Through his jaundiced eyes
He can hear, can feel
Foolish rumblings emanating
His backpack lightened as the gravel cracked like bones beneath his feet, the weight disseminating through his body as he slowly drank the water bottles, releasing the liquid he hadn’t drank on to the cracks of the tracks as his belly growled.
It had been a long hot day, and the loving monotony of walking uninterrupted wrapped the world outside in a coma, sieving his consciousness like boiling water through a strainer. The sweat felt good, too, mixed in his shirt and skin, making them one yet separate, like a tarp loosely covering a pile of discarded wood in gentle high winds; he wondered if the rats could smell his scent as it was carried into the train tunnel, his final destination.
He slowly walked up to the its mouth. The pitch-black tunnel ignored him as it emanated a dark energy he had never felt, an energy as dark as its lack of light, a sign to stop and reconsider. He knew nothing of the world he was soon to enter and didn’t know how he would be received, or if he would be greeted at all. He knew that life-long comfort had dulled his sense of misery, the inevitable result of happiness, its inseparable counterpart; a threat largely unthought of.
He stood there for hourish minutes, looking around at the comforting familiar shrouded in light and in trepidation at the piercing clarity of the black. Not even those housed in the warehouse-turned-apartments knew what occurred in the small space left for their neighbors, the Untouchables.
A train passed him; he had taken for granted the normality that it held within. He began to wish for such armor. The people probably questioned his standing there before turning back to their phones. Just a few minutes about to be removed and he missed what he still had.
He had walked miles. There was no point in turning back. In he stepped, foregoing a flashlight like the rest of the tunnel’s squirming still-life, allowing his eyes to acclimate to the darkness.
In the little light that reached its way through the crevices, he was able to make-out a small set of stairs. He would have to walk through the metal valley to reach them, surrounded by two walls of rust that housed various pipes both of metal and metal-strapped silver paper. It was nearly silent except for the close sounds of the speaker announcing distorted time and locations, the echoes swallowing his voice in themselves. The air heated and the walls pulsated, threatening to crush and leave him behind, and the closer he got the further away the stairs moved. Soon he was running. Out of fear more than exertion he panted at the top, looking back to notice any pursuers.
He was now on a platform, track 5B according to a nearby column, the furthermost away from the more often used middle tracks, and here was the misery in company, still as lonely as can be. There was no lone worker sweeping the debris from the miscreants he had come to see, so it was safe, and upon venturing onto the platform, he noticed a slumped figure housed within a flickering light.
It was a Schrodinger’s addict, the small movements of sedated respiration and cryptic finger searches of the ground born of the drug’s molecular miasma. Or maybe just an optical illusion, he thought, from the glittering pulsations of the ancient lightbulb. The photons slightly dripping into life like the tepid pools that formed on the platforms after the veiled rain fell.
Approaching the figure was not mystical, not supernatural, not even horrifying. Though his heart jumped slightly when, while passing the city-log, it lifted a head with whatever energy possessed it, and then its eyes rolled back, and its head dropped toward the chest again. Recovering from the fright, he inspected the figure. The band around the spindly arm was loose, the needle still just barely hung from the flesh, and he thought about what a younger version of himself would say: “Look, a monster! It has a horn!” He wanted to laugh, but quickly stifled it.
As his rear showed to the serene stump, the tunnel began to oscillate, and the glaze of instinct upon his skin and muscles grew thicker. The prickly sensation like TV’s static that had begun earlier was hardly noticeable, but now a cactus grinded away at the skin of his back and, the further he walked away, the worse the feeling grew. The tunnel continued to lengthen, and his breathing became more rapid, pounding steps falling in line with his respiration, simply to keep up with the nobody and noting in front of him. Spiders, maggots, and rats now clawed at the skin, too, the invasion of the cactus causing panic when combined with the urge to escape the boiling fluid of their own waste which he threatened to spew. He twisted to look back to try to relieve the feeling that had crawled onto him and rapidly twisted his muscles with trembling.
No pursuers. There was nobody. He was near the end, and no one waited there. Empty.
He stopped and reversed direction with an impatient stare, catching glimpses of schizophrenic writing on the wall of the station, and walking back he noticed the animals had either been drowned and claimed or reassured and calmed by the receding tides.
Then a booming “Hey!” resounded in that great hall, and, too administered with society’s rules, he turned to the noise and yelled in reply, as what looked like a security guard now approached them. He walked past the comatose man without as much as a glance, angrily telling the one who had just walked and ran and stood 200 feet, a distance longer than miles, that the platform was “not in use” and that he needed to leave “before he called the police”. Friends?, questioned he, but he walked next the security guard in obedience as they made their way to the door at the far-end of the platform, far, far away from the deadened man, and he took a look back as the door closed. He could see the figure no longer.
Within a minute he was back in reality, and the hustling crowds swayed back and forth like panicked grass strangled by weeds. Their pulsations seemed so foreign; he bumped into people as the random patterns returned to his practiced parts, but as he sat on a nearby bench to reacclimate, a malevolence came upon these patterns and never left.
The train remained light against the black as the empty flickering light was passed. The tunnel was finally left behind.