The Underdog and Under-Underdogs have only gone and done it again, Dear Reader…
Yep, this time I have two stories included: ‘Morning Run’ (a real short short)…
*Hot cross buns, Clicky? …/ponders… Hmm, kinda but no, knot really…*
…and ‘The Inchoate Egg’, which is a follow up to ‘Secret Santa‘ and Harry’s horrible Christmas…
*That’s right, Clicky… ;)*
… Anyhoo, I thought I’d post one of my stories from Anthology Vol. I, for you today, Dear Reader, so here is ‘Mind The Gap’…
Amanda woke with a start. She hadn’t meant to sleep on the journey but the warmth of the carriage and soft whine of electrical tracks, coupled with the denseness of the report she’d been reading had lulled her into unwanted sleep.
“That was my foot.” A sharply dressed woman scowled down at her as the wall of bodies pressed together in front, swaying with the motion of the tube train.
Embarrassed, Amanda reached down to retrieve the report that had slipped from her lap. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled to the reddening dent on the bridge of the woman’s high heeled foot. With a look of disdain, the woman turned her back on Amanda.
The carriage no longer felt pleasantly warm as it had when she took a seat earlier at the start of her journey. It had become uncomfortably hot. Her mouth felt dry and the cloying smell of a dozen different perfumes, cologne and deodorant filled her nose. Amanda stuffed the report into the bag stashed behind her legs and wondered how far she’d travelled. The black tunnel walls rushing past behind her gave no clue and the bobbing heads above obscured her view of any map or sign showing the next station stop.
The tube started to slow. Keen to get out of the stifling heat, Amanda rose, knees audible popping which embarrassed her further. She pushed forward, through the tightly packed commuters, toward the carriage doors, dragging her heavy bag behind her. She thumped the door release to the sound of the bleeps and spilled out, being careful to mind the cavernous gap between carriage and platform that opened up before her. She was glad for the cool rush of wind, as the tube pulled away. It lifted her hair from her face and soothed her flaming cheeks.
Amanda watched the last carriage of the tube train disappear into the tunnel. She wasn’t exactly sure where she was but it couldn’t be too far out of the way judging by the number of passengers dressed for the City on the train. A walk and a frothy coffee would refresh her before the meeting, she decided, as she looked for a sign showing the way out up to the surface.
The platform was completely deserted. In the distance she glimpsed a black sign and gold letters – ‘WAY OUT’. Amanda heaved the strap of her bag up onto her shoulder again and walked briskly toward it. Above the soft hum of the Underground Network, the sound of her clacking heels echoed along the empty platform.
She sighed when she found the exit barred by a rusting metal gate. Amanda rattled it but it was locked. “Hello! Is anybody there?” Silence greeted her call. She rattled it again harder but the gate didn’t budge. Irritated now, she turned and walked back the way she’d come.
It was strange – no station name was displayed and she noticed that there were no posters on the curved wall opposite to the platform. No bright advertisements for holiday destinations, insurance companies or wonder supplements, just the faded outline of where they’d once clung. Amanda gave a gasp as, above her head, the platform lights suddenly flickered.
“Can I help you miss?”
Amanda screamed in surprise at the soft voice behind her. She turned to see a wizened man with a pinched expression looking intently at her.
“Yes!” she replied too loudly. “The exit is locked and I can’t find another one.”
The man continued to stare at her and Amanda felt herself start to redden under his gaze. She felt the need to explain. “I got off here by accident. I don’t even know where here is. Look, is there another way out of here? I’ve got a very important meeting to get to.”
She looked up and down the bleak platform unwilling to meet his piercing blue eyes. The sudden thought that she was alone on a locked and deserted platform, with a strange man invaded her brain. She felt her stomach tighten with anxiety and the weight of her bag dig once more into her shoulder.
The man’s face broken into a grin of yellowing horsey teeth. He reached into his jacket pocket and brought out a packet of cigarettes. He slipped one out and placed it between his lips. “Would you like one?”
Amanda looked on aghast. Smoking wasn’t allowed on the Underground. “No, I don’t smoke and you shouldn’t either.”
The man cupped his hand around the end of the his cigarette and lit it. He blew out a cloud of blue smoke that enveloped them both.”Oh yeah, why’s that then?”
“Because it will kill you.” Any fear she had felt was replaced with anger as she waved the noxious fumes away. “Sorry, can you not do that?”
The man responded with a deeper drag and longer plume of exhaled smoke. He started to laugh which turned into a cough. Amanda moved away. A glob of yellow brown phlegm shot out of his mouth and onto the track.
“You’re disgusting. I’m getting out of here.” Amanda turned on her heel and walked purposefully back toward the locked exit leaving the smoking man behind. She could still hear him laughing and coughing as she neared it. Dropping her bag, she grabbed the bars of the gate and shook them vigorously.
“Help! Can somebody let me out of here?!” Amanda glanced back toward the man but he was gone. As she turned her attention back to the gate, he stood on the other side smiling and winking at her, cigarette clamped between his teeth. His smoke stung her eyes and made her nose itch.
“How?” Amanda tightened her grip on metal bars and shook harder. Rust flakes drifted to the ground. “I demand you let me out of here!”
The smoking man took a final drag and flicked the lit end toward her. The butt brushed the sleeve of her coat and fell, still glowing, to the floor. Deftly, he lit another one.
“Argh! How dare you! Stop it!” She extinguished the dog end angrily under her foot. “Let me out, you horrible little man!”
The smoking man took another puff and looked at her coolly. “This station has been closed for many a year now. Haven’t had a train stop in a while. Generally it’s pretty dead around here.” He chuckled. “I know, perhaps you could walk down the track to the next one.”
Amanda stopped. How long had she been on this god forsaken platform? No other train had stopped or passed since she’d got off. The tunnel entrance yawned behind her.
“No. I have a better idea. Why don’t I ring the police and have you arrested for false imprisonment and smoking illegally?” She bent down and scrambled around her bag, pulling out the heavy report to find her phone. She swiped and prodding the display in dismay; there was no signal.
The smoking man was standing next to her on the platform. He bent down and picked up her report. He brushed the cover with his hand and read the title “Decisive Steps to Ensure a Tobacco-Free Future’. What are they, then?” He opened it and squinted at the words. A roll of ash dropped from his cigarette onto the open pages. He closed it with a thud. “Well, it’s certainly thick” he said appreciatively.
“Give that back!” Amanda yelled. She lurched for her report but he sidestepped her advance and she fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Her elbow bloomed with pain. “Oww! You bastard, that hurts!”
Nimbly the old man jumped down onto the track, waving the report above his head. With a final, exaggerated cough, he disappeared into the tunnel. “Come and get it.”
“Stop! Give that back to me right now!” She screamed in pain and frustration. The report contained additional handwritten notes; everything she needed it for her meeting and now it had been taken by a nicotine addict. Amanda got to her feet and cradled her arm. Dirt and blood from her grazed palm smeared the sleeve of her coat and she was covered in the stink of smoke.
A sudden rage of righteousness engulfed her. How fucking dare he? How dare he? The filthy smoker had not only caused her pain and humiliatingly stolen her report, but now she was in no fit state for her meeting. No, she would get it back and then she would kick the shit out of him for good measure. She lowered herself down onto the track. How far ahead can he get with those smoke riddled lungs?
Amanda marched into the tunnel but as the suffocating black closed in, her fury and indignation soon turned to fear. What was she doing following this man? She stopped to think. “Did he say trains don’t come through here or stop here?”
In the darkness she heard a gentle cough. “Stop here.” As once again, Amanda felt a breeze lifting the hair from her face and cooling her flaming cheeks.
Next stop Halloween…
Have a Song, Dear Reader ❤