Safe travels

by Jenny

The girls were sweaty and exhausted when their train pulled into the station at Brasov. Lucy had pulled them inside the first bar they’d passed, just for somewhere to sit down and get their bearings before they embarked on the next part of their journey. It was a grubby basement bar with strip lights and cheap vodka and Sophie hadn’t wanted to go inside at all.

Lucy had insisted, though, and now, here they were, seven bottles of Ursus beer and countless vodka shots in and giggling at the attempts the men made to flirt with them. Some were locals, but others were travellers like them.

“You’re kidding” slurred Sophie to the handsome, pale man beside her “I can’t believe it - I like drinking too! What a coincidence!” She collapsed into giggles. The pale man just smiled sharply and slid another Ursus in her direction. He was American, he’d said, but he’d been in Brasov for a while now.

“We’re interrailing” Sophie explained. Lucy gave a large yawn and looked around blurrily. “Next stop is Bucharest - we’re meeting some friends of Lucy’s there, thoughI have no idea how we’ll find our way back to the station again,” she giggled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you,” said the man. “What time’s your train? It should be dark outside now.”

Sophie squinted at her watch. There was something about the way the man had phrased that last sentence that jarred, but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. In the background the jukebox droned out some maudlin country song that weaved its way into Sophie’s mind, tingeing her slight alcohol induced hysteria with the edges of melancholy.

“It’s in about an hour I think - Luce?” Sophie shook her friend by the shoulder to try to shift the glazed look in her eyes. “Train to Bucharest is in an hour - we better go.”

Obediently Lucy stood and cast her eyes around the bar, as if realising where she was for the first time. The girls awkwardly struggled into their travel backpacks. The pale man helped and Sophie noticed his long, dirty nails and the growth of long black hairs along the back of his hand and, when he turned his wrist to lift the rucksack, it seemed just for a moment that they grew on the other side of his hand too. Sophie blinked and the man’s hands were hidden from view again.

Sophie looked around to find some kind of mirror to straighten herself out before they let, but she couldn’t see one anywhere.

Lucy had that glazed look about her again. Sophie would have to take charge. She swallowed the last of her beer and started up the stairs to leave.

“Don’t worry, ladies, I’ll show you the way. It’s so easy to get turned around here in these old winding streets. I’d hate you to get lost and meet the wrong sort of person out here. Follow me.”

His lips turned up in a wolfish, saturnine smile.

He hurried up the stairs ahead of them and peered out, as if checking something. Satisfied he turned and beckoned them to follow.

“It’s fine - it’s dark now. Let’s go.”

“But wasn’t the station the other way?” mumbled Lucy as the girls stumbled blearily after him into the Transylvanian darkness