The End of the Line

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Underground is a crowded and confusing place for those not used to it. Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took a wrong turn? One passenger takes a wild journey into the unknown.

Submitted: February 11, 2019

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Submitted: February 11, 2019

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THE END OF THE LINE. Lily descended into the underground station with trepidation. She had never liked using the tube in London and to do so in the rush hour felt worse than normal. The man at the gate pushed them halfway closed to control the flow of people trying to reach the platforms below. Lily could feel herself starting to sweat and a faint sense of nausea washed over her. The smell of hundreds of hot bodies around her made her feel worse. She took a deep breath and told herself to stop being ridiculous. Thousands of people took the underground trains every day and a crowd of commuters wasn't the worst thing in the world. Her fear was irrational. Once on the station concourse Lily made her way to one of the maps on the wall, found her bearings and headed for the Circle line. Then came the tricky decision as to whether she needed to go eastbound or westbound. There were no staff to ask so she chose on impulse and was relieved that her stop was only six stations away. She couldn't understand why this platform was so empty though. The huge volumes of people seemed to have melted away and she was surrounded by only ten or twelve other travellers. The train approached. The faint rumbling from deep in the tunnel grew louder and she felt the rush of air that it pushed before it. She hated the clattering noise that the train made as it emerged into the sickly yellow light. She didn't listen to the garbled announcement and as the doors slid open, stepped in. The other passengers sat in silence, some reading and some with headphones plugged into their phones. No one made any attempt at eye contact or conversation. She thought that this particular group looked blanker and even more withdrawn than normal. There again it could just have been that her outlook today was particularly bleak. Lily had just been made redundant from her job and today had been the last day. # She was not all that familiar with this stretch of line. She only used the underground when the buses above were delayed or extremely crowded. However she was aware of the sensation of the train gathering speed. It had been doing so for the previous two or three minutes. She was certain that by now it should actually be slowing down for the next stop. It was now getting difficult to hold on, even though she was seated. Suddenly the lights failed and when they came back on again she found she was alone on the train. Her fellow commuters had disappeared and she was the last passenger on this careering train. She looked up and down the carriages and could see the train bending and snaking inside the tunnels. One moment she could see the end of it the next it was bent around at a sharp angle. She looked up at the information board and instead of telling her the next stop was imminent it just said ENJOY THE RIDE!. The letters started to change colour, from the normal orange, darkening into vivid red. Now she was afraid. The train was hurtling almost out of control and as it lurched to the right, and she felt sure it would crash, she screamed. The scream was amplified and came back to her as an echo, shattering the glass of the information boards. As they burst open she was showered in shards of broken glass and felt a wall of ice cold, blood red slime hit her. The sensation took her breath away. She tried to stand up, but the slippery floor and a sudden application of the brakes made her fall over. She started to slide towards the back of the train and was thrown around the carriage, unable to get a grip on anything until she grasped one of the upright poles. She closed her eyes, put her head against the floor and waited for it all to stop. Silence suddenly returned, and when she dared to look up everything was back to normal. The broken glass was gone and the train was clean and dry, as was she. Standing over her in a smart crisp uniform, was the driver. He smiled at her benevolently and said “You're alive!” Lily scrambled to her feet shrugging off his offer of help. Her fear had turned to fury. “No thanks to you! What in the name of god happened here? You were driving like a lunatic, and where did all the passengers go?” She sat down and started to investigate all the knocks and bruises she had accumulated during her journey from one end of the train almost to the other. “Sorry about that miss. Sometimes she gets a bit feisty. The old girl does it to entertain herself I think.” Now Lily was confused. The man who should be in control of the train was now blaming it for misbehaving. He continued, “It's a long time since we had anyone alive on the train. How did you get on? In truth miss , we should be invisible to the living” “Well you clearly aren't invisible, and I just got on the train at Victoria......” “Aaah, Victoria! It's always there that we get the mix ups. Too many choices for people there. It's so easy to take the wrong turning.” “What are you talking about?” By now Lily was yelling at the man, who to her, was talking utter rubbish. A screeching noise came back to them from the front of the train accompanied by the clank of metal as the train rocked from side to side. Lily lurched forward out of her seat and found herself on the floor once again. “It's best not to shout. She don't like it you see. It's disrespectful to the old lady” Lily sat up and put her head in her hands. “Will you please tell me driver, what the hell is going on. I am just trying to get home and I seem to have stepped into a land of total lunacy instead.” The driver reached down and this time she took the offered hand. He started to explain. “This isn't a normal underground train. It has a special job and has done for a very long time. We, that is me and train, have been many different things. The boat across the river Styx, a winged chariot, a stagecoach even. I liked the stagecoach. I like horses. Anyway, I digress. This is the train for the souls of the departed. Along this stretch of line everyone gets delivered to the appropriate destination. So as you can imagine, we don't get many live ones like you coming on board. The last chap was a while back now, when we were a horse and cart. He wrote a book about it. The Divine Comedy it's called. I believe it did very well” “That was 700 years ago!” Lily exclaimed. “I told you it had been a long time” The driver directed her to a seat and sat next to her. He smiled the same benevolent smile. “It's a lot to take in I know. But you see now there are so many people we have had to scale up the mode of transport and go much faster. I'm sorry you had a run in with train. She really doesn't take kindly to being yelled at. Now the next question is how do we get you back to the land of the living?” Lily stared at the mysterious man. He seemed deep in thought, his hands together as if in prayer. It had never occurred to her that she may not get home. “How did Dante get home?” she ventured to ask. “It was much easier back then. Not so many people around. You could pop up and down unnoticed. There were so many sick people back there, they were more worried about the plague than any strange carts rumbling past their door. With Signor Dante we had to back track through the different departments slowly. I mean, he was very curious about the whole thing and wanted to have a look at each stop. I don't know if train can do the same. If we go back too fast you won't survive the trip. We might also end up in the wrong year. It's a delicate operation!” Lily put her head in her hands and started to cry. She sobbed heavily into her hands. The driver passed her a white handkerchief and told her not to be too loud, or drop any tears onto the floor. She didn't want to incur the wrath of the temperamental train again. He stood up and started to head for the front of the train. Lily jumped up behind him and started to follow. “Where are you going? You can't just leave me here” she wailed. “Sssh! Remember, quietly. I'm going to the front cab to see if I can sort something out. Now what year did you come from?” “2012” she replied. “I'll see what I can do” # He strode off and left her alone , or at least she thought she was alone. A noise from behind her caught her attention and she turned to find an old woman in Victorian dress no more than two feet away. The woman smiled to reveal a row of dreadful, rotten teeth. Lily jumped backwards. “Don't be scared deary” the woman said “I see he's gone and left you. You won't see him again you know. He's got you trapped here, just like he has me. I got on a train in 1870 and haven't got off since. He promised me I could go home too. You know who he is don't you?” Lily shook her head. The old woman threw her head back and laughed. The laugh rang around carriage and as the noise started to reverberate the train groaned. The cackling crone started to shout as the walls of the carriage shook. “Go on! Do your worst you bitch! You don't scare me. Shake until you break apart you devil! The driver is the devil my dear and he wants you for himself. You'll never get home. Never!” Lilly heard a huge bang and saw bolts flying through the air. The wall of the train carriage uncurled from its fixings, coiled round and grabbed the old woman. As she let out her final scream the metal contracted and crushed the old body. Blood ran out onto the floor and when the body was completely crushed and broken the doors flew open and the old woman was thrown out into the darkness. Lily watched in horror as the walls re aligned themselves, the blood soaked into the floor and normality, the strange new normality, was resumed. The driver reappeared. “Good riddance to that old crone. She has been a pain in the neck for over 140 years. She refused to die. Can you imagine such a thing? I knew that train would get her revenge in the end. You can't cheat death, well not forever anyway” “Is that what the train is? Death?” she asked. “You didn't believe the old man with a scythe image surely? No, too much work for one man, and the logistics.....you have to have transport. I expect she told you I was the devil? I assure you I am not. He's out there in the tunnels, just waiting and watching for the ones who try to get away. If you have to go to one of the levels in hell and accept it then you aren't there for long. If you try to resist your fate and run, he's out there, waiting and he will do far worse things to you. You stay here with me miss. You don't want Old Nick getting you. We will get you home. Now train reckons she can get close to when you got on. We can drop you off in 2020. How does that sound?” “That's eight years out, which may not seem like long to you. Your circumstances are obviously very different. For me that's enough time to meet someone, get married and have two kids!” “We forget you mortals have to cram it all in to the blink of an eye. How about being slightly behind then. We could find 2010 much easier. We can always land on a year ending in a zero. You would have to make sure you didn't disrupt the timeline though except for one thing.” “What's that?” “Don't get on this train again, oh, and find yourself a different job before they pull the rug out from under you. You knew it was coming and did nothing.” # Lily wondered how he knew, but this was such a bizarre train ride she had no doubt the driver could see into her very soul. He told her to sit down and hold on very tight. The train kicked into reverse and gathered speed as it once again hurtled round the tunnels, retracing its route. This time she saw glimpses of fire and felt as cold as ice. Over the rattling of the coaches she could hear the screams and groans of the souls locked in hell and only imagine the depth of their torment Suddenly the familiar sight of a platform shot past the windows and the train slowed to a stop. The doors opened. “There you go miss. July the third, 2010. Exactly two years behind. Mind the gap.” She turned and looked out onto the empty platform. “No passengers for you” she remarked. “We already got them on the first trip. Now hurry on, we've got time to make up. Can't get too far behind schedule.” Lily stepped off the train and took a few steps forward. When she turned to wave goodbye she was met by a blank tiled wall. There was no trace of the train, platform or any indication that there was anything other than a solid wall in front of her. She felt a sudden urge to get up into the fresh air and see daylight. People were streaming towards the escalators so she followed the crowd and was soon up at the ticket barrier. Luckily her oyster card still worked and she was back out on the street in warm sunshine, and desperately trying to remember what she had done in 2010. THE END


© Copyright 2019 Petula Mitchell . All rights reserved.

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