The dark figure rose the slight step onto the bus from the pavement. The long, black trench-coat, the black gloves that quietly flexed and unflexed with every breath he failed to take and the boots that seemed to fall so lightly in his tread, the perfectly black sunglasses he wore in spite of the gloom that day…
But they were unphased. No matter how bad the road, no matter how sharp the turns, how sudden the stops, no one noticed how firmly he kept his feet planted, his poise perfectly balanced as he stood in the empty space at the very back of the bus.
But no one joined him, either, until after a few stops, a woman got on at the back with a baby stroller. A kind-hearted gentleman outside was good enough to lift up the end of it on his way in and nodded his welcome when she smiled and offered her “merci”. The dark figure moved out of her way, twisting in one broad motion and spinning to join back his feet.
The woman with the stroller muttered to the infant child something about staying quiet and what a good boy he was. Though no one on the bus could see the man’s eyes through the dark sunglasses, they had been following the young woman and her stroller in a steady sweep from the moment she had boarded to the moment she sat down. Now those eyes rested on the child.
The child craned its neck—his neck—to look at the dark man. The man’s face seemed imperceptibly to have pointed itself down and in his direction. The little boy, too small to speak, smiled. A goofy, open-mouthed smile. Not just the smile of the innocent, but the smile of the precious. The dark figure raised an eyebrow, but quickly lowered it again in discretion.
The bus started moving again. The little boy waved his arms. His mother tried to tell him to keep himself still, though, after all, the little boy only waved his arms in excitement. It was then the figure smiled.
Few enough people in this part of the world ever desire their child to be looked at, let alone flirted with, and understandably so. It was only natural that the mother start to shift uneasily. And yet this mother thought her fear irrational and so, set it aside as paranoia, trying her best to look the other way, leaving no more eyes to check the black-clad figure smiling now behind those glasses. So no one saw how, in response to the child’s grunts of excitement, the smiling lips curled back and the mouth opened to reveal its fangs and a tongue that forked and hissed.
But the child, still smiling, rocked back and forth and giggled, and a single eyebrow lifted itself up behind the sunglasses.