I sat in my seat by the window, staring outside at the rain. It was a glum world that rushed by me. Cold, wet and certainly reflecting my feelings. I didn’t want to go see my parents. But, as always, it couldn’t be avoided.
“A matchbox, lady, please,” a voice said next to me. I looked up, and saw the smooth, handsome face of a stranger watching me. While I tried to process his words, my eyes fell to the matchbox that lightly lay in the palm of his outstretched hand.
“Please,” he said again, holding it out for me. “Take it.”
I stared dumbly, not quite sure why he wanted me to take the matchbox. “I don’t have any money,” I mumbled.
The man shook his head. “I’m not selling them. Please, take it. Everyone needs a matchbox.”
I looked around at passengers further up the train and saw one closely examining a matchbox with a wondrous look.
The man dropped into the seat opposite of me. His face looked haggard and worn down with exhaustion. “It’s a source of light,” his eyes grew distant at the memories. “I have been in the dark for a very long time. You don’t ever want to experience the proper darkness.” He shook his head to rid himself of the memories, then handed me the matchbox. This time I took it.
“Why were you in the dark?” I asked, before he could move on to the next person. His hand had already produced another matchbox, identical to mine, from his large bag.
After a long silence, he finally said, “when I was ten, I was taken and kept in a basement for fifteen years. There was no light ever.”
He hastily turned away and left me, just as I remembered the recent news that the man who had kept him in the basement had been sent to prison. They had found the young man by accident, after the other had been convicted with the innocent crime of drinking while driving.
Written in response to the “Matchbox guy” prompt posted on Creative Writing Prompts HQ