2023 Short Story Competition

A Bizarre Night

I do not normally believe in these things. But today, I am compelled to share this, my friend’s
personal account of a bizarre night with you, hoping to elicit some answer of what might
have happened to my friend.
Benjamin, or Ben, as we all call him, was a dear friend of mine for over two decades. He was
a successful lawyer for many years and had always enjoyed a good life and a good debate.
His wife Anne, on the contrary, is a quiet and obliging lady, beautiful and graceful, we always
say that Anne is the “perfect wife” and Ben agreed whole heartedly. They lack of nothing,
save for children. They tried to conceive for many years, but to no avail, and finally gave up.
That bizarre night, happened on a Friday, their anniversary day. They always celebrated their
anniversary night at the opera because Anne was particularly fond of Italian Opera. They
occupied a box permanently at the Royal Opera House. As their custom, beforehand, they
dined at a cafe near-by, just something light to avoid a full stomach. They had their ice-cream
during the intermission, and, as always, they enjoyed the Royal Opera’s production
Usually, after the show, they would take the black cab back to their apartment at South
Kensington, but that night, Anne wanted to take a short walk, “Dear, let’s take the Tube, we
haven’t done that for years.” Ben obliged, seeing that Anne was in such good spirit, which
was quite rare. He thought it was just going to be a few minutes’ walk to Covent Garden. But
when they reached the Tube at Covent Garden, Anne walked on, “let’s head to Piccadilly
Circus”. It was late, dark, but still busy in London, Ben could see no harm in carrying on, so
he walked with Anne, hand in hand.
Ben could not believe his eyes when he reached Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s busiest
stations. The entrance was fenced off by a white wooden board, with the words “UNDER
CONSTRUCTION” written in bright yellow. “Dear, let’s take the cab.” Ben sensed a shiver
in Anne’s voice; he looked around, there was no cab. “Why is it so damned quiet here? We
should have just taken the cab home as usual!” Ben said crossly as he walked into the center
of the crossroad, no cab, in fact, no car, no people. A chill went up Ben’s spine. “Best not
wait here, we can walk to Oxford Circus, just another 10 minutes!” Anne took off her heels;
they were killing her. Ben quickly took off his black box leather shoes and, helped Anne get
into them.
“I have no memory of that walk to Oxford, nor any recollection of returning to our apartment,
it was as if… as if I were transported there unconsciously. And I felt uncomfortable, not ill,
but our apartment just did not feel like our apartment, something was off, maybe it was the
lighting or… yes! There was a pungent rotten egg smell! I was still in my black suit, but Anne
was already in her nightgown. I thought we should go to my cousin’s place, you know, David,
at least to clear my head of what happened or was happening. I demanded Anne to change,
she was perplexed. We then left our building. Then suddenly, Anne was nowhere to be

“Old chap, take some tea, you look too disturbed, I’m afraid the waiter is going to be
suspicious.” I poured some more earl grey for Ben, and he obligingly sipped on his cup, after
which he eagerly continued with his tale.
“I spotted a tall man in black tux accompanied by a woman in a black overall across the
street, I knew at once that she wasn’t Anne though she was of similar build. I approached
them, hoping to gather some information. I haven’t even opened my mouth, when the tall man
said with a sinister grin “She can’t be here old man, she’s not meant to be here with you.” I
froze! Then I felt a gentle pat on my back, I turned and there was Anne! We were in front of
the entrance of the Piccadilly Circus; people coming up and going down; the street was
normal; streetlamps, cars, cabs, pedestrians – everything was normal!”
Ben did not talk to Anne about that night, because Anne seemed unaware of anything
unusual. I could not offer him any explanation, instead I urged him to visit his doctor, which
we both agreed was a sensible thing to do, after all, our minds play such tricks on us. I
regretted not saying a few more words to console my dear friend, when he was in such a
distressed state, for that was the last time I saw Ben. Three days after our meeting at our usual
café every Tue afternoon, he met with a car accident while crossing the street to Piccadilly
Since then, I have been scratching my head over that bizarre night. The next Friday night, I
took the same route as Ben and Anne did, but there was nothing unusual. I spoke to Anne at
Ben’s funeral about that bizarre night. Anne’s account was far different from Ben’s:
“We walked silently from Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus. Ben was unusually quiet, no…
how should I put it… it was as if he wasn’t there…or rather, I could not feel his presence. And
when we reached Piccadilly Circus he suddenly burst out into tears, grabbed hold of me with
such force and passion, which was also very unlike him.”
I did not tell Anne the whole story Ben related to me for fear of causing her more stress. Later
that week, I received news from our common friends that Anne was pregnant with child and
that she was moving abroad with a cousin of hers. It has been three months since, and I have
not heard from Anne nor received any news of her.
The above is all I could remember of this strange affair. What do you make out of this?


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