Sometimes you just get an image of something, just one little scene, a moment in time, and you can’t shift the image. Whilst stuck between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park, I was struck by the image that this fragment ends with.
“When will this bloody train get moving?”
Lisa sighed. Always the pinstripes. They’re always the first to complain. Arrogant cocks…
The man in the pinstripe suit pulled out his Blackberry and flicked through his messages. He began to wave it about, as if somehow that would magically re-establish the connection to the network this far below ground. Eventually he conceded defeat to the concrete and earth above them, and returned the device to his pocket. He folded his arms and sank back against the glass partition by the doors of the carriage.
“Great, fucking great. Late for the bloody meeting now.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. She wanted to scream ‘Oh my god, get a life you twat! If you were really as important as you think you are, you wouldn’t be taking the Tube to work!‘ But she didn’t. She bit her tongue, just like she did every day.
It had only been five minutes. And it wasn’t as if the train was packed, for a change. She knew she didn’t have the most important job in the world (no Blackberry, no pinstripe suit – she might as well be invisible…) but did she have the only job in the whole of London where the world wouldn’t end if she was five minutes late?
“Excuse me.” She looked across at the old man sat at the end of the row of seats, just behind the pinstripe twat. He was dressed in a navy blazer with brown cord trousers and a crisp white shirt, high on the starch content.
“Would you happen to know the time?”
“It’s just after nine” Lisa said as she glanced at her watch.
“Oh thank you.” The old man began to pat at his pockets, searching for something. As he patted the breast pocket there was a muffled rattle. He reached in to the blazer pocket and pulled out a small, brown, plastic bottle with a white cap. The pills inside rattled as he struggled to open the lid. “Oh my. I always have problems with these.” His gnarled fingers wrapped around the lid, fumbling to open the safety cap. Lisa reached out and held his hands in hers. “Allow me?” He let the bottle go, and with a gentle twist Lisa opened the bottle.
“Thank you my dear, very kind.” He shook the bottle and allowed two yellow capsules to fall into the palm of his hand. He grasped one between his fingers and brought it to his mouth, his hand trembling slightly. “Would you like some water?” Lisa reached into her shoulder bag and pulled out a the bottle she always carried with her, just in case. It was gratefully received, and the elderly gentleman swallowed the pills quickly.
The tube train lurched forward suddenly, almost throwing Lisa off her feet. “Finally!” exclaimed the man in pinstripes.
The rattling carriages gained speed, as the train hurtled towards the next station. The lights flickered slightly, and the train began to slow again in the tunnel. “Oh come on…”
The complaint from the businessman was drowned out by the crackling of the on-board announcement. The driver began to speak, but in faltering words. “Ummm, ladies and… ladies and gentlemen I’ve just heard from the control room and…”
A pause, and the driver continued, whispering. “Oh god… oh god…” Then louder. “This train is not stopping at the next station, I repeat we have been ordered not to stop at the next station.”
Another lurch, and the train began to accelerate at full speed. Lisa noticed passengers beginning to look at each other, concern evident on their faces. She couldn’t help thinking “eye contact on the Underground? It must be serious!”.
It felt unnatural, to be approaching the station at speed – seasoned commuters got a sense for the subterranean world, and could tell that they simply should not be moving this fast at this point in the tunnel.
“Please, do not look out of the windows, DO NOT LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOWS!!!”
Human beings are naturally inquisitive. And such an instruction, despite the best intentions, merely caused all the passengers to look out as the carriages sped past the platform. The old man, the pinstripe twat, everyone. Lisa knew that none of them would forget what they saw, as the lights on the platform flickered on and off, before the train re-entered the tunnel and obscured their view.
Dozens of them, strewn across the platform, twisted and unnatural. Spattered with crimson. Their fellow passengers, now nothing more.
As the charnel house vanished from sight, Lisa froze as she saw a dark shape hunched over the bodies…