And then the signal came. He couldn’t even analyse why it had all the relevant quality, maybe it was the thought-heavy stare of the first person he saw on the platform, an older guy who was handsome, and touched, Bill Rushcroft thought, by life in ways that were hard to gather, that he couldn’t quite get to the bottom of, but seemed written there allusively in the stare, mapping a diagram.
Or maybe it was the slightly different smell, almost like a colour penned in a unique shade; colour that had its own perfume. The carriages came out of the tunnel and he heard the gradual sound of the train coming to a halt. And the doors opened, and he scraped off before he was pushed back by the impatient mob back inside the car.
After a trickle of moments, when the tube had spilled purposefully back into the lightless burrow, a surreal silence swiftly cloaked the whole subterranean complex, and he felt a strange apprehension bubble to the surface. Only a distant rumble of other trains in close but hidden places influenced the flow of coldwarm air, pushing it into his path and around his ears. Then, the echoing eeriness of half-human voices through the tunnels, which were, for the time being, lonesome places.
He’d been here before; the tiled walls, the confusing cross-section of corridors that didn’t seem to go anywhere and the secluded stairwell with its warning sign: ‘106 steps to ground level’ – unnerving when the design was a precarious spiral. Maybe it was just here - at seemingly the furthest point from the platform, and an equal distance from the ticket hall - that he’d met with a fading person coming the other way, and whose face stayed with him for a long time.
He was convinced of it despite the probability that it could have feasibly been any number of these identikit sheen-walled mazes that conjured up many, diffuse feelings; fear and desire two prominent ones, at least in his head. Who had that other person really been? Someone quietly travelling through that space as though they were designed to leave no signs that this slight passage formed part of a route? That body, it was a bit of site-specific furniture that would forever be lost.
© Copyright 2016 John Maher