The end of the line
Carly stepped into the carriage and sat down. She’d had a horrible journey. She was surprised to find the carriage empty, but then it was late and near the end of the line. She wasn’t complaining, it was a relief. She closed her eyes and eased her feet out of her shoes. She hated commuting. Only today while making her way to South Kensington on the circle line a man had asked if she wanted a seat. Bloody cheek. “I’m not pregnant!” She’d snapped. He’d looked away embarrassed, so he should be, she’d thought. The truth was she did want a seat but she wasn’t about to take one from an elderly man who needed it more than her. Chauvinist pig. He had flushed a deep red and the other commuters had all stared over at him. She didn’t feel bad about that though, why would she feel bad about it. She rested her head against her hand, closed her eyes and listened to the silence. She knew she should make the most of it, this was the last bit of quiet she would have until the weekend was over. She wasn’t looking forward to getting home to the child; the noisy demanding child she wished she’d never had. She opened her eyes as another commuter stepped in. A young man with a brief case. Carly closed her eyes again, she wasn’t in the mood to be chatted up and he looked like the type who fancied himself.
Graham did fancy himself. He looked at the girl on the tube wondering if she was worth chatting up. She wasn’t, he decided. She had fat legs and her stomach fell over the top of her jeans. She was no-where near fit enough for him to bother with. He’d seen her eyes flicker over him as he entered so he knew she was interested but he was out of her league and poor cow didn’t realise it. The girl had her eyes closed so he checked her out anyway, out of habit. I bet she’s got a kid, he thought looking again at her stomach. She was well into her thirties so it was likely. He looked away and smiled to himself, remembering his journey. The train from Westminster had been packed, he liked that. He’d taken his time choosing the right girl, they had to be the right height so it would look like an accident. He went for the timid looking ones, tourists were good. Today he’d found the perfect one, young, maybe not even twenty and tall. She had long dark thick hair. He’d squeezed through the crowded carriage pretending to find a space and slipped in tightly behind her. He kept his hands at his sides and pushed his crotch slightly forward, not too obvious, so that his cock rested neatly between her buttocks. He let the tube do the rest. She had tried to move away but the train was too busy, she had nowhere to go. She’d turned to look at him a couple of times but he kept his eyes firmly on his phone, feigning innocence. He was well practiced at it. He stretched his legs out and rested his hands behind his head, he was looking forward to getting home; he had some photographs he wanted to look over. He was lost in his thoughts when the third passenger joined the train.
John didn’t like being out this late. Trains made him nervous. There were some weird people out there, he should know. He was relieved to see the other two passengers, they both looked fairly normal. He sat at the other end of the carriage, as far as he could from them, you couldn’t trust anyone these days. He glanced at the woman and for a moment thought she was the one he had shouted at earlier but it couldn’t be, she didn’t have a kid with her. He clenched his hands together, the anger of his earlier angry exchange fizzed in his veins. He’d been coming down the escalator, it was one of the long ones
that took him deep into the bowels of the underground. He’d been in a hurry to get home so walked down the fast side past the lazy commuters who stood still on the moving stairs. Half way down the escalator he’d been forced to stop. He stretched his head round the man in front of him and saw the cause of the jam. His anger flared immediately. It was a bloody stupid woman with a pushchair, who would bring a push chair on the escalator? “Come on” he’d shouted and the man in front of him had turned round saying he couldn’t get past. “Just bloody push past her will you.” He’d leant into the man who’d been forced to grab onto the side to stop himself falling forward. The man had then squeezed in behind the woman with pushchair so that John was directly behind her. He’d seen that it was heavily laden on both sides with shopping bags that left no space to pass. John wasn’t going to let that stop him, he was in a hurry to get home, he wanted a drink and he wanted to see Margie. Hot with anger he’d begun to kick at the bags, kicking them against the pushchair. The woman had shouted at him
to stop but he kept kicking the bags, making space for himself. The child began to cry, bloody children. He’d kicked at the bags even harder forcing one of them into the face of the child who’d stopped crying abruptly. Finally he’d been able to push past her. By then they were nearly at the bottom, what a waste of time. He’d walked to the end of the platform, not wanting to see the woman again, not because he’d felt bad but because by then he couldn’t trust himself. He’d reached that stage. His fists had felt hot and hard in his pockets. Margie better have his tea ready he’d thought. The door of the tube shut bringing him back to the present. He realised that he was rocking back and forth on the seat of the tube. He looked up and saw that both the other commuters were looking at him. He swore to himself and returned his gaze to the floor. Then the train stared to move.
It started slowly, warming up as it left the lights of the platform and thundered through the tunnel coming out over-ground. Carly pulled her cardigan around her, the air seemed to have an unusual chill to it. She leaned forward on her knees resting her head in her hands. Her eyes were drawn, past the strange little man rocking in his chair, to the window at the back of the carriage. Something struck her as different and then she noticed with a little rush of adrenaline that there was no carriage behind them. She had got on the front carriage, she was sure she had. She always liked to be near the driver, just in case, but that would mean this was a single carriage train. That wasn’t right. She sat back holding her hands on the edge of the chair and looked around. She turned to the window behind her and cupped her hand to her face so she could see out into the darkness. There was definitely no carriage behind them. The train began to pick up speed and as it did so the lights flickered out. Carly gasped and heard the younger man do the same.
Graham stood up and went to the window of the door, “there’s only one carriage,” he said.
“Yes, I noticed that too, is that right?”
John didn’t speak.
Carly stood up, “why are we going so fast?” She saw fields rushing past, they didn’t usually pass fields “I don’t know where we are!” She thought about Olivia at home with the baby sitter. For the first time, maybe ever, she felt a pang of longing. She wanted to go home. She looked back out of the window and saw a mist closing in around the carriage. It was unlike any mist she had seen before, thick and luminous. Shapes seemed to swirl within it. She stared into it and for a moment she saw a child’s face. Olivia with her face stained with tears and pain. Carly backed away from the window and sat down with a whimper. She’d seen that face before, it was the face Olivia made when Carly pinched her hard on the arm this morning for dropping her cereal. She’d been careful not to leave a mark, she always was, but she liked to make the little girl cry. It made her feel in control. She felt sick, the train was going faster still. “Something’s wrong” she said.
Graham ignored her, his heart was racing but he wasn’t about to show it. “Its fine” he murmured mostly to himself. “Look at the mist” the woman said and he did. As it swirled on front of him a face appeared and then disappeared immediately, replaced by a different face, and then another. A stream of women appeared to him, each for a split second only. The last one was the only one he recognised, it was his flat mate. He knew her face well, he had some pictures of it in a locked drawer by his bed. They were pictures he had taken of her when she’d been sleeping and he had slipped into her room and pulled back her bedclothes. Pictures of her naked and sleeping. He banged his fist on the window and the images disappeared. He felt a moment of relief, he was imagining it, but then he looked down. “There are no tracks” he said.
This got Johns attention. He lent his face against the window. The guy was right, they were going so fast he couldn’t make out where they were but below was grass and mud. No tracks. The mist pressed against the glass and as he looked into it he saw a face. He only saw it for a second but it was unmistakeable. It was Margie with her face swollen, blood dripping from her lips and a black eye. He’d seen her look like that before, he had done that to her.
The three of them stood up now, the carriage throwing them from side to side as it bounced through the night picking up speed until it seemed to be flying. Carly dropped to the floor and hugged her knees, weeping loudly “Stop pinching me.” John noticed a wet parch seeping from beneath her. He moved away. Graham ran to the front of the carriage banging on the door, shouting loudly. He turned to the others.
“There has to be a driver?”
John didn’t have time to reply, he felt his face contort, as if unseen hands were attacking him. Blows came from every side and he felt his eyes begin to swell up until they were forced to close. He sat down on the seat unable to speak or move. Suddenly the noise of the train stopped. It was moving faster than ever and yet it had become completely silent in the carriage. Graham looked out of the window again and a succession of bright flashes came from outside. He closed his eyes from them and when he opened them again he saw that the walls of the carriage were plastered with photographs of himself. In them he was naked and his legs were splayed, his genitals in full view. He began to scream, banging his hands against the window. Carly joined him, urine running down her leg she didn’t seem to see the photographs. Only John remained silent and Graham noticed that he had his eyes closed.
The lights flickered as the train began to slow down. “Its stopping” Carly’s voice was hoarse from shouting but had an air of optimism about it, “It’s going to stop.”
They stood together unable to see what was outside because of the bright light in the carriage. The lights went out again as they slowed to a walking pace.
“Where are we?” Carly whispered.
“I don’t know.”
John still did not speak.
The lights went out again and ahead of them was a glow. It seemed to come up from the ground and stretched like a huge puddle of light across the field.
“What is it?” Graham was getting fed up with her questions.
The hole was the size of a football pitch and as they neared it they could see that it was illuminated by lots of little lights rather than one large one. They could make out shapes in the hole, like a thousand phone boxes lying down on top of each other.
“Carriages” Graham said “It’s full of fucking carriages.”
They screamed and shouted and banged against the windows and walls as the train pulled up to the edge of the hole. They could hear distant screams below them as the carriage slipped over the edge and thundered down into the pit. They were thrown around the carriage as they tumbled down. The air roared around them as they bounced against metal and earth until they came to a screeching, rocking, stop on top of the other carriages.
Johns head thudded against the ceiling and he landed heavily on the arm of a chair. He was silent after that. Carly held on a pole and only broke her arms. She wept quietly on the floor and didn’t try to move. Only Graham still tried to escape. He pulled his broken body up to the window, knocking with bloody fists against the glass, calling for help. It was another call for help that stopped him. He saw a face in the window of the carriage beside them, another person knocking weakly at the glass. Graham moved to the other end and looked out in a different direction. He saw another carriage, another face. He dragged himself from window to window, filled with horror but unable to stop looking. Every carriage was full of people, some moving, some not. He rested his head against the glass and joined the chorus around him. They banged their fists against the glass and called for help, knowing it would never come.