unfinished short story

 

The sweet and heavy smell of trash pervades the roof of my mouth. It was slowly nearing nine in the morning, and I was walking west towards Times Square at 46th street, which was already a bustle and tussle of tourists and suits. The morning’s subtle splendor that befalls the city at dawn had fallen hard by now, and in its place was

I stopped moving a block or so away and noticed a puddle on the ground, nestled on the corner alongside a high concrete curb. A building ripples with the warm breeze, swaying gently on the asphalt, while across the street life-size fuzzy cartoon characters stand idly by, their dirt and greed veiled by goofy painted smiles.

I make my way down to the one train against a flood of those just departed. “Where do you think you’re going?” Says one with his eyes. “You just missed it — what’s your hurry!?” cries one with his shoulder. I slow to barely walking letting gravity take my legs as I make my way down the short staircase. It’s hotter underground, I think and continue against the wind that burns my eyes and ears. Indeed, the dragon had just departed.

I make my way against the stragglers from the front of the train, who are obviously in no hurry, and I sit at the furthest seat on the furthest bench. I lower my head and close my eyes, because of that hot wind I had walked all this way through mostly closed lids. I hear a drummer across the way, thumping and clanking, slow yet melodious rapping against empty trash cans or paint buckets, but the beat remained fixed in a way that seemed odd, so I scanned the opposite platform across the four sets of tracks and saw a woman in grey work clothes wheeling a huge trash barrel on wheels, thumping and clinking against the grooves in the cement, thump-clink-clink and a long drag. Thump clink clink drag… (No drummer at all, just the music of work and the sounds of refuse.)

Still sitting on the bench I hear, “Because of a train derailment at 125th street…” The announcement came buzzing loudly from the ceiling, and I noticed an elderly woman next to me covering her ears, preparing for an auditory onslaught. Then I saw it. The train across the way, the downtown express, came hurtling towards us. The woman’s eyes remained fixed on the metal spirit as it launched into the air, and they shone bright against its flickering lights. Clank clank thrash! The two ton monstrosity ripped towards us making shreds of itself against intermittent metal poles like silver cheese through an industrial grater. Grumbling whirling wheeling and squealing. Flecks of metal, bits of glass are whizzing past but all I could hear was this dark and heavy drone, like a dying whale, like a mechanical sigh. Thrashing overhead, heaving itself like a lost soul expelled from centuries of oppression, that sound rained down as the train moved so slowly through the air. My eyes glued to one car in particular, one set of eyes within the car as the train moved slowly towards us, a young girl moved off her seat, through the car. Car and girl into the air. Her eyes raised and revealed no terror, just a slow and steady recognition with a mouth slightly agape.

She had on a black dress with small white patches that looked like a photo-negative of a Dalmatian’s markings or puffy clouds in a moonless midnight sky. Her dress remained still, her eyes remained fixed, full and open. Her white wire headphones swayed forward gently and she glided like an astronaut through the car towards the window.

Upon impact, a floodgate was released and everything came crashing back to tempo. All the sounds that had been muted rang out loud and hard. A squealing descant of emergency brakes locking, vainly grabbing hold of the bits of track that it could. People screaming, on the platform in the train. And the train itself was a cacophonous symphony of destruction. Strange blasts of cold air from the cars’ air conditioning came whistling passed up and escaped like spirits through the sewer grate above.

It was like an assault. Heat and frigid air, deep drones and delirious descants, screaming and open-mouthed shock. It all came pressing against me.

 

ricocheting through time, like pinballs lost through shards of glass like stars flickering against dark soot-filled tunnel.

she — who was no longer a girl or woman but limbs and an expression of lost wonder.

blood like florescent lights surround vacant space on faces like masks of themselves, frozen in time.

 

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