A selection of short stories

Stagecoach To Somewhere – Horror – The Man In My Seat

I stood at the back of a small queue.  I do not have a patient nature but I was relaxed.  I am convinced that I was not in a nervous state.

The two people, who waited ahead of me, said nothing.  They wore business clothes and were overweight.  I imagined them as reliable employees, which is how I think of myself.  Although I knew the time, I looked at my watch.  I have a routine.  I always wait until the journey is halfway complete.   By then the aeroplane stewards have left the front of the aeroplane and are at the back beginning to clear the free coffee they have supplied to their passengers.    Although I rarely discuss the subject, I realise that some passengers organise their visits according to whether there is a queue or not.  I rely on the time.  Some will visit merely when they think it is appropriate.  Me, I prefer a routine.

A queue was unusual for such a short trip.  I was flying to London for a business meeting.  I could have taken the train but my business meeting was taking place in a plush hotel near Heathrow.  The extra expense of the flight had been approved by Finance Section.

Ahead of me the small queue disappeared.  Nobody else joined me at the front of the aeroplane.  The standing area at the front of the aeroplane was still free of people when I exited and returned to my seat.

A man was sitting in my seat.  He wore a business suit similar to mine.  He read the Economist.

‘That’s my magazine,’ I said.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said the man in my seat.

‘You’re reading my magazine.’

‘I hardly think so.’

The man spoke with a polite Scottish accent as I also do which made sense because this was the Edinburgh to London flight.  He was probably about the same age.  I wondered if he worked in insurance like me.   The man looked affluent and rewarded.

‘You’re sitting in my seat,’ I said.

‘I hardly think so.’

I looked up at the numbers by the luggage compartments.

‘Row 8, seat C,’ I said.

I always think it should be the other way around, Row H seat 3.  This is a thought that I have never shared with anyone.

‘I know the number of the seat,’ said the man in my seat.

At the far end of the cabin aisle the two stewards put rubbish in a bag.  The female steward stopped to talk to a passenger.  I was unable to make her see me.  The male steward stopped working and looked out of a window. At least I think he was looking.  He did not notice me.

‘Where were you sitting before?’ I said.

‘Before what?’ said the man in my seat.

‘Before I went the loo.’ I said.

I did not want to say toilet to a stranger.

‘I was sitting here,’ said the man in my seat.

‘What, from the beginning?’ I said.

‘The whole time.’

He pointed at the passengers across the aisle.  I could have looked but I did not because I was unwilling to involve others.   The situation between him and me was embarrassing, and I felt that it had to be contained.  My coyness is more than easily induced discomfort.  I feel a responsibility to maintain polite order.

‘I think you should leave,’ said the man in my seat.  ‘Find yourself somewhere else like a good chap.’

The cheek, I thought.

‘You must have a ticket with the seat number,’ he said.

‘I certainly do have,’ I said.

‘Well, then, find the seat where you are supposed to be sitting and sit there.’

‘You are reading my magazine, and my briefcase is in the luggage compartment.’

‘You can leave the briefcase there.  I don’t mind.  Anything to make progress.’

The cheek, I thought.

The stewards at the back of the aeroplane had made some progress down the aisle but to attract their attention I would have either had to shout or done something silly like wave my arms.

‘I take it you have a ticket,’ said the man in my seat.

‘Certainly I have a ticket, and it has the number Row 8 seat C,’ I said.  ‘I also have a magazine which you happen to be reading.’

‘Perhaps you would do me the favour of showing me your ticket,’ he said.

I said nothing.  I thought the man was impudent.

‘Most of us keep our tickets in our wallets,’ said the man in my seat.

The two of us waited for the other to do something.  This was a very awkward moment, much more uncomfortable than standing in a queue with a stranger. Neither of us wanted to make the first move.

‘I think you should show me your ticket,’ I said.

‘I am the one in the seat,’ he said.

‘No, you’re the one in my seat.’

The man in my seat said nothing.

‘You’re also reading my magazine,’ I said.

‘You’re being ridiculous,’ he said.  ‘If there has been a misunderstanding, the easiest is for you to go sit somewhere else and not make a scene.’

‘I am not making a scene.  The plane is also full.  Every seat is occupied.’

The man stayed in my seat but he stretched his neck so he could see the other passengers.

‘So it is,’ he said.

The phrase, I am not making a scene, made me wary of what might happen next.  So far the man had spoken in measured tones.  We shared the same polite Scottish accents and, no doubt, backgrounds.

‘I will take out my ticket if you do the same,’ I said.

‘This is childish,’ he said.

‘You refuse?’

‘Of course not.’

The man in my seat folded the Economist, sorry, my Economist.  He had a superior grin.

I took my wallet out of my jacket pocket and showed him my ticket.  We each kept hold of our tickets but we rested them on the tray on the back of the seat in front.   We stared at the two tickets together.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I said.

Like me, the man in my seat was genuinely shocked at what he had seen.

‘We shouldn’t have the same numbers,’ I said.

‘Just look,’ said the man in my seat.

‘Row 8 seat C,’ I said.

‘No, look at the names.’

My ticket had the name Donald Ross, which, of course, is my name.   His ticket, though, also bore the name Donald Ross.  I looked up the aisle.  The stewards clearing half emptied coffee cups would have to be told.

‘They’ve made an obvious mistake,’ I said.  ‘They have issued my ticket twice and given you the duplicate.’

‘You don’t understand,’ said the man sitting in my seat.  ‘My name is also Donald Ross.’

I suspected that this other Donald and me were objects of curiosity.  I stood back from the seat to look at the other passengers and to possibly placate them.  What I saw shocked me.   They were not the same people that I had passed on the way to the toilet.  These passengers all looked the same.  Every seat was occupied by a man that looked like this other Donald Ross.  The sight of so many identical faces made me feel a terror, which I could not explain.  I wanted the plane to land quickly.

The Donald Ross sitting in my seat looked at the other passengers with the same astonishment that I had.  In fact, now we no longer were opposed or in conflict, I was surprised how we resembled each other, which meant that we, too, looked like everybody else on the plane.

This is terrible, I thought.  Fortunately, the female steward who was aware that there was something amiss walked towards me.

‘What is happening?’ I said.

‘We all look the same,’ said the Donald Ross in my seat.

‘Is that all?’ said the female steward.  ‘There’s no need to panic, sir.  You all look and sound the same to us anyway.’


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Stagecoach To Somewhere – Horror – The English Love Of Dogs

‘We haven’t seen you here before?’ said Walker.

Mrs Bagshaw sat in the corner.  Her handbag rested on her lap.

Adolf lay on the table in the middle of the room.  Walker gripped the throat of Adolf to stop him moving.

‘I’ve only had him a week,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘He’s a handsome dog,’ said Walker.  ‘Pity about the name.’

‘Helen had a strange sense of humour.’

‘The dog looks healthy.’

Walker looked inside the mouth of Adolf.  The room had photographs of animals on the walls.   Mrs Bagshaw did not like the smell in the room.  Walker was tall and a quiet man.  In his long white coat he looked very tall.

‘He’s more cooperative with you than me,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

Walker smiled.  Mrs Bagshaw was 50 years old and attractive. Her face was wrinkle free, and she had a fine figure.   She had a boyfriend at least 15 years younger than her.  Some of the people in the village thought it scandalous.  When anyone mentioned it to Walker, he raised an eyebrow and said nothing.  Walker was only 30 and a little shy but, no, not a difference of 20 years, although Mrs Bagshaw was a woman who would know how to warm a man.  Walker felt in between the ribs of Adolf.

‘Helen loved the dog,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.  ‘I’ve no idea about dogs.  I couldn’t tell you what type he is.’

‘Adolf is a Miniature Schnauzer, affectionate but prone to allergies.’

‘He isn’t friendly with me,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.   “I can’t believe he’s just lying there and letting you.  He’s had a couple of snaps at me.’

‘Are you going to keep Adolf?’ said Walker.

‘I’m torn,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.  ‘He doesn’t make a mess.  And if I don’t shout at him, he looks at me with those eyes.’

Adolf twisted his head sideways and stared at Mrs Bagshaw.

‘Aw,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.  ‘Do you like animals?’

‘I suppose I must,’ said Walker.  ‘I’m not a failed doctor.’

‘I didn’t mean to imply.  Helen adored Adolf.  She used to take him upstairs to bed.  He was always on her lap.’

‘You’ve had to shout at Adolf?’ said Walker.

‘For taking a snap at me, he does his share of growling.’

‘He’s happy with his food?’

‘I feed him what Helen left.’

‘Is he snappy with everyone?’

‘He doesn’t attack the postman.  It’s when he’s sitting in the living room.  He growls and stares at me as if I am denying him something.’

‘What about when you go to bed?’

Walker had heard that Mrs Bagshaw and her young lover were noted for being enthusiastic and unrestrained lovers. Mrs Bagshaw was slow to answer Walker, as if she was thinking about what happened when she went upstairs with her young lover.   Mrs Bagshaw may be 50, thought Walker, but she is as attractive as any other woman in the village.

‘He cries,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘Who cries?’ said Walker.

‘Who do you think, you silly sod, Adolf cries.  He’s crying now.’

Walker noticed that Adolf was making a noise.  It became quite loud.

‘This could keep you awake at night,’ said Walker.

‘Oh, I always drop off.  I have a special ritual that never fails,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘What would that be?’ said Walker.

‘You wouldn’t want to know,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

Probably not, thought Walker.  The woman was 50 years old.  Walker bent down and sniffed the fur of Adolf.

‘Have you washed Adolf yet?’ said Walker.

‘I’ve only had him a week.’

Walker sniffed the fur of Adolf again.

‘This is where I do my impression of Sherlock Holmes,’ he said.  ‘Am I right in thinking that your friend was about your age, attractive and a heavy smoker?’

‘That’s brilliant,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘Adolf stinks of nicotine.  I guessed about your friend.  If I am right, Adolf has a nicotine addiction.  He is missing his fix.  We’ll put some Nicorette patches under his fur.  We’ll wean him off slowly.  Three this week, then two and so on.’

Walker paused and smiled at Mrs Bagshaw who was still thinking about his deductions.

‘We’ll have him healthy,’ said Walker.

He lifted Adolf off the table and patted him on the head.  The dog said nothing.

‘I wouldn’t dare pat him on the head,’ said Mrs Bagshaw before she smiled.

Walker handed Mrs Bagshaw the dog lead, and their hands touched for longer than he expected.

Surely not, thought Walker.

A week later Mrs Bagshaw returned to the surgery.   Adolf was put back on the table in the middle of the room.

‘He is much quieter, so thank you, but Adolf has a problem with his chest.’

Walker took out his stethoscope and examined Adolf.

‘There is a definite wheeze,’ said Walker.

‘Maybe the Nicorette is affecting his chest,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘It wouldn’t,’ said Walker.  ‘Let’s see what happens with the reduced dosage.’

Mrs Bagshaw led Adolf to the door of the treatment room.

‘I don’t understand how you knew that my friend was attractive,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

Walker hesitated.

‘I couldn’t imagine you having a close friend who wasn’t beautiful,’ said Walker.

Mrs Bagshaw smiled.

A week later Mrs Bagshaw visited the surgery again.  Adolf coughed and wheezed so badly the noise affected Walker.

‘This is not the result of Nicorette,’ said Walker.  ‘It can’t be.’

Mrs Bagshaw shrugged her shoulders and smiled.

‘He is calmer at night but he wheezes throughout,’ she said.

‘I thought you slept through the night.’

‘I had a friend stay over, and my friend went downstairs,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘What did your friend see?’ said Walker.

‘My friend said there was nothing to see.  My friend didn’t hang around downstairs, said the house was too cold at night.  Nobody has the heating on at night.  My friend thinks the dog is creepy.’

‘I suppose they don’t,’ said Walker.  ‘All we can do is try reduced Nicorette.  Adolf has a terrible cough.’

Again, Walker and Mrs Bagshaw paused at the door.

‘Well, at least you’re sleeping nights,’ said Walker.

‘Not the same,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

‘I thought you had a ritual.’

‘Not anymore,’ said Mrs Bagshaw and smiled, as did Walker.

A week later Walker was examining a rabbit that had an infected nose when the telephone rang.

‘Mrs Bagshaw,’ said Walker.  ‘I was expecting you to visit.’

‘Adolf’s died last night.  I saw him die.’

‘Oh, I am sorry, Mrs Bagshaw.’

‘Yvonne,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.’

‘’I’m Terence.  People call me Terry.’

‘I saw poor Adolf die.  His wheezing woke me up which it had done every night.   Terry, my friend was right.  This house was cold at night, really cold. Adolf didn’t look like he was going to die.  He lay still on the arm of the sofa.  Apart from the wheezing, he looked contented.’

‘I am sorry, Yvonne.’

‘I don’t know what to do with poor Adolf.  Do I bring him round to you or is there a special place?’

‘Yvonne, I can call round in the morning,’ said Walker

‘I’ll be at home, Terry,’ said Mrs Bagshaw.

Terry Walker did not sound so bad, not as bad as Yvonne Bagshaw, she thought.

‘Look forward to seeing you, Yvonne,’ said Walker.

‘And you, Terry,’ said Mrs Bagshaw who hesitated.

‘Is there something else,’ said Walker.

‘No, no, I’ll see you in the morning.’

Mrs Bagshaw thought she would tell him more after they became friends, which Mrs Bagshaw knew they would.  Then she would tell Terry about the living room, which had been as cold as ice and, even stranger, the odd smell of tobacco and perfume that she remembered from when Helen was alive.


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