The Traveler

📅 Published on October 17, 2020

“The Traveler”

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 9.80/10. From 5 votes.
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“Your hair smells nice.”

That was the first thing he said to me. “Said” is too weak a word, even. Whispered. Oozed. He oozed those words into my ear, an invasion as unwelcome as if he had stuck his actual tongue inside.

My back was to him, so all I knew about him was what I could hear in his voice. It was male, and unpleasant. Greasy.

I shifted uncomfortably, but the train was full and there was nowhere to move to. Besides, he hadn’t actually done anything. He hadn’t put his hands on me, hadn’t touched me. I decided that the best thing to do was ignore him.

“I like the shine,” he continued. I shuddered as if a drip of filthy water had fallen from the roof of the subway car and slid down my neck. “You take good care of it. Very healthy. Very full. I like it. He’ll like it.”

I looked around. No one else seemed to notice what he was saying. He was speaking quietly, but not whispering, so surely others could hear him. And people weren’t doing the “intentionally not looking” thing when something isn’t their problem and they don’t want it to become theirs, so maybe I was just overreacting? Maybe this sounded like a normal conversation to everyone else?

“I don’t know you,” I said over my shoulder, in case anyone thought we were together.

“You will,” he promised. “You’ll know me very well.”

I turned then to confront him, and was surprised at what I saw. I’d expected some damaged derelict, but the man behind me was tall, attractive and well-groomed. His suit was tailored. His shoes were shined. His briefcase was crisp and professional. He looked like a TV image of a young lawyer.

Only his eyes matched his voice. They leered from his face, lecherous and greasy. They roamed all over my body in exactly the way his hands hadn’t, and left me feeling just as disgusted. They seemed alien, a mismatch for the rest of him. I could easily have gone on a date with the rest of him, but I couldn’t spend another second looking into those eyes.

Except that that’s exactly what I did. Something about them captured me, captivated me. I stared into his horrible, hungry eyes as if there was an explanation to be found in their murky depths. He continued to talk, the words lapping over my body like an infected tide, but I no longer heard them. I just felt their hideous touch, and struggled to pull free from his eyes.

I woke up still on the train, seated and confused. There was no sign of the man anywhere. It looked like most of the passengers had changed, and I didn’t think that calling out “Did anyone see a man with me?” was likely to get good results. I didn’t remember sitting down or falling asleep. Was it possible that I’d dreamed the entire thing?

With a groan, I realized I’d missed my stop. It was going to take at least another half an hour to get off, switch trains and make my way back to my station. I’d been looking forward to the day being over, and now this creep had just extended it for me.

If there even had been a creep. I had fallen asleep, after all, and it’s not like he did that to me. It might have all been my imagination.

I sighed and edged through the crowd to the doors. Maybe I could have a relaxing evening tomorrow night.

The whole trip back, I was certain that the sleazy lawyer was somehow following me. I scanned the crowd every time new passengers embarked, but he was never among them. When the train reached my stop, I hurried through the station, constantly checking around me in case he was loitering somewhere nearby, waiting for me to arrive. It was nonsensical, I knew. He had no way of even knowing who I was, let alone where I lived. His claim that I would know him well echoed around my head, though, sounding more threatening the more I thought about it.

Was it a real threat? Should I call the police? These were the thoughts occupying my mind as I reached my building. The streets were dim in the encroaching night and I hustled inside, letting out a long breath as I heard the door lock behind me. I let myself relax as the elevator slowly carried me up to my floor, my heart slowing back to normal as the numbers climbed.

Inside my apartment, behind still more locks, the man on the train seemed far less of a threat. The idea of calling the police seemed silly now. He was a loser, a nobody, just an ordinary creep. The city was full of them. Everyone ran into them sometimes. Tonight had been my turn, that was all.

I made some tea, ordered Chinese food delivery from a local place, and sat down on the couch to see if I could salvage the night. I was still flipping through the menus, deciding what to watch when the door buzzer sounded, startling me. Instantly my thoughts leapt to the creepy man from the train. Had he followed me after all? Was he outside now?

I thought about simply ignoring the door, but it buzzed again, longer this time, and I reluctantly rose from the couch to confront whoever was there.

“Yes?” I said into the speaker.

“Food delivery,” came the voice. “I have your order here.”

The Chinese place! I felt like an idiot. “Come on up.”

I buzzed him in. Seconds later, doubt set in. Hadn’t it been awfully fast for the delivery to get here? He hadn’t even said it was Chinese food. The voice was indistinct over the speaker. It could be the sleaze after all. I might have just let him into the building. Worse, he definitely knew what apartment I was in now. I wouldn’t let him in, of course, but what if he forced the door?

I looked around the room for something to defend myself with and settled on a knife from the kitchen. It was meant for slicing bread, but it was the longest knife I had and I wanted something that would keep distance between us.

Soon enough, a knock came at the door. I started to move toward the peephole, then stopped myself. Would he be expecting that? I didn’t want to play into his hands.

“Leave it outside the door,” I called.

“What?” The voice was muffled. It could have been anyone.

“The food. Leave it outside the door. I’ll get it.”

“Whatever, lady.”

I strained my ears listening for receding footsteps, but heard nothing. After a few minutes, I risked a look through the peephole. No one was there. The hallway looked empty.

I undid the locks and opened the door cautiously. Sitting on the floor outside was a thin plastic bag stamped with “HAVE A NICE DAY.” Inside, my dinner was cooling in its little cardboard cartons. It really had just been the delivery man after all.

I took one last glance up and down the hallway. Definitely empty. I was just being paranoid.

Still, I didn’t put the knife away when I went back inside. It made me feel better to have it close by. I knew it was silly, but it also wasn’t hurting anything, so I kept it out.

I turned out the lights, settled in on the couch, opened up my food and started up a movie. Full stomach, dim room and comfortable seating worked their magic, and at some point I fell asleep, television still going.

When I woke back up, everything was quiet. The movie was doing a slow zoom in on a figure lying down in a dark room. I struggled to figure out what this had to do with the plot, but couldn’t remember what had been going on. The camera edged closer, starting to pick out details. The figure was a woman, judging by the hair. She was sleeping on a couch. The table in front of her was strewn with takeout containers. The couch looked disturbingly familiar. Her hair was the same color as mine.

Suddenly uncomfortable, I reached for the remote—or tried to. My body wouldn’t respond. My arms, legs, head, all were frozen. I couldn’t even blink. I could only stare at the television as the camera slowly zoomed in on my terrified eyes, until finally it disappeared into them entirely and the screen went black.

I sat up then, but not of my own volition. Something else was moving my body, and I was simply being carried along, an unwilling passenger. I watched, trapped behind my own eyes, as I raised my arm and turned it back and forth.

“Good muscle tone,” I heard myself say. My hands reached up and caressed my face, running fingers through my hair before sliding down over my neck to explore my body. I felt violated by my own touch. My mind was shuddering, but my body couldn’t even do that.

“Cayden Dufort,” I said. “Are you listening? You don’t have to fight me. Look up Cayden Dufort. Get me to him and this can all be over.”

I picked up the knife from the table and held it to my own midsection, just below the left side of my ribcage. Carefully, slowly, I drew the blade lightly across my skin, raising a bright flare of pain. Blood welled up, tiny drips escaping down my stomach.

“That’s just in case you decide this was all a dream. Cayden Dufort. Get to him and I’ll leave you alone.”

My eyes closed then, and my consciousness shut off along with my vision.

The next time I awoke, it was morning. I was in my bed, wearing my pajamas. My body moved and responded normally, although I couldn’t remember why I thought it might not. A name danced on the tip of my tongue, but skittered away before I could speak it.

A pain in my side as I sat up made me wince. I pressed my hand to my left side and felt something pressed up against my skin. I lifted my shirt to see a bandage along the bottom of my ribcage, dark red blood dotting it in a few places.

Suddenly, it all came back to me. The paralysis, the possession. The name: Cayden Dufort. Who was he? What did it mean?

A quick internet search revealed a man by that name running for city council. I frowned, confused. What did an aspiring politician have to do with any of this? I closed the browser tab.

Only, I didn’t. I meant to, but instead of hitting the X on my phone, I clicked on Events. The top line told me that he held town halls every weekend, listing an address and time. I tapped my finger next to this several times.

I didn’t want to do any of that. I tried to move my hand to the X. My finger lingered for just a moment longer, as if to prove that it could maintain control if it wanted, before finally moving toward the corner of the screen and closing the tab.

I dressed in a rush, keeping my gaze averted, touching my skin as little as possible. I was afraid to feel that alien caress from my own hands again, terrified that whatever was happening would once again take command of my body. I could feel something watching me from just over my shoulder, just out of sight. I couldn’t catch a glimpse of it, but I knew it was there.

With no idea how long I’d have control for this time, I had to make every second count. I tried not to think too hard about what I was doing, in case I somehow tipped off whatever had seized control last night. I hurried out of the building and headed for the nearest hospital.

The trip there was agony. I could feel eyes on me everywhere. I clung to the subway pole, trying to keep the entire sparsely-occupied car in my view. Most of the passengers avoided my gaze. I knew I must look crazy. Wasn’t I, though? I thought I was possessed. That’s the sort of thing crazy people believed.

I told the admissions nurse that I was hearing voices. She handed me a pen and a clipboard of forms to fill out. Her nonchalance calmed me down somewhat. Clearly she didn’t think I was an immediate danger. She probably saw worse than this all the time. All I had to do was fill out the paperwork and they’d fix me up.

I started to breathe more easily. The end was in sight. Help was almost here.

As I turned in the completed forms, I grew nervous again.

“If I try to leave before the doctor sees me, please don’t let me,” I said to the nurse. “I really need to see him.”

“It won’t be that long,” she told me, sounding bored. “Just have a seat and wait.”

The waiting room was warm. Although it was loud and the seat was uncomfortable, I nearly dozed off. When I realized this, I leapt to my feet and began pacing, determined not to cede control so easily. The nurse watched but said nothing, and I knew she would not stop me if I walked out the door. My stomach was in knots by the time I was called in to see the doctor.

Dr. Vogt was calm and reassuring. He nodded and took notes as I laid out everything that had happened: the paranoia, the uncertain memory, the loss of control.

“Hm,” he said when I finished, tapping his pen on his glasses. “But you’re fully in control now?”

“I think so. But earlier, with the phone—my hand—”

He nodded again. “Yes, yes. But that was shortly after you woke up, correct? I think it may have been a hypnopompic hallucination. A residual dream, if you will. It’s more common than you’d think.”

“But Cayden Dufort…I’d never heard of him before.”

Dr. Vogt smiled. “The subconscious registers all sorts of things that the conscious mind is unaware of. You may have seen an ad, heard his name mentioned, something like that.”

“So you think this is nothing?”

“Likely, likely.” He saw my discomfort and added, “But if you’d be happier with tests…?”

“I really would.”

He sighed and typed briefly on his computer. “All right. Prepare yourself to be poked and prodded, young lady.”

The next several hours were a mix of being bored in waiting rooms and being bored in large, loud machines. No one showed me the results of any of the scans, but they also didn’t seem particularly concerned by them. I started to think that Dr. Vogt was right, that it had been nothing more than a dream brought on by stress and Chinese food. I considered just leaving.

But a tiny voice in the back of my mind said, What if that’s not you saying that?

So I stayed as the machines whirred, and the nurses bustled, and I became increasingly convinced that I was wasting my time.

The final piece of the testing regimen was a sleep study. I swapped out my clothes for a hospital gown, let the technician attach a dozen wires to my face, and laid down to rest beneath the cameras’ watchful eyes. Between the tiring day and the stressful night previous, it wasn’t long before I was fast asleep.

When I awoke, the room was dark. I was annoyed at the wires on me, although I wasn’t sure why. They weren’t particularly bothersome. They just felt like an invasion somehow. I began plucking at the electrodes, peeling them off one by one.

A voice came from a speaker in one of the monitors: “Please leave those on. You’re doing a sleep study, remember?”

“I’m done with it,” I said, only it wasn’t me talking. That thing, that other had taken control again, so naturally and so seamlessly I hadn’t even realized it. I struggled to move my hands, my mouth, anything, but nothing responded.

“Just lay back down,” cajoled the voice from the speaker.

Another voice spoke in the background. “Look at this. She’s still asle—” The speaker cut off abruptly as the microphone switch was released.

I watched helplessly as I removed the rest of the wires and walked to the door. To my surprise, and that of the thing inside of me, the handle wouldn’t turn.

“Unlock this, please.” It jiggled the knob impatiently.

The speaker came to life again. “We’d really like to finish the study. If you’d please just lay back down?”

“No!” It kicked the door. “I want my clothes and I want to leave now.”

“It’ll only be—”

“Let me out now or I’ll start smashing your fancy machines!” it snarled with my voice. I could feel its rising fear at being trapped, and inside, I gloated.

How do you like it? I thought, hoping that it could hear me. Not so nice when it’s happening to you. The doctors are going to rip you out. I’ll be free and you’ll be stuck forever.

“Let me OUT!” it insisted, kicking the door again. When there was no response, it turned and strode back toward the sleep monitoring machinery.

The door opened moments later, and it turned, forcing my mouth into a smile. “Thank y—”

Two nurses hustled in, seizing me in a firm grip.

“Hey! What is this? Let me go!” My body struggled and thrashed, but they held on tightly.

“This is for your own good,” one told me. The other uncapped a needle and plunged it into my arm. “You’re not yourself right now.”

I know, I thought, even as my body shouted, “You can’t do this to me!”

I felt my consciousness start to fade, though I could feel my body still fighting.

“Lorazepam’s not working,” one of the nurses said. His voice sounded far away, and I wanted to tell him, it is. But only on me.

“She can take another dose,” said the other. “Hit her with it again before we try the stronger stuff.”

If they put another needle into me, I never felt it. I was already asleep again.

Time became a jumble. I woke at irregular intervals, sometimes in control of my body, sometimes not. It didn’t matter much in either case as I was strapped to a hospital bed, cuffed at ankles and wrists. Sometimes I thanked the doctors for helping me. Other times I yelled, screamed and threatened. I wasn’t always sure whether it was me or the other speaking. We were both trapped now, both experiencing the same panic. It could have been either of us.

The doctors made sympathetic noises, checked charts and machines, and basically treated me like just another piece of furniture in the room. IVs in my arm kept me fed and drugged. A catheter kept me from needing to leave the bed. Waking and sleeping bled together until I lost all sense of what was a dream and what was real.

And then finally one day I woke up and everything was clear. Gone was the thick cotton wool of the drugs. Gone, too, were the restraints holding me to the bed. I looked around cautiously and saw Dr. Vogt smiling at me from across the room.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Fine,” I responded warily, then blinked. “Better than fine, actually. I feel good.” I raised and lowered my arms. They were weak, but I was pleased to see that they responded fully to my control, with no resistance at all.

“We’ve gotten things under control,” Dr. Vogt told me. “I think it’s safe to say that you’re all alone in there now.”

I smiled back at him. “I think you’re right. Oh, this feels so much better.”

“I’ll let you get up in your own time. Your clothes are on the table. Just check out at the front desk when you leave; I’m writing you a script for clozapine, and I’d like to see you back here in two weeks to confirm everything is going well, but I’m feeling confident.”

“So am I, doctor.”

After he left, I got up and made my way carefully to the shower. I luxuriated in the feeling of the hot water washing over my body, cleaning away the sweat and stink that had accumulated. I washed my hair, combing out the tangles with my fingers, then brushed it carefully in the mirror until it was as clean and vibrant as it had ever been. I wanted to catch Cayden’s eye at his next town hall, after all.

The nurse gave me the script the doctor had left, which I threw away in the first trash can I passed outside. He might be worried about a repeat incident, but I could tell that the previous owner of this body was completely gone. This was mine now, fully mine.

And after I got Cayden? I’d planned to transfer fully to him, to leverage his political goals to serve my own ambitions. But this body was nothing but a shell now. If I left, it would collapse. It seemed a waste. I could probably manage to split myself off, manage them both at once.

Perhaps it was time to start a family.

Rating: 9.80/10. From 5 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Micah Edwards
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Micah Edwards

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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