A young woman meets an itinerant young man in a deserted bus station and tries to avoid conversation with him. When he gets on the same bus as her, and waxes rhapsodic about the wonders of darkness, she shares a terrible story from her past, which helps her to integrate the good and the horrible in that trauma.
Strantzas was recommended to me as a writer working a similar vein to Robert Aickman, and this story is certainly Aickman-like in many ways. It inhabits interstitial spaces – the deserted bus station, the dark bus with its windows turned to mirrors, the protagonist’s feeling of being caught between home and college, past and present. While it’s never explicitly “weird” or supernatural, there’s a strange dread to the story that seems to be more than just the protagonist’s understandable discomfort about this strange man who may or may not be stalking her with the intention of extracting a dark story from her. The man’s name is always “Charlie Hand” – never “Charlie”, never “Hand” – which put me in mind of “Arnold Friend” from Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”; while Charlie Hand is never overtly menacing, there’s something more than a little disquieting about him.