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Flashbacks: the traffic noises mirroring some other system as it goes through its motions, strange bursts from buses and creaking vans. But this was a system with its own quirks – surprising clangs that appeared in staccato fashion, those always loud enough to throw street walkers off-guard, so that their own shrieks resembled the sudden yelp from a tripped-over unseen dog.

Bill watched intently, focused in on the moment and gliding abilities of those around him, and, as feet trampled the metal stairs, also zoned in on the mishmash of footwear – ragged and spotless. Nike. Asics. Scuffed black loafers. Reebok Classic. Superga. Bronze brogues. More Nikes. All colours, all varieties.

That underground musk, that tempting cologne. A million tales - or more - wrapped up in the signature scent. Meshed in with the thousands of faces and their attached stories, the faces and the bodies transformed into a molten river, bending and bobbing down the escalators. He, willingly, merely skimmed their presence.

Years of dissatisfaction had eroded his ability to cope, and maybe he was just pretending to begin with anyway – was it always a consenting, knowing acceptance, or an acquiescence, in a bid to survive, a futile bid to put up with it all? Now the rot had set in. Legs at full tempo into the network. Wires from walls. Sparks from tracks. Wrought-iron densities. His desire to get out of there, and to get closer - somewhere - to a more vital source, one closer to his inner feeling, for the time being offset any aggression towards his fellow travellers.

Trains arrived in droves – this meant that somehow the people, bunched in like bees, were somehow all gobbled up, disappearing from what were more often than not dangerously crowded concourses and corridors.

The dark network was alluring because it was never inhabited by the same sense of place twice. Maybe in terms of raw space - bald data and figures - it could be quantified, but that was numbers on a page and not the tangible reality. Scenarios were boundless. William Rushcroft thought of it as a temporary world, one which offered pros and cons. Anonymity provided a great luxury – that of being able to float around this mole-warren-like terrain quite freely. But it also diminished his opportunities to fully realise the crux of the magic, or to bring to prominence the face of whatever lingered somewhere within the maze’s climate of archived promises.

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© Copyright 2016 John Maher