When dusk falls and the city sleeps, I awake.
The steps beckon, so I descend to the depths of the subway. I’m a night-creature:
unshaven, red-eyed, and dishevelled. Fast-food bag remnants flutter past, and fresh
chewing-gum adorns the stone.I tread the cold platform; feeble lights shine off dirty
tiled walls. Buzzing fluorescence permeates my consciousness, and a nearby light
flickers: once, twice, then dies.
The edge calls, and I sit, dangling my legs, ignoring the petulant white line.
Warm, fusty wind blows in my face from the tunnel. Fresh air that isn’t fresh.
An imitation–like my life.
The hush hangs heavy, discarded fries and scattered newspaper my
only companions. I squint in the sickly light, nausea building in me from
that off-white glare.
A disembodied voice announces the next train. They run through the night,
not caring if anyone alights. Perhaps they run for the ghosts and demons: the
unseen visitors who taunt me and tell me not to move.
I can’t put the thought away. If I stay, the train will crush my legs.
Pain may bring me clarity.
But I’m not ready for that yet. I want to see her one more time.
I scramble up, the clanking carriages loud in the platform’s silence.
The doors grind open, and the mechanical voice above states the destination.
Jumping on the empty carriage, I could be the last human being left, traversing
in a world that keeps going without us.
I sit on a plastic chair. The clatter of the rails invades my thoughts, and the
white noise fills my mind. Station walls turn to black tunnels, and I’m alone, in a
tube, the train’s engines blanking everything else out. I sway to the rhythm,
losing myself in its perpetuity.
We pull up at the next station where three lines meet. Empty platforms
stare back at me, separated by tracks lying in black dips.
I press my nose to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. This
moment, when I am between waking and sleeping, she sometimes appears.
A train rushes in from the opposite direction. I peer forward, hands
shaking as I grasp the cold metal pole.
She travels the lines, too, and we always cross paths and never
meet. I wonder if she looks for me, or if her ghostly journey dooms her to
retread her final moments.
The other train pulls out. My heart quickens, and I clench my fist
around the pole.
There she is, standing on the edge of the platform, in glorious technicolour.
She is the real one, and I am the dream. My eyes fall into long exposure,
as I gaze on her yellow hair, her blue dress, her neat shoes.
I can never shake that image. It reinforces the burn in my brain.
And I never want that burn to heal.
My train accelerates, and I stretch to catch a final glimpse.
When she is gone, I slump in my seat and give myself up to
the white noise.
I reach the end of the line, an overground station, and sit on the cold
steel bench in the grey dawn. Icy metal on the back of my legs chills my body.
The empty station platform infuses me with leftover energies of those who walk its
slabs daily. I do not feel anything of my own; I’m only sustained by the memories
of those who have walked before.
I cannot follow her; I lack the courage. Life was untenable for us both,
and she was the braver one.
The images fill my mind. How she stepped off the platform. How the
oncoming train swallowed her up.
And now, she has cursed me to ride the rails for ever, not strong enough to follow
her, not strong enough to walk away. Standing in that in-between land, the dusk
of life, passing in the aftermath of those who truly live.
Elise Edmonds is a new writer from the South-West UK. Reading and writing have always been her
doorways into another world—a way to escape and spend time walking with wizards, flying with
fairies and dealing with dragons. By day she is a finance professional, and in her spare time she
pursues writing as a creative outlet, to put the magic back into everyday life. In addition to reading,
Elise enjoys watching movies, playing the piano, and going to Zumba classes. Her greatest loves
are God, her husband, her family and friends, and her two beautiful cats.
Image by Debbie Berk