I wrote a new short story and I’d love to hear what you think about it.
One florescent light, its cover open, bounced with the movement of the car. She watched the cover swing backward and forward as the train moved along turning sharply first left, then right. As the cover swung in front of the light, it caused a strange plastic flicker. So smooth was the train’s movement, the yellow flicker of light was the only sign that they were speeding along underground at 30 miles per hour. There was a mass grave of dead flies stuck in the corner of the light. It struck her as curious. They were not underground insects; how did they come to die here?
The plastic seats were hard and uncomfortable and an ugly shade of brown-orange, faded gray under the constant harshness of the florescent yellow. She shifted her not so easy weight in the seat, but could not make herself more comfortable. Giving up, she slumped back down, feeling the tiny round bolts make a depression into her back. She pulled her large green overcoat more tightly around her.
She lurched slightly as the train slowed. It broke in front of a dark station and the doors opened. She deflected her eyes from the platform as a lone man entered. He was dark and thin. His expression was slightly haunted, as though he had drifted into the car by accident. He blinked once as he looked up at the florescent light. The train began to move again, but he did not sit down. His black eyes scanned the car. He spotted her and for a brief moment a look of recognition seemed to cross his face, but it disappeared quickly. He chose a seat that faced her at the other end of the car from her, in a shadow. The train sped onwards.
It was not long before the train slowed again. This time the station was brightly lit. The light was white and made her squint in contrast to the yellow light of the car. A woman entered; she was young and dressed in white, her red hair was long but matted and wet. She wore a thin golden chain around her neck with the letter “O” dangling from it. She held a small child in her arms; he was sleeping against his mother’s chest (for she must have been his mother as his tufty hair was the same dark red). She slid into the first open seat she came to, bouncing her son slightly as he stirred. She did not look at her fellow passengers but kept her head down, staring at a point somewhere on the brown carpet of the train. She brushed her lips against her infant son’s head.
The train began to move again. The three passengers of the train did not look at each other. They did not speak. They simply sat quietly as the car rattled along. The loud woosh of the wind as train journeyed was the only sound. Three more stations passed and no one entered or exited the car. The first passenger shifted again in her plastic chair. The dark man in the corner took off the hood of his sweatshirt. The young woman rocked her child.
A sixth time the train door opened. This time another young woman entered. Her dark hair was tousled and her mascara left dark streaks around her eyes. Her clothes were expensive looking, but grimy. She also had the look of someone who wasn’t sure where she was. The stench of stale alcohol was strong on her, and the first passenger rubbed her nose.
She, unlike her fellow passengers, did not remain silent. She took her seat next to the first passenger and looked at her with bemusement.
“What is this?” she asked.
“The Alighieri Line.” Her voice was sharp, but it cracked as though it had not been used for a long time. She had a harsh accent that might have been Italian.
The young mother kept her head hung as if she was afraid to look this newcomer in the eye, but fingered the “O” around her neck. Still, the last passenger glanced around curiously. “I’ve never taken the metro,” she said.
“What’s your name?”
The first passenger looked at her with scrutiny. She measured the woman’s face for a moment before answering, “Bea.” She said it short as though it was the end of the conversation. The newcomer didn’t seem to notice. After all, her voice was not unkind.
“That’s an unusual name.” She looked at Bea expectantly, as though waiting for her to speak, but she didn’t. When it became clear that she wasn’t going to get a response, she spoke again. “I’m Lucy.”
The woman called Bea nodded without looking at Lucy. She opened the giant straw bag she was carrying and started to rummage through it. It seemed that she could not find what she was looking for as she set the bag down on the floor of the car. There was a cacophony of metal on metal as the train took a sharp turn.
Lucy began to pull on her dark hair and bouncing her crossed leg. “I’ve never ridden the metro before,” Lucy said again. The train slowed slightly; the dark man in the shadows shifted in his seat, but did not stand. The baby whimpered.
“I’m not even really sure how I got here,” Lucy said with a sardonic laugh, “I meant to take a cab home.” She did not seem to notice that Bea finally was showing an interest in her. She looked at Lucy with a sideways smile and knowing eyes. Lucy, however, stared straight ahead and did not see this.
“I can barely remember what happened,” Lucy continued. The young red headed mother in the corner raised her eyes for the first time to look at Lucy. Stale tear streaks were evident beneath her pale eyes. “I wonder why my friends didn’t come with me.”
Lucy scratched her bare shoulder and shuddered at little. When she looked at her hand, there was the slightest hint of blood on her bright pink fingernails. “Oops,” she said, “Guess I scratched myself.” Her voice seemed to raise a pitch as she said it. The man in the shadows suddenly stood up from his seat. He walked forward and took a seat next to the young woman holding her child. She moved over to give him room.
“It’s New Year’s, you know,” Lucy said, “We were celebrating, my friends and me.” The train screeched again and slowed, but it did not stop. The four people on the train lurched again in their seats. Lucy grabbed a metal bar to steady herself. “I don’t think I like the metro very much.”
The other three passengers all looked at Lucy now with a curious expression. Lucy shuddered and looked away from them. “It’s strange really,” she said, “I even brought extra money for a taxi. I wonder why I didn’t call one.”
Lucy uncrossed and recrossed her legs. Her knee continued to bounce. “Which line did you say this was?” she asked again, looking at Bea.
However, it was not Bea that answered. This time, the dark young man spoke up with a voice so low, Lucy almost did not hear him. “The Faust Line.” His voice too was heavy with an accent that might have been from Eastern Europe.
Lucy shook her head at him. “No it isn’t. That’s not what she said before,” she indicated the woman sitting to her right.
“They are one in the same.”
Lucy squinted and then closed her eyes. She shivered slightly. “Such strange names,” she murmured, “I don’t think I’ve heard of them before.”
Bea made to pat her on the shoulder. Lucy stiffened at the touch. “I’m sure you have heard of them, dear,” Bea assured, “Otherwise, why would you be here?”
“I don’t know why I’m here,” Lucy said. This time her voice betrayed a hint of fear.
“Just think, dear, I’m sure you will remember if you try.”
Lucy looked at her. “I just want to go home.” Her voice whimpered a little. She sounded like a small child.
Bea smiled reassuringly. “We are all going home. That’s why we are on the train.”
Lucy looked unsure. “Where does this train go?”
Bea smiled but made no answer. Lucy asked again, this time directing the question to all, “Where does it go?”
The sad young woman whispered the answer this time. Her voice was kind and musical, but drenched with pain. “To the end of the line.”
“That’s not an answer,” Lucy rebuffed.
“It is the only answer,” the dark man responded.
“I don’t understand what you mean!” Lucy exclaimed. It was obvious that she was nervous now. She sprang up from her seat and the yellow florescent light flickered above her. “Why am I alone?”
Bea cocked her head to one side and raised her eyebrows. “You’re not alone, we’re all here together.”
“But who are you? I don’t know you!”
“Of course you know who we are. Think.”
Lucy was crying now, her tears streaming down her face faster than she could wipe them away. She didn’t say anything but leaned against the metal pole as though it were her life support. She looked at each of the other passengers in turn. They all looked back at her, waiting. Lucy shut her eyes and screwed her face in concentration. Tears continued to bubble under her closed lids. She took a deep breath and slowly sat back down. There was a look of relief that flooded her face, a sense of calm that had not been there before.
“I did take a cab,” she said softly, “I know that I did.”
Bea nodded knowingly. The lights flickered softly as the car journeyed on. The young red headed woman fixed her stare back on her son. The dark man put his hood back on. Bea shifted in her seat. Lucy wiped the tears from her eyes, spreading a mascara trail across her cheeks. “How much longer till we get there?” she asked.
“Not too much longer. We are almost there.”
The train took one more turn through a dark tunnel, its headlights fading slightly as the train began to slow for the last turn. The florescent light overhead flickered.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.