Socrates slowly opened his eyes, while lying in the middle of the wreckage. It was difficult to see anything in the dim light. But he could hear something moving. Shhh. Shhh! Something was with him and moving about the wreckage of the train car. He strained his eyes, darting them back and forth, always a few seconds too late to catch up to the next sound.
A sharp pain moved up his leg. He covered his mouth to muffle the moan. When he looked up again, he saw a figure, covered in shadow, moving.
The air, heavy with the dust of pulverized concrete and debris, squeezed a cough from his lungs. The head of the shadowy figure quickly turned in his direction. Socrates couldn’t see any features, but he could feel its eyes move across him. For a moment it stood there motionless, listening for more sound, searching for the source of the sound. It moved closer to him. And then a bit closer. It stopped. It was now looking straight at Socrates. As it got closer, it shined a light on him, that grew in size upon approach.
He looked up and recognized the young woman with the headphones. She held up her cell phone, near her face; It was partially covered and caked with dust. Her hood hung slack on her back. Socrates looked into her eyes and welcomed the shared fear and sadness circling and threading their way through them. “Help me, please.” He said as the taste of copper trickled into his mouth.
She flashed the light from her phone over the rest of his body and noticed he had a pinned leg. “Hold on a second.” She said as she looked around for something to pry it free. She grunted as she put her weight and muscle against the fulcrum of the railing. “Slide out, if you can.”
He pulled himself out and stood on his feet.
“Are you okay?” She asked.
“My leg hurts a lot, but yeah… I think I’m okay.”
They assessed the aftermath while looking around for a way out. One of the windows was open just enough with nothing blocking an egress on the outside. Socrates took a step forward and nearly fell. Shining the light from his phone on the floor, he could see they were walking on the soft bodies of the dead passengers. Oh my god, he thought to himself. As the harsh blue light of his phone crawled over the dead, he could see faces shrouded in terror as they confronted their last moments. The loose clothing of the dead slid over the bodies as they tried to carefully choose places to step on their way to the window.
A dead woman, wearing a jean jacket, with her hair hiding her face, lay in front of the window, partially blocking the lower half. They would have to move her to get out. Socrates reached around her torso to lift her. He breathed in shallowly as he dealt with the uneven distribution of the weight of her body. Each rag doll piece moved independently under the influence of gravity; her arms; then neck and head. Oh god! He lay her down, gently, out of respect, but she was positioned incorrectly. As soon as he backed up, she flopped onto the floor. This can’t be happening, he thought to himself.
Once on the outside of the train car, they headed toward the platform, a ways down the tracks.
* * *
Socrates pulled himself up onto the platform and rolled over onto his back while panting. “Can we stop for a minute? My leg is killing me.”
He sat on a bench and looked down. From the side of his knee, a cut trailed blood. He took off his shirt and tied it around his leg, tightly. Laying his head against the subway wall, he took several deep breaths to compose himself. “By the way, my name is Socrates… but my friends call me ‘Sox.'”
She dropped down next to him. “Sanaa.”
“Well…I guess I’ll be calling in sick today.” He said. She offered no acknowledgement that she had heard him.
They sat on a bench bathed in the emergency lighting of the subway caverns. “Hey, I wanna…I wanna thank you for helping me back there.” Socrates said to Sanaa.
She shook her head in response,”Yeah.” Dismissing the effort.
They sat in silence for several minutes.
Socrates rubbed some pebbles away from his cut leg and said. “So a guy and a giraffe walk into a bar. The guy and the giraffe get pissy drunk…The giraffe falls over and the man gets up and walks away. The bartender shouts, ‘Hey, you can’t leave that lyin’ there.’ The guy says, ‘It ain’t a lion, it’s a giraffe.'”
Sanaa looked at him. Her face a blank expression in response to his joke.
Socrates rubbed his chin. “It was a…a giraffe, the word lying not lion. I don’t know if you know this, but laughter is a good stress reliever……You get it…It was a-”
“I get it.” Sanaa shook her head, before motioning to move on.
Socrates laughed uneasily and said. “That joke flopped in the movie, too. I always thought it was funny, but I guess it’s just a bad joke.” Socrates looked back at his leg.
Sanaa slowly began to smile and then laugh. Socrates followed. After a while, his laughter slowly turned into crying. He placed his face in his hands. “All of those people. Just lying there-”
Sanaa sat for a few seconds and simply watched him. “I can remember standing at a crosswalk, about a couple of weeks back, waiting for a car to pass me.” She put her hand on Socrates’ back. “I mean the car was crawling and I’m like c’mon, hurry up! The car was going just fast enough to keep me on the curb and just slow enough for me to want to try and make it across. When the car passed by, I could see an old guy was driving. I thought to myself why in the hell do old people always drive so slowly? You’d think they’d be in a hurry to get wherever it is they’re trying to go, seeing as time is not on their side.”
She sat quietly before continuing to speak. “And then I realized, old people move slower because they want to experience each minute and not rush through them anymore, like they did when they were younger…Let’s hope everyone back there took their time this morning.”
They sat parallel to the tracks. The walls were lined with tiles, like a huge, underground bath house. The subway lights snapped on. “Thank God the lights!” Said Socrates. The columns and rectangular lights overhead angled along a straight line before curling off into the darkness of the tunnel..
There, near the tunnel, they noticed a man standing with his back to them, near the edge of the platform . “Hey! Excuse me sir! Hey!” Yelled Sanaa. The man was dressed in a dark grey suit. He stood silently facing the tracks, waiting on the train. She got up and began to walk over to him. The man was holding a brown leather briefcase in his right hand. Just below his sleeve, resting on his wrist was a cracked watch face; neither hands moved.
“Hey… Sir…” She touched him on the arm and backed away. As the man’s head began to turn and his face came into view, she saw his left eye with a dull sheen covering it. The eye, was vacated of any personality, any soul. It sat just above his finely manicured goatee, glassy and clouded over, symmetrically lined with a closely worn trim. His mouth dropped open as if he were going to ask a question, before the other half of his face came into view; it appeared to be pushed in or smashed in – blood everywhere, some of it drying already. Gestalt in principle, her mind filled in the missing half of the picture. “Sir?” The remaining eye swiveled to focus on Sanaa before the man began to step toward her slowly. His mouth snarled as he reached out to grab her, but missed. He reached for her again, grabbing the sleeve of her hoodie. She struggled to get free before pushing him back. “Let go. Please let go!” The man stumbled backward and fell over the edge of the platform and onto the tracks. She moved closer to the edge to catch a glimpse of the man, writhing as he attempted to roll over to right himself. Is this for real, she thought. Look at his head… And his eye…Are those brains… showing through matted hairs? No way! The moment was interrupted by the sounds of a man screaming and calling for help, further down the platform and around the corner.
Socrates and Sanaa ran toward his screams. As the man came into view, their eyes widened. He was running with a child looped around his neck, biting it. The man tumbled to the ground. The child took another bite, blood squirted into the air with more blood rushing into the wound. The man crawled for a few more feet before collapsing. The child repeatedly bit into his neck like the flesh of an apple; the juice and pulp ran out the sides of the child’s mouth while it’s other arm, a bloody stump, robbed of it’s purpose, flailed in the air.
Socrates looked at Sanaa, “What the fuck!?”
A little further down the platform, they could see three people huddled over a woman. On first glance they appeared to be crouched in piety. They reached inside her and pushed her organs into their faces, gorging themselves on her flesh. Just a few feet away, next to them, were two more people chewing on the arm and back of a man who lie on the floor twitching.
The little boy spotted Socrates and Sanaa. He began to crawl, insect-like, over his meal and move toward them. Socrates was locked in place by the irony the young boy represented. He wore a horizontal striped shirt with small jeans fit for a little person. His innocent locks, twisted and hung in his face. However this murderous little toddler’s plump cheeks were stained with blood and hung with pieces of flesh. In the distance, Socrates could heard Sanaa’s voice yell, “Run! We need to get to the stairs and out of here.”
Just before the sinister, little cherub was on top of Socrates, he was batted away and onto the tracks with a clean swing. Sanaa dropped the garbage can and yelled again from the distance, “Run!”
Time was picking back up. What appeared to Socrates to be Sanaa’s slow motion running was now gaining speed and coming into focus. “Run!” This time her voice sounded like it was right next to him. The other dead people who were hunched over and feeding began to stand up and move toward them; snarling, growling, and moaning with hunger.
Socrates and Sanaa sprinted toward the steps. “Shit! Look down on the tracks there are even more of them!” Said Socrates. The turnstiles were on the other side. And just beyond them would be the steps up to the street.
As they ran up the stairs, they could smell the fresh air of a Summer day as it tumbled down the steps. Just above, they could see salvation as they became bathed in the daylight, street-side, above the maw of the hell that was present back inside the subway.
by malakhai jones
© Copyright 2016