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The night was nearly pitch black, and the cold rain just made it harder for me to see. I almost didn't see the woman standing beside the bench. Her rain-soaked hair covered most of her pale face, but I could see that she wore a medical mask. She looked away when I approached, almost as if she were avoiding me. Maybe she thinks I'm a mugger or something, I reasoned with myself. I tried not to let her antisocial behavior bother me, especially since I wasn’t feeling very social myself. Neither of us said a word as we waited for the last bus of the night. I pulled my phone from my pocket, but my battery was dead. I frowned as I searched for my portable charger, only to find that it had somehow slipped out of my bag. The single-strip light that bathed the bus stop in its dim glow started to flicker. The hair on the back of my neck stood on edge as my eyes struggled to adjust. I feared that the light would soon burn out and I didn’t want to be left in complete darkness with the strange woman. I tried not to look at her, but I felt like she was inching closer and closer to me.
"Hey, why are you out this late?" I asked, silently cursing myself for being out past midnight.
I studied the woman’s attire. Her clothes weren’t heavy with rain, like mine, so I assumed she had gotten to the bus stop before the rain had picked up. Her hair was wet, but her light blue scrubs and thin black jacket were dry. I assumed she was a night nurse who was either coming from or going to work. I tried to push away my unease at her presence, but there was something about her didn’t sit well with me. The woman continued ignoring me, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but today it bothered me. Maybe she couldn't hear me over the sound of the rain, I tried to assure myself. My heart pounded and my breath caught in my throat as the woman seemed to glide closer to me. I took a few deep breaths and tried to tell myself that I was just uncomfortable because I wasn’t used to staying out so late. I normally I didn’t scare easily, but there was something about the woman that really bothered me.
I shivered as a lone car sped by. It could have been my eyes playing tricks on me, but I thought I saw woman with a wide mouth staring at me from one of the windows. I tried to chalk it up to my being freaked out because I was out so late, but I couldn’t force the feelings of dread away.
Thunder crackled somewhere in the distance, causing me to jump. The rain grew harder, beating against the barrel-roofed shelter so loud that it seemed to surround me. The temperate seemed to drop as the rain surrounded the small bus stop. The wind hissed, seeming to come from the direction of the woman. I didn’t want to look at her, but I was unable to stop myself. Her arms hung limply at her sides. She stood so still that it was almost unnatural. I couldn’t tell whether she was looking at me, but I felt the burning feeling of someone’s eyes on me. I felt goosebumps breaking out across my flesh as I rose from the bus bench. I felt nauseous, but I knew I could run home if I needed to. I stood and took a step forward but the woman was blocking my path. She was standing close enough that I should have felt her body heat, but I couldn’t feel anything other than the cold.
"Are you OK, miss?" I asked her.
Her only response was to reach out and touch my face the same way a mother would do to her child. I noticed that a thin layer of blood had soaked through her cloth medical mask. The blood had taken the form of a sickening smile. Her eyes were two different colors, one green and one brown, but neither one displayed any emotion. My legs shook so badly that I could barely remain standing as I thought about pushing her aside. I had never been a good fighter, and I didn't see that changing tonight. I could only hope that she would take in my ragged appearance and know that I wasn't worth robbing. A chill ran down my spine as I realized there were worse things she could do to me besides robbing me.
“W-what-what do you want?” I asked, trying to remain calm. I wanted to scream, but my throat felt sore. My heart pounded so hard against my chest that I was sure she could hear it.
It seemed like a lifetime passed before she raised her face so that I could see it more clearly under the dim bus stop lighting. Her dark, almond-shaped eyes took me in for what seemed like the first time. "Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked as she pushed her hair behind her ears and pulled down the medical mask that she had been wearing.
A wave of nausea hit me as I took in the woman’s heavily scarred face. The woman actually would have been beautiful, if not for the fact that her mouth had been slashed open from ear to ear. Fresh blood still dripped from the wound that marred the bottom half of her face. There were chunks of bloody flesh clinging to her teeth as if they were braces.
“What happened to you?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
Sadness seemed to fill her eyes. “My husband didn’t want anyone to look at me,” she replied in a raspy voice.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
I wanted to run, but I felt frozen in place as she pulled a pair of scissors from the pocket of her scrubs. My heart sank to my stomach when I realized her smile would be the last sight that I would ever see.