Judgment Day: Part 3

Something passed through Daryl.  He felt a cloying presence settle in his chest, a pressure like someone was pushing down on him.  His pulse pounded in his ears, then a terrible sickness rose in his stomach.  It moved him off his feet and brought him to his knees.  He reached out and gripped the side of the seat, one hand still on the emergency latch.  There was no sense of space in the darkness of the tunnel.  With that blackness came the possessive grip of fear.  The nausea continued to rise and he gritted his teeth as an invasive, echoing thrum passed through his skull and body. It felt as if something burrowed deep within him was trying to escape.  Then there was nothing.  No feeling at all.   Absolute silence followed, a dead calm within his mind and all around him.  He reached out, feeling as if his arm were asleep, and pulled the Style Section girl close to him.  He felt her hair against his face and that brought him back to reality, away from the overwhelming, singular nothingness. Never before had he measured his life in heartbeats.  He wanted  to close his eyes and simply go away.

She was convulsing, gagging, and trying to push away but then she, too, seemed overcome by the strange, drifting calmness.

Slowly, he became aware of the world again.  He took a shuddering breath, heard his body again.  Yes, alive.  Had he died for a second?  It sure felt like it.  He opened his eyes and looked around.  Darkness still enveloped the car, but there was a faint light coming from somewhere ahead.  He brought his other arm around and hugged the Style Section girl close.  Everything was moving slowly, then the world seemed to speed up to normal.  The people in the car were screaming again, the girl shoved away then grabbed his shoulder, shouting.  The sickness was gone, and he turned blind eyes towards her face, tried to hear what she was saying.

Panic pushed the commuters beyond the ability to cope when the emergency floodlights clicked on in the tunnel, washing out that strange faint light.  The stronger commuters punched and kicked their way to the doors, clawing at them uselessly and not even thinking of the emergency release, mounted beside the center door.  People in the car ahead had pulled that latch, though, and were pouring out onto the platform.  Nobody was thinking straight, and they were all turning vicious.  The train car borrowed from images of horror films – blinding white beams crisscrossing the darkness, nameless figures moving desperately, the tunnel outside forbidding and filled with dancing shadows.

Daryl stood up, pulling the girl with him, and put his hand on the emergency latch again, looking out the rear door at nothing but blackness and the occasional emergency light, which seemed to be devoured before the beam could hit the ground.  But others had noticed them behind the dark divider and began clawing against the door, probably mistaking them for somebody in charge.  It wouldn’t hold long against the panicked crowd.  The  center doors were finally open, though, and most of the commuters poured out onto the catwalk running the length of the tunnel.  The car began to empty, with the exception of a handful of people.  Daryl watched their silhouettes through the tinted glass.  They stood well clear of the panic-driven fray, then they turned their heads up to the air as if they were smelling something and, in unison, looked back down towards him.  He would only have been a shadow to them, in the dark and behind the tinted glass, but he felt as if their eyes were boring into him.    He stepped away just as the girl popped open the rear door, letting it swing wide and staring down at a three foot drop to the train tracks below.

Other commuters were spread on the floor, shapeless shadows clutching at themselves as if they had been wounded.  He watched as they rose, one by one, and stood calmly, also turning towards him.

The girl had turned to him and was whispering something, but his mind was racing.  He blinked and tried to focus on what she was saying.

“What do we do?  Do we jump down?  What about the electricity?” she was speaking in a breathless rush, and he turned sideways to glance out the rear door and the darkness beyond.  Then he heard her gasp and looked back at the flimsy dividing door.

The closest of the strange, calm people stepped forward and, in one fluid motion, slammed its fist into the Plexiglas divider.  He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.  He could only make out a shadow given form behind the brown-tinted window in the door.  The plastic spiderwebbed like thin ice and buckled under that one punch, and he jerked backward.  Another shadow joined the first and pushed the divider partially inward.  The snarling face of a young woman appeared, backlit by the floodlights.  She reached through and put her hand on the door handle.  Reacting with a speed that surprised Daryl, the Style Section girl kicked the woman’s hand viciously, but that didn’t seem to do much.  Then a new sound filled Daryl’s world.  A rushing, tumbling sound.  Trash whipped into the view of the emergency lights, skittering down the raised walkway and the track bed.

He put his hand on the Style section girl’s shoulder.  “Fire,” he said.  Somebody outside the car screamed and Daryl looked past the snarling woman towards the front of the car.  An angry, orange glow bloomed in the distance.  A wall of flame visible and horridly clear through all six cars.

The crazy woman popped the door open and paused as if lost in thought.  She cocked her head, a distant look in her eyes, and, with a snarl, she spun around to stare forward.   Daryl shoved the Style section girl into the driver’s booth, then stepped in himself and let the door slam, locking once again.  The crazy woman screamed, an inhuman sound, but it was directed at something else.  Daryl pulled off his jacket and crouched down between the driver’s seat and the wall, dragging the girl down with him and draping the coat over their heads.

The people outside were screaming and, for a dull moment, Daryl felt like laughing.  Then he closed his eyes and everything switched speed once again.  He heard his breath, the breath of the girl next to him as she clutched his shirt, and then he heard the rushing sound come closer, a powerful blast of hot air pouring through the windows and the grill at the base of the door.

The car began to shudder, the walls rattling around him and the thin door shaking viciously in the frame.  Light filled the car, rising up under Daryl’s jacket and glaring through the fabric.  He closed his eyes but there was no refuge.  He could hear a stressed creaking, like cutting glass, from all around, but he didn’t want to open his eyes to look.  The floor rocked violently as something, somewhere, exploded, then the train car bucked left and right and an unbearable heat filled the air around them.  The girl was screaming into his ear, but it was only a distant buzz against the holocaust outside.

   One Comment

  1. Feylian
      June 28, 2009

    Ok cliffhanger king…step up the publishing timeline please?