’t going to let a little snow break his daily routines.
He got off as usual on tram no. 23, sat in a chair and waited. He looked out the frozen window and couldn’t see anything.
“Is the ice so thick?”, he thought, trying to make some sort of circle with the sleeve of his jacket. Still, the ice refused to let him see outside the cart.
Hot air rushed outside his nostrils, instantly transforming into vapors in front of him. Instead of looking outside, he started to check out the people inside the tram. Still, lifeless goons.
“Look at this one”, he thought. “He hasn’t shaved in a while. Dumb hobo”. “And look at her. My, oh, my. What I would give to to get inside those thick pants.”
His rude observations continued, as he eyeballed and judged all the people around.
That’s when he saw him. There was this man, in a black costume, right in the middle of the front part of the cart. He was holding one hand up, tightly hanged on the bar, yet something about him seemed aerial. It’s like the bumps and turns of the old tram didn’t have an impact on this guy.
He could only see the back of this mysterious person, so he tried to move closer, making his way inside the crowd.
George was now a couple of feet away, filling up with anticipation, preparing for a little fight. The road until the front of the cart seemed to take like an eternity. And the cold, somehow, it felt even worse there.
He raised his right hand and moved it towards the man in black, but suddenly he felt a grip on his other member, pulling him back. George looked around annoyed and saw Jake, the guy he was supposed to make the exchange with that day. Quickly, the anger in his eyes turned into blandness and all the things the streets taught him came rushing in his frozen mind. He wasn’t supposed to look suspicious.
He greeted Jake, shook his hand and hugged him, as the exchange was simultaneously happening. They talked a bit in a low tone and Jake got off at the next station, happy that he got what he was looking for.
Now that the deal was done, George turned around to take care of the mysterious man. But he was gone. Just like that.
“Hmm, must have gotten off through the front door at the last station.”, thought George.
The next day George saw him again. Sitting there, in front of the cart, all dressed in black. This time, the tram was so full that George couldn’t even dare to move towards him. So he sat quietly in his place, boiling inside, eye balling the man’s every move. Yet he didn’t see him get off at any station. People rushed like sheep to go out at St. Victus and George got pushed and forced to make way for the stampede. And that’s how he lost him again. It’s like no matter what he did, he couldn’t reach that guy.
George started to talk to his fellow thugs about this man in black, but none of them really cared enough or saw him around.
“Argh, incompetents”, cried George.
“But dude, what’s your deal with this guy? Does he owe us anything or what?”, said one of the goons.
“Don’t you get it?” replied George infuriated. “He’s mocking us. He thinks he can just ride along in our tram, without paying any price. Never revealing his identity to us. We own this line! He needs to understand that. He needs to respect us. You get it?”
“Whatever man, you’re insane”, replied the goon. “If I were you, I’d just let it be”.
For the next few days, George didn’t see the man anymore. His trips weren’t usually accompanied by any notable incidents. Just bad, cold weather. The skin on his hands started to crack, giving him horrible pains when he tried to hold on or grab something. His eyes were always watery and red. And the freeze just felt like it was entering his bones.
He sat at home sick for a few days, letting his poor mother take care of him in silence. She knew the things he was doing. She even tried to stop him a couple of times, but with no success. The pain inside was stronger then her. It numbed her. So she let it be, stopped caring that much, thinking that this is the life he forged for himself.
Yet she was always there, with a sparkle in here eyes when he needed help. She knew, deep inside, that despite all the ugliness the world bestowed on him, George was still her child.
And now he was in pain, coughing, bleeding, freezing. Needing her help.
It was Christmas Eve.
Despite her best efforts, George’s mother couldn’t make him stay inside for the night.
“I’m going out to see my friends, mom, quit making me stay in”, said George annoyed, as he slammed the door walking away.
Outside, the blizzard was at its fullest. It was hard to see even a meter ahead, in the cold darkness.
George sat and waited for a tram, almost freezing to death in the station. His arms were shaking badly when he finally saw the saving lights of the tram approaching him.
He walked in, shaking the snow off his jacket and sat on a chair near a radiator, trying to get warm. Yet, there was no heat.
“God-damn driver didn’t start the heat. How the hell is he even driving like this in such a weather?”, thought George.
Irritated, he raised from his seat, trying to reach the driver at the front of the cart, determined to give the guy a lesson. Then he saw him. The illusive man in black. He was there, sitting in the middle, one hand raised up, holding the bar, in an empty frozen cart. It was unreal, really.
George shook his head, thinking he didn’t see straight. But indeed, the mysterious figure was there. Sitting. Waiting.
“Now’s my chance!” said George, rushing ahead and forgetting about the cold.
As he approached the man, he raised his right arm, as before, trying to grab him.
“This time, you’re mine!”
But just as he was about to catch him, George slipped, falling face down. For a second, he wasn’t sure what has happened.
“Did he hit me? He wouldn’t dare! Did I slip? But there’s no ice on the floor.”
George tried to pull himself up, but he couldn’t do it. For some unknown reason, his arms were slipping on the black, watery floor of the tram, splashing his clothes with dirt.
With a desperate attempt, he managed to roll over. Somehow, in his fall, he landed in front of the man in black and was now facing him.
George slowly looked at him. The man wore shiny black shoes like they were just polished, with some black cotton pants and coat. As George raised his eyes he saw a….
“….by God…What…What is wrong with his face? What in the name of…”
What George saw is hard to describe. The man’s face was mutilated, in a manner no one from this earth and beyond should ever see.
“Is…is that bone? His face is…but how could he be alive?”
George started to get scared (a feeling that he didn’t experience too often). He tried to move his feet and push away from the man. But like two frozen logs, his feet were not listening to any of his commands.
“What do you want from me, freak?” cried George. “Who are you? What do you want?!”
But the man’s figure remained still, his eyes cold and forever looking forward, like he was penetrating through the steel of the tram with his sight and looking ahead on the tracks.
George thought he if he would shout for help, the driver will surely hear him and stop to come in his aid.
“Stop the tram! Stop, God-damn it! There’s a maniac in here. Help, help me!”, cried George from the bottom of his lungs, coughing and choking in the dirt.
But nobody was hearing him. Nobody was coming. The empty, frozen tram kept going in the blizzard. No stops, just rushing into the darkness.
“Oh God, please mister, I don’t know what you want from me. I didn’t do anything wrong to you.”, said George. “Oh, if only my dad was here, he’d hear me, he’d show you!”, he continued.
All of the sudden, something changed on the man’s face. His terrible eyes slowly moved, looking down on George.
The boy’s body started to shake uncontrollably, filled with fright, as tears flooded his cheeks. George’s eyes were locked by the dead stare of the man.
“Oh God, what do you want? Why are you doing this to me?”
The man took his hand off the metal bar and pushed it towards the boy. George could clearly see it now. There was no flesh left on that hand. It was pure bone; and it was coming right at him.
At the same time, he felt a peculiar feeling, like he was sinking in the water and dirt from the tram floor. Looking at his body, George could see it deepening inside a sort of hole that was forming below him, in the tram floor. It was like a quicksand was trying to eat him alive.
Desperate, George started to scream and shout, struggling to get out.
He felt the cold embracing his body, covering his nostrils and choking him. And then nothing. Pure darkness.
George suddenly opened his mouth, letting air in at a high rate. He opened his eyes in panic and saw the boney creature holding him by the collar, pulling him towards, away from the floor. Away from the darkness he was slipping into.
George was now so close to the man’s face he could see all the gruesome details. Fear numbed the poor boy. He was sitting like a marionette in the hands of the puppet master.
The man got George close to him and spoke only these words, in a low voice, letting a cold, foul air out his skull:
“Be good, my son!”
Hearing these words, George looked anxiously in the creature’s eyes.
“It..it can’t be you…Wait, yes..it’s really…”
George passed out. He was found later on Christmas morning half frozen to death by the tram driver.
When asked by the police how come he didn’t see the boy earlier, the tram driver replied: “I swear to God sir, I picked nobody on my way back to the garage. I didn’t even stop in the stations to pick anybody in because my shift was over”.
For the next 3 months George sat in a hospital, slowly recovering. In the eyes of the doctors and his own mother it seemed like he was doing great progress, but each night he had trouble sleeping with the lights off, in the empty hospital room.
If you would take the long, rocky Jackson Road, past St. Mary Hospital, you’d reach St. Victus church. Each working day, you’d see there a young boy, with tattoos on his arms always fixing things, reinforcing the wooden walls, painting or cleaning the chapel’s inside and outside walls.
People gossiped that the boy lost his mind one winter day in the blizzard and now only the church would hire him to do some work.
Also, there was one other peculiar thing about him that people observed: each time the tram passes by, in front of the church, the boy covers his eyes and ears in agony, afraid that something might come out of the metal beast and take him away.